Chasing Yesterday’s Rainbows

Mom & Bonni

I took this photo of my mother and my sister during one of our many visits to a mental hospital in northern Virginia, many years ago now. It was a lucky capture of something increasingly fleeting – tenderness, trust, and a smile, between a mother and her daughter. I haven’t been secretive about my mom’s descent into severe mental illness. It is highly stigmatized, which is stupid, because that makes it far more difficult for all of us to bear. So I will always speak up.

Mom battles Delusional Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder, which have no cure and no trusted form of treatment, due to the patient’s inherent suspicion and lack of insight into her condition. We’ve seen her through psychotic breakdowns, hospital stays, suicide attempts, jail time, and homelessness. As hard as that is, the reason it’s most excruciating is because Mom was our best friend growing up. She was a loving and energetic person. But her delusions have transformed Bonni, my dad, and I into the enemy, causing her a great deal of fear, anger, sadness, and pain – which causes her to lash out. And now, it’s hard not to hate the manipulative and abusive person she has become. Continue reading

Be You… Not (Necessarily) You, Jr.

IMG_2166 This photo has re-energized me to write about the topic that makes me the most nervous: motherhood. I shared it on Facebook this week in a jocular context, knowing full well the truth it holds for me and a fair number of my peers, who struggle with the question of kids now or later… or… never?

I’ve started writing about the kids issue a million times by now. But I never finish, because I don’t know quite how to say what I want to say. I’m not sure I even know what to say in the first place, as I learn and evolve. Most of the material out there is either overly defensive, or too funny, or too angry. Nothing has authentically spoken to my own feelings on the matter. The conversation about women choosing not to have children is relatively new still, and it’s a tough balance to strike.

I have not made any solid decisions one way or the other. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But, as a married woman in her 30s, the pressure to decide weighs upon me all the time. Will I… or won’t I? And why? Of course, as a married woman in her 30s, I have to explain myself. I shouldn’t have to, of course… but we aren’t quite there yet, societally. And I know full well that people wonder. Continue reading

Remembering Mom

Happy Mother’s Day! Since it is already Sunday in Japan, I sent both of my mothers an e-mail, wishing them a very special day. I fully expect that my wonderful Mother-in-Law will have a lovely day surrounded by family, and I wish Chuck and I could be there to celebrate with her, as she is one of the greatest mothers I know. On a less joyous note, however, I always take some time on this day to think about my own mother, from whom I am mostly estranged. Of course, it’s also a good and relevant time to remember that May is Mental Health Month across the country.

ImageFor me, the hardest part about Mother’s Day is watching everyone update their Facebook profiles with pictures and memories of their moms. I’m fairly notorious for being an “ice queen”, and have managed to conquer many of my emotions and move on with my life, but Mother’s Day photos (and wedding day photos), always make me a little sad – especially because I feel like I lose the memory of my own Mom more and more every day. As the gap widens between the Mom of yesteryear and the Mom of today, it is increasingly difficult to remember her when she was happy and healthy. Not only does this make me feel incredibly guilty – it makes me concerned too. I don’t have the best memory as it is (which is why I love pictures so much) but I don’t have access to many good photos of her, either…

…But I do have a few! These were actually taken after she became ill – and there is lots of history and drama behind each one – but they capture glimpses of light that were becoming so rare in those days. Such glimpses are mostly nonexistent now, but I hope that photos like these will at least help me remember her smile.



My sister, Mom, and I with her crazy devil-kitty “Sugie” at her home in Winchester, VA. Mom is now homeless and Sugie developed temperament issues and had to part ways…



One Christmas, Mom bought us matching pave diamond rings to signify our bond. A couple of years ago, she stopped wearing hers and gave it to me to sell.  I can no longer find mine, but hers still sits in my jewelry box.



I love this shot I took of my mom and sister at the in-patient facility in Virginia. It is a soft and genuine moment, yet it captures how lost and changed she was, too. If I ever complete my memoirs, this photo will grace the cover.

I apologize for the downer, but I need to write about my mother once in a while, and it’s as good a time as any to help appreciate the precious gift that is mental health, and mourn those who have lost it.  But now… back to travel, food, shopping, and kittens 🙂