Nearly seven years ago, I was living in New York City, modeling, and battling several mental illnesses. My mother and I were trying to work through our complicated relationship, one that stemmed from years’ worth of domestic violence, abuse, and alcoholism. In my heart, I wanted so badly to try and understand my mother and have a genuine connection with her, but it was like trying to climb a giant hill wearing cement shoes. Not only did my mental health conditions keep me from moving forward and connecting with her, but so did hers. Bipolar, dissociative identity disorder, and her battle with the bottle were demons that kept her permanently trapped until her death in 2012.
Today would be Mom’s fiftieth birthday, and here I am, in New York City on a business trip, thinking about her.
Contemplating all of the time that has gone by and how much has changed. In 2010, Mom made a trip out to the City to see me, proclaiming that she wanted to be my manager and help take my modeling career to the next level. It was her way to attempt to salvage what was broken between us, and although I felt jaded, I also wanted her to come and be there for me badly. Deep down, I knew that The Mom I had grown to love as a small child was dead to me, and I was willing to try anything to get her back, even though the reality seemed bleak. Alcoholism had proved to me time and time again that I just couldn’t trust her, but she was my mom, and I had to trust in something, even if that something was an illusion.Unfortunately, she never did become my manager. The trip turned out to be a disaster, and alcohol played a big role in that. After Mom flew back home to Charleston, I wandered the streets, binging and purging and trying to forget the sadness I felt from her inability to cope with life, and my own. I remember feeling as though I would never get out of the mess that I had created for myself, and recovery seemed hopeless.
This evening, as I walked down the very same streets, I felt Mom with me. Proud of me, and cheering me on. Perhaps life never had it in the cards for her to be my manager, but in the afterlife, I believe she is with me, guiding me as I try to make my way. New York City was always both a terrifying and exciting place for me; a symbol of success, everything that I wasn’t in the fashion industry, and filled with triggers. Now, going on nearly four years of recovery from my eating disorders and five years of sobriety, New York City is a symbol of strength, freedom, and reflection.
The city seems brand new almost every time I come, because truly, I am seeing it for the first time through fresh eyes that aren’t glazed over. And the sorrow from my mother’s death, although still new, is a source of power to carry me into the next phase of my life. As I work to help others who are suffering, I am filled with confidence, not fear, walking these New York streets. Thanks, Mom. I love you.