In the shadows

Sometimes there is this feeling. I am sure, if you are a parent, or even a brother, sister, aunt or uncle you have felt it. It’s that feeling of being in the shadows. Let me kind of explain.

As those who read regularly know – my youngest son is severely emotionally disabled and is currently living in a treatment facility. He has been there since January; eight long, dark months without my Little Man… Eight months spent with the shadows.

Some who actually know me (in real life) know that for 11 years… I had no idea where my youngest daughter was, or if she was alright. 11 years spent with the shadows.

When my friend’s son was deployed to Iraq for a year… she spent 369 days 20 hours and 11 minutes with the shadows.

To me, being in the shadows is those dark, deep feelings of despair. The innate deep-seated thing you just can’t put your finger on, the thing that eats away at you like a rat gnawing on cheese. It’s worry so strong you cannot function… the feeling that something is wrong and you don’t know what. Kind of like that feeling you get as your boarding the plane and can’t remember if you turned off your curling iron at home.

A shadow moves across your mood, darkens your life, and blinds you to the bright and cheerful colors in the sunshine. A shadow makes you question your reasoning; it makes you deny your own senses.

I have lived many years of my life in the shadows. Many years with a deep-seated feeling in the pit of my stomach; something that said you’re never going to get over it. “It” being whatever currently was going on that bothered me.

For 11 years ‘the shadows’ told me that I was a horrible mother for choosing to live over being murdered in front of my child.

For 9 years ‘the shadows’ told me that I was a rotten daughter because I would not involve my mother in the turmoil that was my life.

For the last eight months ‘the shadows’ have told me  again, that I am a crappy mom – because I abandoned my baby to strangers for care because I couldn’t do it anymore.


Living in the shadows is different from living with the shadows. Living in the shadows allows the darkness to take over. Living with the shadows means choosing to step in to the light. Accepting your circumstances as just that… circumstances and moving on with life.

As the parent of three special needs kids, I’ve learned a lot about the shadow me. Shadow me would like nothing more than to pack her backs and walk away. It’s too much for her, after all she’s finished raising her children, and has nothing but grandchildren to look forward to. She has family members with whom she could live and she knows she could make it great on her own, with no kids or men to hold her back… After all she is almost 45, and has been a full-time mother to someone for 26 years. Shadow me knows that she is the reason everyone is in such a state, and by that reasoning – they’d be better off without her. Shadow me is a useless lump of nothingness sitting on the couch eating bon-bons and playing solitaire while life races by at the speed of light.

I also know how to kick Shadow Me’s ass to the curb and step into the light. Shadow me does not define me. It is a part of me, a part of me that needs tending in order to maintain order. Like a garden, certain things must be pruned to allow for maximum bloom. Pruning is that act of cutting away dead or dying material to allow for maximum nutrition and growth for the rest of the plant… or in the case of people it is forgiving yourself and cutting away the layers of hurt; knocking down walls and stepping into the sunshine of the love and care of those around you.

Shadow me is not very fond of being kicked to the curb, and some days she stands in the corner of my mind and screams at me to listen to her. Having been a mother for 26 years, I am very, very good at ignoring her. I wake up each morning and I vow to live this day… just this one day, hour, minute second – as if it were my very last. I savor the moments. I set aside doubt, confusion, and fear embracing instead acceptance, love, and courage. I remember to take care of myself, and I don’t take anything for granted. You never know when the moment will be gone, you must seize it when it presents itself.

I choose to step out of the shadows, and live in the light.


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