Carolina & Arely: The Things We Don’t Say
When Carolina discovered all of the things her teenage daughter had been hiding from her, it set off a chain of events that threatened to dissolve their relationship completely — or worse. Today, Stephanie sits down with both generations to hear the full story. Carolina was a straight-A student who got pregnant at 14. Her daughter Arely faced bullying and abuse in silence, feeling like there was nobody in the world she could trust with her struggles. Together they trace how mounting trauma pushed them to the breaking point and how, today, empathy and communication are helping them heal.
Today’s episode discusses self-harm and suicidal ideation. If this is a potentially triggering topic for you, feel free to sit this one out. If you stick with us, please listen with care.
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Arely, Carolina, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:00
Hi, LAST DAY listeners just a heads up. Today’s episode discusses self harm and suicidal ideation. If this is potentially triggering for you feel free to set this one out. If you do stick with us, please listen with care.
All I know is she was like hiding something and I was like, what are you doing? And then I saw she’s like on her phone like trying to like desperate delete. And so I was like, give that to me. And so she handed me the phone and I saw a Twitter account, which I didn’t know existed, right? There’s like, you have Twitter. And then I scrolled through, and everything I saw were countdown to my death. This is me letting people know that two weeks from now I’m going to do it, you know, 10 days from now. Okay, this is nine days in eight days, is anybody going to respond? And they very much were screams for help.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:59
Finding out your kid desperately needs help, but hasn’t uttered a word of it to you is gutting and terrifying. But in this moment, Karolina Kaz doesn’t focus on any of that. Rather, she springs into action to get her daughter the help she needs. What she doesn’t know is that this secret is only the tip of the iceberg secrets that will push the relationship with her daughter Arely to the brink.
I think if we had not made up by the end of that day, I would have distanced myself from my mom like completely by the time I was an adult or I would have killed myself. I really do think that’s the way that would have ended.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:39
This is LAST DAY, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host Stephanie Wittels Wachs. The story of things we don’t say to each other. And what happens when you can finally say it all.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 02:14
Carolina and I have DM back and forth a couple times since 2021. She’s a long time, terrible thanks for asking last day crossover listener, my favorite kind of person. But just recently, Karolina shared with me some pivotal details about her life. Number one, she became a mom at just 15 years old. And number two, she is now the mom of five kids. And she wanted to share that journey on the show. At least that’s what she thought.
I was so sure that the story that I was going to be telling you was my story, the story of you know, my last day as a child and how I became a parent at 15, and this has been my life now. However, once I really was born, it was no longer my story. It just wasn’t.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 03:08
This isn’t just her story. But before we can get to Karolina and Ellie existing in the world together. We need to start with Karolina before she was chasing after five kids in the burbs. Karolina grew up in California with her mom, dad, brother and sister.
One key thing about me is I was raised here illegally, right, so I was born in Mexico. And then I was brought here when I was 11 months old, and then grew up undocumented. And so that was huge. I was told my entire life. Basically, you don’t exist in this country, until you get your papers. And the only way that you will be able to do that is if you excel in school, and then like that will form a pathway for you. And so that was kind of me my entire childhood as early like my earliest memories are kindergarten, getting ready for school. And so that’s pretty early to hold memories. But everything I can remember from kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade is entirely educational based.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 04:13
Carolina heard that one message from her parents loud and clear, keep your head down and study hard. But that message isn’t the only thing a kid wants to hear or needs to hear.
I wasn’t very close to my parents in terms of emotionally, right. My mom always had our house clean and she always cooked for us. But that was about the extent of our relationship in my culture, at least the way I grew up and for sure the way my parents grew up emotional needs is not a thing that needs to be addressed. Right? There’s like food that needs to be put on the table. In the case of my mother, thankfully, I didn’t have to work at the same age as my mom was working, you know, literally to put food on there. tables. And so we didn’t have to go out and like go into the fields and cactus to make our dinner, then that in itself was a success to her. Right, my mom did parent me a lot better than she was parented. Yeah. However, like I said, emotional needs was not a thing that needed to be addressed that she was aware of.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:21
As Carolina gets older, there are many times when she really needs that emotional support. Like when her dad is facing his own struggles, and the Fallout has a profound impact on the family.
