Have you ever wondered what life’s reasons for keeping you on your toes are? That is a question that I have often found myself pondering but I never really thought I would find the answer. My life experiences have led me to a peaceful resolution. Life struggles do serve purpose, they are blessings in disguise. Here you will learn about my struggles with childhood abuse and neglect, mental illness and the loss of my son. I will be taking you through a journey of constant sorrows. One that will claw at your heart in the beginning, fill your eyes with tears of sadness in the middle and yet still uplift your spirit in the end. This is a story of sadness yet hope, struggle yet determination, loss yet gain. This is my story. This is my life. Won’t you join me?
In the beginning, of my life that is, I was born Dawn Marie Galviston. I was a curly haired, hazel eyed, chubby little baby girl who didn’t have a care in the world. Sadly the only things that remain true today are the eye color and the chubbiness. At nineteen months of age I was adopted. My mother was unable to care for me and my dad had other priorities in life. I had been bounced from grandparents to grandparents and never really belonged anywhere. I was given to a couple who were unable to conceive and badly wanted children. I came to them with nothing but the clothes on my back, a seizure disorder and a bottle of phenobarbital. They renamed me Missy Ann and I became legally and officially part of a family. Shortly after my adoption however, my mother became pregnant. From the moment she found out the good news I became the avenue that blessed her with a child of her own. In my mother’s eyes, my adoption was the reason she became pregnant. Sadly, that’s as far as she saw me. From that point on my life became full of chaos and drama.
At this point you may be reading this thinking wow, this girl was adopted into a family and she sounds so ungrateful. I realize that there are many children that would die to have a family of their own but I would have too. After my brother was born I didn’t seem to have a place in the family anymore. I felt like they had adopted me because there were no other options but once they were blessed with a child of their own I was no longer needed. My mother often treated me like I was damaged goods. Constantly she would remind me that I would never amount to anything. One of our biggest issues was that I was a chunky kid. I honestly believe though that when your mother puts you to bed without dinner because of something lame like not cleaning your room good enough being overweight can be a result. My mother did not just do this on occasion, it was constant. My hunger led me to seek food where I could when I could and so she put padlocks on cabinets and a lock on the kitchen door. So whenever I found an opportunity I would in her eyes “steal” food. As long as it was edible I took it, even sticks of butter were better than nothing. As if life wasn’t messed up enough and my self-esteem already driven into the ground to add fuel to the fire I suffered from some mental illnesses as well.
From early on in childhood I have suffered from a slew of mental illnesses. As I begin to list them off for you I want you to note your first thoughts that come to mind. As a child I was diagnosed with bipolar, borderline personality disorder, attention deficit disorder, attachment disorder and oppositional defiancy disorder. If your first thought that comes to mind is “wow that poor child, nobody should ever have to suffer like that” your thoughts are to be commended. You are among a very few people who think with their hearts first and not their minds. However if your first thoughts were something to the gist of “those poor parents, I’m glad I’m not in their shoes” do not fear you are lumped among the societal norm, however sad that is. If your next set of thoughts contain any idea that your views say “that is one messed up child”, sadly again, that is also normal, society has it’s ways of influencing opinion.Having personally been the child that experienced all these different disorders and all at once I can tell you it was a roller coaster ride and I’m not talking about the kind you see in amusement parks. Indeed there was nothing amusing about it at all. When my mother learned of my diagnoses I wish I could say she was among the few that thought with their hearts but, alas, that is far from the truth. My diagnosis’s just enforced the idea that I was damaged goods. If there was any doubt in her mind that I was not all bad this totally erased it for her. I became a problem for her in everything I did. So how do unloving parents get rid of problem children? They admit them into every mental institution, group home, halfway home and foster home that is available until they become of age.
I went from being part of one family to now being part of many different types of families. In and of itself, that might not sound like an all bad idea. Considering that I went from really not having a family at all to having many families you would think that would be a good thing, it was not. One thing that most parents can agree on is that children need stability. Well, if you can call bouncing from group to foster home and city to city stable then, ok, I’ll bite. My best guess is however that you are starting to see my problem with all this. How can you teach a child a steady set of values and morals when you cannot even provide them with a steady family much less home? My answer, you cannot. This lifestyle remained mine to claim from the age of about eleven until I was seventeen, Finally my dad stepped up to the plate and made a decision overriding my mother’s hold on our family. For once, the right person was wearing the pants in the family.
Up until now I have not spoken much about my dad, there are a few things you need to understand about him. My dad is the complete opposite of an outspoken person. I guess the best way to put it is that he is very reserved. Unlike my mother who enjoys drama and conflict my dad is the peacekeeper in the family. I am and always have been daddy’s little girl but it becomes difficult when my mother is in the picture. My dad finally had enough though and put down his foot and told my mother he wanted his family whole again. So at the age of seventeen nearly eighteen I was living back home with my adopted family. Little did I know, there was a whole new family waiting to interject themselves into my life.
