A couple of things happened that made me think of you.
The first was a public letter written by a friend. It was about the suicide of a boy. I don’t need to go into the details, except to say that there were several comments made which made me feel defensive. I felt that way partially because of my own near brush with suicide, but, mostly, because of your suicide, nearly 35 years ago.
The second was a picture of my son, the eldest, and my youngest daughter. He was 25 and she was four. They both looked so happy in that moment. Tears came to my eyes. I saw Uncle Mike and me, even though the age differences were different and I’m pretty sure we never had a picture like that ever taken of us. I also don’t think the two of us ever looked that happy, especially not together.
I denied that your suicide affected me for so long. It’s taken me this long to really understand that it has affected my entire life, and still does.
I was disdainful of you and acted like I didn’t care that you weren’t around. The last interactions we’d had were pretty awful – on both our parts. I realize I was 12 and that nothing I could say or do should have influenced your decision to end your life.
For a long time, I denied that I had taken on any kind of self-blame for that “choice” of yours.
Now that I’m parenting a child who says and does the kinds of things I did, albeit for different reasons, I can see how my actions must have affected you. I still know I’m not to blame, but I can understand how the hurt and pain would cut so deep.
It’s taken me a very long time to understand that you were sick. You didn’t really make a choice. The suicide was the final stage of a chronic and deadly illness of the brain, which, if caught and treated early enough, might have been avoided.
I know this because I also have similar illnesses of the brain. One of those illnesses is Bipolar II Disorder. I wasn’t diagnosed until three years ago, in 2014, when I was 44. You were 28 when you died, in 1981. After many conversations with your Cousin Ann, I have come to believe you experienced Bipolar I with Schizophrenia, or whatever they’re calling it these days.
I’ve spent most of my children’s lives fluctuating between hypomanic and manic highs when I would do “crazy” things which made perfect sense to me, but made everyone else question my sanity. I now know that was for good reason. The rest of the time, I was a totally depressed, barely functional mess. Either way, I was as emotionally distant and unavailable to them as you had been to me.
I’ve always hated that about myself. I guess I’ve always hated that about you too.
But, now, I understand both of us better and realize that we were both sick and couldn’t do any different. I had/have PTSD as a factor, perhaps you did too. It wouldn’t surprise me after the few stories I’ve heard about what life was like while you were growing up with Grandma & Grandpa. He, basically, died of alcoholism and smoking. Grandma was in an Adult Foster Care Home being cared for because of her Dementia when she died.
Apparently, mental illness, in one form or another, is part of our family’s legacy. It affected them. It affected you and Uncle Mike. It affected me. Now, it’s affected my children. I can’t go into details regarding the oldest two, those are their stories to tell. But, your youngest granddaughter experiences Autism Spectrum Disorder and maybe other emotional disturbances. I can only hope and pray that the effects will be less for my beautiful grandchildren.
Anyway, I don’t really know what I wanted to say, except, I love you. I forgive you. I’m sorry you didn’t get the help you needed, when you needed it. Thank you for having been my mom, the best you were able to, for as long as you could. I wish we could have made it easier and better for each other.
Love and tears,