My dad was an alcoholic, a very heavy alcoholic. And, um, he ended up after an episode that was particularly bad, actually, he was trying to take me and my siblings to Disneyland in the middle of the night while he was really drunk. And my mom had to like stand in the driveway and like physically blocking, and say you will, will run over my body before you take my children right now. And so we had to like climb out of the truck, and my dad told us, you see your mom ruined your trip to Disneyland. And so, you know, we were all upset at her. And so my mom gave my dad an ultimatum, which was get sober or like, get out. And so he chose get sober and went to do like an inpatient treatment facility, but he couldn’t handle it. And so three days into sobriety, and this is him, like going from excessive excessive alcohol drinking to cold turkey stop, he ended up hallucinating and ripped everything off of himself and ran out of the treatment facility, jumped off a bridge. And like by the grace of God, the wind swept him into a tree on the side of the freeway. And he only fractured his spine instead of dying.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:47
This accident leaves their resources stretched even thinner than before. Her dad returns to Mexico to recover, which takes him away from the family for five years.
It left my mom alone to raise me and my siblings, and the little emotional support I had was totally gone. It was completely gone. And I don’t blame my mom, right? I don’t say it was my mom’s fault. But my mom was not there. And so we kind of were just at home, like trying to entertain ourselves as best as we could. Right? Um, we did a lot of like walking around the neighborhood and like into canyons and stuff like exploring the homeless encampments and things like that. And then, um, you know, my sister ended up in gangs. My brother, thankfully didn’t end up in anything bad. I ended up pregnant. I was a 4.0 student, and I was sure that that in itself was the birth control for me, right? How does the straight A student and the 15 year old pregnant kid it doesn’t happen. And that was the extent of my thinking there.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 08:01
Carolina gets a boyfriend in high school. And like many teenage relationships, things are far from perfect. But this relationship is especially toxic.
So I knew him from elementary school. He was just one of the kids who was in my class. And he was the bully. He bullied everybody. And before, like, how do we get together twice? When I process well? How do we get together? I don’t know. Because before that he was a bully. He believed me and he bullied my friends. And then there was just a day where somebody told me Hey, he will really wants to go out with you. And I was like, what? Nobody wants to go out with me. You know, and then just kind of talk to each other. It’s like it’s true. Okay, cool. Well, we just go out, I guess. And that was like the formation of a immature relationship. Then, again, we’re just kind of like, at home. We ditched school, sometimes, you know, just kind of like, we just don’t feel like going to school and groups of kids would just kind of hang out. Sometimes we would hang out in the canyons. And sometimes we would hang out at somebody’s house. His house was a good option because his mom was never there. His mom worked three jobs. And so his house was a hangout spot. When I found out I was pregnant, I desperately wanted to not be in a relationship with him anymore. However, we were pregnant, and so it felt like there was no choice.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:31
Carolina says that if someone had physically driven her to an abortion clinic, she would have seriously considered it, but no one offers and she’s so frozen in shock that she can’t really make decisions for herself. So she just takes cues from the adults around her. And to them it is a done deal that she’s having this baby. Her school nurse hands her a pamphlet on a government program for teen parents. Her Mom has her siblings start looking through a book of baby names. And Karolina is just walking around in a haze, trying her best to balance the impending stress of childbirth and teen parenthood with the pressures of final exams.
So I had been put on bed rest the last month of my pregnancy because my blood pressure was through the roof. Everybody’s preparing for finals. And yes, I am stressed about finals because I have to take the finals as well. However, I’m more stressed about the fact that I’m preeclamptic and can literally die, or something terrible happened in the labor, right? So anyway, I’m on bed rest, my teachers ended up giving me my final so I can take them at home. Then once she was born, I didn’t go back to campus. I did the second semester of my sophomore year through independent studies. And so that helped a lot. I really went into daycare, she was between six and eight months when she started. And that’s when it got really hard. Yeah, because I would drop her off at school. And then I would go myself to school, do my high school day, I was out at like, 2pm or whatever. And then I would run to the bus and go back to pick her up, bring her home, and then I would you know have dinner, right. And I would just work on my homework. And oftentimes, that meant I was up till two three in the morning, working on my homework, just kind of depending on how much my load was. Um, and yeah, wake up again in the in the day and do it again. But that was pretty much it take care of I really do my homework. Yeah, and travel in between the spots.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 11:38
It is hard, but Carolina does it. And she is raising an amazing little human named Ali. She’s growing and learning and before too long, or at least in school herself. And that’s where she realizes her family is a little different than her friends families.
