Unfortunately, he was a stone cold drunk…

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My parents separated when I was three years old. The
story is my dad started selling drugs and brought some
guys back to the apartment. My mom said he absolutely
could not expose her babies to “those folks” and “that life.”
She told him he needed to head back south to Georgia
and his parents’ house. He went, but they never divorced.

Through the years a few men drifted in and then
out. Only one stuck. Unfortunately, he was a stone cold
drunk. I believe he loved her. He tolerated us. But the
booze had a twenty year hold on him. And actually I’m
not sure my mom ever required him to stop drinking. I
can honestly say I liked him more when he was drunk. He
was angry and mean when he was sober. Even as a twelve
or thirteen year old I knew to be alarmed when he drove
his light blue Cadillac fast through the bumpy streets of
the Bronx, clearly intoxicated. My brother and I were in
the white leather backseat. Back then, seatbelts were just
a suggestion, but I made sure we were strapped in tight.

Even though my mom had a stable job working for
the City of New York and didn’t have a car, high inflation,
high unemployment and the energy crisis at the end of
the 1970s hit hard. I remember watching the news and
seeing cars lined up to get their gas on odd and even days.
Our landlord decided to sell the house we were renting.
My mom couldn’t buy it and she didn’t have the money
to secure an apartment. At that time in NYC, not only did

you need one month rent and one month security, but
you needed an equal to or greater amount of cash to pay
under the table in order to have your name moved up on
the list. We moved in with the alcoholic and stayed there
for a year or so.”

– excerpt from Turning Blue to Blue: How God Used Art to Lift My Depression

Guest Post from Dr. Angela Hargrow

Tough Love

Tough love is a term that is often used when parents treats their children in ways that some might call harsh, with the sole intent to help them in the long run. The use of tough love has been scrutinized by many as nothing more than reasons to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive towards kids who are already suffering. I believe we can use tough love with kids who have mental illnesses. This form of tough love means loving them enough to set tighter boundaries and allowing them to experience natural consequences. When our children are mean or act poorly with others who then reject them, we have to love them enough to not only let them feel the pain of that rejection but to talk with them about how their behaviors puts others off. When they don’t do their homework and we are stressed out by arguing with them, communicating with their teachers, and frustrated by keeping up with their assignments, then we have to be tough enough to let them live with the consequences of their actions, even if it’s a failing grade. Life’s experiences will begin to help us motivate them to understand their own illnesses and to work with us to help them not only manage their symptoms but also to manage their complete lives.

Tough love means not always avoiding the tantrums, tears, and rages. It means holding tight the boundaries that not only we have set but those set by society because our children will have to live by those boundaries someday without us. Tough love means we stop making so many adjustments to keep them happy because we feel bad that their friends didn’t call or they missed out on a school trip because of their behavior. And yes, it means letting them fail a grade or even letting them leave your house when they reach a certain age. Sure, it will be hard to watch them falter, fall, and sometimes fail.  With our guidance life can be a great teacher if we use its experiences to teach our children. It will be tough, but we have to love them enough to help them succeed by not holding their hands and feelings so afraid for them. We have to be tough enough and love them enough to let them go so they can stand on their own two feet.

http://ahargrow.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/tough-love/

Angela Hargrow is a licensed psychologist with over 15 years of experience. Not only does she have a child who has been diagnosed with a mood disorder but also she has worked extensively with parents of children who have a variety of mental illnesses. She has used her experiences as a parent and as a psychologist to help families understand their child/teen’s disorder and to cope with the stressful impact that the disorder has on not only the child but the entire family. Used with permission

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Still Unraveling

The eleventh anniversary of my mother’s death was two weeks ago. Years back my brother planned a get together for he and I to commemorate the tenth. However, by the time it arrived our lives had changed so much: both married, having moved to states across the country from one another, my illness… The plan was no longer feasible when the time came.

I never really wanted to do the “commemorate the tenth” thing anyway.

My brother is an even deeper thinker than I and much more sentimental. I’m sure he knew I wouldn’t want to commemorate, and that is a big part of the reason he planned it. He likes to hold on to detailed memories and relive them in conversation. I am more connected to feelings about a time and enjoy quietly pondering the “why’s”.

As I pondered today, I affirmed to myself that I believe I understand my mother now. I understand the choice and strength to be alone rather than afraid, used and frustrated with a man. I understand the belief that your children are the most significant reflection of your life. I understand being suspicious of law enforcement and mainstream media.

Then I wondered would I feel that way if she were still here. Brown Loops #2

Our relationship was strained at times and at other times she was my confidante and cheerleader. I’ve changed so much in these years. I’d have to allow her to go through change and growth also. Perhaps our mother/daughter coded language still wouldn’t allow us to express our similarities of thought and circumstance. That would be too bad.

It is very comforting to believe I am unraveling the silk threads of my mother’s veil.  It is comforting, even if I’m wrong.