What my mother taught me: dear sweet, ever sad

She tried to take her life once.

It shocked me like being plunged into an ice bath on a summer’s day. I was ten years old with an attitude that mothers should be mothers alone – mothers need not be emotive. Her job was that of carer, protector, nurturer.

She need not be emotive.

She waved her white flag to her illness and let it whisk her away from me and my family. She held my small, youthfully naïve self in her arms, distraught and confused, and told me “it’ll be alright… I’ll see you soon.” The confidence she held in her own recovery, not for her own sake but ours, always impressed me.

But she was taken away,

she was gone.

I’d call her every night we were apart. Reciting her phone number over and over again – “oh seven eight one six… oh seven eight one six…” – I let it sink into my skin. This weak link between us attempting to sustain our relationship – the crackled electronic version of my mother narrating my favourite stories to make me fall asleep.

She had become a newly formed person in my eyes, with inaccessible layers that would take years for me to comprehend. It was as if I’d been living in a house for years and never uncovered the magnitude of the place. Nooks and crannies that had been concealed from me. Ones I had blindly refused to see.

Her return was not without difficulty. One year passes, two go by. Still no progress.

Her decision to leave my father and prioritise her own life was an act of bravery that she then had to make for herself. She lived for us, then lived for her.

In retrospect, all of these things only made her more capable. Her illness had become her strength, and a source of wisdom from which we both could learn. Her recovery coincided with my own descent into depression – this bitter, mocking illness that would refuse to leave the pair of us alone. A shadow that would cling ever too close by.

She was my beacon of light, a source of advice. She knew me better than any therapist or doctor could. She understood my pain and frustration when I couldn’t yet find ways to vocalise the thoughts rushing around my head. Mostly, she taught me not to be ashamed. Not to hide from my own emotions or punish myself for feeling that way.

She loved me when I refused to love myself.

My dear sweet, ever sad Mother.

She will never revert to that childhood perception I held of her. I’d never ask her to. Her illness had stolen aspects of my youth and childhood, but in turn gave me something even more valuable. She showed me the debilitating power of emotion, and prepared me for the years to come. She showed me that I can be frighteningly strong and simultaneously vulnerable. She showed me how to love myself, when it didn’t seem possible. And continues to.

My dear sweet, ever sad Mother.

what my mother taught me

Submitted anonymously.



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