This is to my Mother-in-Law. Trigger Warning: There is talk of Suicide and Mental Abuse in this piece.
I write this to my Mother-In-Law on behalf of the one I love most in this whole world. I don’t do this out of hate, or anger. In fact, I love and care for you. I do this because my wife won’t ever say this to you, and you won’t read this, but it’s important for you to hear.
I write this to tell you how wrong you were, Mother-in-law, I understand the situation you were put in and how it forced your hand at times. I don’t have a problem with you having to raise my wife with little to no running water or heat and weekly group showers; or without a partner, who was forced to work 6 hours outside of town by the corrupt manager of the Tank Factory you both worked at. I know you and my Father-in-Law did the best you could.
What I do have a problem with, was all those times that you partook in the bullying of your 6-year-old daughter to fit in with the rest of the women in that shower room. I have a problem with all those times you stood by and laughed, as others surrounded my wife's little naked self and pointed and sneered at her early development. Poking her breasts, and making comments about how fat she was getting, how small her chest was, or how she needed a bra at age 9 because her body developed faster than other people in that small backwater town you all shared.
I have a problem with those times you yelled at my wife for making B’s and not A’s. Telling her she was lazy and stupid after her 11-year-old self had studied until midnight following an 8-hour day of school for those tests.
Do you remember when you got so angry about those silly little red-inked lines, on those off-white papers which stunk of bleach and chemicals, which the teacher had slashed and blotted over the words and calculations your daughter poured her heart and soul into, that you would scream and call her names, Mother?
Remember all those times that you told that little struggling girl, who lived without a father for most of her year, was bullied in school, and left alone to fend for herself while you were forced to work overtime, how she wouldn’t amount to anything and no-one would ever love her; when all she needed was a hug and security from the only person she could count on in this world.
Mother, do you remember that one time when your little girl stood in front of that open 10-story window and thought about jumping at 13 years old because she was convinced that her C grade was the end of her world and that she would rather face the endless void of death than have to face your judgment again. You probably don’t, because she never told you that it took everything in her power to be able to muster up the courage to face you instead of that endless, cold, darkness.
Remember all those times you told her to stop eating snacks, forced her to hike mountains on the very few days she had off to visit you and Father, or laughed at her for how bad her hygiene was at 18 when you failed to teach her basic things about self-care when she was younger.
How about all those times when she was trying to get her Graduate degree in Electrical Engineering that you said she needed to start to lose weight or get smarter because nobody would ever be with her.
Your daughter remembers. She struggles with these insecurities every day at 34 because of your relentless bullying and poisoned words through those years. Those rotten seeds you planted in her beautiful beautiful brain have deep roots, Mother. You betrayed her and you broke her down for whatever twisted reason you had in your brain, and you failed in your job as a protector so many times…
Even though your daughter has come so far, grown so much, and accomplished everything she has ever tried. There are days when that broken little girl you tore down all those years ago claws her way out and makes it hard for my wife to function. She was just a little girl trying to make it through this world, and you crippled her with your baseless lies, ridiculous standards, poison beliefs, and hateful treatment. She is your only child, Mother… and you almost lost her.
I want you to know, that she will forgive you one day. I also want you to know that she is who she is, that strong, beautiful, passionate, loving, unstoppable force of a person because of you and your failure to support her. She has proved you wrong, and will always prove you wrong.
All those lies you told her were nothing but hollow words from a broken and jealous individual and I understand that too, Mother.
I’ve been broken as well. I’ve been broken to the point where you don’t know if it can be fixed, but it can.
I know your own Mother treated you that same way, and those scars are still there in your heart. I saw it every time you talked to your siblings or your aunts when I visited China. They all say terrible things to you, Mother.
They still treat you like you are less than them, they pick on your looks and your smarts. They still criticize you. When they are drunk, they tell you how it’s your fault your Dad died, your fault you didn’t have the money to travel to him and take care of him. When the reality is they didn’t take the time to help either.
What they don’t know, is that you would have helped him if you could have. They don’t know that you didn’t have the money because you were helping your daughter through her expensive education in the United States. You made a hard choice, Mother. You chose your little girl, and I am proud of you. I understand.
I want you to know, that I forgive you. It’s not your fault your Dad died, and you are stronger than they give you credit for. You raised a daughter on your own for years, juggling your own demons and struggling to provide for a little girl with so much potential. You were hard on her, you made bad choices, and you scarred her as your mother had done to you so many years ago. But she turned those scars into armor and a will that rivals Deities. You should be proud of her… I am.
Now, before you go, dear reader. I hope you have read these words and that maybe they will help you understand how important mental health is, also how it can affect those around you. My Mother-in-Law treated my wife the way she did because she didn’t know any better. It was how she was treated by her mother when she was growing up, and those issues that you carry with you can have lasting effects on not only yourself but the people around you.
Even today, my Mother-in-Law struggles deeply and endlessly with mental health issues. It is so very important for you to seek help if you need it. China doesn’t have strong support for this kind of thing. In fact, mental health is still highly stigmatized in Chinese culture. Even more so than in places like the United States and Canada.
In times such as these, speaking (or in my case, writing.) about pain or suffering in your life is an important exercise of catharsis and it is important to seek out assistance if you feel you are suffering.
I am lucky to be blessed with this ability to connect with a muse and write my feelings and thoughts out for others. I channel my tears, my pain, my anger, and my love into my writing. I know that not all of you can do this, and that's okay. It’s important to find an outlet that will help you with your struggles and demons.
To whoever is currently reading these words, I want you to know that you are important, and you matter. You have people that care for you and you are loved. I want whoever you are, to know that I understand some days seem a little darker than others, there are days when you just want to sit in your bed and cry, and you know what. That’s okay.
I want you to know, dear reader, that those days come and they go. Those days will flow into better ones. Days where the sun shines and the birds sing, and the air is sweet and invigorating to the soul. Days when the world around you bustles with life that has sprung forth from the long, cold, and dark clutch of Winter. You can spring forth as well.
Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed. Like a million tons of weight rests on your shoulders. You can feel like you’re drowning and don’t know how to get back to the surface. Remember that none of us are superheroes, and it’s okay to reach out. I promise you that someone will be there to help pull you up. You and your health, mentally or physically, are more important than anything else in your life. If we aren’t able to function properly within ourselves, we won’t be able to help anyone else around us.
So I will leave you with these parting words. Please, take a second; even if it is just a second, and step outside. Take a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and let the warmth of the sunlight and that soft breath of fresh air rush into your soul. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it, and remember you matter, are loved, and deserve the best in this world. Thanks for reading.
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