My students have found my blog. I feel my literary world and professional world obliterate each other and the line that existed forever gone. These perfect bubbles I have lived in are destroyed as the worry of parental complaints and protest. As a teacher you feel the weight of responsibility for those you teach as if they belong to you. My literary works are personal and not gossip. Will they recognize that in their tabula rasa state? some will while others will not and I am forced to confront a truth. My writing is public and I have chosen this stage. I must write with pride as I come out of the wings and stand center stage. I will not be silenced.
As I fight every day for my daughter’s life and her ability to hold her head high with her illness I become brave, I charge into the flames of ignorance, and I get the briefest, smokiest wisp of the elusive scent of hope.
©tankist276 / Adobe Stock
My daughter has depression and a desire to self-harm. She was diagnosed at age 10. The fear cracked me open, like a watermelon thrown from the tallest wall as I lived in daily terror that I would find her dead. Humpty Dumpty could never be put back together again, at least not in the form of a fruit. The knives on the kitchen counter glistened with menacing teeth; her pillowcase plotted to suffocate her and belts shimmered like a diamond necklace worn too tightly around a beautiful neck. Would I find her swinging, toddler-like, from our tree out back? A strange fruit that would be cut down to shrills and inhuman howls. How do you protect your child from her sick brain that is trying to murder her?
She overcame her illness six months later with much therapy and medical treatments. It occurred to me that we did not throw her a party or hold a 10k run announcing that she was better. I physically couldn’t celebrate every ounce of me was exhausted to the marrow. We can blame mom, and Lord knows I do, I had never felt so alone as the guilt burned my soul. My genes had caused this and no one wanted to talk about what was happening with Audrey. Even my strong husband would break down into tears; after all his father had hung himself.
“It’s hard to find other parents of kids with a mental illness, because who the hell wants to advertise it?”
My daughter was no longer invited to parties because her strange behavior did not match the perfect pictures at parties that were necessary to show the world. Even my friends would tell me everything would be fine and change the subject as quickly as if they were on fire. I was surrounded by good mommies with daughters with bows in their hair so large they could get a radio signal and play us a tune.
Good mommies have perfect daughters that cheer, get good grades and fit into the perfect mold society created for them. Yet these perfect children socially terrorized my daughter about her mental illness. Is it wrong to want to punch a child in the face as I hear my daughter mocked for her depression? The perfect mothers rarely speak to me now as I get comments of ‘we will catch up soon and I will call you.’
It’s hard to find other parents of kids with a mental illness, because who the hell wants to advertise it?
Oh, your kid is on the soccer team? That’s great. My daughter was nearly institutionalized for being suicidal, and I had to take away anything sharp and anything that could be turned into a noose from her room. Want to meet for coffee and chat about it? No, not likely.
Audrey had a diagnosed illness, and she survived something that could have killed her, and there was no celebration only relief.
Where is my daughter’s ticker tape parade?
We rejoice in the overcoming of disease but not a mental illness. It can’t be because it is recurring because cancer returns too – why no party? Why no ribbon or t-shirt saying she beat depression and won, this time? So where is her ticker tape parade? It was stolen by all the whispers of loved ones when we explained what was happening. Their noted absence all those months during her illness. I recall a time when cancer was whispered and not discussed.
The secrecy of mental illness is one of the enormous challenges of modern society. The shame of that burden. The shame of my burden. The stigma of having a mental illness. I have been mentally ill my entire life, but few people know this truth (some may have already guessed). I am afraid to tell people I am bipolar. I am worried I will be found lacking because of it and lose my job, lose my acquaintances or my children’s invitations to birthday parties.
I look at your insanity and recognize it
People hear bipolar and back away to give you some room in case you suddenly attack. Attack with what? A bundle of overly ecstatic facial expressions or sad sighs laced with depressed eyes? I do not understand people who live at the illusive equator, a pretend line where “normal” people dwell.
I am the dependent variable and live all over the earth. I am frightened of ordinary people, and yes, I use that term loosely because they live lies while judging me. I have been to your beautiful homes with the soup cans alphabetized and watched you count how many times you wash your hands. I see you triple check the alarm or have that fifth glass of merlot to relax. I watch you overuse hand sanitizer.
I used to think the fear was that I was contagious but I have come to believe the concern is that I see you. I look at your insanity, recognize it, and I think that is the real fear. As I fight every day for my daughter’s life and her ability to hold her head high with her illness I am no longer the watermelon in pieces but one of the Queen’s women, sword in hand. I become brave, I charge into the flames of ignorance, and I get the briefest, smokiest wisp of the elusive scent of hope.
I am published – woo hoo!
I know I trade what I want for what I need. We always trade but I believe few of us want to acknowledge it. What am I trading today? Or has simply the addition of children made the trading endless. I understand why Woolf wanted a room of her own.
I read your soul in your divine words and am honored to be let into your brilliant spark of life. I feel the weight of my soul. The soul always finds life again, a seedling is always left behind after obliteration to begin renewal. It is covered in scars and perfect. The soul can heal and it does reside in all of us so why do we resist the idea of our soul. We feel it exist within us but cannot name where it resides; the heart, the head or the base of our spine. Perhaps it is a romantic notion to believe in a soul. To believe that something dwells within all of us; something otherworldly, breathtaking and sacred. But when I read your words, I hear your spirit.
we read we write we read we write
It is the ebb and flow of a tide
the push and pull of a door
As we come up
stroke after stroke
We are reminded not to drown
as ink spills from our ears
our brain comes up for air
Should the mentally ill get handicap spots at the store? I mean crazy is a handicap of mine. I take a great deal of time, therapy, money and medication to attempt to stay on the sane train. I just feel like a perk here and there would make me feel special. It is hard work keeping my bipolar, ADD, insomniac, anxiety-ridden self on the straight and narrow so a shorter walk here and there may lighten the load.
P.S. And yes, I know they are for handicapable people (a term the special education teacher at my school says is correct) that can’t physically handle long walks and I am not trying to belittle or make light of that issue. I am making fun of myself and my handicap.
We write because we have no alternatives and must unburden our soul and brain.
We bring blame, guilt, fear, joy, desire, and tears, and place them into the void.
We hear echoes yet we do not balk in terror but get up and bravely do it again.
We are warriors and ink is our weapon.