Depression, Mothering, Personal History

They have that luxury

I don’t remember that Mother’s Day specifically. The spring of 1996 is a blur. I had been in the hospital for almost a week in early April, diagnosed with a major depression, probably a lingering postpartum depression. I do remember that everything felt painful, and my desire to be alive was still a fragile thing.

When you’ve spent three months quietly thinking about driving off the road instead of going home, the thoughts don’t go away easily.

Here is what I remember. I remember the doctors and nurses wooing the information out of me and explaining to me, gently, that thinking about driving the car off the road *while you are in the car* is not suicidal ideation; it’s a plan.

I only knew I didn’t want to go back there, to be one of the people who went to the hospital over and over again, but life on the outside had not changed and the state of my brain chemistry did not improve markedly in that short time. April was excruciating and May even worse as it became clear that there was no help for my marriage and I was going to have to figure out how to take care of my children by myself at a time I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

I wonder if anyone in my life understood how near I stood to the edge of the abyss?

I put on a pretty good show when I thought it counted, but I also remember sitting in marriage counseling with an affect so flat I could not show any expression about an incident I cannot recount today without breaking into a laugh.

I don’t remember what happened on that Mother’s Day, the last one when I was still married to my children’s father. I do wonder if he had any idea how close he came to having three children for whom Mother’s Day would be a wound for the rest of their lives.

There is one reason I didn’t kill myself. Somewhere inside me, some part of me less broken than the rest spent a long dark ride back from Boston giving me two reasons why driving the car off the road would be a bad idea. The first was I might not actually die, and that couldn’t possibly be good for anyone. You see, I felt by then that my worth was so small, my value to minimal that no one would miss me, that my absence would be better for everyone concerned. The second was that I needed to look at the insurance policy and see if my death would be covered should it be ruled a suicide. I drove the rest of the way home, where I discovered that I would need to be insured for another six months, and then came the terrible realization that my death wouldn’t necessarily solve anything. I didn’t feel good about this; in fact my despair grew because there seemed to be no escape and by that weekend, I had checked into the hospital.

There is one reason I got better. Because I was clear that I was only a risk to myself, the staff suggested my husband bring my children to see me in the hospital. First they all came, the boys shy and cautious and sweet, Baby LP beautiful and unknowing. Then another day it was just the baby. She was nine months old and cruising, that time when little children can’t walk yet, but will stand up and move from one person to another holding on to a leg or the furniture. She stood against my legs, looking up at me, and then she pulled the pacifier out of her mouth and popped it into mine. And in that moment I pledged to her that I would live and be her mother and not expect her to take care of me.

That was sixteen years ago. Sometimes my children remember Mother’s Day with a phone call or a card, and sometimes they don’t.

They have that luxury.

12 thoughts on “They have that luxury”

  1. On a day a few weeks after my twins were born in 1960 (I had a son in 1963), I gave myself several reasons why suicide would not be a good idea. For one, my husband might not be able to convince anyone he hadn’t done it, and my children would not have ANY parent. Years later, when I told him what I had considered that day, his total “discussion” was “THAT was stupid!” I managed to stay with him 14 years before I divorced him. I never regretted it. I’m glad both of us got out. If you ever need anyone to talk to, I’ve been there. (Email = emerging DOT paradigm AT yahoo DOT com)

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