My family, especially my mother, has always considered themselves to be very religious. I disagree with that entirely based on the fact that you can’t talk the talk without walking the walk. I’m sure you have gotten the basic understanding of the type of person my mother is. So can you see where I am conflicted with the whole idea? None the less when I came home one of the first things my mother did was take me to church because she had “something to tell me”. The particular something she had to tell me was that I had a sister that was trying to connect with me. The fact that I had family that, by blood, I belonged to and they were actively looking for me that is something that I had only ever dreamed about. In a nutshell I was astounded to learn that I had two sisters and that my mother was still in their lives. My entire life all I had ever wanted was a mom that loved me. I was finally given an opportunity to have that in my life.
I want to start off by saying that one of the neatest experiences by far was meeting the woman who gave birth to me and realizing that even though I had never known her I was so much like her. I looked like my mom, not just a little but from head to toe I was a mirrored replica of my mother. Being so much like my mom from the things we like to dislike to the way we act and think is so fascinating but it also kind of scares me. See, the same mental illnesses that I was diagnosed with were also ones that my mother suffered from as well. That means that we are alike in our physical health aspects too. My mother had a rare form of breast cancer that was not treatable. I never got that chance to have a loving mother in my life after all because shortly after I met her she died at the age of forty-one. My adopted mother refused to tell me that my presence had been requested at my dying mother’s bedside and she told my sister that I did not want to come. She did however kindly take me to the funeral but all the questions I had not had the chance to ask my mom were forever buried with her. I had previously been allowed to spend thirty whole minutes getting to know the woman I had always longed for. That’s not a lot of time to ask eighteen years worth of questions and so I never got my fairy tale ending and immediately I was reintroduced to the dysfunctional ways of my adopted family.
Truthfully when I sit and think about it “dysfunctional” does not do any justice in describing my family. I honestly wish all I had was a “dysfunctional” family but that was really far from the reality of what I did have. If wanting to describe my mother I can easily give you two words that would put her in her proper category. Those two words would simply be evil and Hitler. I’m sure that may sound rather harsh but this woman beat me; she mentally abused me and traumatized me for life. Although I love my dad the fact that he rarely stood against her bothers me. What kind of loving parent and spouse can allow the other to treat a child like that? My brother, he was just along for the ride and mom always loved him more anyways. While I was still in high school mom decided to kick me out of the house and so from that point forward I was on my own. Any scars this woman physically left on me, they are easily covered up or faded over time. The scars she placed on my heart and my overall mental being, those have proven to be nearly impossible to hide. One of the biggest problem areas for me, an effect of those scars, was being able to establish trusting and lasting relationships.
I have been married twice in my life and both have ended in divorce. I established my first marriage shortly after my mother kicked me out of the house. One of the coping skills that I had developed in dealing with my traumatic childhood was finding relationships that I could quickly latch onto. In short, I became very co-dependent. My first husband Jeff seemed like a kind and gentle man. What became immediately appealing to me though was that he loved me, or at least I thought he did. Needless to say I was a bad judge of character and he became an alcoholic and a pot-head. My second marriage happened much like the first I latched onto the first moment Charles displayed love and affection for me and I did not let it go. Again my judgment of character played tricks on me and he too was very abusive. The difference in the two was that while Jeff was an addict, Charles was a recovering addict and I thought that it made a world of difference. Sadly I was mistaken and my track record in picking relationships that were good for me was now 0-2. When you grow up craving love like I did and never receiving it, it becomes very easy to jump at any ole chance of love that comes your way. Unfortunately as I later learned in life that is an unhealthy and an unreliable way to seek out relationships. I did however gain four beautiful blessings out of my two failed relationships. They are four blessings that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
My first born and my first true love was born April 2, 2002 weighing in at seven pounds eight ounces. I never knew you could love someone so much. He started out as a very colicky baby but he has grown into a very opinionated young man. My next baby was a dark curly haired baby girl weighing seven pounds fifteen ounces. Oh how mommy wanted a girl and I got my wish. February 23, 2004 my daughter entered into my world. She is the mirror image of her mommy just like mommy is of her mommy. She is a bossy little girl with an already strong maternal instinct. In 2006 on July 5th my third blessing was given to me. My second son bounced his chubby little self into this world weighing a whopping nine pounds even. Granddaddy nicknamed him Skeeterbug and so he became my little redneck West Virginia boy. My final child came into my life on September 17, 2008. If only I had have known then, just how much that little boy would change my life.
