Saturday, January 8, 2011

When I Was 8...

I remember coming home from a playdate at my friend's house. I am sure I had spent the afternoon roller skating because that was our favorite thing to do when we were 8. I remember my Dad meeting me at the door and telling me that my mom was in the hospital. I don't remember the details. I don't remember what words were used to tell me that my mom had attempted to kill herself but I did know that was what had happened. I did know that she tried to overdose on the antidepressants she took. I also knew that she had survived but was very sick. I was 8 years old.

I remember visiting her either that evening or the next day in the hospital. We had to wait until the breathing tube was removed. I think it was just me and her. I don't remember my brothers being there but maybe they were. I remember her telling me that she decided she had to live for me, her daughter. She didn't want to leave me with the legacy that her mother left her when my grandmother did overdose and die when my mom was 15. I am my mom's only daughter. The daughter she had to live for and get healthy for. I was 8 years old.

I remember driving an hour away to visit her in the mental hospital where she was transferred and lived for a month. I remember her not wanting to visit with us so it took a while before we could go down. I don't remember much about visiting her in the mental hospital. I do remember one of my parent's close friends flying out to help take care of us. I think my Dad had to learn how to do girl's hair but maybe not. I might have just done it myself. I was 8 years old.

Eventually my mom came home. She continued in therapy and taking the medications that to this day keep her from going into that scary, dark place. I remember learning about her Dad's abusive actions and some really creepy things. I remember her going back into the mental hospital for another month when I was starting my freshman year of high school. A time when I needed a mom to help me figure out this new school, a school where I knew no one because we had moved that summer. I remember my Dad and brothers coming to my soccer games that fall. I was 14 years old.

Eventually I went away to college, a college only an hour away, but for me a place where I could be me, not my mother's daughter. It was the first time I could make decisions and plan my life for myself without considering my mom's needs. It was a place where I could breathe. Where the drama of college life was easy compared to the stress of living in my family home. But then in February, I got a call that my mom had gone off to a mental health facility again and my Dad needed me to come home on the weekends and help him care for the foster kids they had living with them. I was 18 years old.

I have a lot of memories of my mom's mental illness taking over my life, and not just my life, but the important milestone moments of my life. I understand and know that she was sick. Mental illness for her is like diabetes. It is a lifelong struggle that requires medication and lifestyle adjustments to manage. I understand that. I am now an adult. I can understand grown up things.

What I don't understand are the behavior choices she makes. I don't understand them. But I do have to deal with them. I do have to respond in a grace filled way that first and foremost protects my boys. I will not let them live with this legacy. I think that is part of the itch I have been feeling. I am not sure how long I can protect my kids sweet hearts and minds living so close to her.

Hockey Boy is 8 years old this year. And he will not have to worry about his Mom or any other grown up. He will be able to be an 8 year old boy.

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