I’ve been sitting here for three hours with Taylor Swift’s, Someday You’ll Get Better, on repeat. I am not a masochist, but for some reason this song makes me feel a little less alone, a little more understood. It also makes me feel a little relief from pain, because the tears fall freely from my eyes.
And sometimes you just need to be allowed to cry.
I open up the wound of my Mom’s suicide once or twice a year, not because I want to, but because I feel like if I can help someone in anyway, then I need to. Because I know what loneliness, fear, and the utter isolation of this feels like.
I also know what it feels like to know it’s the one thing that you can’t forget, that you can’t stop replaying, and it’s the one thing that you would give anything to change.
When I was a kid, I used to hate that people would tell me that I was my Mom’s twin. I had her same features, her same mannerisms, her same smile…
You ARE Marlene in another lifetime, they’d say to me.
My Mom and I never got along. I was everything that she hated about herself and she – well, I just couldn’t understand the choices that she made. She and I were good at one thing when it came to each other; hurting one another..
And we each, as sadistic as it sounds, took joy in one upping each other. My Mom once told me that I was her greatest mistake. I told her she was the devil reincarnated.
I never in my life thought that I would miss her if she was gone.
But as fucked up as this all sounds, my Mom was not a bad person. She was mentally ill. She didn’t know how to react to me. She didn’t know how to react at all.
All of our moments were not bad. She tried to love me, and in some ways, I believe that she did with all of her heart. But I also believe that the illness that she had took over her mind, and what she was left with was a distorted view of reality. But that distorted view, no matter how medicated or how strong she was, was the reality that took over her life.
My Mom loved with everything she had. But she was possessed by demons that none of us will ever understand. And that’s okay. It’s okay to know that you couldn’t help someone as long as you gave it everything that you had.
And it’s also okay to forgive yourself when you didn’t.
I don’t know all the reasons that my Mom committed suicide. I just know I was watching Jay Leno when my Dad walked in the room and told me.
And I remember, as clear as day, looking at him and wondering if he’d lost his mind. I remember looking at him and thinking that I was in a nightmare.
And I also remember hating myself because all I could think was: maybe she won’t be in pain anymore.
Because if that’s the one thing that she and I understood about each other – it was the pain that we both constantly lived in. We got it.
We understood it.
My parents had divorced when I was a child. My Mom had remarried an abusive alcoholic. I can vividly recall all the times I saw her face swollen and bruised. I can vividly remember the times she took a beating so that ours wouldn’t be so bad.
I can vividly remember all the times that she didn’t know what was truly going on in the house, and hating her because she couldn’t save me.
As a kid we don’t get a lot of things that our parents do. It’s not saying what they do is right. But I didn’t get anything that my Mom did. She stayed with a man who would abuse us rather than leave. She didn’t get that she was fucking up, and she didn’t get that what she was doing was also fucking up our view of what love should be.
I’m reading through what I am writing and I feel like an asshole. Like, I get it. It sounds like I am speaking ill of the dead. And it’s not meant that way. To understand what she did, I feel like you have to get the things that happened. I don’t for a second believe that my Mom wanted to die. I believe that she didn’t know how to live, and was doing what she could to scream out for help.
Because how do you ask for help when you’ve spent over 16 years living in the same vicious circle that destroyed everything around you? How do you ask for help when you’ve spent a lifetime destroying yourself? I believe that in her mind, the only thing she could do was scream out, through the most drastic thing she could do: take her life.
She took pills. She did her hair in her own perfect way, she got dressed in the clothes she wanted to be in, and she took pills. She laid on the bed, called her real estate agent and said, “Tell my kids I love them.”
She crossed her arms across her chest.
And no one could save her.
She died three days later, after being hooked up to machines, charcoal pumping through her body trying to force it all out. She died in a hospital room.
She died because she took her life.
And I don’t believe for a second that, in the process, she knew that she would be taking what was left of so many people.
When someone dies, you lose a part of yourself. When someone takes their life, you wonder why you weren’t enough to live for.
Only, I knew why I wasn’t for her.
I miss my Mom every single day. I miss the fact that she pissed me off. I miss the fact that she made me angry. I miss the fact that we argued. I miss the fact that she hated me for what I reminded her of.
And I will always live with the fact that I couldn’t save her, and that I didn’t know she needed saving.
I look in the mirror and I know that I am the spitting image of her. There is not a part of me that doesn’t look exactly like her. I am her ghost, in a way. An echo of a face that didn’t get to live the life that she was meant to live.
I see herself in my eyes. I feel her presence in my shitty health (cause she had the same shitty health). I laugh every time I eat a Ludens, and remember the jar of them that sat on the counter. I hate wearing my hair down, because it’s then I really see her reflection.
I have the same mental illness she had. I am adamant about making sure that my mental health comes first.
I lost my mind, I blamed myself, and I never felt so alone in my life. The pain became overwhelming. I tried to commit suicide twice in the years that followed my Mom’s death. People would tell me that I needed to think about the people around me and how selfish I was for attempting.
They didn’t get it.
Her suicide changed everything for me.
I’ve learned about love. I’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay. I’ve learned that we need to pay attention to others. I’ve learned about compassion. I’ve learned about listening. I’ve learned about judgement.
I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help.
I’ve learned that it’s important to be there for people who aren’t strong enough to ask for help.
I’ve learned that the strongest thing that you can do is ask for help.
My Mom may not have lived a life where that was something she could do. But I will always wonder if she had, would she still be here?
I can’t live my life focusing on the what if’s. But I can know that I will honor her by being there for others and speaking about what suicide does to those you leave behind. I will honor her by looking in the mirror and appreciating the fact I look like her, that I am everything like her, and living every day.
And I will always miss her.
And if you’re like her, where you feel like death is the only way out and that you are alone, please know you are not.
There is help out there. There is no shame in asking for it.
I do everyday.
Living is a struggle, it’s the hardest thing that you will ever have to do. I wish she would have taken the hard road. I wish that I could argue with her one more time. I wish that she was here to tell me it will all be okay.
I have my Mom’s mental illness. I understand her now more than I ever thought I would.
I miss you Mom, and I am sorry that in your life, I never told you just how much I would.