It’s easier to see patterns… to see pathology… in hindsight.
Somewhere around the time I was in second grade, my mom’s life froze. She came home one day, and didn’t go back out. She rarely left her room.
My life, my brother’s life, kept going. Our parents managed to keep so much hidden from us while we were young.
As I got older I learned my mom was a recovering closet alcoholic, and was addicted to those pills my father, brother, and I brought back across the border after visits to Ontario, Canada. Codeine. She quit cold turkey one day.
Another day, she picked up a butcher knife she’d hidden in her bedside-table drawer. She made it seem wrong to stop her. How could she fight the unbearable pain I’d caused her inside, without pain on the outside? Her wrists. Her forehead. It was my fault. I knew her chest bore faint traces of FREAK she’d carved there years before. I had no idea how to intervene. I fainted.
We survived my high school years. My brother moved out. My father moved back in. Peers moved on. Day after day after day passed. Mom couldn’t let me go, and I didn’t know how to leave gracefully. How could I risk pushing her back into the darkness?
Six-and-a-half years. One day much like another as they revolved around her habits and moods. It seemed it would never end. Until it did. A heart attack in the middle of the night. Mom was gone.
Life went from dull plodding to breakneck speed.
So, this is adulthood…
Two years of trying to make a living in a whirlwind of men and new experiences, spun me into marriage, a move across state and back again, motherhood, starting college online… and infidelity.
I wasn’t prepared for marriage to be… just marriage.
I was drowning. He looked like a lifeline.
Like I said, patterns are easier to see in hindsight. Sex is so ingrained in our culture, it’s hard to recognize it as a symptom.
I knew I had a problem. I just couldn’t see it for all it was.
I was normal. I had ups-and-downs, but everyone does, right?
Mine weren’t like Mom’s. Hers were extreme. When I learned more about mood and personality disorders, I wished she could have been properly medicated. Her brain needed help to keep from falling into darkness. She never got it.
You’d think I’d be the first to seek proper help if I thought my moods would swing hard enough to crash into my loved ones.
You’d be wrong. The restless, moody, mercurial days got harder to bear, but some days were awesome. The downs sank lower. And lower. And lower still.
In the darkness, lies are easier to believe than truth.
I’m worthless. I’ll never get it right.
You’d think darkness would have sent me scrambling like a frightened child toward the light. But I fell where light did not exist, at least not for me.
You’d think as hopelessness stole in, I’d realize I needed help. But despair caught up so quickly, I believed I was beyond hope. I believed I’d taken myself beyond the reach of grace.
You’d think that wanting to crush my head with my SUV would have seemed excessive, but I needed. to. make. my. brain. stop. spinning.
You’d think the atypically violent nature of my ideation, and the spectacular heat of my plan would have sparked concern for my mental health, but I was rationally considering how to leave the least mess with the least psychological collateral damage.
You’d think being the wife of a man who lost his father to suicide would make me do anything to protect my children from the life-long trauma of my taking my life, but I knew without doubt that they’d be better off without me. One big trauma better than a lifetime of smaller ones.
Like life with my mom.
She was mentally ill. I was not.
I lived with mentally ill. I knew mentally ill.
I was NOT mentally ill.
I was not an alcoholic. I was not an addict. I’d never even considered cutting. I’m not a freak!
I was put together wrong. I’m pathetic. Worthless. So, maybe I am a freak. But I can’t be fixed. I just need to NOT BE.
Something was deeply wrong. But mentally ill? No. Realistic. Hope was for fools.
It wasn’t until my bleak outlook continued down its logical route and I understood how a mother could become a threat to her children – to protect them from a hopeless existence like her own – that I seriously considered seeking help.
I wasn’t worth it. But they are.
Like my mom, I needed help.
And I could get it.
I have access to the help I need. I’m responsible for what I do with it. I’m responsible for all I’ve learned about my brain and the way it works and doesn’t work. I must defy the shadows to keep the darkness from swallowing me.
If I didn’t have my family, I’d probably be dead.
I couldn’t believe my life was worth saving. But I know yours is.
How do you fight for something you don’t want?
How do you protect the thing you long to destroy?
If you’re struggling to accept your worth, know that God created you with a purpose.
Feeling beyond grace? Know there’s no such place in life.
If you can’t make the decision to save your life for yourself, make it for someone else. If you feel like no one cares, know you’re wrong. If there’s no one special in your life right now, know there will be.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through surviving repeated falls into the darkness, it’s that I can KNOW truth, even when I can’t believe it.
If you’re feeling hopeless, you need help. I know it’s hard to seek it and ask for it, but know you’re worth it.