There is no quiet. There is no calm. Nothing can shift the weight of feeling suffocated. No amount of time spent mindlessly staring at the computer screen or the hours spent vacant in front of the television. Nothing can numb me to sleep. My thoughts churn over themselves. Like an endless washing machine cycle, twisting the suds of guilt and the emptiness over and over again. I want to escape. I wish I could escape for her.
At this point in my life, I did not think the tables would be turned this way. I have a young family. I am trying to juggle and balance it all. I need her help. I did not think she would be the one needing mine. But she does.
I find myself standing on the outside of my mother’s life. My hands pressed against the cold thick glass wall. She sits motionless behind this wall, draped in her secret. I have been watching her. I have watched the apprehension in her rise, the blankness in her gaze last a little longer. The highs become higher and the glitches in her reality lingering more often. There is no doubt in my mind that she is suffering. There is no doubt in her mind that it all she needs is one more week in bed and she will be fine. But it has been many weeks and her definition of fine has become translucent, lost among the secret.
As I stand, my cheek pressed against the cold glass I keep watching her. I do not see any fight. I only see submission. She is the obedient student of her secret.
The conversations I have in my mind, with my husband, with our friends are all logical and result driven. The sympathy hangs heavy with pity. I walk away from each of the conversations feeling a little relieved, a little lighter, some of the burden shared with them. For a moment I feel empowered to talk to her again and take control. But I never do. My confidence, my all-knowing disintegrates the minute I do talk to her. I am always back where I started, on the outside looking in.
I carry the anguish of not doing more to help her. I am forced to drink the frustration of watching her secret cover her ears, forcing her not to listen. I taste the anger rise within me like bile. I feel the overwhelming blanket of sadness overcome me, smothering the light and gagging the air.
I want to grab a sledge hammer and smash away at that glass. I need to break down and destroy the pain that is seeping into every vein of our family. I crave the bleeding blisters on my hands. I want to demolish the chaos that surrounds this mess. I want to feel the broken pieces of her secret, sharp and jagged beneath my toes. Yet, all I can do is stand on the outside. Knowing it is not enough.
Then one day something changed. In a complete moment of abandon I picked up the phone and told her that this was enough. I walked in circles around my house, pleading with her and not allowing her a moment to talk back. The devil danced around me. Taunting me. Pushing me. Daring me. I was breaking the code. A daughter must never say these things to her mother. I was not reserved or gentle. I was not suggestive or cautioned. I told her what I saw and that because I loved her so much that this had to stop. I could feel the pieces start to shatter. I hung up the phone, sat on the couch and held my head in my hands. What had I done?
Like catching the end of a hanging thread, that phone call unravelled the hush and the stealth. On that day, two years ago, my mother walked out from behind the glass wall that day and asked for help. She faced her reality, freed from the secret and safe in the support of those who love her so much. Anxiety and depression should never be a secret.
“Secret” was first published on Kidspot. It was my first post as a finalist in the Personal and Parenting category of the Voices of 2014 competition. You can view the post here.