02/06/2014 10:53 am ET | Updated Apr 08, 2014

Mom Is in the Details.

I lost my mother to mental illness when I was 12 years old. When I say "lost" I mean that she left. She is alive and well (I think) somewhere in the state of Washington.

I try not to dwell on her or the circumstances that happened before and after her decision to leave, but I had a strange revelation the other day, both upsetting and perhaps touching. You could probably put it under the categories of "Any bigger and it would have jumped out and bit you" and "Really? You're just figuring this out now?"

I was on Etsy, trying to find inspiration for my wedding. I started looking for vintage tea tins and other up-cycled things. My eye fell on a listing for an old Celestial Seasonings tin, Mandarin Orange. Suddenly, I felt like I was having a LOST flashback and remembering my forgotten time on the Island. I apologize if that's a spoiler for some of you but you should really have caught up by now.

I have never thought twice about my taste in decor. I've got an odd eye for things and for some, it's a bit much. I like colors and patterns, the old and used. I don't worry about things matching or being symmetrical, and I'll go to local thrift stores or make things myself before looking elsewhere. I've always just looked at is as another way of expressing myself, and hopefully, fairly representing my fiance. I have now realized that my decorating style has its roots in my mother. That tea tin brought it all back.

Tea tins, vintage Coke-a-Cola trays, milk glass, dollar store knickknacks, bed sheets as couch covers, and other random odds and ends. That's what my mother filled our house with when she was well.

All I've been remembering was when our house turned into an episode of Hoarders. I've spent the last 18 years maintaining the distance between her and I only to find out she's been in my apartment the whole time.

You know how some people see "signs" of their lost loved ones around? It could be a cardinal perched in a tree or change on the ground or a butterfly that lands on you, or some other thing that, for whatever reason brings back the connection that was lost. That's how I feel about this. I have been subconsciously filling our home with the memories of the healthy mother I forgot about.

How have you stayed connected to those who are no longer in your life?