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Spoil Mom This Mother's Day with These Gifts from CVS!
Because she's worth it
Did you know that it’s Mother’s Day this weekend? Conveniently, it’s also National Mental Health Awareness Month!
New Weekly Ad + Spoil Mom This Mother’s Day!
was the headline that jumped out amid a lengthy list of timely pitches and spam emails all enticing me to spend-spend-spend in honor of the woman who sacrificed her body and gestated me in utero for 9 months.
They got me. Congratulations, corporate newsletter writer! Pray tell: which wares say from CVS say, “Thank you/I love you” to the woman I discuss weekly in therapy?
Give her “A MOMent to relax,” CVS cheerily suggests, perhaps with a gift basket of home-spa essentials she'll love or a beautiful photo gift she'll treasure. Just above, CVS slides a bright red reminder that time is running out to get at-home COVID-19 tests at no cost before insurance benefits end on May 11. Don’t forget mom; get ready to forget COVID.
I remember the advertisement while I am standing in line waiting to pick up my prescription, four days into cold turkey withdrawal from my mood stabilizer. A multi-person game of bureaucratic miscommunication between therapists, psychiatrists, administrators, and pharmacists, all operating on different timelines and patient portals has left me jittery, messy, and physically emitting the tell-tale signs of a borderline anxiety attack: shrieking, fast-paced voice; quickening heartbeat; the unsettled stomach; the uncontrollable break to tears.
But where, oh where, are Carly’s meds?
I stare at the display of costume jewelry by the pharmacy register, scanning my eyes across the rows of cheap silver bow earrings with dangling teardrop cubic zirconia and faux pearl-studded hoops as I try to imagine whose style they are, if not my own. Are these the gifts that will make mom feel spoiled? Or is the gift of simply being remembered by your child one day a year enough? I do love tacky shit.
If cannabis is a constant, the variable of chemical withdrawal means very little at this moment; I am anxious as fuck. As each day passed without medication, I found myself growing increasingly irate as I ascended the monstrous chain of command, unable to understand what kind of unsympathetic and dehumanizing culture of wellness would force a person onto a medication, establish trust and routine, then leave this person in neglect, as though they are a product of their own undoing. And yet, here we are.
I thought of my mom, whom I have not spoken with since the beginning of November. Though she has been ill most of my life, I spent the past few years leading up to my grandmother’s death encouraging her to get help and plan for a future, watching her deteriorate month after month to the point her words became incoherent as she’d argue over which day of the week it is, like trying to convince someone that the sky is blue and water is wet. Anyone with a mentally ill family member is well aware that obtaining legal guardianship is a lengthy and expensive process with mixed results, and was certainly beyond my own budget.
November was the month I sent a third and final email outlining the conditional terms of speaking: she needed to get help. To understand her illness, recognize and treat it. To be at a point of reflection to acknowledge her own behavior and the way that it impacts others. To apologize for the ways that she has hurt me and those around her as a ricochet of the ways she felt hurt. “But why are you punishing me? I didn’t do anything,” she wrote.
While I wait in line at CVS, she sends me an email that I immediately archive. These are not the thoughts and feelings of a person in touch with reality. It’s a disconnected perspective that shatters the vision of a woman who both loved me unconditionally and spent years using me as a defense system against what she perceived to be an unjust world.
Her latest version of reality is convinced that I have been abducted by military intelligence and am being held in a prison, weaving together some discordant narrative of the landlords and neighbors from my adolescence conspiring against her as part of a long-term plot that includes gang stalking, identity theft, gassing her apartment with chemicals, electrocuting her bed, implanting a listening device in her tooth, using parabolic devices and keystroke technology, while siphoning what little savings she has. The narrative is desperate, full of suffering, and hopeless, with no real course of action to alleviate the distress. It’s a familiar one, one that I had heard over and over for more than three decades.
She believes this narrative so deeply that she is incapable of understanding, accepting, or apologizing for the years that uprooted my life with unspeakable traumas, moving apartment to apartment, motel to charity housing, and the couches of friends whose families took upon them the burden of helping me on my way to finishing school. She cannot understand, accept, or apologize for the years of waking me up with piercing screams of imagined persecution in the middle of the night, shoving me into the car and driving aimlessly for hours before I’d have to go to school, being forced to call my friends’ parents to bail her out of jail for harassing neighbors because she felt harassed, or having our door broken in by the sheriff’s department as our belongings were kicked to the curb with yet another eviction. And yet, I expected to be a dutiful and loving daughter.
“You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to call your mother sometime.”
Calling her to assure her that I am not being held in a prison is a futile act as she can neither remembers nor believes it is me. Yet somehow, she remembers when I don’t call her on holidays. It’s enough of a paradox to question your own reality. There is no such thing as closure.
The final straw came after a stressful and expensive attempt to provide her safe and stable housing after my grandmother passed. It was the fear I had been holding onto for years, the one that gripped with me anxiety and the urge to flee as far as possible. The burden of love to care for someone stricken with uncontrollable illness but filled with abuse. The burden of love that I was forced to carry without the feeling of being cared for. The body is informed by its trauma, which no gratitude journal or mindful meditation can sufficiently quell without the assistance of medication.
Even with the help of her siblings, she managed to undo everything that was done for her: sabotaging her lease, calling off movers, refusing to cooperate with internet, phone and heating providers, driving around for boxes rather than use money given to her to purchase them—all while kicking and screaming, “It’s not me, it’s them.” Them, this imaginary cohort of forces in the universe somehow directly tied to her own actions where she was not culpable of any of them.
When you have an emotional break, there is no 12-step program as part of rehabilitation. There is not a set rule or guideline for how to repair relationships with others with the lucidity of processing trauma. The evolution of personal growth is the self-awareness to recognize the ways we are untamed and develop empathy for those who struggle. Some people may never reach the other side, and all you can do is bear witness to unimaginable suffering without a companion guide for how to help. At least there’s medication. At least I hope so.
After performing a bit of mental gymnastics over milligrams, dosage, and renewals, I finally get my medication and rush out the door. Mere seconds later, I turn back for a seltzer before chugging down the pills in one gulp. I hurry to the farmers market at Union Square, blinded by the sunlight and the extremes, walking in a very large circle past the compost bins and solicitors asking me if I care about dogs or human beings as I timidly say, “I need to go away now,” until I find a shady bench. A few moments pass and I suddenly feel the sense of relief kick in, my breath slow and steady as my focus sharpens. The sun blankets my skin in warmth as I revive into a casual stroll, coaxed into a Cobb salad at Penny Farthing’s, where the espresso martinis are $5 all day and the vibe is resoundingly average in the most comforting way.
I think of my mother and how I wish she would spoil herself in the ways I no longer can. The ways that remind her that she doesn’t have to suffer, if she doesn’t want to; the ways I know I suffer less when society gives me permission to spoil myself with radical acts of self-care. The relief I felt and how I wish she would feel relief, too. The ways the bow-shaped silver earrings with the teardrop cubic zirconia might be a simple, tacky gesture that could be appreciated simply for the thought that counts instead of the tangible ways she has felt let down or neglected.
Because I believe women frequently deserve more credit than they are given, I try not to knock Mother’s Day too much. And while I would hate to lean into Freudian slips for Mental Health Awareness month, I think it is important to remind others that days of celebration can also be days of mourning. For those with good relationships with their mothers, hold them tightly and show them love; and for those without, show patience and empathy.
And at the very least, please do better than spoiling her with gifts from CVS.
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Talking edibles and social justice with writer Chala June
The wellness journey you never asked for
The pros and cons of a pot-induced nervous breakdown
High life in Kansas City with Riley Brain of Wandering Bud
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