Today my kids didn’t eat lunch until 3 pm. They had some snacks, and quietly watched TV for most of the day. They played with toys, polished off a jar of pickles, painted each others nails, and behaved very nicely, because they know that today ‘mommy isn’t feeling well’.
Some days the best I can offer is being alive.
Sadly for my daughters, they know these days too well. It usually starts with me not sleeping the night before (in spite of being heavily medicated), and by the time they wake up I magically lose the ability to stay awake. I fall asleep on the couch, and every once and a while I will wake up to hear my oldest daughter telling the little one to ‘leave mommy alone, she needs her rest’. Hearing those words come out of her mouth causes me extreme anxiety and sadness, which leads to more sleep. It’s a cycle. My daughter’s are experiencing something that I don’t believe any child should, and even though I know that they aren’t the only one’s who have a mentally ill parent, I still feel like my failure is bigger than anyone else.
My oldest daughter has a lot of pressure put on her to help me, and on my good days I make it my mission to make it up to her. She didn’t ask to be born to an unstable mother, and she certainly didn’t ask to be a babysitter while her unstable mother is passed out. Soon school will start for her (if the strike action ever ends) and she will be free to act like a little girl should. Play with her friends, not worry about getting her chores done, be free from the restraints that I put on her at home. My little one is also starting school, and I’m hoping that some time away from me will do her some good, although I have an irrational fear of her leaving. This past week’s anxiety has been caused by the knowledge that two of my children are going to school, and I am terrified of being alone. Granted, I will only be alone for about a month (baby H is due in 5 weeks), but having my daughters out of eyesight is something that I have a lot of trouble dealing with. I don’t want them to resent me, but I don’t want them to realise that they are better off without me, either. Instead of making the most of the time that I have with them, I shut down. My bones feel like paper, I can’t keep my eyes open until they go to bed. I don’t feel that the medication I’m taking is working anymore, which also adds to the anxiety. I’ve asked my doctor if we could make changes, but he doesn’t want to do anything new until the baby is born. Until then, everyone has to suffer from the consequences of having a crazy mother.
The one bonus out of all of this is that my children’s father is very attentive to them. When he comes home from work instead of complaining that I haven’t done anything, he just does. He gets supper ready if I can’t, he bathes our kids and tucks them in with a story every night. He pays them the attention that I currently cannot. They adore him, and the days when he can’t come home from work are devastating for them. He is a caregiver to all of us, and I worry that sooner than later he will see that I am no longer an asset to this family, and that if he’s going to consistently pick up the slack for me, what’s the point of having me?
My meds don’t work. I hate leaving the house. The light coming in through my curtains is too much, and I get headaches from how bright it is. My daughter always tries to keep them shut for me, Tonight, to make up for not being attentive today, I am going to order take away and rent a movie on the TV that we can snuggle up to. She wants to make us all cocoa, so of course I said yes. I’m hoping that these small times amount to memories of me trying, even if it didn’t seem like much at the time. I hope that as they get older they understand that I have never been intentionally lazy, and that my lack of involvement has never had anything to do with them. They are the only reason that I am still alive, and every day that I can’t prove that to them is devastating. Today is one of those days.
I have hope for tomorrow. Whenever I slip beneath the waves of depression I force myself to think for tomorrow. So maybe to today is a write-off, but I will work that much harder to make tomorrow a day to remember. It doesn’t always work – there are a lot of days that I don’t win the battle; but as long as I continue to wake up I believe that I am winning the war. My biggest hope for my children is that they learn tolerance and patience for people who are ill. No matter the illness, everyone needs care and understanding. By growing up with a mother who is open about mental illness, maybe they will feel more inclined to be kind to everyone, to be caring women who work hard to look after everyone and offer non-judgmental friendship to all. They are beautiful little girls, and I know that even though some days I am just alive, I am helping them to become wonderful women.
Soon I will have my third (and final) daughter, and even though I have discussed how certain medications interact with pregnancy with my doctor, I am still terrified that my emotional state has damaged her before she’s had the chance to be damaged by me outside of the uterus. Only time will tell what is in store for any of my girls, but I know that the little one will be well taken care of by the big ones. They love her so much already. When I think about these things I get so angry at myself, why aren’t they enough to get off of my ass and do something? They are, of course they are. Some days I am not as strong as my demons are. It’s a cycle.
It’s not too late to make up for today – writing this was a start. I have to sit upright to be at the computer. I am going to make a blanket and pillow nest with my girls and finally give in to watching Frozen. It is the actual, very least that I can do.