My mother died 20 years ago today. She was 72. I was 30. My daughter was 3.
I was happy that my mother got to know my daughter, even if it was only for 3 years.
Unfortunately, my daughter has no memory of my mother except that she took a lot of pills, which was true at the end of her life. She had always been a healthy woman, very active, ate well — a health nut, really. Then she was struck down by cancer and lived just 7 months after the diagnosis: “cancer of unknown origin.” By the time the doctors found it, the cancer had spread from wherever it started all the way to the sac around her heart.
She went through chemo for three or four months, which we all knew was pointless. But she and my dad wanted to try, anyway. I was glad that by the time she died, her beautiful hair had grown back in.
The day she died, when I came home from the hospital I went into her room and looked through her dresser. In the jewelry drawer, I found a Ziploc bag filled with all the hair she had lost.
I went to her closet and took out one of her favorite outfits and laid it out on the bed. Then I put it on. I couldn’t bear to see it so lifeless.
I miss my mother every day. But I am extremely thankful that she saw me leave my horrific marriage. She knew that my daughter and I would be OK.
I means that if you have experienced trauma and the resulting symptoms of PTSD, you are more likely to suffer from diseases that result from inflammation: heart disease and arthritis, for example.
I have also read that PTSD sufferers have higher rates of cancer and premature aging.
I can definitely vouch for the premature aging part, in that I have essential tremor (and have had it since I was in my mid-30s) and have also had severe problems with my spine. When I was in my 30s, a neurosurgeon told me my spine looked about 20 years older than that via the MRI. When I was diagnosed with essential tremor, I was told I had “early onset” — which apparently is actually better, in some ways, than getting it when you’re older. The expert I met with told me that early-onset ET is less severe and gets worse much more slowly than if you get it when you are a senior citizen.
So I suppose that’s positive? I have to look on the bright side …
The other bright side for me is that, for whatever reason (genes? general emotional makeup?), I haven’t shown the signs of PTSD on the outside. While I may not be as pretty as I was 25 years ago, I still look young for my age.
Another positive note in the rather bleak PTSD landscape.
What’s the moral here? The effects of domestic violence are so vast, most people have no idea the damage done to individuals and our society, as a whole.
I haven’t had a career. That’s just one of many parts of my life that got derailed by domestic violence. While there are others that are even more important, this is the one that society sees every day, and judges me by. Let’s face it: In the U.S., if you don’t have a chartable and successful career track, you are judged as a failure.
It’s hard to not feel like a failure, especially because I know I could have had a great career had my ex-husband not hurt me this way. The ensuing trauma took away my feeling of power over my own life, and my career decisions have not been made with clarity but, instead, with survival at the forefront. Not the best way to organize a career.
So here I am now, at age 50, wondering what I’m supposed to do with my work life. I know what my skills are, at this point — who knows what they might have been, had I had the chance to develop them fully. I have to accept reality in that regard, and I’m struggling to do that.
Some days, I just want to hide away from everything and everyone, to avoid the glare of judgment that I feel when I look at my friends, acquaintances and people I don’t even know who are so successful in their careers. Yes, it’s self-judgment, probably more than anything else. But that makes it even more powerful. My self-esteem just isn’t what it could be.