Twenty-one years ago, at the age of seventeen, I was admitted into a psychiatric facility, this past Saturday I listened to my soul break apart, as a thick steel door shut with a heavy thud and a heart piercing click, while it separated me and my own seventeen year old daughter.
Once again I had abandoned her, but this time, instead of leaving her in the safe arms of loved ones, I left her standing in a cold tiled hallway, in the unfamiliar arms of a seasoned and obviously tired psychiatric nurse.
This is a scenario I could have never imagined as I read and sang to her while she was cradled peacefully in my womb, so long ago. I had made a promise to never hurt her, to always protect her, to fight for her, I promised her that I would never let her end up like me. What a liar time and life has made me.
For decades I have struggled, in my way, with my own mental health. The overwhelming anxiety, social awkwardness, and the inevitable crash of second guessing, depression, and low-to- no selfworth that can even make the simplest act of folding laundry seem like a climb up Mount Everest.
I have dealt firsthand with the demonization and stigmatization that comes with it, from strangers and loved ones alike. I have screamed until I am blue in the face to prove my ‘sanity’ as abusers use it as a weapon to minimize any legitimate and justified grievance I have, only to be told that I need to “take my meds”.
No, this isn’t right, this wasn’t supposed to happen! Look what I have done, look at how badly I have broken her! Had I not been so callous at times, had I not left her when she was younger, had I not yelled so much out of frustration, had I just held her more, been more nurturing, been the mother I promised her I’d be. Perhaps what someone told me last friday is right? I am unfit to be a mother, and I am just going to end up fucking up my son, just like I fucked up my daughter.
This is what anxiety and depression sounds like in a sufferer, and a mother, of someone afflicted with mental health issues.
Leaving my daughter there was the hardest and most gut wrenching thing I have ever done, but I also know that my daughter needs significant help, help I can not give her alone. A level of care and finesse that I am not qualified to give her.
I have visited her twice since Saturday night, at the brief allotted times I’m allowed. I have driven home alone in silence with tears streaming down my face, tortured by the echos of her pleas, her bargains, and her threats.
I have tried to hold tight and strong and repeat the words of reassurance from her doctors, therapists, and nurses that I am doing the right thing, that this will be hard…but is needed.
It sure as hell doesn’t feel like the right thing, I feel like the world’s biggest piece of shit mother that I could see her begging and crying, and still abandon her.
Tomorrow I will drive alone in silence to our family therapy session knowing, once again, I will be leaving her behind those thick steel doors. There is no way to lessen that pain, there is no way to prepare for the agony of feeling her watch me walk away without her.
I will come home and cry in the shower, I will be strong for my son, I will pretend to live life as normal, I will pull myself together. But I will not smile as my world is crashing apart so I don’t inconvenience anyone.
I will see Facebook posts about the first day of school and solar eclipses and tell myself I am doing the right thing. I will attend birthday parties and try not to lose my shit.
I will toss and turn at night and eventually just wake up. I will walk around in a fog, with vacant heartbroken eyes. But, I will not walk on eggshells to make sure I do not make other people uncomfortable, angry, or cause injury to a facade that has been so meticulously crafted by someone else so as not to cause pouting or rumor.
I will not try to talk myself out of posting this, as to not embarrass anyone else. I will speak up, I will speak-out-of-turn. I will not take the blame and feel guilty for things I have not done.
I will be the bad guy, because someone needs to be and more often than not that falls on mom, that is the sacrifice we make.
I will try and keep my composure as I’m given secondhand advice from people that have never been in this situation personally.
I will not get upset when I overhear conversations from relative strangers that lay fault on me, because… “What did she expect?!…”
I will persevere, I will be strong for my daughter, I will be tough even when tough is the last thing I want to be.
I will allow her to push me away, and I will still try an pull her closer. I will paint her room and spend money I don’t have, without allowing guilt to be forced down my throat, just so she won’t come home to the same toxic reminders.
I will lie in her bed and smell her and pretend I am holding her, I will give her the comfort she needs, and needed, from far away. I will protect her, I will fight for her, I will not allow her to end up like me.
I will not lose my shit.
I will love her.
I will not lose her.
I will not leave her.
I will be a warrior.
I will be a warrior for myself.
I will be a warrior for her.
I will be the woman I needed my mother to be.
I will be the mother she needs me to be…