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At 8 years old, I grew up

Guest Author: Christina

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

Forgive me but I am not a writer. I am not here to entertain you with my intellectual or academic prose. I am a Portuguese Canadian Women, Entrepreneur, Holistic Health Practitioner, Mental Health Advocate, Mother, Wife, Friend and Spiritual Seeker with a whole lot of tradition.

As I approached my 40th birthday, I was introspective and philosophical. I can’t help but not look back in time, it’s like when I was young attending church I’d get a quick slap on the hand to turn forward and my mother would say, “It’s disrespectful to look back, you are in God’s house and he needs your full attention.”

At those times, I would think about the mythological story of Medusa turning people into stone to keep my eyes forward.

I look back in order to move forward.

Today, I look back in order to move forward. Born in Portugal, I was seven months old when my parents moved to Canada. I have to assume at that time my parents had high hopes of what their life was going to be like.

My father was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 30 (from what I’ve been told), which by Google definition means a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation. Or in general use, a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.

Blah, Blah, Blah!

In my definition, the loss of my father to a life he could never cope with. This loss in truth made me who I am today and surprisingly, I am grateful. This was about the time my mother realized that the man she married would end up being her biggest lesson, to her chagrin. A hard lesson for sure on the sanctity of marriage, the sisterhood of single mothers and the CEO of a house she didn’t own and in a country where English was her second language. Where my mom found herself placing her hand on the Bible for police officers to believe that something was wrong with her husband. My father. This of course was back in the late 70s and 80s when mental illness was locked away in the asylums, behind closed doors, misunderstood and not to be discussed.

I was daddy’s little girl

Funny enough, my mother did her best to raise me in a pretty happy environment. And at five years old, you generally are happy as long as you are taken care of. But, I realized that my mom was never really home because she had to work and always seemed tired, melancholy and angry. So, I was left with my dad who was at home on disability. I was daddy’s little girl and he meant the world to me. I didn’t see his illness. He was dad and I loved him no matter what. I loved him even when I could see he would drift off in thought, stay up all night smoking, argue with my mom for money, accuse my mom of things that I knew couldn’t possibly be real and had to come from his imagination or when he would leave for days to not be heard from.

Where would he go?

I was around seven years old when my mother decided a change of scene was needed and so, we moved to another city. That was around the time my brother was born. I was excited to have a little brother – my first friend. Who would ever imagine, that my mother would give birth at the same hospital in which my father was institutionalized. The floor below. How odd of a feeling my mom must have had at that time.

I can’t imagine how alone she felt.

“You are a big girl now.”

When my little brother finally came home, I remember saying to my mom, “do you love him?” And she said, “I love him with all my heart.”

I became very ill with her words afterwards thinking my mother couldn’t possibly love me too. After that, I found myself becoming the big sister or should I say surrogate mother to my brother. I watched and cared for my brother all the time while my mom worked. Even at times when it was not legal to leave an eight-year-old taking care of baby while my mother worked the night shift.

She would leave with warnings to not answer or open the door to strangers and most importantly, she would leave me with the following, “You are a big girl now.”

At eight years old, I grew up!

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