Aug 23, 2021 • 9M

Wrestling with Grandma

One Trauma, 4 Generations and 3 Mental Health Conditions

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Conversations with those who inspired the book.
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We frequently can’t understand where our suffering is coming from, but when we do the world suddenly lights up with the possibility of healing.

It is a bright sunny morning, the spring is plush with the invigorating smell of flowers and the birds are cheerfully chirping.

A little girl is born to three siblings in a stable upper-middle-class family in 1938. 1940 is the year her father dies of pneumonia. She isn’t even two. The family had to hustle because the mom could not work at that time. They lived below their means. She never got all the toys, food, and luxury trips her sisters got. Instead, she desired all her attention from her now-single mother. Perhaps what was worse than poverty, was watching her mother go through that long, deep, and sorrowful heartbreak. Her first few years of life, were her mother’s worst.

That was her childhood. She sought the attention and love a baby needs from one parent only. Her father’s death remained to be the worst thing that happened to her. As time passed, the pain receded, but never quite stopped. The girl took care of her mom until she died.

The girl married a military engineer and they built a stable upper-middle-class family in 1960. The girl was now a mother and had two daughters of her own. It is a happy story, but our girl-now-mother finds herself anxious all the time. Every moment is a threat to one of her family members, every sound is a thief trying to rob her family of their peace.

However, the family lived very peacefully though. With this new family, our girl-now-mother lived the lavish lifestyle her sisters had once experienced. They traveled the world, they educated their own daughters, and now. Now, both her daughters have their own families. It is the 1980s.

Our grandmother-then-girl could not be happier. At the same time, her anxiety grows exponentially. There are now two son-in-laws and five grandchildren, and that means more threats of her losing someone. She exerts all her might on keeping them all safe, until one day she started feeling confused. It suddenly felt like her family could not understand her. Not her husband, not her two daughters, not her two son-in-laws, and not her 5 grandchildren. She contracts Alzheimer’s Disease, and for the first time, her whole family is there for her, but suddenly she is the one who can’t be there for them.

Now it is certainly true that her condition saved her from experiencing her worst fear of all - the death of her husband. She outlived him by almost a decade, but barely had any idea of his death.

Perhaps that was blissful for her. Her younger daughter then took her in and took care of her until she died. Just like she did for her mom. She was surrounded by her grandchildren but estranged from them within her own mind.

Her younger daughter can now focus again on the family that she had been building. She is a working professional and so is her husband. They feel safe in providing for their son and daughter, who our grandmother-then-girl could barely recognize in her dying years.

Our main protagonist’s younger daughter goes about life does, and does not live any of the traumas of poverty that he mother did. However, she starts noticing anxiety attacks that seem to come for no reason. At work, with the kids, with the maids, or in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep.

It is 2.00 am on a random night. Our grandmother-now-passed eldest grandson wakes up feeling a jolting pain in his chest. He is alarmed. He does not know why but knows that it is his mom and that it is bad.

His mom (our protagonist’s younger daughter), shows up at six in the morning with a stitched left elbow and scratches on her face. She had been in a car accident, at exactly 2.00 am. The son does not make much sense of feeling something someone else experienced that way. He thinks it is a coincidence.

Our protagonist’s grandson leaves home and explores the world. Life is great, he lives it on his own terms, and he feels free. His only experience with losing someone was his grandparents, and that was of course nothing like the trauma his grandmother experienced when she lost her father in 1940.

However, anxiety kicks into his system every now and then. He finds himself afraid of people, he is afraid to lose them. Afraid they won’t like him. He starts to see every moment with them as a threat to his peace of mind. He learns that it is the same with his mom.

It gets worse for him though. He suffers from depression, goes on Prozac, gets off Prozac, and anything horridly similar to an SSRI. He travels around in search of gumption, and he found it not in people but in the lack of them. He feels lonely, the depression worsens. He is terrified of people. He understands that introvert is a word. It makes him feel much more included in the human race. He then learns that social skills can be learned. So he learns and he learns. He freaks out every now and then, and then he learns some more.

He becomes interested in psychology, and has healing experiences his grandmother - our dear protagonist- could not even imagine back in the day. He still has anxiety but has developed many tools to deal with it. His depression is better but he continues to dig into its reasons. Just to keep the machine greased long enough with some mental cleanup and better habits.

This opens a path for him, that has been closed for eighty years now. He will be the first one in four generations to open the door of the collective consciousness and look into the eyes of that eighty-year-old dragon, lurking in the shadows of a dusty drawer of an old house that existed in 1940.

It is 2021, and it is time that I slay that dragon once and for all, for that grandson is me. And my Great Grandmother’s heartbreak, is mine to face. I throw in new batteries for the golden shield I have built to fight dragons over the years, and head out on a journey towards the Dragon’s Lair.

It is a bright sunny morning, the spring is plush with the invigorating smell of flowers and the birds are cheerfully chirping.