When I was about a year and a half old a small but vicious dog cornered me while my mother was talking with her foster mother. I don’t remember this episode as clearly as I do other times in my very young life, but I do have a sense of being unprotected that I carry with me. I was outside on the farmhouse porch while Mom and Aunt Rose were inside at the kitchen table talking.
The only reason I was saved from possible hours long terror from this horrible little dog was my father came home early from work, saw we weren’t at home and knew the only other possible place we would be is at Aunt Rose’s house. My father told me once he saw what was happening he flew into an immediate response of protection, action and fury. He scooped me up in his strong embrace and kicked the dog out of the way. He said he went into the house and yelled at both my mother and Aunt Rose who were blissfully together in their own world.
My mother was orphaned at the age of three. Once she was placed in Rose Casile’s foster home, no matter how cruel Rose was, my mother adored her and held on to any attention she could get from her. My guess is that Rose did most of the talking and Mom listened. To be the one asking questions is one passive way to get attention. I know from a lifetime of doing just that very thing.
The very idea of being left to survive my mother’s inability to consider anyone else but herself became my normal. In fact, learning to put her anxieties and insecurities before my own was ingrained in me before I learned my ABCs or 123s. It then makes sense to me that when my father came upon the scene of the dog and I in this torture scene, I was not crying out for help. I imagine I did not want to bother her. I was a bother to my mother for sure.
My first book published in 2016 called, “Am I going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief” details the many times my mother cried out to me in my very earliest of memories, “Oh Debbie, am I going to be okay?” I still have a visceral feeling inside of immediate thoughts of her and not myself. Mom passed away in July of 2012, yet the emotional response I have toward the thought of a mother is how I can find something in any of my life with her that meant mothering to me.
I know I tend to be drawn to tall, big men who can protect and fill me with what I need to be okay. That’s all I need. I am a fierily independent woman with no thought of needing help other than the physical presence of a man who can scoop me up and make everything okay. That is the one part of my life I am working on; to know that with or without my wonderful friends or my 82-year-old father who lives seven hours away, the emotionally vulnerable part of me can cry out in despair, even or especially now.
Let’s talk about it.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com