I know the day's almost over but it kind of took me a while to dig through my memories and emotions. (Disclaimer: I do hit on my struggles with depression and the not so great ways I chose to deal with it.)
  1. I'm two years old and have decided to flex my stubborn muscles by standing up on my rocking horse. I've been told multiple times to get down and have even been popped on the behind a time or two, but it still doesn't dissuade my little feet from climbing onto the seat each time my mother leaves.
  2. "Kayla Di--" she begins, but she never has the chance to finish that terror-inducing full name call because just as she rounds the corner, the horse rocks forward, sending me on a collision course with the wooden arm of the nearby couch.
  3. Before I can get my first wail out, she's scooped me up, and she and my dad have rushed me to the nearby emergency room. "Mom," the doctor says calmly as my little body jerks and flails in an attempt to get away from the strangers in scrubs holding me down, "you and Dad can go sit out in the waiting room."
  4. Without missing a beat, my mother looks him square in the eyes and tells him, "And I can stay right here, too." True to her word, she never leaves my side.
  5. I'm three & half years old and a newly minted big sister who's finding out that the role isn't nearly as much fun as all the adults told me it would be. Everything's "the baby this" & "the baby that." After two weeks, I've decided I've had enough of it so I pack up all my worldly possessions into my little red daycare bag & I run away from home.
  6. The only problem is that I've been so ingrained with the rules that I don't cross the street alone or leave the yard without telling someone that the only option I have is to runaway and live with Boo-Boo in his doghouse. But being the traitor that he is, Boo-Boo trots out of the house with my rainbow blanket, revealing my secret hiding place.
  7. It isn't long before my mother shows up, asking me to come back home. "No," I say, wiping my nose with the sleeve of my shirt, "because you love him now, not me." My mother looks like I've just shot her through the heart, and for all I know, maybe I have.
  8. "Just because there's a new baby doesn't mean we stopped loving you," she replies gently. "It just means our love has grown."
  9. "But he's the baby," I argue back. "Everybody loves babies."
  10. "That's true," she says, rubbing the rainbow yarn of my blanket between her fingers. "But you did something that he'll never ever be able to do."
  11. "What?" I ask, my voice wobbling with tears.
  12. "You're the one who made me a momma."
  13. Her words are not only enough to coax me out of that doghouse, but enough to convince me to give this whole family of four thing another try.
  14. I'm four and a half years old and I'm standing on the high dive, paralyzed with fear. On the ground it didn't seem all *that* scary, but now that I'm up here, it feels like I'm up as high as the planes in the sky. My classmates behind me have long grown restless, the instructors are begging me to jump, & I'm wailing about how much I want my mommy.
  15. Any other day this wouldn't have been a problem because any other day my mom would've been in her bathing suit, but today? Today she's without a suit because my brother has an ear infection that's left him at home with Dad.
  16. It looks like somebody's going to have to climb up there and physically remove me from the board until I hear my mom's voice cut through the chaos around me- "You can go ahead and jump because I'm right here to catch you."
  17. Sure enough when I open my eyes, she's down in the water below me- good clothes and all- with outstretched arms.
  18. Years later, I ask her why she did it and she tells me, "Because I didn't want your fear to keep you from missing out." Without knowing it, she's just given me one of the foundation pieces on which I now try to build my life.
  19. I'm thirteen and I've just confessed that the reason why I don't want to go to my English class isn't because we're doing nothing or because I have a headache, but because of a teacher who devalues my opinion if it differs from his & who constantly accuses me of cheating on my assignments because "an eighth grader just doesn't write at this level."
  20. My mom is understandably pissed but I plead with her not to say anything because I know in my heart it'll just make everything worse. She agrees until the day he sends her an email telling her that if I were his child, he'd jerk a knot in my hair.
  21. At that point, she not only confronts the teacher over the situation but pulls in the head principal, who makes the teacher issue apologies to us both.
  22. For my part, I am both mortified and furious that my mother has broken her word to me. She endures three days of one of the coldest shoulders I've ever given her before she finally explains why she did what she did- "If I don't show you that you're worth standing up for then how are you ever going to learn to stand up for yourself?"
  23. I'm fifteen and half and have been old enough to have my restricted driver's license for three months. But unlike my peers, I have no interest whatsoever in getting them because "I just don't see the point".
