Generational Curses: Forgive us, for we have sinned.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis

What do you consider a generational curse? It’s typically based on ministry teachings that you are able to inherit misfortune based on the sins performed throughout generations in your family. Some examples to consider are depression and other mental illnesses, addictions to drugs and alcohol, marital problems, even incest. Since a child, I was exposed to the majority of these things, particularly on my mom’s side of the family. I would like to put the disclosure that I would never want to disrespect or offend that side of my family. It will never be my intent. However, it’s hard to ignore the circumstances I was exposed to so young. The term ‘generational curse’ has me thinking of the concept of nature vs. nurture. The difference of what is embedded in us since before birth and what has molded us as we continue to grow in life. This is my story. It has no end goal like the majority of my blogs do. I cannot offer advice how to overcome this because I still live with it everyday- I am still figuring it out. But because I remain true to my need to be as vulnerable and raw as possible, not only for my own healing but for others’ as well, I am here to share this part of my life with you.

Since a very young age, I was well aware of what mental illness looks like. I’ve seen it in many of my family members. Cases in which they physically harm themselves to shut the ‘voices’ out. Cases in which they committed suicide. Cases in which sporadic episodes appeared in numerous family parties, frantically trying to make sense of what is taking place in their own mind and body. Heavy alcoholism took place. There had been several times when I saw family members stumbling and unable to hold themselves up. I’ve seen extremes of family members being carried away in stretchers and placed in the ambulance to be treated for alcohol poisoning. I’ve witnessed incest…cousins marrying cousins. And for a while, all of this seemed normal as a child. I honestly knew no better. It never impacted me much…at first. Not until my mother got sick. It hits differently in your own household. Before my mother got sick, my household was a healthy environment. My mother and father were happily married. It was a two person income, I never needed for anything. I was spoiled with all a child desires plus love. My parents had a healthy routine for me and kept me protected from all that a child could be exposed to growing up in Bronx, NY. They laid the foundation for my education, exposed me to libraries and museums, took me to day trips out of the city on the weekends. I say this to elaborate on the fact that despite what I witnessed growing up from other family members, I was pretty sheltered and protected. But then when I was 8 years old, my mother got sick and life became unrecognizable.

My mom suffered from migraines for as long as I could remember. It turns out she had a brain tumor that acted as a ticking time bomb. At 35 years old, she suffered a brain aneurysm, which caused her to suffer from a stroke, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. She had to have brain surgery to remove the tumor mass. She stayed in the hospital for two months trying to recover. She became epileptic and will be on medication for the rest of her life. She will never be able to move the fingers on her left hand. She has to wear a sling for support of her left arm because it is literally dead weight. She has to wear a brace on her left leg to be able to walk, and even then, her balance is so unsteady that she has to use a cane as well. As I approach my 30th year on this Earth, 35 doesn’t seem so far away. She was so young and her life changed COMPLETELY. She had to stop working all together. She needed help using the bathroom, bathing, and changing. She was not allowed to be independent anymore because she was no longer capable of doing so. I place myself in her shoes at my current age and honestly, I’d probably become clinically insane. Just like that, so much was taken from her and she had to process and figure out a new way of living. Not to mention, living in constant fear. If she falls and hit her head, she is likely not able to survive that. If she has a seizure and it lasts more than 3 minutes, she can have extensive brain damage. And even with knowing all of this, in my heart, the way our relationship changed for the worse still hurts. My mother was the first person to ever break my heart. And decades later, I’m still trying to come to terms with it.

After suffering the stroke, her behavior changed drastically. She became isolated and paranoid. She started having hallucinations. My dad attempted to help her in any way he could, but her behavior was mean and nasty. He felt we needed a change in pace and scenery, so we moved from NY to MO. My grandfather lived there at the time and my father felt this would be beneficial for my mother. But her episodes only got worse. One time when I was 10 years old, we visited my grandmother in NY. While sleeping in bed with my mother, she woke me up in the middle of the night, hysterical. She accused me of trying to suffocate her in her sleep. She said she saw me on top of her with my hands around her neck. Needless to say, whenever I got around her, she shunned me. Called me all sorts of ugly names, even attempted to physically remove me from her sight. The episodes would come and go. Some days were unbearable and other days were tolerable. You could instantly see the switch between the moods in her eyes. There were nights when she woke me up, told me to help her cover the air vents in our home, because she felt someone placed cameras there to watch our every move. As the years passed by, her behavior became more unusual. Hiding random food items in the cabinets of our bathroom. Some days it was as if she was an empty vessel. Sitting in her beloved rocking chair in the living room, rocking back and forth, staring into the distance. By this point, my father and I were used to not being acknowledged. Sometimes we even preferred it that way because when she did acknowledge us, it was never in a pleasant manner. At this time my dad was kicked out of the room, subjected to sleeping on the couch every night. Eventually, he gave in and purchased a cot to sleep on. My dad would work nights and during those nights, I would lock my bedroom door because I felt unsafe alone with her. This way of life became normal for me…at least I thought. But unfortunately, I began suffering from anxiety attacks at age 11. I experienced full blown depression at the age of 13, particularly after my mother leaving my father and I, moving back to NY. The year to follow, I didn’t hear from her. And honestly, you would think that I would be happier after she left because at least she wasn’t around to treat me the way she did, right? No. Her leaving felt like rejection and abandonment. It was as if she gave up being my mother. To this day, Mother’s Day stings…now for more reasons besides my relationship with my mother…but I have always craved a mother-daughter relationship. I still do and it makes me sad that I will never genuinely experience that.

Sometimes I think that my mother was a product of a generational curse. My heart hurts for her. For me. For us. But then I find myself challenging that idea because in the end, we have the power to determine our reactions despite the obstacles. Over the years, I’ve kept in contact with her. The relationship is not as toxic, but it’s definitely strained. I haven’t completely forgiven her in my heart. I constantly struggle with letting go of what has happened between us. It’s an internal battle because I know she has pushed everyone away and is completely alone, and that thought alone breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do for her because as much as I want to open up and restore that relationship, I am guarded and feel the need to protect myself from her. Time never seemed to heal us. After all these years, it’s still not easy. I can’t cling to the good memories because my heart is flooded with the bad ones. Too much over too many years. It has left me damaged and distrustful. Anxiety and depression is a constant in my life…it makes up the majority of my core because I am conditioned this way. I am proud of where I am today mentally, but the work is never done. I know at some point, the pain will creep up on me again. I told a friend something today that reminded me I am on the right path. I said, “Life is filled with hard times sprinkled with happiness, not the other way around. What has helped me cope is realizing that for every bad moment in my life, a good one follows. I’m always looking forward to that next happy moment.” That’s what it’s all about right? You have to be this constant in an everchanging life. You have to be resilient. You have to fight and be okay with the fact that the fight will never be over. 50 cent said it best, “Death gotta be easy cause life is hard.” Life IS hard. It’s inevitable. But you owe it to yourself to create happiness within you. You owe it to yourself to overcome the obstacles. You owe it to yourself to break generational curses. Perhaps generational curses are not out of your control. Maybe you allow a generational curse to continue because you have been conditioned to do so. Maybe it is simply the concept of nurture. I’ve learned that in some of my darkest times, the most beautiful circumstances appear shortly after. Little specks of happiness within our reach. The question is, are you willing to reach out and grab it?