I have this tremendous, hard knot of grief trying to rise out of my chest. I've been so low, and couldn't figure out why. I'm in school, Lily is in school, my younger son is thriving, things are improving, dramatically. But I need a good, ugly cry. You know the kind, sobbing, snotty, cathartic.
I feel like someone who just survived a ten car pile up on the freeway. Someone who walked away, not unscathed, but on her feet. And after seeing things will be OK, I just fall apart, post crisis.
That's where I am. I didn't know during this past year if we'd ever be OK. I really didn't. I was terrified that Lily would never function at her high level again, never regain her sense of absurd humor, never be open to affection, giving and receiving love, hugs, the small touches so important to close relationships. I didn't know if she'd be able to function outside of an institution, if she'd be able to recognize reality, let go of her paralyzing fears.
I didn't know if she'd remember how much she loved her younger brother, how close they'd been in our super sized blended family. How they were partners in crime when they were little, cohorts in mischief and silliness. Would she ever stop treating him like an enemy?
I didn't know if she'd ever trust me again. Let me in. Listen and understand when I told her I loved her, wanted her to feel safe. I've so missed holding her, like I love to do with all my children. Encircle her with my love and protection.
And there it is. That protective love that couldn't keep the demons at bay. Couldn't protect her from her own tortured imagination. Sometimes, too many times, I'd try talking to her and she'd just shut down. Eyes open, but not seeing, not hearing the truth of whatever I was trying to get through to her.
I've had a hard time letting go of my fears about my own future. Would I be able to return to school and finish my degree? Would I be able to get off the couch we shared for so long because she was scared? Would I ever be able to get outside and go for a walk by myself? Listen to my music, cook with love and freedom, write more than a paragraph or two? Would I end up spending my life providing daily care for someone who was suspicious and scared and unhappy, limiting my every move, practically my every breath? Someone I so love that it breaks my heart to see her and remember what she was before?
Before we were blindsided by symptoms of mental illness without a clear diagnosis. Before we were held captive by a changing roster of psychotropic meds with life changing side effects. Before our world stopped cold, in such darkness that I couldn't see how we'd get past it, regain any of the joy we all needed.
I knew I needed to keep putting one foot in front of another, but I didn't know where those steps would take us. I knew I had to try everything I could to help Lily heal and to help my other children know I was still the mom who loved them and wanted to take an active part in their lives. Even if no one else could see it. I was, am, still me. Still the parent who wants most of all for each of her children to be happy, healthy and well loved.
And yes, I still wanted joy and purpose for myself, outside of my children's needs. Even outside of Lily's tremendous needs. I've been so afraid I'd be lost in that. It sounds so horrible, because I love her so much, but I've been afraid that my identity would revolve only around caring for her. And that I'd resent it because that's not enough for me.
Guilt, guilt, guilt. The most important part of my life has been my children. Will always be my children. But I want more. I do. I'm intelligent and creative. I want to do something with that. I need to do something with that. But in the face of my child's suffering, how could I even think that? She's been in hell.
So have I. So have my other kids. And I wanted out. I didn't want to abandon Lily to it, wouldn't have, didn't. But I yearned for a day on the beach, a night of peaceful sleep. A life out of the shadow of anxiety, mania, psychosis.
We're on the other side now. Seeing change I hardly dared dream of. I see humor and affection and creativity in Lily again. The rest of the family is moving on, doing well, living a good, happy and productive life. We'll have more challenges, some of them will involve Lily. But we're coming to the surface, we can breathe again.
So I need to process this grief for our hard year. I have to make way for the beauty and surprise of what's in store for the future. Time to let go of my desperate grip on the moment and reach for something else.