What My Daughter Knows About My Mental Illness
My daughter knows I thought I hated her just two weeks after she was born. Pure hatred, where using the actual word “hate” is valid and not taboo.
My daughter knows what suicide is. She learned this at age 8 because she overheard something on the radio. She knows I have thought about dying by suicide a handful of times. She knows I was a teenager then, almost 18, a legal adult, only 8 years older than she is now. She knows these ideations have blown into my mind like a breeze and have quickly left several times in the last 20 years.
My daughter knows I am sick. She has seen me at my worst, a vision I never wanted her to lay eyes on. She has seen me shaking, rocking back and forth, nails digging into my head spewing delusions out of my mouth left and right. She has seen the tears, witnessed the dry-heaving runs to the toilet, heard my self-loathing.
My daughter knows I have been hospitalized, twice. She accompanied my parents this latest time when they visited me, being forced to stay in the cafeteria with my father because she was deemed “too young” for the short term psychiatric ward. The hospital feared the patients there would hurt or scare her by saying or doing something. This means they feared I would hurt or scare her, too. She knows the emotional pain one feels when the only communication we had was through a phone… a phone that would cut you off if you moved wrong, a phone so desperately in need of replacement. She understands the hospital is my safe place, when our home is unable to be just that.
My daughter knows she is an only child because of me. She knows I was barely able to raise her in the beginning due to severe postpartum depression and anxiety. She knows at times I have been unable to care for her in the episodes of major depressive disorder since. She knows she lost her little brother, my beloved former foster son, because my illnesses prevented me from being able to function, let alone parent. I became a third child for my husband then, a childlike creature in an adult body that my daughter started to take care of, becoming a Mommy to her own mother.
What I didn’t expect for this wonderful, kind and loving child to learn was acceptance. Every time I had to explain these things, every time I hurt her, I expected anger and rage in return. I expected her to ignore me, shout “I hate you Mommy,” rotating the knife deeper into my back. I expected extreme tears over losing her brother, many more than she shed (and she cried quite a bit). Instead, she shocked me by becoming my protector of sorts, a role I never asked her to take and tell her now she can relinquish. She truly cares if something will affect me, triggering me back to those dark dismal days. She has true compassion and empathy, two traits I am happy she learned, although I wish she learned them with something other than me as the subject. She is the Wise Fairy that her name, Sophia Faye, connotes.
There are so many things she has had to learn at the tender age of 8, 9 and now 10. These things I would have liked to have postponed. I have been called out by a select few saying she was too young for these strong topics. Yes, I know. But, I have to say, if by telling her about being mentally ill, suicidal and hospitalized has made her into the awesome kid that she is today, I am happy she knows. I am happy she knows, because she won’t have to live in the shame and stigma of it if it happens to her. She knows she has a loving mother who has been through hell and back that can help her. And she knows that although at one point I “hated” her, wanting to leave, I couldn’t bare to live without her now. She is my heart, my strength, my love, my Sophia Faye.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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