Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Sunday Kind of Love

One year ago today I woke up from the red-eye flight in Guatemala City. The place I was born. But a place I never called home. I was nervous, excited and a little bit scared. I had only ever heard the stories of why and how we left. And the only memory my three-year-old self-had, involved ice cream on toast and that just can't be trusted. 
But the story goes like this... We packed up our toys in the back of our Grandparent's van and had to be at the Mexicali border by midnight. It had been arranged that our passports would be signed but without a proper photo...

See, the reason we were leaving was that my Mom wanted to get us away from our Dad. This is where I hesitate to say more because it is still a sore subject for our family but I feel so overwhelmed to tell it how I remember. 
So here goes... 
My Dad was a handsome guy, charismatic and flirtatious from what I'm told. But he had a lot of demons and with his family being in a position of money and power, drugs and alcohol were not of short supply.  My mom begged him to stop. She pleaded for him to get clean but he wouldn't or couldn't. She felt like the only thing she could do to give us a better life was to get us as far away as possible. She knew neither him nor his family would let that happen so she decided to take us without them knowing. My mom was going to kidnap us. 
We got to the Mexicali border at midnight, waited for the guards to change and as arranged we made it into the United States. 
We lived with our Grandparents and my Mom applied for political asylum but she was denied. She cleaned houses until she was able to buy a social security number (bet you didn't know people do that) and then worked odd jobs. One night while she was watching a Lifetime movie she saw a commercial for a lottery of visas. She jotted down the address and directions quickly and took a chance. I was 14 years old when she won that lottery.
I know now the sacrifices my mom had to make for us to have a better life. I watched her struggle to make ends meet and yet, I also watched her work hard to earn a double masters degree. But growing up I was sad that I didn't have a Dad. I was embarrassed that we had to live with our grandparents. And I was angry at the person who I thought was responsible for those things. My mom. 
When I was 16 years old I found out my Dad had passed away. I can't even tell you the loss I felt. I didn't know him, but now I would never get to, and again I blamed my Mom. 
The same day I found out my Dad committed suicide I found out I had a younger sister too.
I was in a state of a shock and I don't remember what we even said to each other. That was the last time we spoke. My junior year of high school I was depressed and angry. I was angry at so many people I couldn't even stand it. I was angry that my Mom had kept me from him, I was angry that I had a sister that got to know our Dad and I was angry with for being selfish and taking his life.
Years passed, life happened and I buried all that sadness and anger as far down as I could.  
Fast forward to last year. I was watching El Chapo on Netflix, the part where they mention he escapes prison and goes to Guatemala. And I thought, "I wonder if my Dad's family was involved or helped with the escape" remember how I said his family was in a position with money and power. Well, turns out my Great Grandfather was the interim president of Guatemala back in the day. So I took to Google.  
First, I searched my Grandpa and found him on Wikipedia but no mention of El Chapo was made (dang it!) Then I Googled my Dad's name. What came up was a picture of the mausoleum where he's buried. It made me sad. And then I decided to Google my sister's name, her Instagram was the first thing to pop up. 
(Side note: As I was writing this post I decided to Google those last two things again and oddly  enough neither one come up now!!!)
I pulled up her Instagram and started scrolling through her feed... I took screenshots of her pictures and sent them to my friends. Does this look like me? Do you think we could be sisters???
I scrolled and scrolled until I saw a picture of my Dad's mom. I don't know how I knew it was her because my Mom didn't have any pictures.  But I recognized her. And without hesitation, I emailed this girl.
And one year ago today I got to meet my sister, was reunited with my Grandmother and all of my Dad's family at a beautiful welcome home party she threw me. I found a little piece of my soul I didn't even know I was missing that day. 
Now, I don't know why things happened the way they did and we won't ever be able to get back the time that was lost. But, God is never early. And he's never late. He's always right on time and his plans are good for you. A friend sent that to me a few days ago on Facebook. And while it may be hard to wait on His time. I know its worth it!
Happy Sunday


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Pumpkin Spice Isn't So Nice...

When you have PTSD!

The kids are back to school, Starbucks has their Pumpkin Spice Latte out and I can feel the PTSD of holidays past creeping in on me. While I like Halloween, Christmas and celebrating the New Year. I've never been a fan of Thanksgiving. Not because I'm some ungrateful momster. Because I am grateful and have so many things to be thankful for! 
It's just that Thanksgiving growing up, was always a hit or miss at our house. I remember one year having Burger King because my very Stubborn Latin Grandma was fighting with my Aunts and Uncles and decided to boycott and since we lived with her at that time, my Mom had to follow suit. Don't worry by Christmas all was forgiven and a big feast was had. 
I also remember the first Thanksgiving my Mom cooked in our new house. It was just me my sister and her. We ate pie for breakfast, snacked on stuffing had mashed potatoes for lunch and finally turkey for dinner! Basically, as it became ready we ate it! Haha
I could attribute my distaste for the holiday to the fact that it's an American tradition and one we really didn't know how to celebrate. But when I was married we would go to my inlaws house surrounded by lots of family and great food just like you see in the movies! Still, it felt foreign to me.  Then after the divorce, I just worked the holiday so the kids could go to their Dads and have those feel-good memories and so I wouldn't feel guilty for not wanting to celebrate.  
Now fast forward to the past three years, I started a new tradition where my mom comes over to make tamales with the kids in the morning, while I drink mimosas and watch Harry Potter and then they go to Dads. It's no Thanksgiving feast but its something we really look forward to!!
I know a lot of people get depressed around the holidays and in my experience, I think it comes from unfulfilled expectations. It was for me at least.
So what changed? How was I able to let go of my expectations? PTSD! 
Yep, that's right. When you have PTSD you really can't expect anything. Someday's you wake up and go about your day just fine. And other days you hear a balloon pop or a car screeches down the St. and even though you're in your house it takes you back and all of a sudden you can't help that feeling of helplessness and you panick. Thankfully that happens less and less but three years later I can tell you I still get triggered. 
I talked about "the accident" in a previous post called "Pictures on the wall." I told you it changed me. And I wanted to share how it changed me for the better. 
Expectation vs Reality. 
The reality of the situation was that even though my daughter was physically "ok" emotionally none of us were. It can be hard for family and friends to understand why you stop coming around. Why you just want to stay home or why you won't do this or that. Hell, it was hard for me to understand it! 
I had to let go of friendships, I broke up with my boyfriend of four years... And not because they were pressuring me to do anything or telling me to get over it already. But because I was! 
I was expecting my reality to go back to the way it was before the accident and when it didn't I didn't know how to handle it. Most of the time I was on autopilot just getting done what needed doing but the rest of the time I would get overwhelmed and cry over the smallest things. It was frustrating. 
One day about 8 months after, I was having a mini-meltdown in front of my mom. She told me that was the first time she had seen me cry and ask for help since the accident and she felt so relieved. I thought what an odd thing to say! What I realized that day was that nobody was expecting me to be strong. Nobody was expecting me to do everything alone. Nobody but ME! That's  also when I realized I had to change my expectations and accept that this was my new reality. Once I was able to let go of how I thought things were supposed to play out, I started to heal.  

Life is messy no matter what it throws at you and trying to control it will drive you mad. Stop expecting and start accepting!
If you're suffering from PTSD know you're not alone, talk to people, ask for help or feel free to email me if you just need to chat with a stranger.
I hope everyone has a wonderful and messy weekend!