It was from an early age that I knew that I somehow didn’t fit in.
Perhaps it was the numerous sanctions laid upon us, there, in either one of our beautiful homes, my father was working so hard for. Sanctions, not unlike a dictatorship. Freedom, individuality, love, friends, affection…None of those existed for me, not until way later in life. I was a loner, spending my time designing and sewing my own style of clothes, drawing, painting, dancing, and working out, between either binging on junk food or not eating at all.
My junk food addiction began quite early on, and I believe it was a subconscious response to moving to Canada when I was four, and also having left my love, my older sister behind. Although she would join us a year later, its only been recently with the help of a dear friend, that we possibly uncovered the root of my eating disorder. To see my own words in front of me now brings on a flood of emotion, and I can’t imagine what my four year old self went through in those days, believing, hoping, wishing that somehow her idol, her big sister, could see her, and be next to her. The year that passed without her was like an eternity..
What I can tell you is that I used to regularly think that I was going to wake up in my bunk bed in England, that we’d all be togeher again, that this was all just a dream. For years I’d wanted to, and even begged my parents to move us back to the UK. It was a betrayal of all sorts to have been ripped from the root of the rest of our family, cousins, aunts, uncles, everything I knew at such a tender age.
I’m entirely grateful to my father for not giving into my begging, not that he ever would. A Canadian education is what I was to have, despite the fact we were living in the prison of little India, which extended to the boarders of our lawn.
As if adjusting wasn’t difficult enough on its own, it become apparent that something was really wrong with mom, as far back as I can recall. She often had migraines, which debilitated her. I can’t remember how old I was, but once I was sent home from school, at around the age of five or six, to take care of her, (my father was working out of town at the time). She would have called the school in a state, asking for me in her very broken english. Bless her soul, the migraine was killing her. Vaguely, I remember arriving home to her bawling her eyes out, even whaling, in excruciating pain, looking as though she would pull all her hair off her head. I tucked her into bed, and perhaps laid with her, although I can’t fully recall, but for sure I knew she wasn’t ok, that much was for certain.
I worried about my mother often, with her constant migraines, crying, moodiness. I remember thinking more than once that while the rest of us would be out, this time when we returned home with dad, she would have done it, that she’d have taken her own life.
Right now, my mind takes me back to a specific time when we were coming back from Punjabi class on a Friday evening. I had a very strong feeling that she’d left us, and went straight into the house looking for her. Thankfully, there she was, sitting cross-legged in the living room, atop a heater, praying, as she did often…Thank goodness for her faith in God, faith which often kept her hanging on by a thread.
Earlier on I mentioned how I didn’t quite fit, which will come up later, but looking from the outside in, there was something very abnormal about our whole family. Sure, no one family is perfect, but we were the kids who got chased down the street by our mom, with a broom stick, or she’d show up and drag us away from a friends place, that’s if we were allowed to play outside. I remember my first time in a swimming pool of a neighbor, mom found me there and ordered me out. When we got home, she chased me around the house with a wooden spoon. She nailed me on one of my legs, before I locked myself in the bathroom, which was a regular routine.
Before carrying on, as I’m letting you into my life’s tale, I feel compelled to share something with you, present time. Today, the fifteenth day of April, 2013, marks my parents 40th wedding anniversary, and I just sent my father a message:
“Dad, I just wanted to wish you and mum a very happy anniversary, from us. 40 years in union is a long time, and less common these days, and I’m proud that you both made it through the toughest times. I have so much respect for you both, in a life long partnership. Cheers to many more years, and even happier than the past. Lots of love, xoxoxo Munjeet.”
He called me pretty much immediately, and as always, passed the phone to mum. See, my father is very much like The Wizard of Oz, he’s there, hears and sees everything, but doesn’t often make himself seen.
We chatted briefly, he and I, and I feel blessed to have connected with them both, and more importantly, to be connected with them, a process which took a number of years, patience, FORGIVENESS and a whole lot of love.
It would be a number of years still before mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and that’s when our family started to make sense to me. Not all the puzzle pieces have fallen into place, but it was then that the two people whom I chose to be my parents, became exactly that, my parents. Dad became dad, instead of dad&mom, and the woman sitting in front of me in the psychiatric ward, for the first time in my life, started to blossom into the mother I know and love dearly today. I can’t speak for my brother or sisters, but that’s when the healing process between us three began.
The day I’m talking about was sometime in the summer of 2002. My dear friend, and soon to be ex-husband, was working somewhere in the world, and I’d gone home to visit mom. The details escape me as to when she was admitted to hospital, but she’d had a major breakdown sometime after my older sister’s wedding.
You may or may not beware of bipolar disorder, but essentially it’s a mental disorder, whereby one experiences periods of being high, then falling really low. It’s incredibly difficult to diagnose, and one can suffer for their whole lives without ever knowing that they can be helped, or diagnosed. By the time mom was diagnosed in 2002, she’d already suffered (at least), the length of my existence, 26 years, bless her soul, and thank the powers that be-God, the Universe, her angels- her final “episode,” was witnessed by our family doctor, and she was admitted.
The first time I saw her after the diagnosis was made, began like any other day. I made the two hour drive from Toronto to London, pretty happy go lucky. I even remember what I was wearing, because mom had noticed and complimented me.
Doon Drive, was stop number one, home, to greet whomever was there, and to find out the details of where mom was. I hadn’t planned on going with anyone to see her, but my father insisted he come along. That was a bit weird for me, because as far as I could remember, we’d not done anything together in a long time. You see, I’d been disowned, for running away from home some years before, and for too many years before that, to say that our relationship was turbulent, would be an incredible understatement.
…installment #2 will be next Sunday..