Women’s History Month: Cheryl!

It can’t be easy losing your mom.  I’m grateful not to know what it’s like to lose the very person who I can connect with no matter what.  Its been quite some years for Cheryl and yet the pain is always there.  Here is her story of her journey through grief and depression.

Most people know that my mother passed when I was 23. Imagine watching the person you love, the person you aspire to be, even if you just get a little of her, the person that was always so strong, loving and giving, DIE!!! Yes, DIE, imagine watching your MOTHER waste away to nothing due to a horrific thing called cancer! Fresh out of college, degree, figuring out life and walking directly into womanhood! But wait, the person you always thought would be there to guide you and be there is no more! You can’t call her, you can’t seek motherly advice, you can’t have an adult relationship with her. She would never been there to see you get married, have kids (jury still out on that) or grown into the woman she taught you to me.

My mother passed in July 2004. What I realize now is I never grieved. I went through YEARS of emotional instability and functional depression. My emotions were like a roller coaster. I was all over the place, happy, sad, good, bad, indifferent and crazy (yup, I said it). I was 23 going into womanhood and lost my mom. I was entering real life and the real world, how was I going to navigate without her. I was angry and felt cheated. God, why did you take MY MOM!! She never did anything to anyone, she served you and NEVER complained, not even on her deathbed. Yes, it was a real battle.

Functional depression, yes. I wasn’t completely gone (mental wise) and knew I had to be able to function to get a job (student loans were knocking at my door). So basically, I was going through the motions, putting on to do what needed to be done. But at the end of the day, I was shut off to the world, family and friends. I chose not to be bothered with anyone or anything. After work, I came home and stayed in the house. I could sit in the house in silence and in darkness.

How did I overcome? I’m a church kid, PK (preacher’s kid) to be exact. So I knew where my help came from, it just took me longer then needed to remember. Through that process God didn’t give up on me. My husband (just got back together…that’s another story) loved every bit of me through it all. My friends, I have a close knit circle that have been with me for years, the oldest friendship going back to the age of 12. They too loved me through it all, prayed for me, listened to me (sometimes you just need an ear), gave me their shoulders to cry on (literally) and my family. My mom has 5 sisters and they all have stepped up in one way or another to be there for me. So, it was no doing of my own if I didn’t have that support system I know exactly where I would be….302’d (mental hospital)

What would you tell your younger self?

GO FOR IT!! Don’t be intimidated, do it afraid. Even if you don’t meet all the qualifications, apply anyway. Do that internship, volunteer, broaden your horizons. Study abroad (which I always wanted to do), get involved in your school or college (again, something I didn’t do in college). Try that new restaurant, go alone if you have to. Explore the world, again, go alone if you have to. Don’t let anything or anyone talk you out of something, not even yourself. Take that art class. Dance class, music lesson, etc… Life is short, learn as much as you can. Don’t fall into the trap of time limits to get married, have kids, get that ultimate job., etc.. When you fall into that time trap, you don’t live and enjoy the life and season you are currently in.

What has been your biggest victory?
My biggest victory came from my greatest challenge. I’m no longer emotionally unstable or functionally depressed. Yes, I do deal with some anxiety but nothing debilitating. Through this process I’ve learned how to press on even when you have no press in you. I’ve learned that in my weakness God is my strength. I’ve learned the value of true friendships. I’ve learned to be more understanding and not treat people how I was treated. When I was going through my season, I’ve come against the most insensitive people that have said the most unkind and repulsive things. I’ve learned not to be these people but to allow my experiences and struggles to help someone else. If I can help someone else, then my go through wasn’t in vain.

What would be your message to all women?
Be confident not cocky. Compromise don’t settle. Know your worth. Empower yourself. Don’t look for others to validate you. You can be the monkey in someone’s circus everyday and that still won’t be enough. Have standards for yourself. Don’t waste energy fighting unnecessary battles, you don’t have to accept every invitation to a battle or argument. Believe people’s actions, believe people when they show you who you are (you will save yourself a lot of trouble). Forgive quickly, anger and bitterness only kills you and your spirit. Forgiving doesn’t mean turning a blind eye and going back into that same situation, relationship, friendship, job, or what have you. Don’t live for everyone else or try to keep up with everyone else. Don’t explain yourself. If you don’t want kids, don’t want to get married, want to travel the world, want to become a Nun or whatever, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. You have a right to make your own decisions and live the life you choose!

This goes to show you that you never know what someone is going through. Reach across and find out why your friend is hurting. Women are quick to judge each other and haven’t walked a mile in another women’s shoes. Depression and grief are real. You can’t simply tell someone to snap out of it. Be gentle with one another and be there. We as women have a wealth of support within us if we just be open.

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