This is a long one… But I guess thats what happens when you get out of your comfort zone….
I was scared to leave home for a month. It felt self indulgent for starters. I was worried about Joshua and Phillip. Id gotten into a really good routine with Moon and she was less anxious, letting her guard down a little more (our dog has severe separation anxiety. Or Autism, we arent sure which. Im not making light of human autism at all.). I worried that i would be too far away if I finally lost my mind…
And then we arrived and it was sublime. Dreamlike. And i felt happy and light and free. It was all going along swimmingly. I was feeling like I was going to get my mojo back here in the sun. That my grief was more a reminder of my deep love and not the debilitating ache it is back home. That i could laugh and swim and care about an outfit and eat again, like a normal person.
But i was wrong. And ive only been here 2 days. Fuck.
I did not outsmart or out run this tragedy. I am not a shapeshifter 😉
It happened so sweetly and suddenly. I am roommates with my 10 yr old nephew, Jack. Jack was lying in his bed watching funny videos on his ipod with his headphones on. The lights were off so his whole little face was lit up by his small screen. I watched him. He would smile. Pick his nose. Giggle. Scratch his belly. He had no idea i was lying in my bed watching every move he made. I was just watching. Thinking if he were Isaac i would say “thats enough screen time its bed time” or tell him to get a tissue. Then I remembered how often Isaac would share something with me and if and when I reacted like a mom he would say i wish you didnt always respond like a mom. As I recalled these conversations with him, I thought “well i didnt always but, as a mom, im supposed to”. So while he is telling me some hilarious prank I would interrupt to say “i hope you washed your hands” or “you were still polite to Mrs. So & So, right?” Or whatever it may be… And as I had these thoughts they were not past tense. I was In The Moment and I could see him rolling his eyes and laughing at me. He knew I couldnt help myself. I thought he was perfect or nearly and I always wanted him to he a good boy. I always put such a strong emphasis of having integrity and character. Qualities I considered the bedrock foundation of extraordinary men like my father. Something I expected from him– whether or not I demonstrated or was a role model.
This led me, last night, to the same old story of shame and blame and feeling responsible. I took a dusty old back road with beautiful scenery but ended up in the same field. Such clear lines lead directly to his choice being my fault that its tremendously hard not to believe it. I put too much pressure on him. This is a story– of course– in many ways I was never good at being “the heavy” or putting enough pressure on some important aspects of parenting but in other ways I made it abundantly clear that he was a role model to Abby and Jack and many others and he needed to be mindful of it always.
I also consider how much I didnt tell him about my struggle with depression. I thought I was protecting him for most of the years that I struggled. It was really only in what would become the last year of his life that i began to dialogue in earnest to share some of my story as I took accountability for my own happiness and mental health.
I was aware of the deep sense that he may need better tools to deal with the world outside of the bubble I had carefully stitched around us. I was aware that I hadnt exactly always role modeled healthy coping skills. I was aware that my personal struggles with shame and poor self confidence had informed him much more than my telling him many times a day
how wonderful amazing beautiful kind and capable he was
And so, September 2013, I set us on a course of (my) truthful transparency, knowing he was enterig adulthood and needing to clarify that I hadnt always been great at adulthood and maybe he could learn from my failings. I had always, always valued admitting my mistakes WITH regard to him, directky to him– I was very comfortable apologizing– but I had really only spent this year or so acknowledging with him mistakes I’d made with others- relationships, friendships, professionalism, etc. We had deep discussions about how I could’ve handled things better; what specific conflicts taught me, which gifts were delivered in unappealing packages that I was glad I opened but might not have chosen.
Isaac never knew, as many of you readers may not either, that I was hospitalized in 2011 for severe depression. He knew I wasn’t right ir that I was sad– but not that I was unable to stop the incessant urging of my mind to off myself. Isaac never knew, as many of you may not, that I suffered severe PTSD from a violent sexual assault at the age of 29. That I never “outed” the man who did it and have carried the shame and fear that he might hurt someone else.
He only knew that I was lost for a good long while. That my bright shiny happy mama light had dimmed to the point that I couldnt see it any more. That for awhile, I believed my little world, and especially Isaac, would be better off without me in it. He only knew that I changed. That I became a shadow of my former self. In retrospect, I havent yet concluded whether or not he should’ve ever carried the burden of all that knowledge. I still currently maintain that he was a child who needed my protection from truths I could barely tolerate myself.
But, of course, I wonder now, if he had known that one can come through the darkest moments, if he would have held on tighter to that belief system when it would matter most to him. Of course, i now wonder if I couldve shown him, beyond just seeing me heal over time and reclaim my mojo, that life is worth living, life is worth fighting for.
The burden of responsibility I feel for his final choice is not a simple “was i a good enough/loving enough mama”– it is instead, why wasnt I more transparent about my own path, could it have helped him? I will never know.
It seems almost counterintuitive to now let the whole world know– since I didn’t let him know, about the “icks” as I have come to regard them. Though, to be fair, anyone paying attention would easily see in even minor observances of me in person or on social media that I had been through the ringer and have been cultivating my empowerment (prior to October 25).
At the same time i feel a sense of responsibility to help, if I can, even one person. Even if it only helps me feel useful again. While I generally error on the side of caution with “airing my dirty laundry”– I have been feeling strongly since starting this blog that living in my truth requires courage. Not verbal vomit– not true confessions– and not distorted and recycled projections of shame. Today, in this post atleast– im not looking for answers. Im simply acknowledging the iceberg theory– what you can see is minor to what lies beneath.
When Robin Williams died in August I posted on facebook a long diatribe about how shame kills. I believe this even more now. Sometimes shame seethes, oozes, trickles. And sometimes, as I believe is the case for Isaac, it screams so loud there is no way to hear anything else. Because if you dont know, he wasnt hiding a big secret mental illness. Was he introspective? Yes. Was he deeply sensitive & empathetic? Yes. Was he prone to melancholy? Certainly. Did he question the point of existence? Was he afraid of the future? Was he emotional? Yes. Of course. He was after all, half Ryan 😉 and also, an 18 year old male. A teenager (even if he was legally considered an adult). The stats on the tendency of males his age to become victims of suicide is staggering. But Isaac found himself in a situation he believed he could not be accepted for, a shame he couldnt forgive himself for in a moment– had he given himself the gift of a good nights sleep, a new perspective from those of us who love him unequivocally and unconditionally– he may have survived his mind cacophony. I do not know. And I will not judge my son for his choice or temporary insanity or loss of hope.
I only know that I will spend as much energy as I have keeping my own shame from convincing me that I should listen. And offering my own story, which includes my son’s, to anyone who needs it.
**this blog post unintentionally became my own proof of my own words which I didnt fully comprehend until I finished and read the whole thing. I started last night when shame struck. I had to stop because I couldnt see through my tears and the deep despair. I got a good nights sleep and came to finish the blog from where i was in my mind (now) but i didnt even read what I had already written. In conclusion… 😉 a good nights sleep helps.