Matthew Lake graced my universe weighing an unbelievable nine pounds ten ounces. He had beautiful ice blue eyes and dark curly hair. Like his sister he was a mirror image of his mommy. Each of my children was something like this paper in that I progressively bonded with them stronger as each one was born. To my knowledge this had something to do with my attachment disorder. It was hard for me to become fully attached to my children right at birth but with each baby it became a little easier. With Matthew it was instantly love at first sight. We bonded every second we were together. I was able to hold him more and breastfeeding him was easier than my experiences with the others. Matthew was my world but he was too precious for this world.
On January 3, 2009 I woke up like any other morning. The baby was quiet and so I headed directly into the room of my older children to get the day started. I changed diapers and got them breakfast just like I did every morning. When I was done I peered at the baby from across the room and he looked peacefully asleep so I went out to the front porch to grab a quick morning cigarette. I had been up for so long with Matthew the night before and into the early morning and so I took an opportunity to wake up, something I did not get much of as a single mom of four.
As I entered back into the house I went to pick my baby up out of his crib to feed and change him. I never made it that far because lying before my eyes was just the cold lifeless body of my precious angel, Matthew was dead. The picture of this scene plays over and over in my head. There he was lying partly on his side, blue and grey in color. When I reached to pick him up, through my blood curdling screams, I noticed that the blood had pooled on his face on the side he laid. My world stopped cold. If you think that, whenever faced in a situation similar to this, your reactions will be quick and you will be able to respond appropriately I fear you are far from the truth. I did not know what to do or who to call. All I knew for certain was that my baby was gone and never coming back. What happened after that is mostly a blur. I know the ambulance was called and I remember taking the other children to a neighbor’s house. From there all I recall is constant questioning and having to reenact how I found him for the coroner. That day life stopped in its tracks and it would never be the same again. My precious angel left this world too soon and a big part of me went with him.
To say that a part of me went with Matthew is probably putting it lightly because in truth, all of me went with him. Since his death I have become a new person, I have been transformed. For me the death of my son was the beginning of a transformational learning process. What I experienced was nothing short of a disorienting dilemma. I have spent a lot of time questioning. I have questioned the meaning of life, mine in particular and I have certainly questioned my spirituality. I have done quite a bit of self-examination as well. Asking myself things like;
· Am I a good mom
· Do I deserve life after my son lost his?
· Why me?
· What did I do wrong?
· Am I still worthy of God’s love?
I have done a lot of thinking and a lot of re-hashing the play by plays over and over in my head and I have finally come to some conclusions. The first of those being who I want to be in life, I want to be a bereavement therapist.
I have spent the majority of my mourning alone and if it were not for the help of social networking groups and the love of my fiancé I honestly cannot say I would be sitting here before you writing this paper. When Matthew passed my brother had said to me that I was doing pretty well because if it had of been his child he would have already put a gun to his head. Little did anyone know that the thought had crossed my mind millions of times over but then I think about all the other people that are going through what I have been through. I cannot let my son’s life end with my death, instead I choose to let his life live on through me. By becoming a bereavement counselor I will make a legacy for Matthew. I want to reach out to mothers and fathers alike that are experiencing the ultimate tragedy of losing a child and touch their hearts. I want to love them like my son loved me and I want to teach them the same lesson that he taught me, life touches are life blessings.
My sister has a saying about life’s happenings that I once also adopted but now see from a different perspective, it is what it is. No indeed life is not “it is what it is” but it is in fact what you make of it. Every time life touches you, weather you fall down and scrape your knee or someone dies there are lessons to be learned and blessings to be had. Matthew’s death was just one of my life touches and the lesson I learned was that pain is real and time does not cure all wounds. I have learned that even when I am in the midst of despair I can overcome and find love in every corner. My blessing, you may ask? I was graced by the presence of a true angel even though my time with him was brief. My son gave his life that I might find true meaning for mine. He gave me a gift of perspective and true meaning and now it is my sworn testament to share his gift with others. God has a way of reaching out and touching those far from him and that is what he did here. I used to struggle with not understanding why God took Matthew from me but I have come to understand that SIDS took my son God received him. What a Blessing!
As you can see I have been through a journey of constant sorrows and struggles. I have endured abuse and neglect from my mother while dealing with mental illness. I have been through life’s ultimate tragedy, the loss of my son. I have experienced firsthand a transformational learning process and the outcome of that is that I have made a choice. I choose to be forever touched by all of life’s offerings and seek to find the blessings in them. As long as I am on this earth I will be forever touched by Matthew’s brief life and blessed by his presence. I am the mother of an angel and I have truly been forever touched and forever blessed.