“A few days ago, my mother would have turned 60 years old. Unfortunately, we were robbed of celebrating this day with her, and 20 other birthdays as well, since I was 13 years old.
While I can write and talk about this with ease, there have been lasting ramifications.
There are more photos of my mother on my Facebook than in my home. Actually, you won’t find a single photo of her anywhere visible in my home. I can’t stomach the idea that I may have to look at a constant reminder of what still feels like a betrayal by her every single day. I don’t want the face of the woman who tried to break me next to a photo of my beautiful daughters who saved me.
I despise going to the cemetery. Outside of our yearly family tradition of going on Memorial Day after a parade in our hometown, I’ve been twice. In 20 years. I feel that a cemetery is a place to honor someone who died, and how do you honor someone who left her children behind to suffer with her choices? I want to honor her, I really do, but as a mother myself, it feels impossible to fathom.
While I am hyperaware of mental illness, I still occasionally have memories of my mother’s illness that leave me taken back by the seriousness of it all. One of my earliest memories ever is of her cutting her wrist when I was about 4 years old. I remember blood all over the bathroom counter and a look on her face of a strange sort of calm. Then, her sending us to a friends house to get bandages for her ‘accidental’ cut.
I can remember her pulling over on nighttime drives to point out the aliens to me. I have a newspaper clipping laying around somewhere describing her leading the police on a 40-mile, high-speed chase. I remember taking a walk with her down our street and her describing to me how her organs were rotting from the inside out. I think I was 11 or 12, the same ages of my daughters now. I cannot imagine ever putting them through that.
I know she was sick. I know she tried to get help. I also know none of this was her fault. None of that changes the effects her illnesses have had on me. None of it changes that she is not here with us and her 60th birthday is not a birthday at all because she is dead. I can talk about the facts of her death with ease, but facing the consequences of it on my life has been my biggest cross to bare. Nothing about what she put me through is easy. The ways she robbed me of my childhood, allowed such horrendous things into my life and mind and forced me to fight for any semblance of a normal life is never going to be easy.
It has, however, been a lesson for me. I watch my mind like a hawk. The second I feel anything that could even resemble a mental health issue, I am reaching out for coping mechanisms and help. It has taught me to walk away from anything that makes me feel unhealthy in spirit, body, or mind. It has taught me to be compassionate to those around me who are struggling like she did. While I am still trying to find compassion for her in death, I have found it for those who are still living with this beast of mental illness. I have become aware of my own issues and how to help others with theirs.
I can’t say I am healed from my mother’s severe mental illness and suicide, but I can say that I am healing myself and hope to be helpful to others who are healing themselves. Part of the reason I am pursuing a career in the mental health field is so I can serve people who still have a chance to live, and live well.
Over the years, therapists have helped me to cope time and time again. Healing from the kind of trauma I experienced as a child, which goes way beyond my mother, takes time. It takes a commitment to healing over and over again, in a million different ways. It takes therapy. It sometimes takes pills. It takes rest. It takes goals. It takes faith. It takes writing. It takes helping others. It takes a strong support system who loves you on your worst days. Mostly, it takes patience to continue trying to get better.
I believe someday I will be able to look at a photo of my mother on my wall or go to the cemetery with as much ease as I can say she took her own life. I believe someday the rotten memories will be replaced only with pleasant ones, like jump roping on the sidewalk or decorating for Halloween. But for now, I know where I am with this is exactly where I need to be, and healing comes in waves.
20 years after my mom hung herself in the garage of our childhood home, I would say I am doing pretty well, considering.”
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[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Monique Nash of Farmington Hills, Michigan. You can follow her journey on her blog here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more from Monique:
‘I was vomiting. My doctor said it was because I was ‘promiscuous’. Others said it was from grief, after my mom hung herself.’: Woman with chronic illness says pain ‘robbed her of so much,’ but won’t rob her ‘passion for living’
‘But how will they function in the REAL world?!’ People judge us for homeschooling our kids. Truth is, they already are.’: Mom places children in homeschool after relentless bullying, claims they went from ‘depressed shells of humans’ to ‘thriving’
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