One of my favorite podcasts, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, put together a collection of “mom fails” for this coming Sunday’s celebration. She wanted bittersweet and funny, but I’m not funny like I used to be.
When I heard Nora McInerney’s pitch initially: we asked for your worst mom moments, I went full dark, full “internet confessional.”
I might need to revisit this in the sacrament of confession because I can’t recall if I confessed it as straight forwardly as I’m about to write it. In the sacrament of confession, I have a tendency to fall back on euphemisms when it comes to my suicidal ideation and drinking as self-medication. As a mother who has struggled with life-long depression and suicidal ideation, my worst moments should put my children in therapy for life. In my worst moments– and there are too many to recount here without you all showing up with straight jackets ready to commit me– I threw open the doors of my tortured soul and let them see how Voldemort I am. I love to damage myself. The worst memory happened sometime shortly after we came back to Indiana from seminary, while we were digging out of tens of thousands of dollars of debt and my job felt threatened so I started graduate school to save it. That’s like trying save a cheating spouse by meeting him at the door in nothing but plastic wrap. I think, but cannot recall fully, if it was after Naomi’s diagnosis, in which case, I can say for certain I was self-medicating my broken pelvic bone with sixteen ibuprofen a day and several fingers of bourbon every night. I drank to kill the fear, the anxiety and pain. I quit that until the last weeks of Naomi’s life, when again, I ended most nights in a forgettable rage. During my two hip fractures, the bourbon and vodka relieved the deep ache in my hips. But it always created a social anguish that inflicted pain on everyone nearby.
One night, when my teenage daughter had done the contemporary typical act of sneakily texting through an episode of The Office we’d asked her to share with us, –oh, how we wanted to connect– I knelt in by the refrigerator, raving about my fears, my hatred of my job, of the piles of obligations, and I showed my kids how to hurt. I slammed the door of the refrigerator against my right temple. The pain reverberated to the left side of my skull as it shuddered against wall. Then I curled into a fetal position for a few minutes until I saw the fear and horror on their faces. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Take away. Nope, This crosses the line into straight-up moral to the story:
If you have a mental illness and you are a mother, you have a responsibility to get help. That responsibility to take care of yourself is an act of selflessness, an act of love.
But in my next post, I want to go full McInerney. Like mistakes that might have damaged my kids, but a bit lighter. Also, I want to say, I cannot tell you stories of my mother’s failures. But I want to write a few anecdotes on how I want her remembered. Because I had some pretty pissy, petulant years as a young adult. I was horrible to my mom. I want to write about how she taught me to appreciate quality of beauty, books, aerobics and taking care of yourself, being a bit earthy-birthy, learning from your kids, having style, learning to give up ducks and old sand, and staying up late. I could write forever, in short bits, about what my parents gave me. I think I have a pedestal somewhere in my soul. I’ll dig it out and set them on it. (I’m looking at you too, Dad.)