Like I tell the story all the time of like being and I think by the time I was in second grade, there were like, kids who were just like, you don’t play kids just talk like it’s just chatter. And someone’s like, you know, like, oh, it was my parents birthday today or whatever, you know, and it’s like, oh, cool, how old are they? And they’re like, Oh, my mom’s like four years something and I’m like, Oh, my mom just turned 22 Like, I’m seven or whatever, you know, and it’s like, mind blowing for them. Like the reactions that I got anytime I ever mentioned my parents Ages was so like, out of line to what I could have, like out proportionally out of what I could have expected. That it just made me feel like am I like, wrong for like, living in my family. Like, by the time I got to middle school, which was you know, like, way later down the line. I was told that I should be like, ashamed of my family. Like I was like, like people who were like, shunning me like their parents, like forbid them from talking to me because my parents were a bad influence. Like, it’s just the craziest of reactions that like made me really feel like I was a bad person for existing. Like I had no say in my creation. I do and I’m just here, you know, but if they made it feel like it was my fault, you know?
Yeah, I was gonna say I feel like those reactions to her parents age only got more and more dramatic with time they were calling out le a slot for having born to teen parents.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 13:15
Karolina and our high school boyfriend split up a few years after Ali was born. Karolina later gets remarried to a man named AK and they have four more kids with AK by her side. Karolina starts building the loving, supportive home she didn’t have as a child, but Ellie still spends part of her time at her dad’s house and she quickly learns that the school bullies are not her biggest problem. Because as Karolina said, I’d at least father was a bullied before he was ever her father. And he never quite outgrew that. Or really, how does it feel like to hear her label your dad as a bully?
I think bullying is a very proper term for him even now, you know, I’ve always said that, like, I couldn’t escape the belief in at home. So it very much was that also he he’s this like, he’s kind of just like stuck being this grown man who doesn’t know what to do with themselves, you know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:12
Yeah. And was it primarily just name calling? Or was it physical abuse? What was the bullying?
For my dad, it was kind of a mixture of everything. It was very much it was a lot of verbal braiding for sure. He liked to play a lot of pranks. He used to like make me watch scary movies. So we’d be like, less it’s a Friday night. You know, like it’s my weekend at my dad’s house and so it was just me him and his girlfriend and we’re gonna sit and watch a movie but we have to play a radio are super scary movie for a seven year old and it’d be like no scared I want to hide under the blankets but then he’d like hold my eyes open so I have to watch it or he’d like if I tried to hide under the covers he’d hold them or like he’d hold my hands down so I have to watch like just random things that would give me nightmares and then he had this like, like as I got older. I just happen all the time that it was like so scared of everything even that, you know, I’m 17 I just barely sort of getting over my fear of the dark. And like, I thankfully my friends don’t make fun of me for it. But my middle school friends definitely did you know, it took a while to like, undo but because it got to that point that by the time like Google Home was a thing, he would hook it up all the time from his home phone, and just start like, he would make me sleep with headphones in, and then would play like scary sounds to like, freak me out or like sounds with babies crying, or like girls screaming. So it gets like a form of torture. My mom uses the term psychological torture all the time.
Yes, that’s psychological torture. That’s why adults gasp when she tells them stories of her life. Because it’s insane. And the fact that it was happening without my realizing is, I’m telling you, I lose sleep over that, Stephanie.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:47
am regularly losing sleep, pulling out my hair biting off all of my nails, I would be doing all of it. It is awful, and really shared that her father was also physically abusive.
