I am what is known as an ACOA (Adult Child of Alcoholic). I say that with love and respect; after all, that has played a huge role in who I am.By all outside appearances I have an extraordinary, amazing life. I agree, I do. But what it looks like on the outside can also be deceiving.
How many times have you lost yourself in some chronic family crisis, giving and giving until there is no more left to give-and yet you give more? Out of duty. Out of love. Out of knowing that everyone is looking to you?
As women, or like me, the “parentified child”, we have often learned from childhood that we are the ones that must be the peacemakers, the problem-solvers, the fixers-the ones to make concessions. The ones whose needs come last. And we sometimes do this with dire consequences, losing ourselves, sometimes our partners and our children-and even our souls. I lost myself for a very long time.
My younger brother was my greatest friend. My confidant since we were little children. In adulthood he struggled with severe alcoholism for more than twelve years. It was a roller-coaster of epic proportions and sadly he lost his brave battle in March 2012 when he took his own life. During that that time I managed to create a highly successful business with the formula of working-moms, allowing them to have a job while knowing their children were, and should be, their top priority. I proved to myself and others that you can create a highly profitable and successful company while scheduling around school aged children. Sick days, dentist appointments, Easter break, Christmas vacation, summer holidays and so much more. It is one of my life’s greatest accomplishments. That women do not have to be in competition with each other; we can all flourish while supporting each other and cheering each other on.
I understand now perhaps that was my therapy. A way to occupy my body. A way to occupy my mind. To lift my spirits. In 2016, I sold that business believing I was ready to retire and pursue where my heart was leading me- to talk about my journey with my beloved brother, mental illness and addiction in hopes of helping others. What I wasn’t expecting is that the past would finally catch up to me causing my own nervous breakdown on June 3, 2017. I would spend the next year struggling through severe depression, crying spells, dizziness, lack of concentration, memory loss and suicidal thoughts. I thought I was fine. It turns out, I wasn’t. Due to this experience and setback I took a hiatus from writing articles and speaking engagements.
I have worked hard through therapy, exercise, healthy diet (sometimes, lol), loving support from those closest to me and with the help of medication to finally feel like myself again. I have also recently, began a new business called Seriously Shea with my 25 year old son. He, like my brother, also began having panic attacks and anxiety at a very early age. So this new venture is not just something to occupy my time but to fill my heart. Standing next to my son, it is our goal to create a self-care brand, encouraging others to take time for themselves. That it is not selfish but necessary. And to encourage others to do the same. You don’t ever know what someone else is going through so be kind.
While I always thought my story was surrounding my brother, his addiction and battle with mental illness I realize now how our childhood has impacted both of us. We were not raised in an environment to talk about our feelings and that created a feeling of shame and silence. But silence keeps people hiding, our loved ones sick and this perpetual cycle continuing generation after generation.
I will continue to stand loud and proud when I speak of my own mental health problems and those of my brother.
Much love to all of you on your unique life’s journey. And never let anyone make you feel guilty or ashamed for what you need to do to live a beautiful and healthy life. You deserve that. You do. On your terms.
Remember it is up to you.The answer is YOU.
I am always so grateful for reviews, and although in this instance I didn’t win an award it did touch my heart. That we all find the courage to accept the truth of our lives, learn from our mistakes and try to see life from all sides.