I was born in a busy city in southern Connecticut. I was the last child, separated by six years from my sister and seven from my brother. My upbringing seemed normal at the time. My dad worked for some time, then didn’t, then did some side jobs here and there. As for my mom, she did her best to be involved in her children’s lives. She came on field trips with us, read books to the class and was very active with our schools.

All of our lives changed when my mother got in a car accident. Shortly afterwards, she began to suffer the full extent of her injuries, ranging from minor soreness to agonising back pain which she would have to endure every single day for the next 15 years. Meanwhile, my father didn’t have a stable job. He had a drug problem for some time that I sort of knew about but never really knew just how severe it was. All I knew was that he was my dad and he did the best he could to be a dad.

I was about 10 at the time. My mother would stay in bed for days on end, depressed and in pain. I did everything I could to take care of her. My father told me to always stay with her for when she needed anything, so I did. Morning, noon and night. I even shared the same bed with her for years just in case she needed me. I would go to school, come home, cook and clean and take care of my mother. This continued for years.

During this period, my mother underwent a few surgeries. She even did injections to ease the pain but they never lasted long. She ended up just learning to live with it. She lost and gained weight. She would stay up all night and sleep all day. Nothing really prepares you to watch someone you love suffer and all you can do is stand by because what else could you do?

My father would continue with his odd jobs here and there while I merely existed in all of this. The only home I had ever known began to fall apart. The roof was leaking, the backroom had rats and mould, the ceiling in the living room where I slept had caved in. I witnessed myself and my family deteriorating with my home. I developed severe anxiety. I was constantly worrying about my mother, her health and my future. My depression would come in waves and hit me harder each and every time.

Towards the end of our stay at my childhood home, my parents fought all the time. They fought with each other, me, my sister, everyone really. Their drug addiction had gotten out of control. They would contact whomever for any pills that could put them at ease. The only times we ever really got along at this point was when my mother had her drug prescriptions filled or when she was high.

Though, I didn’t mind. I wanted my parents to be happy. I wanted everything in the world for my parents. I looked past everything because I loved my parents dearly. I didn’t even mind that they emotionally manipulated me. I didn’t mind they guilted me into giving them money for drugs. I didn’t mind they emotionally abused me whenever they were angry.

I had to accept that my parents had become the drug addicts who only cared about themselves. The woman I saw in my home was not my loving and caring mother. However, I knew, I knew deep down inside that woman was my mother. Even though she is not the same as who she used to be, I still loved her. I knew my mother existed in there somewhere.

I had tried to stop giving in, stop handing them the money, However, I could not stop feeling guilt over not helping them. I was made to feel like I was the worst human alive. I felt like no one was on my side. When I tried to explain how I felt to my parents, I was told I was wrong for feeling the way that I did.

They even sold my desk for money. They took my car from me and got angry when I stopped making payments for the insurance. They refused to help when I needed favours unless money was involved. So, eventually, I hid my life from them. I tried to avoid them and carried on because I didn’t know what else to do. I was depressed and felt like I had no one.

Fast forward to August 2015, I came home one day to my parents talking, whispering about something. I went over and asked what was going on. My mother told me we were getting evicted. I asked when and she said in four days. I felt overwhelmingly sad and defeated as I knew there was no avoiding this. We went to court to see if we could postpone the eviction.

In court, we found out my mother hadn’t been making payments on the house for over a year. The judge wasn’t hearing any of what she had to say. By the end, my sister decided to raise her hand. As the judge gestured towards us, we stood up and began to cry. My sister told the judge our parents had lied to us. We had just found out this week we were being evicted, we didn’t know they weren’t paying the bills and we had believed the money we had been giving them was being put towards the bills. The judge was able to grant us some extra time because of this and postponed the eviction until my birthday.

Now, don’t get me wrong — my life was not a pit of despair. My mother and I spent a lot of time together over the years and we had some pretty amazing hilarious times. When things were good, it was great, and when things were bad, they were atrocious but nonetheless we tried to make the best out of a bad situation. Well, no doubt this is how I gained my terribly dark sense of humour. It was how I coped with what was happening around me. Luckily, it worked.

My mother was and will always be the nicest person I have ever met. She has been the most selfless caring person and she was the best mom she knew how to be. My father has always been a difficult person, stubborn, aggressive and manipulative but when my car broke down in the middle of a storm, he showed up. When I fell off my bike, he stood me up and told me I was fine and told me to get back on. They both taught me how to be strong without using words. Their childhoods weren’t the easiest so they did what they could for how long they could with my siblings and myself.

I always thought, “Well things could be worse”, and I was thankful that they weren’t.

Back to the present days, I ended up moving in with my now husband whom I had started dating a few years before the eviction. I told him as well as my best friend everything about my life. They helped me see things more clearly. My sister moved an hour away to be closer to my brother and his wife. My parents now live in a camper attached to a truck and I still visit them once in a while. They still ask to borrow money so if I have it, I give it to them.

I love my parents and I want what is best for them but in all honesty, being away from them has been one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I am happier now than I have ever been. My depression comes and goes but I can deal with it better now. My friends, husband, dog and hobbies are my pillars of strength. I just finished school for my associates and am now hoping to start my bachelors.

I thought I had lost so much but in hindsight, I needed to lose everything to begin the fight towards all what I needed and wanted for my future. Although my past and the feelings of guilt still haunt me, I realise things weren’t my fault. I cannot change the past. I cannot change who my parents are but I can create a better future for myself. Thus, I am learning every day. I’m seeking a higher purpose and working towards what I want. I’m finding happiness where I can.

My days aren’t always rosy. I cry every holiday. Sometimes I cry for no reason, or I’ll lay awake at night haunted by the idea that I did not do enough for my parents, haunted by my upbringing. But I take a deep breath and do what I can to gather myself and move on. My past does not define who I am. I am brave and resilient and determined to have a better life.

When I see others facing similar struggles, I am quick to offer a hug and tell them with the utmost confidence that things will get better and do what I can to be there. I want to be the person that I needed when I was younger. I want to be that person for others.