05.01.12 Truth & Wisdom

Trial By Fire: Realising How Fierce I Really Am

Trial By Fire: Realising How Fierce I Really Am

BY Kate Edmonds

I am in the middle of a PCS. For you non-military people, this is a “Permanent Change of Station”…in layman’s terms… “A big move”. My husband got orders to a new base, and that means a lot of things. It means leaving our home. I am a Georgia Girl through and through. I grew up on shrimp and grits, bourbon and cokes in college and a whole lot of “Oh, bless her heart”. I am a die hard University of Georgia fan and I can’t imagine living in a place where people don’t even know where it is located (For all you non-SEC football fans, it’s Athens, Georgia. I grew up there).

It means my boys won’t have the lilt of an accent that I have.

It means that when I ask for Coke I may be served Pepsi (ick).

It means moving my entire three ring circus to sunny California. Pets included.

Now, as a military wife, I have always known that a big move would come. Last year I prayed for it, as things went downhill at this base. When we got the news that it was time to pack up and ship out, I was elated. So was my husband. This new job is a lot more interesting to him. Then things got complicated.

My biological mother suffers from Type 2 Bipolar disorder. She left me and my father when I was 13 and moved out to California and since then I haven’t had so much as a polite little postcard or a “How ya doin?”. I came home from school one day and all her stuff was just gone. I’m pretty hard to rattle, what with having dealt the “parental failure” hand already.

As it turns out, she moved to Elk Grove, California – which is right outside of the base that we are assigned to. The rest of her family has kept in touch and helped the best they can. My poor dad was left with a teen girl and worked 18 hour days so I am certainly not exaggerating when I say he needed the help. But the Bipolar disorder had already destroyed any semblance of a relationship that my biological mother and I had ever had – even if she had wanted to apologize and try and move on. In fact, when I came home that sunny spring day and saw she was gone, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was slightly relieved. I took on being a kid to a single parent with the same tenacity I did everything else. I wasn’t afraid to be alone. I wasn’t missing any human interaction since aside from coming out to belittle me or get her medicine, she never said anything to me. In fact, I rocketed to the top of honor roll and made the varsity volleyball team when I started High School, and kept right on moving forward.

When she found out that I was moving an hour away she asked if she could see me. I said no. When she found out I would fly into Sacramento… I absolutely forbade it. But, in keeping with her true colors, I was informed by well wishers that she was going to try to come anyway. Somebody told her that showing up at the airport would be my worst nightmare. They were right. Some things just aren’t able to be swept under the rugn and in my book, what she did is one of them. She may have given birth to me, but my father remarried an amazing woman I am PROUD to call my mother. When I was in labor she was there, when I was sick with the flu in college, I drove 4 hours home so she could take care of me. When I need my mother, I just have to pick up the phone and my stepmother is there, always. How was I supposed to reconcile someone who didn’t want to be a mother with the fact that she left and her role was filled? It was simple, my husband told me, you don’t.

I have spent the past month being afraid to leave this place. Knowing that as soon as I walked off the plane there would be a slew of family I WANT to see and possibly one person I don’t want to – especially after 18 hours of traveling with an 8-month old, a 3-year old and a cat. I told my aunt that they would have to manually unbolt the seat from the airplane to get me out there. But then I realized how very strong I am. How my biological mother doesn’t control me anymore. How she can’t hurt me in any way, physically or mentally. My husband pointed out yesterday that I am an adult which means any control that my biological once has greatly diminished (are you seeing a theme here? He’s my voice of reason!).

Today I realized that in 16 days I will board a plane. I will leave the only home I have ever known and embark on a new adventure and I am not afraid anymore. I will make us a new life, as per military wife protocol. I may be afraid of heights and spiders, but I am not ashamed of how I turned out when it comes to who I am as a woman, a mother and a daughter. I am no longer afraid to confront the woman who left me. I say, bring it on.

