Mental illness isn’t tangible, so its sort of difficult to put into words. Especially for a 4 year old. Bee witnessed one of my moms suicide attempts. Shortly after, she started drawing pictures of her stabbing herself and hanging from a tree. As her mom, it was horribly scary to find these pictures. In her very young thought process, she thought if she died, she could see Grammie again. She didn’t understand that if she died, she wouldn’t be able to ever come back to see mommy and daddy. Within a matter of weeks, I started her in therapy where she has been, off and on, since 2000. She was relentlessly teased and bullied in grade school for being in counseling. They would call her crazy and weird, even stupid. But she stuck with it and kept going. Even teachers were oblivious and at times would announce in front of the class that Bee had her therapy appointment. We agreed to let her stop when she was 12. The teasing got to be too much and she wanted to start junior high school with a fresh slate.
She progressively started to decline over the next 2 years. By 14 she was cutting regularly, alienating herself from friends and she had developed agoraphobia. Any sort of interaction was a huge source of anxiety. Her suicidality was out of control, but she kept fighting and has never stopped. It made her an outcast to almost all of her extended family and friends. Even her dad didn’t want to face it and turned a blind eye. We would get together with the family and she would be summarily ignored. She was treated like she wasn’t even there. As much as I tried to protect her during those events, she was back to being alienated. People would make fun of her. On one occasion, an extremely rude woman that was supposed to be a close family friend very aggressively asked, “Are you depressed or something?” She looked down and said, “Yes. I am”. I was so proud of her just for putting a name to it and acknowledging it. She claimed depression even as it was trying to claim her.
She has been hospitalized twice for severe depression and suicidal ideation. Her medication has never quite worked well enough, but she has been med compliant since she was first put on antidepressants. She has fought to be stable and live her best life. Recently she had genetic testing done to find out exactly which meds will work. She has already seen progress. Last week, she got out of bed in the morning, cleaned the house and realized she wasn’t anxious. For that day, it was just gone. But even that was a source of stress. She wanted to know what she had done differently so she could do it again when things got a bit difficult. She handled that just like she handles everything; she breathed through it and enjoyed just feeling good.
She still has her bad days but she has been fighting since she was small. I know she’ll work with her illness. She is an amazing woman and to think she would be judged for having a mental and emotional illness breaks my heart. Not only for her, but for anyone suffering through mental illness.