Today’s post is a particularly heart-rending one. The subject is absolutely not specific to parenthood where there’s mental illness involved, and it’s very much about motherhood universally. It’s brutally honest yet beautifully written. It’s also incredibly brave – by being so open with us, the author has made herself vulnerable, it’s a big risk to take emotionally. Usually we’d welcome debate in our comments; this time, if there’s any trolling, I will delete the comment/s as swiftly as possible. That said, I’m hoping for lots of comments. (blahpolar)
The road from Saldanha Bay to the Northern suburbs of Cape Town was a long one. For someone going through their fourth onset of depression this year, it was even longer. My husband and I were en route to a clinic I hadn’t been to before, but was promised the support I needed. We stood outside the entrance of the clinic for a second and breathed in the realization that this would be my second hospitalization this year.
I was letting my family down again. Thoughts like these chewed on me as we walked towards the entrance. My husband opened the the door, and I crept in – wounded and raw. We then walked over to the receptionist who got all the paperwork ready for signatures and medical aid cards. In a matter of minutes we were whisked away to my room. Imagine dark wood, two single beds neatly pinned against the walls. Crisp white bedding and pillows graced the bed. The bathrooms were spotless and decorated with earthy mosaic tiles. Imagine a four star hotel – this was it. A place of wellness with all the window dressings you needed to have to be comfortable.
But I didn’t want comfort. I wanted life again, and to be sane in it.
It was time to say goodbye.
With the tears flowing down my face, we kissed and were saddened by me being here and saddened by me being ill again and even more saddened that I had bipolar disorder. Its monstrous effects crept in on us when we didn’t need it to. Not that we ever need it to.
I was led to the dining hall to eat breakfast. My eyes filled with more tears as the kitchen staff served me. “Don’t mind me,” I dismissed my feelings.
“It’s okay,” he said sweetly and set down a plate in front of me.
What was okay? That I was in this situation again and deserting my husband to fend for himself?
That thoughts of killing myself had been plaguing me – with plans and all?
That ideas of hurting my children came to the fore and scared me so much?
I was angry and frustrated.
I couldn’t answer him. I ate at the cold eggs and soft toast unwillingly, but I didn’t want to ask where the microwave was because I was too weepy. I didn’t want to be a burden to someone else as well.
I should have read the warning signs. Okay. I should have done something before it got to this point. The point where I’d been merely existing and life had been passing me by. I recall being in bed all day, not eating then suddenly binge eating at night, not getting dressed, not showering. It starts with one day and you end with a string of days where you feel listless, drained and hopeless. It’s usually a slow process, but we still find ourselves surprised at how fast everything goes down.
After breakfast, I was called in for my first therapy session.
“OK, tell me about why you’re here?” She asked. I had just met her but her sense of warmth soothed me instantly.
I wanted to hurt my child.
I remember telling her how when all my frustration and anxiety would build up and explode. And on that one day – the irritation turned into something dangerous and possessed my hand. I felt it cover the baby’s mouth as he screamed. He screamed and screamed.
Just to shush him.
Just to stop the nagging, the constant crying.
“Why are they crying and why won’t they stop?” kept spinning in my mind. Round and round like dust and rubble in a vicious tornado. This tornado of rage destroying every bit of good and love and motherly tenderness I had.
I take another sip of wine.
Nothing could take that edge off or shake this feeling. Me the anti-mother, like the antichrist here, filled with evil.
At the same time, I was hurting, feeling the burden of immense guilt.
What kind of mother was I?
In that moment, I felt like I was a bad mother.
A reckless one.
A murderous one.
I explained it all, every detail painfully leaving my trembling lips. My therapist looked at me and said, “But this is normal.” She explained that sometimes stay at home moms are so drained and are often driven into situations where they display rage and hurt their children. Although I never hurt my children, I thought about it. I wanted to. No I didn’t. I don’t know what I wanted. How could I want to hurt them if I love them so much? It’s just so shameful and knew I carried that shame.
So after talking and lots of crying, we devised a plan to find out where these feelings were coming from and where the guilt and shame originated. Guilt and shame are secondary feelings which you feels if you’ve suppressed primary feelings like anger or disappointment. Turns out I’ve got a lot of soul searching and exploring to do on this front.
Does this excuse my actions?
I don’t know.
And it’s not up to you to decide either.