I was a chaos junkie. My life started in chaos, grew in chaos until it was all I knew. I didn’t know how to be still, calm or simply at peace, until one day it all came crashing down around me.
Let’s start at the beginning
I was born the youngest of 9 children. This story in itself is a long one, so I will give you the Cole’s notes version here. Our mother died when I was 6 months old, leaving 4 children isolated in the dead of a very harsh Canadian winter. We were eventually rescued and adopted (again, this is the condensed version).
Life after adoption
I have a few vague memories of our adoption. I was about a year and a half and my next oldest sibling was adopted with me. Together we transitioned from life in the city to living on a farm. We gained a large extended family and were surrounded by caring aunts, uncles, grandparents and eventually cousins.
My sister and I were treated more as dolls than real children. There were very strict protocols regarding appearance and behaviour, especially when we were out in public. “Children are to be seen & not heard” was the expectation. I can’t remember how we knew, but we knew that there were fierce consequences for stepping out of line. The chaos continues.
When I was 5 years old, our parents adopted a baby boy. My sister & I thought this was fantastic. We finally had a real-live doll to play with too. We would dress him up in pretty clothes and expect him to follow our rules of appropriate behaviour. He was not always willing. It did become very clear that the expectations regarding appearance and behaviour only applied to the girls; boys were allowed to do as they please. The chaos grows.
Life will never be the same
Fours years after the arrival of little brother, our whole world was flipped upside down, when Dad, a man I had grown to adore, was suddenly very sick. The memories of his illness are splotchy; time in and out of hospital, shaved head, lots of vomitting and lots of sleeping. I didn’t know what was happening, but I did know that life would never be the same.
Dad ran a dairy farm along with his dad and they managed 200 acres of crops. After Dad got sick, this was too much for Grandpa to handle on his own, so the dairy quota was replace with an egg quota. In other words, cattle moved out and 1000 chickens moved it. Talk about chaos!!
I later discovered that dad had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and given about 1 year to live; this tiny piece of information rocked me to my core.
Dad was the kindest man to ever have walked this earth. He was my safe place, he was my rock, he was my laughter. Even a brain tumor could not change the core foundations of this man. He believed in a hard days work, an honest living, helping his neighbours whenever he could, and thanking God for all the gifts in his life. I never once heard him say an unkind word about anybody. I watched him live and learned everything I could. There was no chaos when I was with Dad.
I have spent years trying to understand mom. The best way to explain this is to read Daughters of Narcissistic Moms. This was chaos to the extreme. I used to have a lot of anger towards her and my childhood, but I am learning to forgive and appreciate the lessons. Mom was not equipped with the coping skills to deal with her husband’s illness nor the changes that life would require of her.
Look out world, here I come…
My sister & I moved off the farm when I was 17 and she was 18. We moved about 30 minutes away and somedays, that was not far enough. This was long before the dawn of social media, but it still astounds me how small the world was back then.
With very little skill, our new life was chaotic. Cooking, cleaning and laundry were skills we had mastered, but we had no idea how to balance a bank acount, pay bills or buy groceries on a budget.
Love & Marriage…& a baby…& a divorce…
I got married when I was 20. I knew the morning of my wedding that I shouldn’t be doing this, but my mother reminded me that she had already paid for everything and it was too late to back out.
The marriage was less than perfect. Truthfully it was nothing but chaos. Neither of us knew how to be adults. He expected me to continue the role of his mom and threw temper tantrums when he didn’t get his way.
A year after the wedding our daughter arrived. She was so tiny and so perfect. Something deep inside me started burning that day. I would spend years trying to extinguish that flame.
The marriage ended after two and a half years. There’s a lot more to this story too, but for now, we’ll keep it simple.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Shortly (very shortly) after the demise of my marriage, I met a very handsome, charming man. He wisked me off my feet, told me everything I needed to hear, he lifted me up and showed me a side of myself I had never seen, he was my knight in shining armour!! If only I had know that he was actually a boy in shiney tinfoil.