When I first started going to visit, you know, obviously, like, the abuser usually doesn’t just jump in from the bat. And then it you know, it kind of just, like escalated over the years, like this thing they used to do all the time. Or when I was like little until I was like older, he would be like, you know, like hitting doesn’t count. If you have like a like a barrier, you know, like, she would make me hold like a pillow or two in front of my chest. And then he would just like, hit me, because it’s like, it doesn’t count. Like he was always in like boxing and stuff. And so it was like he’s practicing. You know, he doesn’t have a punching bag at home. So all because human punching bag, but there’s a pillow so it doesn’t count, you know? And so I would tell my mom about that stuff when I was younger, younger, because I was just like, what like, what else am I gonna do? You know, you’re supposed to tell a trusted adult. And clearly I can’t trust him, I have to tell my mom. But my dad was also major gaslighter and major manipulator. And so we’d be like, I come, I come to my dad’s house from the week after hanging out with my mom, and being like, Oh, my parents made me wash the dishes or whatever. And it would start with I complained about that. And he skews it into this, like your mom and your stepdad are actually abusing you and forcing you to do all of the housework, can you believe how bad they are? So it would turn it into this like extreme. It’s like she would do something and I would go home and tell my mom. And the second I tell my mom, she calls him up. And it’s like, like, What the hell are you doing to my daughter, you know, like, you’re not going to be let’s see her. And then he’d pull up all of these receipts of like, well, let me set this I didn’t he said this, you know that you guys did this or whatever. And so it would be such a like, it completely devalued anything I said, because it was you’re telling lies, or you’re spreading extra falsehood or whatever, then labeled me as a liar early on. So I had zero ground to walk on, I was never given that opportunity to tell anybody and we believe.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 17:57
We’re back and rally is caught in an impossible position. Her father is not just verbally and physically abusing her. He’s also psychologically manipulating her into thinking, no one will believe her if she speaks up. So her mom is mostly in the dark about the entire situation. At this point at Ali’s in middle school. So like any preteen, and the age of cell phones, looking for human connection, she turns to social media.
I was 12-11, you know, in like, seventh grade, and everyone’s hopping onto Twitter, and Instagram and Tumblr and whatever. And so everyone’s like, you know, like, technically, you’re supposed to be 13 for all those ages, but it’s like, Oh, who cares? Just lie about your age on the app, you know, there’s people who there’s groups out there that are in every single niche group you could possibly think about, they’re out there. And so anything you know, like I’m at the same time, I’m still a teenage girl. And so I’m like, you know, like, even you can see like, now I’ve got all my hydro fixations and stuff that I’m really into quick visual.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 18:59
Arely shows me around her room and these fixations are definitely clear. Her walls are decorated with records and music posters. I spotted a picture of Mr. Harry Styles in the corner. And despite the fact that the movie came out five or so years before she was born, there is a huge Shrek poster dominating one side of the room, but like it is for many impressionable preteens, myself included. Back then it was all about emo music.
It just starts with I’m going to just sign up for a Twitter account. And let me follow all of the band members. And while I’m at it, let me follow the fan accounts. And you know, like, I’m liking their posts, and they’re liking mine. And it’s like, Oh, someone’s gonna message you and be like, how are you feeling? And then you just start venting as a child to who knows who’s out there. Because you think you can trust people. It was like, Oh, we like this music. Let’s listen to this. Also, let’s talk about this. And then we are going to vent all this stuff onto you. And then you can talk about your stuff to us and then we’re going to give you like, step by step instructions on how to like self harm or like different ways to commit suicide like it was very quickly, like spiral down into like the worst dark depths of light things I wouldn’t have even considered where possible. And so it went from I’m just feeling down to oh, I’m feeling down, there’s a way out.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:17
And Carolina, are you picking up on this sudden uptick in her being on the internet? And? And are you seeing her on devices? What what is your perception of what’s happening at the time?
