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To Me, My Mother Is a Myth

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

There are moments in life that make me cringe. Triggers that bring up extreme anxiety, panic, guilt and sadness. Triggers so unassuming that they would never cross anyone’s mind as a sensitive subject, and I am left to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) pain. Simple triggers, such as someone asking about my mother. I am left with a lump in my throat, as I have to explain that I don’t have a mother.

It’s true. I was born, I live and a woman gave birth to me. Her name was Betty. I’m told she loved me very much… before she died by suicide. To me she is but a myth, a bedtime story. I know she existed, but due to the extreme traumatic nature of the situation, my childhood mind had to block her from my memory in an desperate effort to somehow survive.

I remember very clearly seeing her dead. I remember watching my dad’s reaction to finding her. I remember being rushed out of the house, the fire trucks and police cars. I remember my great aunt holding me and crying in the front yard. I remember the neighbors coming out of their homes and watching from across the street. I remember the feeling of extreme panic and confusion. I was just old enough to remember the trauma very clearly, yet too young to understand at the time. I was merely 4 years old. I have many memories of early childhood, and I should be able to remember her alive, but I don’t. I can’t. I don’t remember any hugs, the sound of her voice, any interactions. Any memories I do have that she was a part of, it is as if she is a blur, like she was already a ghost.

I don’t know exactly when my memory of her disappeared. I know I would awaken in the middle of the night screaming and crying in the days after. I still carry the pain and panic of that first day inside me. It gets easier, but it doesn’t go away. But children must grow up, and I was still alive. The brain is an amazing organ, and it did what it had to so that I could go on and grow up. Evidently, that was to block all my memories of her from my mind so that I didn’t have to feel the loss.

Maybe it worked, maybe it made it worse. Instead of being sad for missing my mother’s memory, I feel guilty for forgetting her and selfish for feeling sorry for myself because I missed out on growing up with a mother. I feel as if I don’t miss my mother, I just miss having a mother.

Suicide is a very different kind of death. How can you comprehend it as a child? Mental illness isn’t something easily grasped by a young child. To me, she didn’t want to be with me. To me, I drove her a way. To me, if only I was not so annoying or needy she wouldn’t have done it.

That was the burden I carried while growing up. While going to kindergarten, while trying to make friends, while growing into a young adult. I had no self-esteem, just the weight of extreme guilt and the feeling that unlike everyone else, I was unworthy of love.

I’m an adult now. I can grasp mental illness. I understand now that it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t because of me and that I can’t take it personally. Yet, my whole process of growing up and psychological development was influenced by this tragic event. The damage is hard to overcome and the wounds are still there. My brain and my being is covered in scar tissue. All I can do is live my life to the fullest, and hope my story can somehow be of help to anyone else that has to face such a loss at such a young age.

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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Thinkstock photo via FogStock/FogStock Collection

Originally published: May 12, 2017
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