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It’s Mother’s Day today and I am feeling so, so grateful. I woke in one of my very favorite places on earth with some of my fave peeps; birds singing, the sound of surf upon the shore, blue skies, sunshine and sweet, salty air. In marked contrast, less than six months ago I was recovering in hospital having attempted to take my own life. Those were truly my darkest days.
It was the end of November and I had been dreading my birthday all week. I did not feel deserving of being celebrated in any way shape or form. In fact I had spent the week convincing myself that my loved ones would be far better off without the complication of “Julie” in their lives (and if you are currently having this kind of inner dialogue with yourself YOU NEED TO HEAR ME NOW you could not be further from the truth…GOT IT?!!!). I woke up and moved heavily through my morning routine; lunches made, school drop-off, celebratory chai with family and friends at regular coffee haunt, and then off to teach my yoga class. The thirty minute drive to the studio was painstaking, tears streamed, could barely breathe, called ahead to say I was en route but that I was a colossal mess. Taught my class, was celebrated in the traditional Birthday Yoga Chair, BIG SMILES, more chai and chat at Starbucks with one of my dearest friends (she asked if I was ok and I said YES…liar) and then I headed back home.
At the moment, I am seaside listening to the sound of my son’s laughter as he rides a wave in with his best buddy. They live in different cities, go to different schools but each year they reunite for this family holiday and honestly, they do not skip a beat…they simply carry on from the year prior one year older. It is a beautiful thing to see, to hear, and my heart feels full.
The drive home from the studio was a repeat performance; more tears, harder to breathe, heart shattering in pieces. Got home, opened a thoughtful birthday prezzie. Placed said prezzie on my desk with gift receipt, along with gift cards I had received; if I wasn’t going to use them I would leave them out so someone could. Time to pick up my son from school. We drive home and I tell him how much I love him, how proud of him I am, that he is the very best thing I have ever done in my life (I tell him this often but I found out later he heard something different in my voice that day). As we pull into driveway I say to Ollie…
“Tell Dad I am just going to pick up some cream for coffee.”
Walking the beach now. It is a perfect day and people are walking, running, fishing and full of joy. It’s like coming home for me here and I can feel the healing power of this place in each breath I take, in each step I take. I feel lighter than I have in a long time. I feel alive.
I have tucked myself into the woods and laid down to die. I am so incredibly tired. It is cold; a combination of rain and snow and I am not dressed for winter. I am shivering but it does not deter me, I am ready to let go. Maybe it’s a couple of hours later, not really sure, and I cannot hear them calling me over the chattering of my teeth. Eventually I do hear, “We’ve got her and she’s breathing. Julie, we understand you have been having a really tough go of things.” I felt no relief in being found, more a resignation that today was not going to be the day. It was a police dog that found me (now, I can say thank goodness) and the first responders involved in the search were beyond kind and compassionate…it made all the difference. I found out later that it was due to quick action on my family’s part that things moved so quickly; a husband, a son, a sister, a mother, a brother-in-law, a niece, and a stepfather all desperately coming together to battle for me with everything they had. A helicopter was going to be sent out but weather conditions were not conducive. A police dog was the best option but it was going to take forty-five minutes to get on scene. IT WAS ENOUGH TIME. And I was one lucky lady (even if I did not realize it at the time).
I am sitting on the deck, the view is perfection in every direction, and I am listening to the easy banter and laughter of dear family and friends; savoring every moment. YES, the last few months have been excruciatingly hard but this, THIS makes it all worth it.
I am now sitting with husband, sister, and the Intake Crisis Counselor, thawing out, bandaged, trying to make rhyme or reason of the day’s events. Ambivalent. AMBIVALENT. This scares the shit out of me. Most pressing on my mind. What kind of mother am I? My Crisis Counselor says, “It is Unwell Julie that got you here not Healthy Julie.” It helps a little but I continue to think, what kind of mother am I? Even in this moment I feel I need to take responsibility for my decisions and actions; I do not wish to be let off the hook and I struggle to reconcile it all. My heart aches. I am wracked with guilt. I feel undeserving. In the days that follow it is my ambivalence that proves to be my greatest hurdle and I talk incessantly about it with my family, friends, nurses, and psychiatrist. I wish to feel the relief in my aliveness (I don’t) and gratitude that I get to look into my son’s eyes, feel his arms around me, hear his laughter and bask in his love. And yet I am neither here nor there. Dammit. What kind of mother am I? Doc reminds me to be patient and kind with myself, “It will come, you are still Unwell Julie fighting to free herself from that dark place and move into the light.” As it turns out he was right, relief did come and so too came the really, really hard work.
Looking out at the sea with a keen awareness of the beauty that surrounds me. So much sensation; sight, smell, sound, touch, taste. I am overwhelmed by this gift I have been given, a second chance. So. Very. Grateful.
Weeks and months pass and I dig deeper than I ever have in my life. Battling for myself, battling for Ollie, battling my guilt, battling my depression and my anxiety…relentlessly, ferociously. And the healing and recovery? It is happening with each and every moment that passes. Is it freaking hard? Do I have setbacks? Hell YES but I am doing it; a daily effort and a daily celebration. What I have come to realize is…I AM A GREAT MOM, far from perfect, but GREAT! In moving through this experience with Ollie I am leading by example, taking ownership and responsibility, part of which includes me diligently employing all of my self-care tools (sleep, nutrition, yoga, exercise, meds, counselling) to prevent being sucked into the vortex of my depression. In so doing I realize I am raising a soon-to-be 13 year old young man with a kindness and a compassion beyond his years. This is a young man who came home from school one day so excited to tell me, “Mom, Mom you won’t believe it, we were all talking in class today about this famous rapper who made this song with a phone number people could call if they were at risk for suicide. Isn’t this awesome Mom?!!! It has and it will help people that struggle like you struggled Mom!!! ” When I tell you he did not stumble upon the word suicide he did not. Of course, he was referring to Logic’s 1-800-273-8255 feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid and the highest-charting phone number in Billboard’s Hot 100 History. This is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States. In being open and honest with Ollie I can only hope he will learn to nurture both his physical and mental well-being, that he will seek support if he is in need, and be there for his friends, if and when the time comes, with love and non-judgement.
So YES, today is an extra special Mother’s Day. I am full of gratitude for this life; for my family, my friends, Ollie’s teachers, Ollie’s school, my yoga community, the community in which I live, my counselors, my nurses, my doctors, the first responders, my fellow patients, for those of you who battle every day to meet your mental health struggles head on– YOU ARE ALL AN INSPIRATION. FIGHT THE FIGHT, YOU ARE WORTH IT, WE ARE WORTH IT. DO NOT SURRENDER, DO NOT GIVE UP. IF YOU FEEL ALONE, TRUST ME YOU ARE NOT. YOU ARE LOVED AND YOU ARE SUPPORTED. SELF-CARE IS THE NEW HEALTHCARE; ADVOCATE FOR WHAT YOU NEED AND DO NOT STOP. EVER.
And now it’s time to hit the beach again; to breathe, to move, to play, to live. I am one lucky lady, indeed.