Almost three years ago, I wrote about losing my mom to mental illness. I did so with shaking hands in hopes my words would be healing to those struggling with mental illness and illuminating to others.
The post was one of my most popular. It was also one of my most deleted. I thought of reposting it again someday so it would again be accessible here, but wasn’t sure when or why.
Yesterday I read “Dear Ms. Miller,” a thoughtful, articulate response to a blame-assigning statement by Washington Times editor Emily Miller. Whereas my response to the statement–indicative of lack of experience trying to obtain help for a mentally ill loved one–was to glower at my screen, blogger MJ channeled her experiences into a thoughtful, detailed assessment of the many difficulties actually obtaining treatment.
I hope you’ll read “Dear Ms. Miller,” and read my post below if you haven’t already.
I continue to wish peace for all who suffer, and compassion from those who do not.
SIX HANDS FOR LIFTING: ON MY MOM, MENTAL ILLNESS, FEAR AND HOPE
Originally posted June 8, 2011
Eight years ago, I had a conversation so excruciating, mere memory of it causes me to tremble as I perch at rusty floodgates barely holding back a billion more tears.
Eight years ago, my sister, brother-and-law and I sat on my mom’s front porch and urged her to consider voluntary psychiatric commitment.
When I envisioned the summer of 2003, I thought about the joy of being free from law school for three whole months. I imagined all the adventures I’d have with my siblings. Best of all, I pictured the lovely bride my just-younger sister would make on her wedding day.
What I absolutely did not picture as I boarded the Greyhound bus to Oregon was spending a summer watching my mom’s long-time “colorfulness” devolve into full-blown mental illness. I didn’t expect I’d spend many awkward hours listening to her talk about how her neighbors were poisoning her, Conan O’Brien was doing experiments on her, or how her children were “in on it” with the University of Oregon and the Cheshire Cat. Read more…
“You haven’t thought of harming yourself?” the nurse asked with furrowed brow as she reviewed my questionnaire.
“No,” I said, smiling. “I’m depressed now, but I’m not at risk. I understand what this is and why it is, so I don’t put much stock in it.”
“I wish it were like that with me,” she replied.
“It took me lots of time.”
There have been many days during this pregnancy that I have wanted to hide in darkness and emerge only for birth. Read more…
“I wish I could show you all the places I lived and visited in Japan,” I told my fiancee last night. “I wish that we could hop in the car and be there in an hour. But of course, for you to see these places, we’ll have to plan and save for years.”
It’s worth it. We will save, and I will someday show him the places I called home, even if I’m unable to locate most of the people who made the places feel like home. I’ll take him to the schoolyard where I once danced goofy in the rain on a school’s webcam to make him smile. I’ll show him the little market to which I used to bike on my rusty, thirty-year-old bicycle, and–if it still exists–the tiny school up in the mountains that continues to make appearances in my dreams.
Last night’s conversation still in mind, I read this morning an article on the lessons of Gettysburg. One particular paragraph talked about the strange sensation of piling off a tour bus and wondering what you’re supposed to do for amusement in such a place. The words evoked my own memory of such a visit: to Hiroshima. Read more…
One month ago, I wrote about someone close to me who had just escaped an abusive relationship, thanks in part to wisdom gleaned from the pages of The Gift of Fear.
Today I wanted you to see how she is already growing and thriving in her new SoCal life. I imagined writing an update myself, but texted her to see if she’d want to write a part of the post. Did she ever! She wrote not the paragraph or two I anticipated, but an entire post about her recent struggles. I cried reading her words and seeing parts of the story not previously revealed to me, and found redoubled my gratitude she escaped. Read more…
We laid side by side and discussed the end of our relationship.
There was no arguing. No crying. No screaming. No pleading. We were done, Anthony and I. We had gone our own ways months before; our words didn’t make truth but mirror it.
“Do we call it now, then?” I asked. “Or do we give it another week and see how we feel then?”
After several moments of reflection, Anthony replied, “Let’s give it a week.”
From authors to singers, from actors to painters, there are few artists whose works I consistently enjoy. I usually describe myself as liking works, not artists, with rare exceptions like Joss Whedon, Eric Kufs or P!nk.
P!nk has been a favorite since law school, when I began running to her fierce yet catchy tunes. I didn’t have to be or feel any one thing while listening to her music. I felt all of myself in it: sadness, anger, frustration, elation, hope.
And yet, having loved her music for a decade, I was still shocked to discover a few days ago just how much more deeply she could move me. Read more…
“Mommy, you have pretty hair,” my three-year-old son told me as he reached to touch it.
“You do, too,” I replied.
“No, it’s not. It’s dark,” he said solemnly.
I tried not to show my alarm. “Who told you that?” I asked as I reached to ruffle his hair.
“Listen,” I said calmly despite the alarm still bubbling up within me. “You have beautiful, curly, dark hair. I wish I had your hair.”
“Oh.” Li’l D, no longer engaged in the conversation, got up and ran off toward more exciting endeavors. My heart remained stuck on those two jarring words: “It’s dark.”
I have no idea where Li’l D heard that “dark” is bad. I cannot undo his hearing it. But what I can do, and what I mean to do, is show him as he grows that misguided words are not all there is in this world. There is joy in abundance, beauty that cares naught for superficial distinctions, and the goodness of knowing that no matter what anyone else sees or says, there is a light inside each of us that demands to shine.
I will strive to teach him to see that light–in those who love him, those who dislike him for whatever reasons, and most of all, within himself.
If he can see it within himself, it won’t matter what anyone else sees.
He will be too alight with love to care.
I climbed out of the car, readying to free my son from his car seat, when I overheard the folks parked next to us.
“They’re black,” one man said derisively.
Said the other with equal derision as he glanced toward my son, “That bodes well for the future.”
After a moment’s debate, I decided not to say anything. Because, no matter how the words were spoken, their truth is undeniable: our sweet children, being raised to see beyond our superficial differences, do indeed bode well for a future more full of love.