Mental illness is a civil war.

Next week they are doing an inquiry into my mother’s suicide, because she died in the hospital.  This post talks about suicide and mental illness and may contain triggers.  Feel free to skip it and come back when I’m funny again.  This is for all of you out there that might be missing someone you lost to mental illness. Or grieving at all.

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This is a quote someone shared with me that represents the battle that so many face with mental illness.  I unfortunately don’t have a source.
“Our friend [your mother] died on her own battlefield. She was killed in action fighting a civil war. She fought against adversaries that were as real to her as her casket is real to us. They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of her energies and endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of her courage and strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed her. And it appeared that she lost the war. But did she? I see a host of victories that she has won!
For one thing — she has won our admiration — because even if she lost the war, we give her credit for her bravery on the battlefield. And we give her credit for the courage and pride and hope that she used as her weapons as long as she could.  Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent skirmishes. We shall remember not her death, but her daily victories gained through her kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through her love for family and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things beautiful, lovely and honorable. We shall remember the many days that she was victorious over overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought she had left, but the intensity with which she lived the years she had!”

I couldn’t have said it better.

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The upside of rage

WARNING: This post may contain triggers for some.  Feel free to skip it and come back when I’m feeling funny again.

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It was the day of my mother’s funeral.  I felt everything.  I felt nothing.

I was preoccupied with the endlessly demanding, tiny, minute tasks.  I couldn’t process all that I was feeling, I still can’t.  I’ve always been able to articulate myself, but to this day on the topic of my mother’s death I’m left with a profound sense that I have nothing to say.

All I have are fragments of thoughts, the stunted beginnings of sentences, complex emotions aching to express themselves but facing the brutality of an inadequate language.

So bear with me as I attempt to share a story with you.  A fragment of one of the worst days of my life.  One without a clear moral, or direction.  A story for story’s sake.

Two hours until funeral time, rather than being present in my grief and pain I was desperately focusing on slideshows, printing pictures, setting up a display, calculating the time it would take to drive across town to accomplish these things and knowing that it would come down to minutes to spare even if everything went smoothly.  Underneath these frantic thoughts, I was simply suppressing a multitude of emotions that churned below the surface.

Then I received a phone call.  This particular phone call came from a social worker that worked with my grandmother, and she told me that my grandfather was refusing to drive my grandmother to the funeral because she had been disrespectful to his new wife the day prior and now my grandmother was distraught because she might not have a way to her daughter’s funeral.

Suddenly, my temper snapped.  I am usually an incredibly calm person.  Due to the amount of tragedy and loss I have faced in life, my cage is hard to rattle.  That’s the upside to hard times, they make us stronger.

Not this day.

Rage bubbled up to the surface, blissfully eclipsing all other emotion.  I had done everything for the funeral, these two adults simply had to show up and they couldn’t seem to accomplish this simple task without complications.  The anger I felt was instant.

And here’s the thing; it felt good.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel broken.  I didn’t feel grief.  I didn’t feel pain.  I didn’t feel sadness.  I had fire running through my veins.  My eyes flashed cold and hard with ice.  No longer listless, I had energy fueled by unadulterated, exquisite rage.  I seethed.  I drew myself up to my full height, pacing my kitchen, cursing and ranting, barely restraining myself from screaming, about the immaturity of those more than twice my age.  I no longer felt overwhelmed. I was focused on one this one, pure emotion.  I suddenly felt powerful.  I was a force to be reckoned with.

I remember the stunned face of a close friend, who in more than a decade of friendship, had never seen me truly angry.  No one in the room spoke.  It seems as if the whole world was holding it’s breath, teetering on the edge of precipice.

Finally, my stepfather caught my eye.  He said quietly, “I know.  I understand.  I’m sorry, but you don’t have time for this.  You have more important things you need to focus on.”

His words were like a siren call to my logic.  I knew that swirling in that cauldron of emotion I carried had been anger at my mother’s suicide, anger at her and anger at the world.  Anger at a broken system that had fostered this tragedy.  I knew I was funneling all that anger through this incident because it gave it somewhere concrete to land.

I had a choice to make.

Taking a deep shuddering breath, I pushed the rage back down with visible effort and it slowly ebbed away leaving me once again anxious and afraid of the hours to come, the terrible day I still had yet to face.  Leaving me exhausted and drained from a week of too little sleep and too much crying.  Leaving me once again, feeling only heartbroken.

The allure of my rage was undeniable, but I had things to do.

Broken.

This post is about my mother’s suicide, and may contain triggers for some.  Feel free to skip it and come back when I’m funny.

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Today is the 1-year anniversary of my mother’s suicide.   This has been a difficult journey, to say the least.  A hard road to walk.  There have been days where it was all I could do to crawl forward.  There have even been days I simply lay down on the path, gasping and defeated.  Suicide is what they call a complicated grief, and the past year has been a whirlwind of emotions.  I have been overwhelmed by guilt.  I have been angry.  I have been sad.  I have been heartbroken.  I have been broken.

I have these emotional wounds that aren’t visible to the human eye.  That no one can see just by looking at me.  I carry them within, and I can choose to revel them, or keep them hidden.  But they will always be there.  Eventually they scab and scar over, but time alone does not heal.  We have to work at it.  We do not get over grief, we get through it.  We do not let go of our grief, we grow and expand to make room for it until it doesn’t hurt so bad.  But the scars remain.  We carry them with us always.

But we can heal.

Someone showed me this picture on the internet the other day, about kintsukuroi.  Kintsukuroi is the “art of repairing broken pottery with silver or gold and the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken”.

Source can be found here.

Source can be found here.

With how many times I have felt broken over the last year, this really resonated with me.  I believe that this applies to people as well.  There is room for hope and healing, if we make it.  We can thread silver or gold through our internal scars and become better people for them, with a richer history.  Our pain can make us more empathetic to others, more compassionate, more understanding, more caring.  Stronger.  More beautiful.

My mother and me on her wedding day.

My mother and me on her wedding day.

I miss you mom.  Today and every day until the end of my days.  Thank you for making me more beautiful, in your own way.  I hope that wherever you are, you too have found hope and healing.  Happiness and peace.  Rest.  And although you are no longer here, our love for you remains.

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There is a lot of laughter and joy in my life, but sometimes, some days, it’s ok to not be ok.  Today is one of those days for me.  I find it easier to be vulnerable in writing – so I write.  Thank you for allowing me to share that here.