Faith & Family, Mental Health

Living to Fight Another Day

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The greatest gift a woman can receive in her life is the gift of motherhood.

Nothing has mattered more to me in this life than my children.  My children are my heart and soul. They are the breath in my lungs and the beating of my heart.  They are the blood that runs through my veins. My children are the very reason that I am still alive.

I was just fourteen-years-old when I became a mother for the first time.  He didn’t know it then, he was just a baby, but that was the first time that my eldest son saved my life.  (He saved my life again when he was seventeen. It was two weeks after a total hysterectomy when I became psychotic and overdosed on painkillers.  I thank God that he was there to break down the door and call an ambulance.)

At only fourteen, I was already suffering from PTSD and self-harming.  Depression and anxiety were my only friends. Feeling like an outcast at home and at school, I was contemplating suicide.

Becoming a mother so young gave me a reason to stay alive and fight another day.  It gave me someone to care for and focus on other than myself and my problems at home and at school.

Being a mother is hard work.  Being a mother with mental illness is even harder work.  But being a mother with mental illness to a child with mental illness is more than just challenging.  Unless you have personally lived and experienced it yourself, it is utterly indescribable, to say the least.

After the birth of my third son at the age of nineteen, the depression became so severe that I required medication.  By the age of twenty-one, my moods had become more unstable and I began self-harming again. That was when I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, major depression, and anxiety.  It was also then that I became a human lab rat so to speak.

Pill after useless pill had been prescribed.  Nothing seemed to “fix me” and I received a plethora of diagnoses and more useless pills over the following decade. In just a handful of years, I had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, (rapid cycling and treatment-resistant), Borderline Personality Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, C-PTSD, major depression, anxiety, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism.

How does one go about explaining mental illness to a child?  What do you say to your sweet little boys when they are asking you about the cuts on your wrists? Or when they come home from school and find mommy catatonic on the kitchen floor, or in a full-blown psychotic panic attack, screaming and crying hysterically, while writhing in agony as they watch helplessly as she bites and scratches the living daylights out of her own flesh?  How does a father explain to his sons why mommy tried to kill herself and has to stay in the hospital? How does one go about explaining to a precious and innocent child why his mommy is crazy? Worse yet, how does a child explain to his friends why they can’t come over and spend the night because his mommy is crazy and he is afraid that mom will do something weird or just act plain crazy?

As mothers, we want nothing more in this world other than to protect our babies and keep them safe and sheltered from anyone or anything that could potentially harm them.  But what if what’s harming your child is YOU?

I cannot speak for my sons, of course.  But, I can say that it has been nothing short of absolute Hell for them to grow up with a mom who is a tad bit more than just “off her rocker”!

However, I do believe that the real curse lies within our genes. It feels like an unforgivable sin to pass this cursed illness onto your child.  It is the equivalent of handing your child a loaded gun and expecting him to never pull the trigger. But, it happens nonetheless. And we are completely and utterly powerless to stop it.  That is exactly what it felt like when I first realized that I had passed this cursed illness onto my middle son. He was just three-years-old when he first told me that he wanted to die! What in the unholy Hell do three-year-olds know about dying?  At the age of only seven, he began hearing voices and was prescribed Risperdal.

At that point, the fight to stay alive became more real to me than ever before.  Not only did I have to fight to keep myself alive, and take care of my own mental health, I had to somehow teach my precious little boy to take care of his own mental health and fight to stay alive too.

But how do we do this when he and I are both treatment resistant and medications do not work well for us?

How does a Bipolar mother keep her Bipolar son alive when he feels no safer with himself than he does at home or at school?  How does a mother with such severe mental illness cope with her own suicidality and her sons too? How was I supposed to go to work when I had not just one child, but two in the hospital at the same time for being suicidal?  How does a mother explain to her thirteen-year-old son that being taken away in handcuffs is for his own good and to save his life? How does a mother cope with endless flashbacks and nightmares of her son’s suicide attempts?  (He attempted FOUR TIMES to end his precious life by the age of only eighteen.) How does my eldest son cope with having to break down the door to save his psychotic mother’s life because she overdosed on painkillers? I don’t think that I will ever find the answers to these burning questions no matter how hard I try.

Mental illness has done everything it can to try and destroy me and my family.  Some days, I think that it has. But in reality, it hasn’t. We are still here. Alive.  Living to fight another day.

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