Yes. Her being weird, right? And weird being like dodgy, which is so not her norm. Whenever I asked her at least something, she just answers it for me. Right. And so when I do ask her something, and her response is hide the phone. No, no, it’s immediate, like, hold on a second. This is raising some red flags here. And so I was like, Give that to me. Right. And so she handed me the phone and I saw a Twitter account, which I didn’t know existed, right? There’s like, you have Twitter. And then I scrolled through, and everything I saw were, like, countdown to my death. This is me letting people know that two weeks from now, I’m going to do it, you know, 10 days from now. Okay, this is nine days in that eight days is anybody going to respond? And they very much were screams for help. Right. And so I’m seeing this and like, this girl is on the verge. She This is what she’s considering. She’s hoping that somebody stopped her days before. And I immediately locked down everything. We took her devices, we deleted all my emails deleted everything. Yes, she had multiple. So I, we sat down on the table, it was like, I need you to write down for me, every single social media account that you have and your emails. And so we did and deleted all of that stuff.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 21:49
And as all of this is deleted, your complete online footprint is gone. Now. Are you angry at your mom? How do you feel after this after you’ve been discovered and all your stuff has been deleted?
I think for the first like two months, it was just like anger and resentment because it was like I said it was everything being built up. And so it was like this one outlet I had, but it was a very negative outlet. But at least it was I get to talk about it with somebody. And I’m still not at the point where I can tell my parents any of this stuff, you know. And so it’s like, what she found out is what’s going on in my head. But she does still doesn’t know why it’s in my head. You know, like, she doesn’t know any of the actual stories of abuse. She doesn’t, you know, whatever it was, like, that was like the top of it all, you know, like, it was just everything felt like this extreme. And it’s like, I don’t have any friends. It was just like, I like really needed somebody in that moment to like, be my friend and be there for me and listen to me. And I didn’t know who I could trust and realistically, it was my mom, I could have initiative trusted my mom, but I didn’t know that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:52
That’s my next question. Like, is your mother, somebody that you feel like you can trust? What is your relationship? Like at that point?
Do you wanna answer?
Oh, no, you go ahead. I was gonna say I don’t know how to word that one yet.
Okay, so I was gonna say this time, the time of life that was like, at least worst period of her life was simultaneously mine. I had to under to the youngest one wasn’t too yet, right. So I had like an 18 month old and a newborn. And it was a lot on me. Also, after the birth of my second son, I had such severe postpartum depression, that it went into psychosis. And I had a nurse, like this nurse was coming in to check on my postpartum health, and like, make sure that I wasn’t a safety hazard to myself or my children. Right? I really didn’t know it then. Right. She just knew that there was a nurse coming to check up on my health. And that was like the extent of what she knew. I was trying to balance it all at the same time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 23:58
Carolina and her husband AK have been working really hard to build a better life for the kids. But Karolina is internal wiring is still strongly affected by how she was parented. And the things her mom did say to her growing up, really stuck with her.
One of my biggest struggles in life ever since I can remember has always been suicidality. I grew up in a home where my mom would shout things like she would honestly just shout that she wanted to die very routinely. Anytime we were overwhelming her. We were too loud. We were asking too much of her. She would yell in Spanish, but she would yell like, you guys make me despair. I want to just run out to the street and kill myself, right? And she would say things like, I’m just going to wait in traffic and run in front of a car or I’m gonna jump off a bridge or she’s gonna say I’m gonna go hang myself, right. And so it wasn’t like she was just saying, I don’t want to be live. She would get into these like, this is the method that I’m going to use today. And that was the way that she yelled, right. That’s how she got upset. And so I’ve learned that it takes my complete consciousness to not think that way. Because with especially with five kids in the house, if I get very overwhelmed, it’s very easy for my subconscious to go, I just want to run out into the street and run in front of a car, right? And it has to be my consciousness that brings me back and tells me Do not say that out loud to these children, you know, and when I really was going through this, right, so again, I understand that she’s feeling suicidal, and it’s a feeling that I can relate to major depressive disorder, to me honestly felt like yeah, I guess my kid would have that. Yeah, I would, I would transfer that down Winona in finding that Twitter account, right? And like the messages and it really hitting me, so I voiced out loud to her. I’m not really sure what to do in this situation, I don’t want to lose you. Right, I see that you’re suicidal and I and I’m trying to do everything possible to help you but I don’t know how to handle it. And I broke down crying.
