We're a little crazy, about science!

The need for support

Yesterday was a big deal for me. I’ve been to conferences, spoke at them, and done all of that, but this was the first time I was selected for an award. Moreover it was the first time since I started my PhD that I got to share some of the stuff I’m working on because of COVID and the transition from mechanical to neuro. Of course I invited everyone (here) to come say hi and I have to say you all did not disappoint! Then the moment passed, I shut off my camera, and had no one to share it with.

For those just joining in or haven’t been around long enough to hear the story, we can go through it once briefly (although there are whole posts on the topic for anyone wanting to dig, I don’t feel like dredging those up now). From the few childhood photos I have and the handwritten notes from my mother on the back I was a wanted child. Hell, I was spoiled! I had a family who owned a condo, a father who had a good job at an aerospace company, and a mother who did everything for me.

I don’t remember any of it or my mother really and the photos make it look happy, but the reality was much darker. By the time I was 3-4 years old my mother had a break from reality. I’m not being hyperbolic, she literally heard god telling her to wait for …it? My father was abusive, a druggy, and probably had a hand in what happened to my mother since mental illness doesn’t run in her side of the family. I don’t know and don’t care to know about my father. I spent years being sent to live with different family members because of him. No one wanted to take care of a kid that wasn’t their own. Turns out his side of the family were all abusive too, so about 15 years ago I cut them all out and I’ve been better for it since.

I don’t know my mothers side of the family so it’s just me. Being your own support system is hard. There’s no safety net if you fall and there are times when you fall. I’ve been homeless, had to shower at my school, and have gone hungry more times than I can count. When you don’t have a home or a family, everything you do is illegal. Finding a place to sleep without being bothered, even with a car, was a challenge. Things I could easily take for granted now were never a given. In some ways wish I could be comfortable enough now to take them for granted, but there’s always a fear that when I first open my eyes in the morning I will still find myself living out of my car.

I’m just tired of closing a computer and losing the support I get from the people who I interact with online. I never really had a family and yesterday I said something in passing on here that stuck with me. I mentioned (here) that I built my own little digital family. It’s true too, the support and kindness complete strangers show me still hurts. In a good way, but it hurts because my own family couldn’t be bothered. For the longest time I was afraid of getting away from my family because I was taught they were supposed to care and if they could treat me like that I was not going to survive being around strangers who weren’t blood relations.

I’ve gotten emails thanking me for writings, comments from people who genuinely care, and just support. The fact that people read this, actually read this, is still mind-blowing to me. Still it’s not the same as having someone physical to go out and celebrate with, or rather stay in and celebrate with since COVID is still a thing and I’m taking precautions until I know that the risk is minimal to the vulnerable populations I work with. I could just use a high five or congratulations, the bar is set incredibly low and no one has cleared it yet.

In some ways I did this to myself, in other ways I was the victim of my birth circumstances. None of it matters because here I am now and this is my life. I’m thankful for everything I have and how far I’ve come, but I would gladly trade most of it in for someone who really knew me, who could genuinely be happy for me when something good happens. I am grateful for all of you who reach out in support, please don’t think I am not, I just wish I had an in-person support system.

Yesterday was a big deal for me and yet nothing was different about the day. If something good happens and no one is around to celebrate it, does it even count?


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