Image via Thinkstock

Kate Edmonds is a 24 year old mother of two boys.  She studied Music and History at Wesleyan College. Her husband is a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force and has been on 8 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • Dear Kate, I am an individual who was diagnosed in 1999 for bipolar 1. After a relapse(manic episode) last year, I had been diagnosed bipolar 1 with psychosis. I can understand your hurt feelings. I also was abandoned by my parents(emotionally). My support system was my grandmothers. After studying a lot, reading, chatting with others who are bipolar, I have learned a lot more about the chemical imbalance. It is a genetic disorder. Certain events (triggers or stressors) make this disorder rear it’s ugly head. I call it ugly because trust me if I had the choice of having this or not, I would choose not to have it. Ask yourself, do you know what triggers your biological mom went through which made it’s ugly head show. It might have been post-partem depression, or some other event in her life. Also, if you don’t have a good psychiatrist, a person is never properly medicated. For 13yrs, I was only prescribed one mood stablizer, through the public health system because I am disabled. Because I have been blessed enough to have found a very good doctor, I am now doing better (emotionally/mentally) than I have ever been in my life. So it takes a lot of work, and watchful eye, for a bipolar to be as “normal” as possible. I cannot answer for your mother, but what I can tell you is: it was possible she was manic when she abandoned you and your father. Did you know the true relations between your parents? A child never knows what happens in their parents’ bed. As to why she never communicated with you, I don’t know what to say. But I can say a hypo manic or manic episode can last for months or years. She might have been ashamed to communicate with you. Because once you are manic episode you do things you are very ashamed of. Once I left the hospital, all I did was apologize for months. Some people understood and others, including who I thought was my “best” friend, dropped me like a hat. At the time I needed THEM most, they were NOT there for me either. So my point is, please give your biological mom one chance. Maybe one chance to truly explain everything to you. You never know, at this time, you might end up becoming great friends.

    • Haywood Yajustickit

      Hello. I am the significant other to the unfortunate mother is this article. I appreciate your kind words, and I hope you are doing well with your life. You said many things in your reply which speak to the truth of the situation, and while I won’t go into specifics, I will say that Kate was not abandoned; in fact, she was given many months notice.Kate CHOSE to stay because she had many friends there, and was relucant to leave her current situation. I can also say that after she left her mother tried many times to communicate with Kate, but was harshly rebuffed every time. The only time Kate wanted to communicate was after she had been drinking, and then it was only to belittle her mom. Her mom was devastated by having to leave, and she only left out of fear for her safety. Kate’s father, Steve, is an abusive, evil man, and threatened her mom with great bodily harm many times. For example, he threw her down a hallway once, and she has never been able to walk properly since. So, you can probably see why she left. I only wish this could be handled in a more objective manner, but that would require the participation of two adults. Unfortunately, Kate does not yet meet that criterion.
      Best of luck in your journey. You showed a lot of courage and honesty by sharing your feelings. The world needs more comapssionate people like you. Peace.

    • get some real help

      Don’t understand how people have to blab their ‘crap’ of their relationships with parents, family, friends, etc. in a blog instead of communicating with those involved directly. Chicken shit! Get a backbone and go to a therapist and find some real help. Mental illness is a real, honest, and disabling thing. I have my own issues with mental illness, parental shit, and relationship issues that I’ve been working through. I commend those who desire to help those with it. I have personal experience with one-on-one counseling that literally saved my life, as well as the lives of several people I love dearly, and made my relationships with those in my life who are challenging at least tolerable if not loving. You may not know all the details of the relationship between your MOTHER and your dad, but I think it was to save you from hurt. You are lucky you have a mother figure close at hand, but perhaps your birth mother would also be a great care taker, etc. Quit publicly blaming others in your life for your problems, etc. Journaling is a very helpful thing but to make it public can be very hurtful.

    • someone who relates

      thank you for your wisdom and experience!

  • Kate

    As the author of this, I believe that I have the right to rebuff some of these statements made by my “mothers significant other”. You do not know me…and you also wouldn’t know that I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol until I was 22 and married. I also have never contacted her because She made her feelings clear. You may know her now, but you did not know her then. I was a child, and as an adult I am given levity and clarity, I am also blessed with the ability to write which means I will share. Regardless of how you feel, or what you think you know, you are not allowed to go off of what you THINK you know. I appreciate your need to protect her, however I spent years doing that as a child. No child should have to feel like they have to protect their parent, and that is exactly what I was pushed to do. If you would like to speak with me, that is fine, I am more than willing to. But the last time I spoke to my mother before coming here was when I was 17 and in college…and an email when I was 21 and PREGNANT ( I assure you I wasn’t drinking then, sir). Neither time did I belittle her. Our relationship is tenuous and strained and it simply is what it is. If you are displeased with what I write, then may I suggest not reading it in the future?

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