Out of a Nightmare

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A personal essay describing my experience being in the foster care system.

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Out of a Nightmare

Things weren’t always so bad. My dad was a hard-working immigrant seeking the fame and fortune of the American dream. My mom was a beautiful, artistic woman who loved to paint, play piano, and dance like autumn leaves in the wind. I think about these memories now and it all seems so surreal, almost like a dream. The horrors and nightmares that would soon creep out of hiding would slowly unravel the very foundation of my home and my family. Real monsters don’t hide under the bed, the closet, or the creaky floorboards of your house. They lie out in plain sight, but we choose to ignore them. Addiction and mental illness were the catalysts of the horror show I’d soon be forced to be part of.

Years ago I lived in your average home with your average nuclear family. My father was at work from day to night. My mother was handling all the housework as well as taking care of me. Up until this point, life had been pretty good. Eventually there would be a new addition to our family, which was my little sister Geetika; she was so small and fragile like a butterfly. Right after she was born our lives took a turn for the worse. I noticed my mom developing strange behavior after she gave birth to my sister. She would sit alone in the living room just staring out the window every day. Her eyes were hollow, as if no soul occupied her body. I thought nothing of it at first; after all I was only about ten years old when I started noticing this. When I was around 12 years old I found that my mother’s symptoms were getting worse. Her symptoms started with her being extremely silent and then progressed into her having violent episodes. She would yell, curse, and shout at the top of her lungs at the apparitions her mind created. She would break cups and plates, and she even threw the table down the stairs a couple of times. Soon she was completely unable to care for Geetika and sometimes even herself, so those responsibilities fell onto me. My mother’s mental illness kept getting worse due to her refusal of treatment, and my father couldn’t help as much because someone had to pay the bills.

My father did the best he could to give his family a better life, but even he fell deeper into the abyss. Due to all the stress of having to put food on the table and replace the items my mother had broken, he started to fall deeper into debt. All the stress and anxieties of trying to provide for his family led him to be depressed. He started to drink every day. Right as he woke up to go to work, I would see him drinking vodka. He was drinking at work and even when he got home. When I was around 14, I noticed that my dad seemed different. His face looked like he had aged 20 years, and worry started to fill my mind. Already I was struggling to care for my mom and sister. I couldn’t afford to have my dad get sick too, but he was already too far gone. Eventually he quit his job and his excuse was “Don’t worry; it’ll just be for a little while and then I’ll get back to work.” That never happened, though, because he just fell further down into the pit of alcoholism. Eventually my dad had came to a decision that we were unfit to take care of my sister, so he sent her to live in India with my grandparents. By the time I was 17 my dad had become the hollow shell of the man he used to be. Jaundice completely devouring his eyes and skin, his arms and legs were comparable to those of fragile, barren branches: complete and utter muscle deterioration.

One day, my father collapsed and was rushed out of the house on a stretcher. He was barely conscious, unaware of the year, his age and where he was. He spent two days in the ER and then three days in the ICU. I was left all alone to take care of my mentally ill mother at 17 years old. Although it was tough caring for her needs, eventually that wouldn’t be an issue. One day I came back home from school, and I noticed my mother had left. I knew she was truly gone because for years she hadn’t left the house. Now all of sudden I was in that empty apartment, hearing the sounds of my footsteps echo as I walked through the eerily silent house.

“Nobody needs me” was apart of the overwhelming thoughts that started to pour into my mind like heavy rain. My mother had left, my father was in the hospital, and my sister was in a different country.

I went on a bender to numb the pain and forget about the whole situation, but then I realized something. If I didn’t get my life straight soon I wouldn’t be able to get my sister back. So I went to the Administration for Children’s Services and asked to become a ward of the state. I’m now a college student and I’m proud that I have been resilient enough to make it this far. Sometimes I think to myself, “what would’ve happened if my parents weren’t out of the picture?”, but then I realize that without these events, I wouldn’t have become who I am today. I’m determined to get my degree as quickly as I can so that I can get my sister back and support her. I want to be able to give to my sister the life I never had, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. Although I know that life will never get easier, at least having someone to fight for makes the struggles seem worth it.

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