She stood in the kitchen with tears streaming down her face. Her hands were over her mouth and she tried unsuccessfully to stop the sobs before they began. A gut-wrenching cry escaped from her core and she melted down. The harder she tried to stop, the more angry she became with herself that she wasn’t stronger, and so the faster the sobs came. She loathed this part about herself. She hated when she did this. Angry hot tears burned her cheeks as she sucked in a breath that did nothing to cool her parched lungs. She could hardly take a breath in for all the emotions flowing out of her. She was terrified of herself.
She glanced at the dirty dishes on the counter and her eyes lingered on the long knife that lay there. No thoughts consciously went through her mind. Nothing said, “Oh, I think I will solve my problems by sinking that long knife into my chest,” but the reality was that the image was firmly in her mind and her will was being enacted in order to refrain from doing that very thing. She was horrified.
An unseen force was relentlessly telling her to do it, egging her on, but she didn’t want to, not really. She wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go. There was no where to hide from the voice inside her mind. She was angry with herself. She was so stupid and so pathetic. Why couldn’t she just be normal? Why couldn’t she just do what other girls did? Why was this a big deal? When would she be different? Why was she such a failure? She hated herself. She couldn’t hate herself more than she did right then, except when she thought of how her mom would react when she found her like this.
With that she began to sob uncontrollably.
This was the scene in my kitchen on Monday night. The fact that I did not have the reaction my daughter was dreading was good. Truthfully? I never know how I am supposed to react to the fact that my daughter battles weekly, even daily, thoughts of suicide. I don’t know the way a mom is “supposed” to feel about the fact that their child has been battling demons that tell them that ending life is a better choice than fighting through whatever there is to face at any given moment. I don’t know the right way to love my child through pain and torment that only can be experienced and understood from living on the inside of their life.
Her realities aren’t ones I can see nor even understand. Her mind does not allow her to see reality as most of the world out there does. It skews it and distorts it, twisting it in sickening ways that makes me ill just to see from the distance I am forced to keep. I am as close to her as I can be, but I can’t get inside her heart and soul and know her pain more than what she shares. I can’t make it better. I can’t make it go away.
How is a mother supposed to react to that?
Let me tell you how. WRONG.
Most of the time I get it wrong. Don’t be nice to me and say that I am doing great and that I am doing the best I can. I don’t want to hear it. Sometimes the best you can is just frankly not enough.
I often get mad. I get livid mad. I am not mad at my daughter, but I am mad because she lives with bipolar disorder, OCD, and a host of anxiety disorders dictate more about OUR lives than I want to admit. I can’t change this and it makes me madder than hell. It makes me angry that she can’t just enjoy her life. She is so imprisoned by her mind and her mental illness that I am angry. It affects everything she does.
I don’t always say the right things. She needs to hear “it’s OK” one more time, and I am tired of saying it. Not because I don’t feel it’s OK, not because I don’t care, but because I am tired of needing to say it. I am tired of her mind telling her a lie that requires me to do battle with it daily.
I get impatient, irritable, frustrated and fragmented. I am tired, stressed, sad and alone. Most of the daily routine and battle against her mind falls to me. It is wearying. She feels responsible for this and she adds stress upon herself for this, guilt and anger of her own. It’s a vicious cycle. We both understand it and we talk about it.
I apologize a LOT. I flat out tell her I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I tell her I love her, that I do know, but that’s all I know. I tell her I don’t know how to love her through the pain the right way, but I love her. She gets it. She somehow manages to understand me. She somehow knows in her heart I am trying. And I am. I’m just not doing a good enough job. I’m not.
How do you ever get used to having a child who battles a demon inside that says that suicide is a good option? At the age of 10 she gave it her first real try and it scared the hell out of me. She’d been talking about it since she was 7. She’d shown signs of issues and problems and we’d been in and out of counseling since she was 6. We did everything “right” and still we didn’t have a plan that was helping her, so she tried to end the pain. Now at 15 we have been at this more than half her life and somehow I am no pro, nor old hat, at handling it. In fact, I still sometimes wish I could wake up one day and it would all just be over.
There are days I lay facedown on my bed and sob into the feathered duvet, screaming at God that I’m not strong enough to do this anymore. I’m not strong enough to be her mom. What if I screw up? What if one day I get it wrong and she acts upon this demon of hers. No one will see a mom who tried so hard for half her daughter’s life; they will see that I failed on one random day when push came to shove and she couldn’t hold the demon at bay. They will see that no one was there for her. They won’t see years of trial, pain, torments; successes, victories and massive strides made. They will see the failure. They will see the death.
I live in fear of failure. Not because failure is bad in and of itself, but because failure isn’t an OPTION.
Do you see? Failing means I lose my baby. It means she’s dead and there was no better way out she could find. It could be as simple as I had the reaction she was dreading. A look on my face or word from my mouth that confirmed (in her mind) that she wasn’t worth it. That I was tired of HER, not just tired. That it was HER I hate, not the disease. If I get that wrong, even once…
This is real life here… One with no answers. This is what life behind my front door looks like. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s a hidden life that I don’t live alone.
There are many faces that you pass in the store or on the street that hide lives that live in fear of failure. Lives that are touched by mental illness. I am grateful for my network of support. Living without it is not an option.
If you or someone you love needs support, please get it. Here is a link to some here in Fort Wayne: http://www.nami.org.
I don’t have answers, but I can be real. Know that, while I will still share my silliness (like a week where a squirrel decided to move in with us because he mistook ours for NUT house versus a nuthouse…https://ditchingthemasks.com/2014/01/20/mistaken-for-a-nut-house/) I will still keep it honest here. My guess is that is what someone needs.
Laughter is good. Honesty, needed. Prayers, crucial.
This blog, to anyone who questions, were written with full permission from my daughter. She and I are beginning a blogging venture where we will be blogging through the reality and pain from her eye and mine. My hope is that we will give hope and a needed look at reality to what is often an invisible battle waged in homes across the country, and worldwide. We are hoping to be “real “and open an honest dialog. Mental illness is not just school shootings and tragedy. It’s daily life on multiple fronts – including some amazing highs and powerful successes mixed in with the lows.