Contributed by Tiyana Henriques
To my younger self and all those who are coming of age,
Disclaimer: I need you fellow Tiyanas out there in the world to know that pain will inevitably manifest into growth, in particular, the growth of the self. These crazy events of my mother being sectioned and me being put in care at the age of thirteen enabled me to become the strong and resilient woman I am today, a woman who doesn't give up regardless of the difficulty. At first, I have to admit, it is easier to be angry at the world, at your abuser, or even yourself. I know it may seem hard now but this pain is worthwhile, and most importantly, temporary.
Thirteen - a number that is either celebrated or cursed. For Jewish culture, it reeks of early maturity. For the superstitious, it screams danger, haunting their sleep. For me, it was both. An age where I was reaching the dawn of femininity, I could almost smell the morning dew on the orchids. Yet, my glass world had shattered and it began to rain shards.
A year prior to me ageing into liminality, I had a front-row seat to my mother's performance: a slip into her labyrinthine mind where she played with the ghosts of her past. Fuelling her insanity, I watched my mother transform into a monster that had been scarred by deep consuming anguish and anxiety that annihilated her peace. Her rage was akin to a volcanic eruption, with her ash knowing no bounds. Her elation was eerie and at most confusing - I was disturbed by these 'voices' who owned the remote control to her mind or her conversations with the cheese grater she insisted on having. I lost my mother to a disease of the mind - a poisonous fate I fear will latch onto me when I'm older.
As chaos sang at a crescendo, I became an amazing actor, locking my pain behind a red door, wincing as I heard its cries. My philosophy was fake it til you make it. I began to mirror those who I most envied: the people who I believed had perfect lives. I ensured that I retained the mould of a top student, I wore a clown's smile and I lied. I tattooed so many facades, I forgot my real face. I was hooked on drugs called make-believe, make-up, masquerade. I took them all as it temporarily sucked the darkness behind me. I needed to forget. I needed to forget when I got hit in my eye so badly that I had bloodshot. I needed to forget the times when I was ignored, or ashamed because I was at perpetual war with the truth. Despite the highs of ignorance, I was a hamster running on its last legs, craving emancipation.
The missing ingredient to my happiness? Honesty. If you looked hard enough, I had tiny cracks in my diamond eyes, telling evidence of me crumbling at the pressure of pretenses and the overflow of trauma in the hard drive of my mind. I constantly shielded others from my burdens of domestic life, if I was seen as one of the alphas at school, I transformed into a lone wolf at home. This was the crux of the problem. I was the root of my self-destruction, drowning in my pain, alone.
And eventually, the bottle cracked, so I had no choice but to beat the darkness out of my body. Have you ever been so blinded by tears you can't see? That day when I detonated, I destroyed my disguises. When my mother was sectioned, I told people about the shadows I had nurtured. It took some time but I found my buried honey-toned voice which has steadily increased in tones of confidence. I slowly learned (and am still in the process of learning) how to accept help before I let my grief, stress, and worries explode before me. I needed to have control of myself to prevent me from becoming a prisoner of my mind.
Writing this letter to you all has been one of the hardest things I have done in a while, but it has given me closure. I can honestly say that this letter is the key to my hope, happiness, and survival.
Love nineteen-year-old Tiyana.