Tonight I watched a film; I don’t often watch much of anything but sleep was not forthcoming, loneliness permeated the walls and so I sought the company of the small screen – what I received was so much more than I bargained for.
The main story was not what caught my interest as much as that of a small backstory about a so called ‘mother who never should have taken up the job of being a mother’ – married to an alcoholic who cannot hold down a job, living in the middle of nowhere with three children and unable to cope. Her husband sickens and is on his death bed and one night she creeps into the bedroom of her children ‘I know you prefer your father… one day you’ll understand’ she states, off she walks into the night and wades into a river with the intent of drowning her sorrows – literally. Her eldest daughter, of around eight years old, follows her and pleads with her to come back until eventually the mother breaks into wracks of sobs and apologies.
I am captivated by this story and moved to tears. It hits me within my very soul and it seems clear to me that this is because it so keenly mirrors my own past experiences.
I was that mother. My husband was a good one, but immature and unequipped to support me in much the same way as the husband in the story and at 21 I found myself living in the middle of nowhere with two children and a house to manage and no idea of where to start nor how to cope. I had always suffered with what I thought at the time was a crippling depression but since the births of my children it had worsened considerably and as I strived to be all that, to my mind, a mother and wife should be I felt failure from every direction and judgement closing in. I could not keep up to the high standards that I had set myself and I struggled with my two young children who, due to my miserable state, preferred the company of anyone but me – and so I never felt as though I were doing quite well enough at being me…
I talk about many things to do with my illness and the dire moments within my most desperate times but there are some subjects I seldom approach… This subject is one that I haven’t gone near. Mainly because I was not in a healthy enough place to think through and share my experiences without spurring dark thoughts and dismal temptations. I have never really spoken with anyone about these times in my life, it is unpleasant for them to hear and still such a taboo topic that it is difficult to know where to start.
Six years ago, I was in the midst of what I am now told was a complete psychotic break. The name does it more than justice; I was anger personified, rage and misery. I was not in control, I seldom slept leading to near insanity and as far as I was concerned the world was against me… There was no logic to my actions, no reason for the way I behaved or felt or thought… no excuse good enough. I don’t remember many things about that time, times with my children are lost forever and any experiences I might have had in those years are also lost to me… I do remember being an abysmal human being, I remember the hatred and the absolute frustration. Some moments stand out more than others, above all, I remember clearly my strong and passionate desire to die.
I made many attempts to end my life and spent many a day imagining ways to do it, even so far as researching ‘easy ways to die’ online… if it wasn’t so painfully pitiful it would almost be laughable. I felt strongly that everyone, but most importantly my children, would be better off without me… I imagined, in my twisted and illogical way, how happy they would be when I was out of their lives – as far as I was concerned, I was a burden, a plague… worthless. I used to try and get my husband to take the children out alone often so that it would give me a chance to devise ways of dying, I felt that it was ok as long as they weren’t in the house – as though it would not affect them if they weren’t there to see it.
I even remember one day writing out my suicide notes; one to each of my children – I don’t remember much of what I wrote but I do remember clearly one line ‘…This world was just not for me…’ as if that would make it alright, as if that explained it all. I don’t know how serious I was in my attempts to die – I never really got close to succeeding and so I wonder if, in some place within my mind, I knew it was wrong.
I remember a brush with someone’s attempted suicide when I was a little girl and my mother describing it as ‘such a selfish thing’ I was never convinced – it is my life; it will better others lives if I were gone and so surely it is almost selfless to die? Oh, the flawed and self-serving logic of someone on the lowly track to doom.
I have often looked back upon that time in my life but never as clearly as I do now and I suppose that can be attributed to the fact that suicide is not an option I even consider anymore – my mental health is such that I am content in the knowledge that I am wanted, loved and needed and that regardless of those facts, I am worthwhile. Death holds no appeal anymore… and so, now when I look back on that time all I see are my children. What if I had succeeded in my plan to rid the world of me – where would they be now? Who would they be? Why did I think I had the right to end their magical innocence – did I truly believe I could remove myself and leave them unscathed. Yes, it is indeed a selfish thing.
I think of them one day opening those letters full of empty words that I wrote in an attempt to redeem and excuse myself and I break inside at the thought of their reactions and at the thought of inflicting such pain upon them simply to run from my own agony.
I was not a natural mother and still now I need to work hard at being the best I can for my children, as we all do. I was a dreadful housewife and I still am; I wish someone had told me that some people are just not made to keep a perfect house and that in the grand scheme of things it is of little importance how high your washing is piled and how long it takes you to wash a dish… Life is about more. I wish I had known that it was ok that I didn’t immediately bond with my children – that it was normal for it to feel akin the banging my head against a wall the majority of the time… I wish I had let life happen instead of trying to mould it into my perception of perfection because when perfection didn’t come I felt personal failure and misery.
I wonder when I lost my innocence. When did I lose those rose tinted glasses that never left my face as a child and start seeing the world in tones of grey. I don’t remember when it happened or why… I wish I did, merely so I could avoid doing it to my children.
I am always so happy when something prompts me to look at things from another angle and so I am grateful to this seemingly innocuous film that has brought about such a new tone of reflection for me; I am grateful that I did not steal the innocence of my children and that I get to see them blossom and grow into young people that I love with all my heart and am proud of with every inch of my soul. I am grateful for the life lessons that have taught me that perfection and whether or not the carpets have been hovered are not what children remember of their childhood nor what is important.
I am still learning; aren’t we all? I am learning to let life flow – a difficult lesson… I am learning to love, to care, to notice and feel joy… learning to live within the moment and cherish every day. I hope to always be learning.
Back then, in my darkest days, I felt incapable. I never dreamt that I could do what I do now. Be a single parent, provide and care for my children alone – make them happy all by myself, keep a functioning (if not always clean) house and feel healthy and content in myself… feel pride in myself. If these things felt impossible to me then I wonder what is to come in the future – anything might happen, dreams might come true.
And so now, this version of me, will strive to preserve innocence where the me of the past once sought to eradicate it.