When you’re the parent of a child with mental illness, you understand dark places, and you find encouragement from the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely places. Strangers become friends, acquaintances become brothers and sisters, wounded parents on the same road as you, become comrades.
I hear the cold click as the steel door latches behind me. My hand slips into my pocket. I don’t need the key yet but I pull it out anyway. I begin twirling it between my thumb and forefinger. I notice the woman in front of me.
The elevator is taking an unreasonably long time to travel between the floors. It gives me time to really look at her. She is nicely dressed and pretty. Her dainty ballet flats compliment her tall lean frame. She has on delicate silver hoop earrings that accent her neatly straightened hair. Under different circumstances, I might be a little envious.
Confession: my daughter wants to die!
My daughter is sensitive, quiet, caring and loving. She takes everything to heart. She is wildly creative and a little eccentric. She also struggles with depression. We have always suspected this about her.
She rarely talks about how she’s feeling but occasionally alludes to feeling stupid, dumb, worthless and unwanted. When she was in first grade she said she wished she had never been born.
Over the years she has allowed us small glimpses into her soul. She has shared tidbits of her true feelings but she has always been guarded. I have prayed desperately for her to find her own voice. I was shocked when, last Christmas as we wrapped presents, she did.
We were sprawled out on the family room floor, sharing wrapping paper, tape and the only pair of scissors we could find in the entire house. She carefully placed the last piece of tape on her perfectly wrapped gift and whispered, “Mommy, can I tell you something?”As tears filled her eyes she spoke truthfully about the pain that plagues her, the memories that haunt her and her plan to die.
For years my baby has been hiding each perceived failure in her heart. She has tucked guilt away into the back of her mind. She has let fear fill her soul. She hopes for peace but can feel nothing but dread. She lays awake at night and thinks, maybe death would bring relief. She lays in the dark wrestling through the reality of following through with her plan.
She asks herself, “Will death bring peace?” She stares at the darkness of her ceiling as depression closes in, swallowing her last glimmer of hope.
I lay awake at night too.
I strain my ears to hear movement. I mentally check through the safety plan. I drift off only to be jolted awake by a silent nothing. I creep to her room and slip under her covers just as I did when she was a baby. I lace my fingers with hers and she presses her forehead to mine. I promise I won’t let her face these demons alone any more.
While we wait together in the dark for the first light and the hope of a new day, we now pray for the true peace that only comes from the Lord…
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” -Romans 8:26
We are not out of the woods yet. Sadness creeps in. Insecurity quietly tries to steal her joy. Shame knocks at the door of her heart. Fear whispers in the darkness.
With each word of truth spoken, the lies are losing their grip on my daughter’s soul. With each shared burden, my daughter’s shoulders seem lighter. The guilt is losing it’s weightiness and the power of the fear is dwindling. Yesterday, I heard her laugh. Really laugh. Through all this darkness, it was a sound of hope and freedom.