So last month, I auditioned for a spot in the “Listen To Your Mother” production. It is a wonderful production of women sharing stories about motherhood.While watching past years shows on their YouTube channel, I knew that my piece was a long shot. However, when I think of motherhood, my children having to deal with my illness comes to mind. It is really something I wanted to share because I knew that there would be other women who needed to hear my words. I know that there are mothers out their to know they are not alone. As always with my mission is to spread awareness and help diminish stigma. Unfortunately, there was not a place for my words in their Pittsburgh production. So I am going to share them here with you.
*Please note that this was meant to be spoken aloud.*
One Thursday evening while my husband was away, I had a to have a conversation with my children that I, honestly, was not ready for. It was not the typical talk most parents have with their children but I, unfortunately, am not like most parents. And as like most things when you have children, it always happens at the most inconvenient times.
“LET’S GO!!!! WE are going to be late. C’mon. C’mon. C’MON!!!”
“Danny, WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?!?!?”
“Dylan! Please for the love of Jesus get out of the frig.”
“I am GOING TO BE LATE!!!”
“Where are we going Mom? We going to practice?” quips Daniel.
“Practice? ME!! GO, TOO!!” chimes in my 2-year-old Dylan.
“Yes. Mommy has practice tonight” I replied as I watched their eyes light up with excitement. You see, I play roller derby. When my husband is out of town, the kids come to practice with me. It is probably one of the only thing they like when their Dad leaves town. They love seeing their mom step onto the track and become Jersey TurnSpike. But that is a different story for another day.
“We have to make a stop before we head to practice. Mommy has an appointment.”
“Aw. What’s the matter Mommy? Are you sick? You getting a check-up?” questioned my 4 year-old with growing concern. At this moment, my heart sunk because I didn’t know how to answer them. Because the answer was yes. His mommy was very sick. You see I have a serious and potentially deadly illness. Left untreated, my children may possibly have to grow up without their mother. You see I have Bipolar Disorder. Most common cause of death is suicide.
How. How do you explain something like this to a 4 and 2-year-old? We were in a rush so I said the first thing I could think of.
I said,” Sweetie. We are going to a special doctor. You see sometimes it gets very loud in Mommy’s head. And Mom has a hard time being able to do stuff when it gets too loud. So the doctor is going to help me.”
Danny just stared at me for a minute. You could see he was trying to comprehend. Then with a straight face he replayed,” So the doctor is going to drill a hole on your head and let the loud out.”
“ No! No! I just go to the therapist to help me talk the loud out.”
“Ther-PISS” mimicked Dylan.
“NO. no. Ther-ra- PIST”
“Ther-PISS.” My 2 year old repeated with pride.
*Sighs* “Just get in the car. I am late.”
I know for now my answer is acceptable. On Thursdays, Mom goes to the “Loud Doctor”. However, when that answer becomes not satisfactory enough, I have written this letter.
My sweetest loves Daniel and Dylan,
First, I want you to know that you are both the light in my world. There is nothing in my life I would I change if it meant never having the both of you. I know that sometimes you may be confused about what is going on with me. Somedays it may even feel like you have two different moms is one person. Sometimes I am the Mom that reads stories and plays pretend. The Mom that colors and snuggles on the couch. However, sometimes I am the Mom that can’t get off the couch no matter how much you beg. It is not because I do not want to. God. Do I want to. I just. I just can’t. Then there are the days where I couldn’t get my mind grows so loud I go to sleep at 3am and you are up at 7am. I am short and snappy. And I know deep down you don’t understand what is going on.
You see, my dears, your Mommy is sick. I have something called a mental illness. The chemicals in my head aren’t the way they should be. It is why you see me taking those pills before bed. It is also why I have to go to the “Loud” Doctor. This is what helps bring me balance so I can be the mommy I want to be. Most of all, the mother you need me to be.
Yes, I know one day you will receive looks of pity like those other children with a sick parent but it will not be the same. No. It will not be those poor boys may have to go one day without a mom. How hard it must be to watch their mother fight so hard. No. It will be a look of pity is a different light. Those poor, poor boys. How hard it must be to deal with a selfish mother who can’t get herself together. To think of how they must suffer to have a mother too lazy to get out of bed and care for herself. Sick my ass. She just needs to stop being sad…flighty…irresponsible… unreliable. She needs to get passed this “illness” and put her big girl panties on. Please don’t get angry. People just don’t understand. Some still believe this is just make believe and you can just snap out of it. All we can do is help educate and move on.
I know this is all unfair. I know that you did not ask for any of this. I understand. Neither did I. Unfortunately, mental illness is cruel and unfair. The cruelest of all is there is no cure for me. Every day is a fight. But always remember that seeing your sweet faces is why I keep fighting. Please know this, if I ever give up my fight, it is not your fault. It is not because your love wasn’t enough. It wasn’t because you were not strong enough for me. And most of all, it would not be because I didn’t love you both. I want you to not know the love I was capable of giving until I had each of you. If for any reason, this all comes to an end, it because I grew too tired and weak to keep fighting.
The most important thing I need you to remember is NONE OF THIS is your fault. I love you more than I am capable of putting into the words. And there is nothing wrong with having a mental illness, seeking help for it, or talking about it. There is a good genetic chance either one or both of you will have bipolar disorder. You can blame your crappy genetics. But please, please, never ever blame yourself. You are loved beyond belief even if there are days you may not feel it. Remember, you can always talk to your Dad or I because we really do understand.
Love you both,