I watched “Hawthorne” on TNT tonight. One of the story lines was about a woman who came into the ER with a broken arm and during the examination she was discovered to have many bruises on her body. It was assumed that it was domestic violence visited upon her by her boyfriend. In true Nurse Hawthorne fashion, no, true to real life, she investigated the home situation and discovered it was the woman’s son who was the abuser and that the son was mentally ill. The mother had not wanted intervention because “I am his mother. I should be able to take care of him. I have only wanted him to be happy.”
I saw myself in that story line and the pictures were something out of my own life.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines adversity as “a state of hardship or affliction; misfortune.” We all have it in our lives. It is ever present. The size of it is not important.
I have a son. As the title implies, he has been my adversity. Learning from the bad things, adversity, that happen to us is important. Back then it was hard to believe that the issues at hand would ever get better and the thought of normalcy was unimaginable. We all have a time in our lives when we are forced to make hard decisions.
Beginning when he was 14 years old I spent five years making those unimaginable hard decisions. Then I spent the next ten years trying not to regret making those decisions, as my son was a constant reminder of what I had been forced to do to him and for him out of my unconditional love for him. He was also the one who reminded me constantly of what I had done to him and how his messy life was my fault, yet another adversity for me to face.
How does one survive such adversity in life? Well, it isn’t always easy. It takes character. It takes letting your guard down, even when it does not feel good. It takes allowing someone into your personal space, to get close enough to help. It takes coming out of the closet, out of hiding. It takes more than you might think you have to give.
When my son was about nine years old he became violent and abusive. By age 11 his father had become an absent father and walked out of our family at 2:00 one morning, unable to deal with our home life, which had deteriorated significantly. At age 14, I was forced to place my son outside our home—my choice, not a government system telling me to do so. Our home was being physically destroyed and my sanity was in question, not to mention the damage that it was forcing on my daughters, both older than my son. I had already attempted suicide once.
Living in fear of another human being is something I don’t wish on anyone, especially if it is your own child you are afraid of. At age 18, I was forced to make the most difficult decision a parent can ever make. Well, that was my thought at the time. I was forced to send my son to live on the street, where he stayed for almost three years, not returning to my home until his father died of leukemia. In the meantime, while I traipsed all over Central Florida on the weekends following my son from placement to placement, not being there for my daughters, the younger daughter became pregnant at age 18. I had become an absent mother.
So, adversity has been a constant in my life, never ceasing, never relenting. These instances are just a sample. What have I done with all of this, all that adversity has imposed upon me?
I have learned from all of it. In each instance there is a lesson to be learned. If we don’t stop long enough to listen and learn from our life happenings, the adversity in our lives, then we will become lost within ourselves. Unbeknownst to him, my son taught me about love; about unconditional love. He taught me to persevere. He taught me to live in the moment. He taught me to survive. He taught me to let others get close to me, invade my person space as it were, even when I would have preferred to push them away. I would not be the person I am today if I had not lived those years, struggled with adversity and survived to see the light of day.
The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark. — Barbara Hall, Northern Exposure, “Rosebud,” 1993
My son is 35 years old today and living in Central Florida where he was raised and is surrounded by my in-law family, a great bunch of people who have always been there for me too. I have been divorced now for 24 years, longer than I was married. He has much better control of his anger and I am far less afraid of him. I am in the northeast where my daughters and their families moved in 2000. I simply followed my grandchildren. I have four grandchildren; the youngest is autistic.
I have moved on, in and out of other instances of adversity that have been imposed on my life. I heard from a friend recently, “Life is short. Life is wide.” I like that for it is so true.
Stephenson, C. (2009). My Adversity, My Son. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/my-adversity-my-son/0002365
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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