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photo credit: Theresa St. John

photo credit: Theresa St. John

I remember finding my mom and dad together on the kitchen floor. I had run up from my house, which stood right down the hill from the home I grew up in. His wails had woken me from a deep sleep.  I could hear him through the pitch-black woods between the properties. He was covered in her blood, having run around the house, trying to find something that would stop her wrists from bleeding her life out. He was screaming for me to call the police.The ambulance, whoever could come and help us.

Depression is a horrible disease. For whatever reason it decides to stop and find a home in the heart and head of it’s victim, it is a terror. My mother was not even fifty and had tried many different things over the years to escape it’s clutches…. Religion, alcohol, adult education.

She was studying to be a pilot and member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. She was acing all of the college courses on Women’s Literature and History of WWII. She spent hours on the potter’s wheel, throwing clay and creating many beautiful pieces that she would sell at booths at local art shows.

But, still, things from the past haunted her and there seemed to be no other way but to take a knife and carve her memories out.

I can still see me in the hospital with my Father. He was dressed now but mom’s blood still covered both of us. His eyes were stark with the dread of what had just happened, spilling out sorrow because we had not been able to stop it.

Luckily, momma lived. She had not finished the deed before the running water from the kitchen faucet woke my dad and he came out of their bedroom to see what was happening.

The Doctor’s explained what was going to happen now, she would have to be admitted to the Psych ward. They would have to evaluate her. They wheeled her by us, arms wrapped in gauze bandages, while the medical personnel talked in soft, compassionate voices.

I left them all in the hallway. I can still see me, rushing to my mother’s side. This woman who was such a huge, wonderful influence in my life.

I only saw rage. Anger spewed from my mouth. “You were going to leave me! You weren’t even going to say goodbye!”  She was so frail – probably needed words of comfort and love right then, but I didn’t care. I had never been so mad in my life.

It took a long time for me to understand any part of mental illness. Or suicide. It took me many sessions of intense therapy, a safe place where I could scream out my grief and anger and the feelings that I’d failed my mother, my friend.

For the first several visits, I could only cry. I would sit in a chair, curled up in a ball and just sob hysterically. The therapist let me. Thank God. Finally, talk came, peppered with questions and I could listen, to some degree, while they explained that my mom’s depression and suicide attempt had nothing whatsoever to do with me. That, even if I had seen every single sign, I would not have been able to stop it.

Mom got better, for a time, coming home and re-acclimating to life on Maple Street. I seemed to live to hear her laughter – which was bright and bubbled up and over our every day existence. It was not long before mental illness crept in again and then cancer eventually took her.

Mental illness is a very real disease that affects every single person in the family and in the wonderful circle of friends that tries valiantly to help. I keep a careful eye on myself, as it can and does run in families. I try to be opposite of my mom in some ways. What she was afraid of, I decide to do. Things she was weak over and stressed incessantly about, I decide to be strong and let them roll off my back.

If there comes a time in my life when I need help – I will make sure I get it. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Oftentimes, it can be kept at bay, under control, so the one suffering is able to enjoy their life to the fullest.

The core of my mother was wonderful. Her essence was kindness, she had a huge heart, loved to read and cook and take long walks in the woods. She loved her husband and she adored her five daughters. I learned so much from her while she lived. I want to be like her in those ways.

Sometimes, when I am quiet, I feel her arms around me, even now. I hear her whisper my name as she gives a word of advice or encouragement in my own life. I know she is proud of me. I know she cheers me on. I am grateful for those little things, they have made all the difference in my world. Xoxo, momma. Always.

Coming To Terms With My Mother’s Mental Illness was last modified: by

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