  24. At least that's what I tell everyone but Mom knows that the ugly, pathetic truth is that I'm scared of driving.
  25. She acknowledges this, respects it, and then takes my behind down to the DMV because "it's okay to be scared, but it's not okay to let fear rule your decisions." That day, I walk out of the DMV as a licensed driver and with yet another fear semi-conquered.
  26. I'm seventeen and an ugly, self-destructive mess who skips class, hangs out with people who use me, and eats pill after pill to numb the brokenness that's threatening to devour me whole. We have some nasty fights during this period and yet no matter how deeply the words cut, she's always up, waiting on me when I decide to come back home.
  27. When an incident at school finally causes me to shatter, it isn't my "friends" who help me pick up my broken pieces, but the woman I've been doing my best to push away. When I ask her why she's helping me after all the horrible things I've done and said, her reply is simple:
  28. "We're going to fight and we're going to screw-up and hurt each other's feelings, but it doesn't mean I'm ever going to quit loving you or being here when you need me."
  29. I'm eighteen, sitting in a sea of newly purchased items for my dorm room, and in the middle of having a good ole fashioned meltdown because I know in my heart of hearts that I'm fixing to make one of the biggest mistakes of my young life.
  30. While I've gained admission to a good school, a respectable school, it's also not one of the schools I've always dreamed of going to. Instead it's a school I've allowed myself to be talked into by people who I've since come to realize didn't always have my best interest at heart.
  31. The only thing I can tell my parents through my sobs is that "I'm making a mistake".
  32. In response, my mom asks me to go and give it a try, which I do only to end up dropping out a semester and a half later because I'm too depressed and miserable to walk to class.
  33. As we load up the last of my stuff into the back of her van, my mother turns, looks me in the eye, and apologizes.
  34. I'm...stunned. This was my failing, my screw-up, so what did she have to be sorry for?
  35. "Because you needed me to trust you and I didn't."
  36. I still feel like a failure and the world's biggest screw-up, but this moment opens an entirely new facet in the relationship we share.
  37. I'm twenty-four and I've just broken up for the last time with the guy I thought I had a future with.
  38. "I hate him," I declare as I dig into the carton of cookies and cream ice cream.
  39. "No, you don't," she replies. "You hate what he did to you, but you don't hate him."
  40. She's right- I do hate his actions but I don't actually hate him. Still, I'd rather take AP Biology, AP Chemistry and Old Testament again before I'd ever admit this to her.
  41. I'm twenty-six. I'm happy, I'm (mostly) healthy, and I feel like I've finally started making strides towards achieving my dreams. Everything's rainbows and sunshines until one seemingly normal day when it all comes crashing down for reasons I can't quite explain.
  42. Suddenly, I'm not only incapable of taking care of myself, but I don't even feel like I can trust myself.
  43. It takes me a few months to pull down the "I'm fine" mask I'm hiding behind but once I do, Mom doesn't hesitate to step in to do whatever I need for her to so that I can get the help I need.
  44. I'm twenty-seven and sharing a lazy lunch with Mom when the topic of my dreams and future plans come up. Although I'm in a better space emotionally and mentally, I've started to feel like it's time to give up on my dreams in favor of something a little more stable and, um, profitable. But when I tell Mom this, I watch a scowl overtake her features.
  45. "What?"
  46. She lets out a sigh. "Nothing."
  47. One Mississippi...
  48. Two Mississippi...
  49. Three Missi—
  50. "Did you know that Stevie Nicks was twenty-seven when she joined Fleetwood Mac and thirty-three before she ever cut a solo album?"
  51. I smile.
  52. "And did you know that J.K. Rowling was rejected by twelve different publishing houses before one agreed to publish Harry Potter?"
  53. Of course I do because I'm the one who told her.
  54. "And did you know that Connie Britton was—"
  55. "Alright, alright, I get it."
  56. "Just remember, kid: if there's a dream that keeps coming back to you, there's probably a reason for it, so—"
  57. "Give it time and have a little faith."
  58. So thanks, Mom for never leaving me alone and helping me conquer my fears. For believing in my dreams and protecting my broken pieces until I'm strong enough to put them together. But mostly, thanks for loving me even when it was the last thing in the world I deserved. You are seriously da best!