TW: suicide/mental health
Since 2003, September 10 has been recognized around the world as World Suicide Prevention Day. We mourn with all those who have lost loved ones to suicide and mental health struggles. Over the years, mama writers have been brave in sharing their stories about mental health with Literary Mama readers. We went through the Literary Mama archives and are highlighting several pieces in honor of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
Mental health issues are treatable. Suicide is preventable. If you or someone you love struggle with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please reach out for help. You can call, text, or chat 988 at any time to be connected with a trained counselor. For more information, check out the CDC and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Your Mother’s Boy, Fiction January 2012, Kathi Hansen
What I hope for you is that you’ll be eulogized like my son’s friend Matt was (years ago, but still so fresh in my memory) by his brave and articulate mother who stood in front of a crowd and started: “Those of you who know me can’t believe that I’m standing here, eulogizing my boy.” Though he wasn’t a boy by then, her words were laced with these words: my boy. When I heard her say them I saw the letters italicized, gorgeously rendered on precious paper, and I understood. Please remember my boy, Matt’s mom said, and tell me stories about him. Please, never stop telling me stories about my boy. There but for the grace of God, go I, I thought. Every mother did. Your mother would have, too. It could have been my boy, their boys. But it was her boy. And this time it’s your mother’s boy.
To the Woman Who Stopped Her Car to Scream at Me At the Bus Stop, Poetry November 2017, Deborah Staunton
May you never know the heartache
of mothering a child with mental illness
the breath-stopping anticipation of the next phone call
the debilitating exhaustion
of fending off her demons
and your own
a rope around the soft flesh of her young neck
eight hours in the psychiatric E.R.
Write of Passage: Telling a Daughter’s Story, Literary Reflections November/December 2020, Linda Collins
Sat in the shower. Did the whole crying bit, my daughter, Victoria McLeod, wrote in her diary shortly before taking her own life six years ago at age 17. Sat in bed. Did the whole sad songs and crying bit. . . . PLEASE MAKE THIS SAD STOP. FUCKING MAKE IT STOP. God, something out there, please make it stop.
In the end, Victoria made ‘it’ stop, herself. She died the first day of a new school term. The ‘sad’ was passed on to me. But I have found a way to survive it—through writing about her and in sharing her writing.
Fff…family, Perfectly Normal April 2011, Heather Cori
I realize that celebrating families isn’t a celebration for everyone. Maybe Henry didn’t want to draw pictures of his family and leave a spot for the missing one. But somehow, through a botched attempt at a winged friend, maybe he heard me say, “Henry, I have no idea what that’s like for you, but it sucks about your dad,” and maybe in his own way he was able to say, “Yeah, it does.”
Tell Me What to Do, Creative Nonfiction November 2018, Emily Skelding
A few days later we sat with a counselor at an outpatient rehab center. She asked him why he was there. He said, “I will do anything to make my depression go away.”
After an hour with my son, the counselor insisted I take him to the nearest Emergency Room. An addiction specialist, she said his underlying problem was depression and anxiety, not addiction. At that moment, he was actively suicidal.
While I knew he fantasized about making “it all go away,” being confronted with the reality he was planning his death meant I had to shed a measured approach. Keeping him alive was what mattered. All other concerns evaporated. The chicken defrosting in the refrigerator no longer needed to be thawed by the afternoon, my three daughters’ carpools were no longer on my agenda, and incomplete calculus homework was irrelevant.
How to Be a Schizophrenogenic Mother, Creative Nonfiction February 2010, Wendy Bruer
Believe you are the cause; believe you are the cure. Place a violin in your son’s hands. Discover his precocious gift for music. Hold your breath. Think of your baby boy learning to crawl, think of his lemon brown hair. When your daughter is fourteen, believe her when she says she hates you. Retaliate in wounded anger; do not credit the pain beneath the defiance. Experience the relief of years without incident as your son navigates junior and senior high. Watch, amazed, as he teaches himself Hungarian and Chinese. Worry that he has no friends. Send children to college.
Awaken to phone call in your son’s final year. Recognize flat new tone in his voice.
Bring him home. Beg the school to take him back. Awaken again to the phone in the night.
Hear psychiatrist explain the “poetic” meaning of your son’s suicide gesture. Deny to yourself and the doctors that son has delusions. Feel the stigma of your childhood. Believe you are the cause, and you are the cure. When side effects of Haldol make son drowsy, encourage him to stop taking it.
The Girl at My Daughter’s High School Dies by Suicide, Poetry April/May 2021, Deborah Bacharach
You know that first year of their life
when the stroller hits the curb wrong, or she screams
for four hours straight and the second floor window is right there
so you park her in the crib, stick in earplugs
that cost three hundred dollars,
eat chocolate alone on the sofa?
You know that year when you are just trying
to keep them alive?
Marooned, Creative Nonfiction, November 2008, Erika Trafton
Obviously, Julian could not cure me. After I dropped him off at preschool, I spent the rest of the morning pacing the house, debating whether or not to overdose on my meds. I was agitated, I was suicidal, I was desperate. I have to kill myself, I can’t kill myself played in a rapid, endless loop in my head. Yet I continued to play the proper mother, taking him to the park after preschool and packing a snack.
I survived that dark patch. Even without a seeing eye dog. I did as my therapist instructed: I called my husband to come home to watch Julian, I called supportive people, I distracted myself with TV and DVD’s. I also debated whether to give Steve control of my meds, but decided not to, opting instead to increase my antipsychotic dose in order to slow the self-destructive thoughts and agitation (I was a pro at tinkering with my meds after so many years). When I could, I slept-my sole relief. I struggled to survive each second. In short, I hung on by my fingernails for a few days until the suicidal urges began to recede.