I remember that very vividly. Because even up till now, you know, I’ve seen my mom cry a few times since then. But this time it was in that moment, I fully felt like it was my fault. Like, I felt like I had done the worst thing in the world. I’m like, the worst daughter. And like, I’m like, ruining my mom’s emotions. She’s already got all this stuff on her plate, you know, at this point of like, decreasing mental health. I feel like my mom’s already got enough with her two kids that she’s got. I’m way too much extra and she doesn’t even know what’s going on with me. Like it’s the end of the world. And it’s my fault. You know, it felt like I’m the reason my mom’s world is crashing down on her. And so because of that, it was just like, extra confirmation to me that like, I definitely can’t talk to her you know, like, wasn’t that big of a reaction when she doesn’t even know the full extent of it was like no way in my life will I ever be able to tell her you know, and so that’s what it felt like to me in that moment for sure.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 27:14
Back, it’s now been two years since the explosion that we’ll call the Twitter incident. And Karolina and Ali are picking up the pieces and to Karolina everything is back to normal, even better than normal. They are thriving at La started therapy during these two years. Eventually, she had her tech privileges restored. Plus she stopped visiting her dad’s house, the whole family moves to a new city hoping for a fresh start. But even in a new house, a new environment, they’re still the same mundane parent child daily drama. Karolina looks into the sink one day and sees that it is full of dirty dishes.
I asked that a little wash the dishes. And she did not. And it was one of those like it. It was the end of my rope at this time, right? It’s not like first mistake. It’s like, it was like several things, several things. And so finally I was like, Okay, this is enough. So I’m going to take her phone, and I’m going to hold on to it until her The dishes are done. And then I’ll hand it right back to her. When I had that phone, there’s notifications coming in, I saw this message that was like, hold on a second. This feels extremely reminiscent of finding that Twitter account. Right?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 28:31
What did you find? What was it?
It was just messages with her friends? She was just complaining, right? So I want to say the message that caught my attention was her calling my husband and asshole like, he’s just such an asshole. And I was like, what the heck, that’s super uncalled for.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 28:47
All of a sudden, this argument has become about way more than dirty dishes and Adelies fight or flight instincts start to kick in immediately.
I already know what’s on my phone. You know, I know what I said. I know what I typed out. And so I know my mom’s gonna read. And it was just immediate dread. Like every feeling of anxiety is filling up my body, but not in fear. Again, mostly in shame. My mom doesn’t know the full extent of it. And I don’t know what I can tell her because again, it’s it really was just that feeling of that day again. But like extra because it was like this wasn’t supposed to happen again. You know?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 29:23
When Ellie talks about the full extent of it. She’s basically saying that although the Twitter incident had blown over things were far from perfect. Turns out that therapist she started seeing closed at Ellie’s case out after only a year saying nothing more could be done to help her. She chalked it up to O’Reilly being an overdramatic teenager. Then at La turns to her school counselor to talk about her dad’s abuse and that counselor, a mandated reporter called Child Protective Services to question her dad. Her dad is livid that CPS is now investigating his lie If and keeps parading at La overtaxed, and she keeps bottling up her stress and sadness.
And so on again at this point where I feel like I’m the worst daughter in the world, you know, I’ve done everything wrong, but I so desperately need to get things out of my system because it’s again at that breaking point where my mental health is decreasing again, you know, it’s really bad. I’m feeling all these things again in my head, and I need an outlet desperately before I do something drastic.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 30:28
She says she can’t put any blame on her dad whatsoever. For her entire life, she hasn’t been able to tell anyone about the abuse. And that’s also true now. So she vents to her friends. But instead of saying my bio data such an asshole, she swaps the subject out for my stepdad is such an asshole. In her mind. This switcheroo is a win win. She can vent about her dad without actually talking about him a classic misdirection and that’s what Karolina season our texts. If your head is spinning, I get it. But trauma makes us do inexplicable things. And where else does it rear its head than in a fight with your mom. At this point, mom and daughter are firmly planted in their camps, neither of them can see where the other is coming from.
