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'Mommy Is Sick'

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“Mommy is sick.”

My daughter stared at me trying to process what I said. I’ve told her before that Mommy at times needs to hide in her room, will cry for no reason and become very mopey. That was when she was 4. That was all I felt her preschool brain could
handle, but now she was 8 and old enough to know something was not right with Mommy.

“Mommy is sick, baby girl.”

She stared at me trying to find some kind of symptom to prove actual sickness.

“What’s wrong, Mommy? Do you have a fever?”

“No, Mommy is not sick like that. Mommy is sick mentally, in my brain.”

Her face grew in horror. “Like cancer?”

“No, baby girl.  Mommy has severe depression and anxiety.”

My daughter pondered this for awhile. She was well aware that her mother was acting
a bit strange the last few months.  She knew her mother was worried over her health.  She had seen me rocking back and forth, grabbing my forehead tightly with my hands repeating the words, “I can’t, I just can’t anymore.” She saw me cry multiple times a day triggered by the littlest things. She saw my body become emaciated as I couldn’t eat. What I didn’t know, is how much she understood. 

How much could her not-quite-pre-teen brain comprehend?

And then she witnessed me being hospitalized once again, something that hadn’t occurred since she was  a newborn.  Crying incessantly in front of kids and their parents at her dance class, telling my husband, her father, that I didn’t trust myself to be alone and then ultimately not being able to see me for the five long days I was in short term psych. We were only able to communicate over the phone, and each call broke my heart more for her. At one visit with my mother and husband, I knew she was downstairs with my father, in the hospital, so close and yet so far. What was she thinking? Did she wonder why she couldn’t see me? Did she worry I didn’t want to see her?

“Will you get better?” she asked.

That was tough to answer.

At that moment, just a few days shy of being out of the hospital, I still didn’t feel like “better” was an option. I hated to lie to her; she deserved the truth.

“Mommy will get better, but it will take a long time. This episode of depression is Mommy’s worst.”

She got up from the dining room table after noticing the tears starting to fall from my eyes, sat on my knee, kissed my cheek and hugged me.

“I love you, Mommy. You’re the best mommy.”

We’ve had many more discussions throughout this last year concerning several other symptoms I constantly experience… irritability, anger, worthlessness, hopelessness.  There have been a lot of ups and downs as I am still battling this latest bout. She even attended a therapy session with me, wanting to know how she could help.

One thing is for certain, my daughter, at the age of 8, was selfless in her response to Mommy being sick. She only wanted to comfort me by hugging me, even wiping my tears at times. I am truly grateful for her. I was blessed with a child who understands
how serious mental illness can be. She is more knowledgeable on this than a lot of people in this world. Although she had to learn the hard way by witnessing what happened with me, I am glad it taught her to have compassion and empathy for those who suffer from mental illness, something this world could use more of.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: March 21, 2016
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