I’ve had personal relationships with pain, unhappiness, and struggle; experiences that color much of my history and shaped me into the person I am today. I didn’t have a regular childhood. My memories of that period aren’t filled with piñatas or dusted with sun-filled laughter. They, like other parts of my life, are filled with heartbreak and uncertainty. My father was a drug addict and heroin was his opium. This split his personality. At first, he was Dad, the man who loved his family to bits; the man that combed my hair each morning before school, prepared dinner and tried to shield my siblings and I from the realities of living in the hoods of Compton. Then when the drugs kicked in, he became Frankie J and those were dark times. I didn’t know which part of him was the real Dad and I tiptoed through childhood loving my tree house-building father when he surfaced and left hurt by Frankie J, the drug abuser who would leave me- when he was chasing his high. He missed so many important events that I became use to graduating without him being there.
Take the Bad with The Good
A bad situation became worse in seventh grade when my Father contracted HIV from (his best friend) a friend who used his needle. I remember feeling angry; more anger than my 13 years could hold. I hated the cards life dealt me. I hated loving a struggling Father that seemed hell-bent on harming himself and I hated my Father’s friend even more. My father’s positive result was another dark cloud in my already bleak reality. The only silver lining was my mother never tested positive. Dad fell deeper into depression; his needles became supportive friends and the drug abuse jumped to greater heights.
Adulthood was meant to be my redemption period; the time to prove that I, Tatiana, was worthy of a commitment, love, and all the good things life had to offer. I was determined to prove that a girl straight outta Compton with a troubled past to boot was capable of great things and a happy future. I did prove that- but not before taking a few curve balls from life. As a young adult, I began piecing my life together. I made efforts to shed the skin I had grown while learning to love the drug addict side of my father and become trusting. I lost what I thought to be my first love then I met my daughter’s father. I guess that was a sign. The universe was finally on my side. The times I spent with him was a piece of happiness and I held them close to my heart. However, things got tricky when I got pregnant.
A Mother’s Love
Strangely, I was happy and unhappy at the same time. I loved this life blooming in me and a product of two hearts in love- and I was sure he felt that way too. Life, as usual, dealt me a wild card, but I was no victim. I found out my child’s father impregnated another woman. I felt that old anger coming up. I heard that voice I had come to dread telling me this would always be the case—everyone I loved would hurt me, betray me, and leave me. Vowing to be all he couldn’t be to me and his daughter, I left him. It hurt but it was definitely for the best.
Single motherhood was trying to say the least but my daughter became the light in the grey sky. ZD was my life and what got me through the loss of my mother. Those days spent next shuttling between taking my daughter to school and my mother’s bedside left me drained. I remember
her last breath like it was yesterday. Something I couldn’t do anything about... I had no control over her over oxygen levels, her heart rate, her moaning, or any lack of.
For the person who gave me life and did it all for everyone. All I could do at her last breath was tell myself I will do everything in my power to do as promised:
- Live my life and be a great mother
- Make sure my brother with a learning disability, has a good life
- Continue to place my daughter, ZD, in positions to excel
- Mend my relationship my oldest brother
- Be sure my nieces and nephews are raised appropriately
- Be a good person, and learn from my mistakes
The images of my mother’s worries will never sit well with me. These images still haunt my dreams. She was so frail and she could barely hug me. Those moments were the worst. Listening to her hollow breathing, I hoped I would open my eyes, and all this would go away; I prayed that the doctor would tell me that my mother would live. But the doctor’s facial expression said it all; no amount of mental preparation prepared me for the pain his words brought.
Cancer is what I call a community illness; with each pained lungful of breath the patient takes and each horrible thought that crosses their mind, you suffer. But that suffering is better than the despondency that comes with the EKG flat-lining.
Losing both parents to cancer, dealing with the realities of being a single mother, and knowing any decision you made leaves a lasting imprint on your child’s life made me rethink life and the path I was on. I knew I wanted to be as far removed from my old life as possible but how does a tree sprout good fruits when the roots are all messed up?
I knew I had to let go of those roots and through my actions, write a present that canceled out my past. The universe finally smiled on me. I started working in the field of social services at the age of 15 as a teen advocate, later working in investigations with Los Angeles County down to being a Clinical Director for an intensive outpatient program involving mental health and drug treatment. I purchased my first home at the age of 26. I was able to provide a solid foundation, a household with structure, and a healthy environment with certainty for my child. I can unequivocally say my relationship with pain, witnessing struggles with drug addiction, death and depression gave me a perspective and insight into my patients’ struggles and pains. With each patient I can help work through battles with Trauma, Grief, PTSD, depression, drug addiction, and the pain of loss. I feel peace knowing I am saving a family and a little boy/girl somewhere the pain I knew so intimately as a child.
The course of my life has changed; I am so different from that girl I used to be all those years ago but now and then, I see her reflected in another’s eyes. Currently, I am the CEO of TTM whose goal is to empower struggling individuals by collaborating with clients, eliminating and/or responding appropriately to troubling symptoms. By increasing the awareness of knowledge and skills needed to capitalize on client’s strengths, they will learn resilience and the skills and strategies for stability and recovery.
For me, the sun rises and sets in the eyes of my 13-year-old. I am devoted to keeping the stars in her eyes and making the world a better place for her. We live in a world of chaos, a situation that has been magnified by the current realities of the year. I am not a starry-eyed kid. As a licensed and board-certified psychotherapist, I understand I cannot save everyone however I am committed to being the voice of reason through support, education, and empowerment by providing quality clinical services.