Everyone has regrets: something you should not have done, or maybe something you should have. Whether that means a hook up that should have never happened or not going on that trip to Europe, we all have them. My biggest regret, however, is one that continues to haunt me. I wanted to make sure people understand that they are not alone when they face such emotional issues. I want to share my mess that has become my message.
When I was six years old, my mother had to start going to the hospital. I never thought anything of it. She was sick, so she would get better. That was what happened to people who were sick. My six-year-old brain couldn’t understand that cancer was not your every day cold.
The hospital was boring and no place for someone my age. I did not want to be there. All I wanted to do was play and have fun. I wanted to be with my friends. Why did I have to be stuck there? Why me? Why was my family not like everyone else?
My mom was always sleeping when we were in the hospital. This chapped-lipped, bald-headed woman was not my mother. This woman silently staring at me with glazed brown eyes was a stranger to me. My mother was fun-loving. She had beautiful, brown hair. She was not this woman who lay in a pale, blue hospital gown, constantly surrounded by men and woman in white coats.
So, I left her alone in her hospital bed with my dad. My mom suffered while I decided to play with the nurses instead. They wanted to make me laugh. They wanted to play with me.
And, unfortunately, one night it was. I can so clearly remember my dad pulling my sister and I into his room and telling us mommy had passed away last night. My sister immediately began to cry. I did not. I did not understand. What did he mean she was not coming back? She was my mother. Where had she gone?
I had wasted my last moments with my mother and with people I will never, and have never, seen again. How could I have done that to my poor mom? Or even my dad? They are battling a life-taking disease together, and I was just a stupid, attention-seeking girl. I do not even remember my last words to her.
So, I became a devoted daughter to my father and built up a huge emotional wall. Everything I did was for him. I wanted to make him proud in order to make up for the disgrace I had done to my mother. Every club I joined, every position I ran for was all for him to love me and be proud of me. I only had one biological parent left, and I was determined to get it right this time.
I was a woman consumed. “Do it for your father. Daddy would hate to see you do badly on this test. How could you disappoint him like that? He would want you to be president of your class. Why didn’t you push harder?” So, I pushed. To be better.
I was wrong. I had to constantly tell myself, “Stay strong. Do not let them see how this affects you.” I told myself that everyday. Every counseling session. Every time someone called my step-mom my real mom. Every stupid “your mom” joke. I held back tears.
It continued to bother me, but I had never been truly affected by it until I started college. It started out like any other school; I became super involved and still hoped to make my dad proud. However, college had introduced me to something I had never experienced before: the power of alcohol.
Alcohol was my ultimate escape. It started to become pretty prevalent in my life, as it does with most college students. It made me feel fun and alive. Yet, “Blackout Annabelle” was not fun like other people. I did not do stupid things and make people laugh. “Blackout Annabelle” finally had no more boundaries and could truly express my fears and my biggest regret.
My friends in college were the first people to truly get my full story. My true self was revealed; there was no turning back. They discovered that I hated myself for not caring enough for my mother in her last hours. I hated the fact that cancer treatments can cure some but leave some to die. I hated that my sister and I might be next, and the same thing might happen to my future family.
This was the first time I was honest with my friends and myself. No counselor or adult had been able to break down that wall. Unfortunately, it was alcohol-induced. All the same, I woke up the next morning feeling relieved. I had, I guess you could say, officially confessed my sin, my big regret.
I honestly still fight these feelings. It is a constantly battle. However, I have come to terms with the fact that I need to be more open with my friends and, mostly, myself.
I have learned to channel my sadness and regret through Relay For Life. I run and raise awareness about cancer. There, I am surrounded by people who have suffered just as I have. They understand and support me. I am able to make my father proud in an organization that supports the memory of my mother.
I can share my story and work towards a cause that ensures this regret will not happen to any more daughters. I could not be more thankful for everything that they have done for me.
I honestly do not know where I would be without my friends. They know every flaw and every regret I have; and yet, they still stand by my side and pick me up when I’m down. I believe that they were sent to me by my mom, as her way of saying, “I forgive you. Now, forgive yourself.”
The main point of this story is forgive yourself. A life filled with regret is no life at all. Be true to yourself, emotionally and physically. Happiness will find you if you are willing to find it.