Very quickly, the accalades became insults, public humiliation, unkept promises. He was controlling, manipulative, emotionally unavailable and self-entitled. I had fallen for the male version of my mother. WTF!
This relationship lasted 11 years and graced me with my second daughter. I was determined to make this work, I was not going to fail at another relationship.
When the Universe speaks, you should probably listen…
In 2002, the Universe decided it had had enough of my chaotic life cycles and I needed a time-out. I suffered a broken neck at the hands of a professional practitioner ( I will not made the type of practice, because I firmly believe in its value). I was forced to lay flat on my back for about a year, stare at the ceiling and contemplate my life.
In that year, I finally found the courage to end the toxic relationship I was in, I became a single mom with no income & no ablility to work. Most of my “friends” left with the relationship and my girls were looking after me. I had been stripped of everything that I thought was true. WTH was I going to do now?
Little by little…
I forced myself back to work (without medical clearance) and began to carve out a path that was truly mine. I was finally being an adult; raising my girls, food on the table, clothes on our backs. Slowly, life was improving, or so I thought….
Apparently, I didn’t listen….
When my oldest daughter was 14, she was diagnosed with a pulminary embolism (blood clots in her lungs). Nothing will shake your foundation quite like a potentially fatal diagnosis with your child.
We are still not sure how this all came about; she was very active and otherwise, quite healthy. She spent about a week in the hospital and then 3 months on blood thinners. This was a new level of chaos I had not anticipated.
I remember, floating around trying to cope with this new information, being a single mom, working and trying to get everything done. I was operating in over-drive and barely functioning.
Eventually, she was well enough to return to school and the chaos ramped up even higher. I had not taken the time to process the events of her illness, and therefore I had not taught either one of my children how to process it. Both of them began to display behaviours that I now know are linked to my inability to cope.
Yes, behaviours. My oldest began drinking and experimenting with drugs and my youngest began self-harming. Again, chaos was at my heals and it was becoming very exhausting.
And then one day she woke up different…
I quite simply decided that I needed to get off the merry-go-round of chaos. There had to be something different. There was no way this was what life was supposed to be like.
I took stock of the people in my life and began to create space with those that did not bring me joy. I made time, real quality time, for my girls, I made time for me.
You know, a funny thing happens when you prioritize what’s truly important to you. By clearing out all the wasted energy spent on people and activities I didn’t enjoy, I opened space for the life I truly needed and wanted to live. I also made space for an incredible man to share my life with, I began to be accountable for my life, my actions and my choices. I began to see solutions instead of problems.
Fast forward to today…
Thank you for sticking with me thus far. It’s been an incredible journey and I am grateful for every minute of it. I am happily married, my girls are healthy and I have built a career sharing the knowledge & experience my life has taught me.
We have had many “life events” along our journey, but we view them with rational thoughts, manage them with effective coping skills, support each other by truly listening and honestly communicating.
My oldest daughter has had a series of misfortunate events ranging from a collection of brain injuries and unexplainable health related issues. My younger daughter battled with her self harm for over ten years. Both girls are on their own beautiful journeys of self-awareness and their lives are incredible.
I continue my own self-awareness, practice mediation and healing my past through Ho-oponopono. I firmly believe in gratitude and random acts of kindness. This combination has brought a blissful level of self-satisfaction.
In 2017, my dad finally let go of his 37 year long struggle following his initial prognosis of 1 year. What a gift it was to have him for so long, and I am grateful that he is now at peace.
If you’d like to know more about any of the chapters in my life, please feel free to get in touch. You can email, add me on Facebook, connect through Instagram. You may also simply leave a comment below. Listen to the podcast with Kelly McCausey.
About the Author
Andrea is a writer, motivational speaker and promoter of ending the cycle of abuse. She specializes in Narcissistic/Sociopathic Disorders and has assisted many men, women and children to break the silence and end the cycle. She is a wife and mom who loves to garden, crochet, sew and enjoys precious time with her family & friends.