(My daughter was asked to write a true account of an incident or something she is living with others don’t know about as an assignment for theater. It was to be written in first person, monologue style. This is what she turned in. It both broke my heart and made me very proud. My daughter is one tough little girl!)
I wish I could explain to you what I felt that day. Coming home from school to find our house in a complete mess. And my mother never left the house messy! My first thought was that we had been robbed, or that my mom had been kidnapped, or our cats had finally had a mass freak out. Then I saw the police officer in the corner of the room. You must be Tabitha! Come with me, please. Your mother has had an accident…
Allow me to back up a little. You see, it has been just my mother, sister and me for several years now. My parents got divorced, and my mom works full time; often more than full time, so I am used to coming home from school with my little sister getting off the bus shortly after me. We do homework (okay, watch television and have snacks and then do homework) and usually Mom would be home by dinner time. But that was okay with me, because she pays me $100 a week to babysit and make sure homework and chores are done. I was saving up to buy a car!
I knew when Mom got home there would be two possibilities; we will get energetic Mom who will fly through the house simultaneously cleaning, making dinner and asking us about our day after which we will watch some television together and then she will tuck us in for bed (although she knows I’m old enough to get myself settled, she insists on a hug which gets very annoying); or we will get tired Mom. Tired Mom will leave a bag of whatever she has picked up for dinner ala drive through and head up to her room to “decompress” from her day. So I would divide up the fast food between Sister and me and get all things cleaned up like mom likes it and get us both upstairs to our rooms for bed. Usually Mom hears us coming and she would shuffle out of her room in her pajamas to hug us both good night. Usually, we would get tired Mom for a few days here and there but I had begun to notice tired Mom was coming home from work more and more often and it was starting to tick me off. I have things I want to do! Why does she always get to be “tired”? But then I feel guilty because I know how hard she works for us. She never missed a choir concert or forgot when I’ve asked her for my favorite cereal at the grocery store, but sometimes it seemed like she was just shuffling through her time with us at home. I see how she is at work; so outgoing and friendly. Why can’t she be that way at home for us every day? Sometimes my sister has a bad day at school or I have a new crush I want to tell her about, but she seemed absorbed in her own thoughts, and so we just waited for energetic Mom to come back home again. She always did in a tornado of hugs and cleaning fits. Sometimes staying up until 1am to clean the house and make sure everything was just perfect. It’s like she is trying to make up for being tired and sad all of those other days. Yeah, tired and sad. We are good kids, what did she have to be so sad about?!
So, back to ‘that day’. I asked the policeman what kind of accident Mom had, while looking around at the mayhem that was now our living room. Mom’s bedspread was on the couch, a bottle of aspirin and a tequila bottle on the side table, which is weird because mom doesn’t drink. Not anything other than wine every now and then. That liquor bottle has been in our cabinet since Dad lived with us. Now it stood there empty. Then I noticed the stairs, and the droplets of blood coming from upstairs, and what looked like a bloody handprint on the bannister. I noticed more blood on the couch by the bedspread. It was then that I realized the bedspread was soaked in blood, too. I began to feel panicky. What had happened here? Was my mom attacked? The Policeman told me that we should go outside to wait for Sister and then he would be taking us to my Aunt’s house. Why won’t you tell me what happened to my Mom??! Sister got off the bus and noticed us waiting outside and asked me what the matter was. The policeman told her our mom got sick and he was taking us to Aunt Jessica’s. But, I thought she was in an accident? For the rest of the night everyone had worried looks on their faces but no one would tell us anything about Mom.
The next day I got up to get ready for school. Aunt Jess was up with my baby cousin and told me I wouldn’t have to go to school that day. She looked like she had been crying. My Aunt Jessica didn’t usually treat me like I was a baby, so I asked her to tell me what was going on with my Mom. Just then, her cell phone rang. She answered and immediately her voice got softer, I heard her say, “So how long before we know if she’ll wake up from this?” as she walked into her bedroom and shut the door. She came out after what seemed like forever and she looked at me and told me she would tell me what happened, but that we couldn’t tell Sister just yet. That she was too young to understand what was wrong with Mom.
My Aunt Jessica told me my Mother had severe clinical depression and probably had for a very long time, but never let anyone know. I didn’t understand why that would make it so we couldn’t see her. Why would depression cause all of this to happen; what about all of that blood I saw? Aunt Jess said she had what the doctor told her is a “near fatal depressive episode” and that we may lose her to suicide. My world closed in on me as she explained the rest. Mom attempted to kill herself by overdosing on aspirin and cutting her inner arms. She lost a lot of blood and was still in a coma. The doctor has put her in ICU after giving her a few units of blood and 50 stitches. They were watching her to see if she will wake up. Right now, it could go either way. I didn’t understand. Why would she try to leave us?! Didn’t we love her enough? We were good every day. I cleaned up the house, I did my homework, and I didn’t sneak out and go to those parties like some of my friends do! I was so confused.
After another day, she did wake up. She called us and tried to explain and tell me she was so sorry and that she was the same Mom she was before and she loved me and was going to get better. I was just so mad. I told her I didn’t really feel like talking but inside I was relieved she was okay. But I don’t ever think I’ll ever get the picture of the way our living room looked that day out of my head.
They sent Mom to a behavioral health hospital for a week but we weren’t allowed to go see her there. I heard she was getting better but I didn’t like to talk to her on the phone, even though she called every day. I didn’t know this Mother. I didn’t know what would happen to our family.
That was a little over a year ago. Our family is back together now and Mom is mostly her typical energetic self again. Sister still doesn’t really know what happened that day, but we have all talked about depression and how serious and scary it can be. She told me she is taking medicine and she sees a therapist every week and a psychiatrist every month. She even took us to a therapist once, but I didn’t want to talk to him. I’d rather just forget about the whole thing. Mom talks about what happened to her now. She doesn’t seem ashamed of the depression and explains that it is very similar to having something like diabetes or heart disease; she just has to make sure she follows the doctor’s instructions and stays on top of her health. She doesn’t work so many hours anymore, so she doesn’t seem as tired. She tells me she has had depression since she was my age, but was too afraid to tell anyone about it. She was afraid people would think she was crazy or that they would put her in a mental ward somewhere. But she tells me they don’t do that anymore to people like her, people with mental illnesses. I am proud of her for getting better and telling other people about depression. People call my Mom all of the time for advice and for the number of her therapist. She tells people that they shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help and say they are depressed before they feel as low as she did back then on that horrible day. She promises she will never again do what she did that day.
I wonder if I should tell her that I feel sad sometimes, too, or if that would make her depressed to know that I may have this illness, too. I wonder how hard it would be to just disappear and then she wouldn’t have to worry so much about me anymore. Maybe I could just disappear…
*This story is based on actual experiences but some descriptions and the ending is for dramatic purposes ONLY. I am not depressed or wanting to disappear. Today, almost two years later, my Mom is an active advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Thank you!*
My daughter as an early walker (at 10 months old) and more recently as a normal, healthy, beautiful 17 year old. I am the luckiest Mother on this planet!