Trigger warning: Depression, Self Harm, Suicidal Ideation
September, 2018 -
These days started in December. They started earlier for her, but it wasn’t until I found her curled up in her room, sobbing, that I understood how deep her depression was, and how lost she felt. Every day since then has been spent saving her.
Each step she takes I take alongside her, to keep her here.
So many nights I’ve held her as she cried herself to sleep. I’ve asked her questions I don’t want the answer to. I don’t want to know if she’s hurting herself. I don’t want to know what her suicide plan is. I don’t want to know how close she is to the edge on any given day.
But I ask. And I listen. And I hug her when she hands over her most recent implement of destruction. Scissors. Edges removed from pencil sharpeners. Blades taken from her razor. The knives are now all hidden. The pile of tools in my bedside drawer is growing, littered with her blood and tears.
I see each piece as a bit of success because in that moment, she trusted me enough to tell me she’d been cutting herself again. A small victory when she digs through her many hiding places and offers me her weapons. I don’t cry, although I look at her reddened, scarred arm and want to. I don’t express disappointment. I’m not disappointed, I’m helpless. I thank her for her honesty, hug her, love her.
This fiery child, full of compassion and empathy, with soulful, almost black storm cloud eyes. She’s anchored by a strong spirit, and a deep sense of justice for those who are disenfranchised. She’s a warrior. I know, in my heart, her suffering will lead to the saving of so many others like her when she’s older. She’ll guide others along the path to survival. But in the meantime, she has to live.
And she doesn’t want to.
That’s not true. It’s not that she doesn’t want to live. It’s that she doesn’t want to live, this way. She’s tired. She’s numb. She wrestles with thoughts of dying, daily. Sometimes hourly. Some days, every minute. She doesn’t see an end to it. She wants an end to it.
I sleep with her some nights. A buffer against a depth of darkness a lighted lamp can’t touch. She builds a nest of blankets and pillows around her, tucks her head in to my chest, and shakes as she tries not to cry. I breath deep, and eventually she matches my breath, and my darling girl falls asleep. She talks and laughs in her sleep, so I know joy is possible.
We talk about tiny successes. Pinpoints of light. Some mornings she gets out of bed without help. Light. She has a shower. Light. She makes her own breakfast. Light. She pulls out her schoolwork on her own. Light. She calls Mental Health when she’s struggling. Light. She makes plans with a friend. Light. Little, tiny pinpricks in a dark, tightly weaved denim of black.
The people around us are worn out. They want our lives to go back to “normal” and express frustration over what life in our house looks like right now. As though she and I aren’t weary of this journey as well.
We both talk about what this life is, openly. We wouldn't hide cancer, or diabetes, or even the flu. We won't hide depression. Sick, not weak. Sick, not chosen behaviour. Sick, with remissions and recurrences. Sick, with healing.
We've gathered a circle of allies. Family, friends, counselors, doctors, teachers, even her principal. The more who know, the safer she is.
I follow her lead in sharing, and watch her honesty and rawness with awe. While she helps herself, she helps others. This child of mine.
*If you're struggling, or if you have a child struggling, don't second guess your need for help. Reach out to the Mental Health supports in your community. They'll guide you. It's okay to ask for help before you're in a desperate situation, and if it's your child, you want to get into queue as soon as possible.*
September 2021 -
She's here. She's happy. She feels joy. She feels sadness. She feels. And she's glad she stayed. Me too.