I’m being placed in a position where the only correct thing to do as a mother is to take my daughter side. Here’s the thing when I saw them, I knew they were lies, right? Like I knew that this isn’t the truth. But can you imagine if in this situation, right? I’m just like, Why are you accusing my my husband? And then left it at that that’s shitty mom behavior? Like, no, you’re supposed to believe your daughter always. And so that’s why I’m so upset. Because literally, I’m being left with no choice. But now I’m gonna have to get a divorce. Right, be left alone raising these five kids, right? Because that’s the correct thing to do as a mother. And again, it’s because I’ve, I felt myself in this position of, I’ve, oh, whoa, I’m about to cry, okay. It’s like, I’ve given up my entire life for, you know, like, I’ve done everything that I possibly couldn’t do, to do right by you, like, always, always down to not having an abortion. You know, and every single thing I’ve done has been out of nothing but love for you and doing the best for you. And even like getting married to my husband took a lot of sod, it took a lot, a lot of work a lot of thought a lot of making sure this is the correct decision. Because no way I’m gonna bring somebody into our life who can harm you, you know, and, and, and so we’ve lived this life and everything I’ve done has been for you, right, we literally moved to a whole different city hoping that this is where you’re gonna find joy. And this, like, it feels like that. And then here I am in cornered into a position where now I have to get divorced, I have to. Otherwise I’m a shitty mom, right? And then like, now I’m gonna be alone with these five kids. And I have no idea where to go from here. In that moment, all I could feel was angry because it felt like I can’t do shit, right? Everything I do is always gonna be wrong.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 33:27
At the same time, Irelia sitting in her room, her phone still in her mom’s hands. And she’s also hit a breaking point.
It was already like COVID had happened. So I had been too locked down. I had just finally made friends, you know, like actual friends that were real people that I was going to school with. And then COVID shut us down. So I had the only way I had communication with them was to text them or to have like FaceTime calls or whatever. And like that was the way that we talked and then you know, like this stuff is building up and then like there’s little breaks where it’s like, you can wear a mask or you can go outside and then the CPS case went down. That felt like that was the end of the world. Like I’d had done the worst thing in the whole world. And then to have this whole blow up with my mom really just felt like it felt like the end of my world. It really did. And so it was like, This is it like this is like this is the last bit of it. You know, there’s no, like we’re not going to recover from this. I think if we had not made up by the end of that day, I would have distanced myself from my mom like completely by the time I was an adult or I would have killed myself. I really do think that’s the way that would have ended.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 34:33
Carolina knows the stakes are skyscraper high at this point. She’s seeing her own childhood full of constant yelling and silence at the worst times repeat itself, this time with her own daughter.
I had major fights with my mom saying when I was 1516 Raising a one year old and the things she said to me and I got to that point where I was counting down the days till I was 18 You know and I didn’t want I want to end up in a future where maybe ideally talks to me once a month, or whatever, you know, I didn’t want to have a future where we didn’t have the connection that we have.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 35:13
So she does something her own mother never did for her. She leans in, instead of adding fuel to the fire, she lets her guard down, she opens up and lets her daughter in.
I went up and was like, look Arely, I don’t know how else to present this to you other than this, okay? I want you to put yourself in the shoes. Okay, pretend that you’re 14 you get pregnant. Right? You have a kid at 15 and then this life happens. And here you are today. Right? And now you are staring at your 15 year old daughter. So you are me. I am you. How do you handle this situation? That just happened? Because I don’t know. Like, I literally don’t know. I feel I honestly feel like 15 year old me standing here being like, holy shit. What do I do? Right? So I think phrasing the question like that, for her was like an immediate, it went from her being like trying to disassociate and like shout out whatever, to all of the sudden present. And like, Oh, damn, you’re right. I don’t think I would know what to do in this scenario, and I’m not sure I know what the right thing is. Only thing that I know needs to happen is we need to find that Ilia therapist. And so that’s what I did. I walked downstairs and I got back on the phone with 211 and found a therapist and then you know, spent the next couple of weeks making sure that the insurance was well and everything so that she could start therapy.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 36:47
Carolina and Arely don’t resolve everything that day at all, he doesn’t even really tell her mom the truth about those texts until months later. But what real Demesne from that breaking point was learning that they could communicate with each other. And that was a monumental shift. Karolina does her best to provide her daughter with better mental health care. Even though being undocumented means she can’t access it herself. And it works with her new therapist at Ellie finally finds a safe space to tell the truth. And as a result of this work, she finally begins to open up to her mom.
