Today was a different sort of day at ‘save my life school’. Now that I’m almost finished week 3, the revolving door of students starting and finishing the program has become very apparent to me. Earlier in the week I was feeling great that I was no longer the new kid on the block, but today I felt uneasy and sad. I wanted to put an ‘out of order’ sign on the revolving door, and keep everyone with me; I was just getting to know them and valued all of their impact on my life so much. Now I felt as if I was witnessing a constant new-student inauguration, making my peer relationships noticeably less comforting. (It probably didn’t help that I was in layer 1 of my depression today as well).
Most of my life relationships have been filled with uncertainty and confusion because it was only a matter of time until they would end. Growing up my sister and I use to say, “believe it when you see it, and enjoy it while it lasts”; not a very comforting way to live. It’s been hard to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to accept a loving relationship, except in one beautiful circumstance; being a mom to my kids. I would do anything for my kids… that love is certain.
But raising my kids with a mental health illness has always felt like I was the magician in a multi-act magic show; lots of smoke and mirrors, and extravagant illusions. David Copperfield has nothing on me! When I was depressed I would wave my magic wand and POOF, I appeared happy. When I was exhausted from my anxiety I would start the smoke machine and PRESTO, I played the energetic mom roll like a pro. But being such a wonderful magician was exhausting! I never had a break because I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my kids about my depression or anxiety for two reasons. 1. I myself didn’t fully understand what was going on with me. And 2. I wanted to be everything I could for my kids, and to me that didn’t include being sick…until recently. So I’ve had MANY years of perfecting my act. Heck, I was so good at it, I even tricked myself sometimes. I’d often find myself saying, I’m fine…totally fine. This feeling is normal…and then I would go secretly drink wine from my top hat. (Obviously I’m joking….I would never drink wine from my top hat 😉 ) I wanted to be the perfect mom…so the illusion work I concocted could have made me money in Vegas.
The other night AB and I took my 18 year-old daughter Caroline out for dinner. It was the first time Caroline was willing to talk to me since my last overdose. She was hurt and upset with what her mom had done (again), and needed time to process her emotions; which was absolutely ok. But her weeks of silence prior made me wonder what she thought exactly happened? Were our views of the ‘event’ different? Heaven knows I could barely wrap my head around it myself! I felt that there was a disconnect somewhere and I knew she would have some tough questions for me, but I now needed to answer them without my magic cape. No illusions, no smoke and mirrors…just authentic me.
“Mom, how were you upset enough to do this? You seemed fine the days before.” was one of my first candid questions. My reply was the truth, “I was hiding my depression. I hadn’t felt good for days.”
“Why wouldn’t you tell me?”, she asked sadly. I truthfully replied, “I never want to worry you. I even tried to hide the feelings from myself”.
“How could you do that to Adam? You made the choice to put those pills in your mouth! How could you hurt him like that?”, she was so angry, and I now saw how my magic show negatively impacted everyone all of those years. She didn’t understand my illness, and I instantly wished I had taught her rather than tricked her. I didn’t have to scare her, but education of some sort could have erased her resentment towards me and healed her heart. She would understand that it was the illness that made me take the pills. She would understand that my depressed mind plays cruel tricks on me…that nothing seems more reasonable at the time…that I feel like everyone would be better off. She would understand that my rationale in those states is non-existent.
“Well I can’t trust you, and I need to make some boundaries until I feel better”. She said sternly, and I was proud of her decision! Masking her true feelings like I had for most of my life would never work. She was wise enough to see that the truth was the only path to healing. If our relationship was to grow, rather than fall apart, packing up the magic show would be the best performance of all.