I haven’t written in so long.
Not literally. I’m actually writing more than I’ve probably ever written before in my adult life because when the kids went back to school in August I took a look around and realized that I’d spent the last few years getting everyone’s mental health in check and now I had time to return to being me. Not Harmony the mom, but Harmony the writer.
For work, I’m writing other people’s stories; this is the where I share my own.
In March of 2020, my oldest son tried to hang himself. He was 11 years old. My youngest child witnessed the entire thing–she’s the one who alerted me. She was 6 years old. Our middle kid, who was 8 at the time, was in the house but didn’t see it happen.
When we walked through the hellscape that came after, we knew this wasn’t a situation that would easily be resolved with a little medication and therapy. There were multiple people involved, and it’s not easy to find someone with the skill set to help a 6-year-old process the kind of trauma that comes with hearing your older brother say “I’m going to kill myself.”
But the pandemic came, and it smeared a suffocating layer of trauma and worry across our already full Trauma and Worry Plate, and all I could do was focus on doing the next right thing. Which for me, meant not relapsing, because the very last thing these kids need is a drunk mother.
Since then, we have rotated between so many different types of therapies (occupational therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, intensive outpatient therapy) and experimented with so many combinations of medications (under a psychiatrist’s care, obviously) that I consider myself sort of a pro at this sort of thing. But then last year, Asher decided to go and have a total OCD breakdown that almost landed him in the hospital because he wasn’t eating or sleeping, and I turned all of my energy to him. It took almost an entire year of intense work, but he’s so much better — and now he’s seeing a therapist virtually that specializes in pediatric OCD, because HOLY FUCKBALLS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND A THERAPIST WHO CAN SEE KIDS WITH OCD.
Now that you have a little background, I’m just going to tell you: I’m not sure if I have processed any of this shit. I see a therapist and I do my best to be honest, but there is only so much time and energy I have in a day to devote to falling apart. I have to do it as I can.
Apparently, kids operate the exact same way.
Asher never spoke about the incident with Maverick at all. I tried to talk to him about it, we carefully watched and listened for any sign that he was disturbed or needed to talk or ask questions or share concerns.
Three years passed. And then, one random Friday night at the pool several weeks ago, Asher fell apart. He ran home to find his brother and threw his arms around him, sobbing. He kept saying “I just needed to see that he was okay.” It actually relieves me to see him talking about it, because as long as he’s sharing, he’s not bottling it up inside.
Which leads me to my next point: Pepper and Maverick’s relationship. He felt terrible that she was there to witness the darkest moment of his life. I remember him talking to her, all of us talking about it together. But that was also a week before the pandemic hit and our lives came to a halt, and the older she’s gotten, the more questions she has.
Today I picked her up from Girl Scouts and she asked me, “Why would Maverick want to commit suicide? I’m so mad at him for that.”
My first instinct was to shut it down. I hate talking about it. I hate thinking about it. I hate even considering the idea that any of my children could or would harm themselves, and I cannot even when I hear the word “suicide” come out of my little girl’s mouth. Just nope. She shouldn’t even know what that word means.
I wanted to crank up Taylor Swift and sing Shake It Off and maybe crack a few jokes and distract her until she dropped it. I wanted to dismiss her hard feelings for the sake of my own damn comfort. That’s the same part of me who wants to drink when faced with a super scary thing I don’t want to deal with. I LOATHE FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE. Strangely enough, I keep fucking doing it — being uncomfortable, forcing myself to walk through a situation sober — and I have no idea why I’m putting myself through this torture except that I am literally doing it for my kids. And for myself. And Robbie. But mostly for the kids, because they already have enough problems and I already have enough guilt.
I took a breath and suggested that she talk to him about it.
“But Maverick gets mad at me when I bring it up,” she said. “He doesn’t like to talk about it.”
And that is when I told her no one wants to talk about it, but that’s exactly why we must. I told her he has shame and guilt and horror every time he thinks about it, and she got really quiet. Later on, when we sat down for dinner, I asked Maverick if he would mind talking to Pepper about the time he tried to kill himself because that’s excellent dinnertime conversation.
He inhaled. I watched him do it, watched him brace himself. I could see that he wanted to jump out of his chair and run far, far away, but he didn’t. He stayed put, and quietly said yes, he didn’t mind talking about it. That alone made tears well up in my eyes. That is what years of therapy teaches us: to stay in our seat when we want to run. To look directly into the eyes of our loved ones and be honest with them about our demons.
She asked him so many questions.
She wanted to know what he was thinking, why he would do that to her, why he didn’t consider the fact that she would be TRAUMATIZED and DEPRESSED (she really did say those words much louder than the others) for the rest of her life, and what if she thought it was a good idea too? Then Mom and Dad would only have one kid left.
I asked if they wanted me to leave because it was the most honest and adult conversation I’ve ever witnessed between two children but they both said I should stay. I wanted to leave. I wanted to hide. These kids are just kids and they’re talking about death and depression and self-loathing.
But if they don’t know that it helps to talk about it, how would they ever know to talk about it?
People act like it’s some big mystery, why the world is so chaotic and awful all the time — it’s because no one talks and no one listens and emotional needs are shoved aside and people don’t feel safe to be themselves and assholes breed more assholes and they all try to outasshole each other.
Now I have to get back to work so we have enough money to pay for all of our therapies.