In that like her going to therapy and doing that is what finally got like everything to come out. Right and, and then begin to see just the extent of the abuse that she had dealt with as a child. Now I understand why you disassociate so much. You know, now I understand. I mean, so much, there’s so much that I understand now, I really will often talk about how she wasn’t able to absorb a lot of the love that she received as a child, especially for my husband, right? Because she was being told that she wasn’t allowed to or she was being told that it wasn’t genuine or whatever, right. And we’ve had this conversation now where there, there were days where we had a great day, like we would go, you know, spend the day out, like tourists in our own city and whatnot, and then we’d come home and she would lay in bed be like, today was a great day. Oh, that’s right, it was all fake. That was the reality for her, we had to basically go through all of these memories, and like reprocess them again, and restore them into the appropriate colors.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:34
You know, what I think is so profound here is you’ve both said things during this conversation, that if you were in a different phase of your relationship, you could take personally you could get defensive about and yet you’re able to hear it. And like understand, like, that’s her experience of it. And it’s not about me, like that’s big work. How would you sort of define your relationship today? Where are you now?
I think we’re just really close, I feel like me and my mom are very, like, like, we have a very best friend connection. And obviously, like, you know, she’s my mother first before anything, and she’ll always like, prioritize being a mom and like protecting me and all the stuff that she needs to but she also, we really do have this very close knit connection that like none of my friends have with their parents and stuff. Like it’s just such a different, like, I don’t know how to explain and I think it really does have a thing to do with our with our age, you know, like, even if, like we’ve had a lot of struggle and difficulty throughout our lives growing up together. We both had that stage where we were kids just kind of figuring out the world you know, and so now that we’re here we always have that to like, come back to you know, I always rely on my mom for everything. You know, if I’m having a hard time with schoolwork, like even if she doesn’t know how to help me I’ll just be like, can I just sit in the room with you? Will I do the work and like that helps with her energy being there or like if I had a bad day I’ll just come in like lay down next to her or like I’ll talk to her like I just if I ever need my mom? I know I can go to her, you know. And that’s something that took work to get to.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:04
What a beautiful place to land. Right? My kind of last question is, do you now feel safe and confident opening up to your mom? Do you feel like you can come to your mom with anything?
Oh, yeah, for sure. Um, no matter what I tell her, it’s not going to change the fact that she’s my mom. And she’s here to love me. You know, like, like, for example, with the like, the stuff that I’ve even been opening up to her about her more recently, like it has taken time to get there begins taking time for me to get there for myself. But as soon as I get to the point where I’m able to accept something for myself, the first person I go running to as my mom, because I need a support system that’s going to be there for me, and I know, I can rely on her for that.
And for me, I think the the biggest blessing and all of this is the what’s to come. And we’re here, we’re almost here at at least gonna be 18 and a couple of months, right? And we’re talking exciting life stuff, right? We’re talking like, realistically, we’re not illegals to college, I would want for her to stay close, so that we can be close to her. Right? Why? Because we are dealing with mental health issues that are very, very real, right? And so being able to have these conversations, and she’s not going to be in a place where she’s going to feel like she needs to be alone, or can’t come to me with it. Right? Because that’s the biggest thing. As a mom, there were many times even like finding out that I’m having another child when I’m not ready for it. Or, you know, it feels like I already have too many. And I wasn’t able to go to my mom about that. Right? It was almost like embarrassing to go and talk to my mom, because I know that I’m not going to find support there. And I can like at least right now I’m feeling very confident that that is not the foundation, we have Fred Ellie, and that as she goes into her adulthood, as she becomes a mom as whatever, she will always know that I’m here for support and know like, and not to judge her or berate her. By extension like when I do become my grandmother, I’m going to have to be respectful of my daughter’s choices to fully respect my grandchildren. And I am beginning to fully understand that now. I can only imagine that continuing to get better, you know with time and practice.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Lemonada Premium. Subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content like an AMA with yours truly. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything in case you didn’t know. So just FYI and FYI means for your information. So subscribe now in Apple Podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.