In anxious moments, the mantra I unwillingly recite goes like this, “I want to die I want to die I want to die…”
Or, “I hate myself I hate myself I hate myself…”
Or even, “I’ll kill myself.”
This used to frighten me. For years, I assumed this was some kind of repressed death wish that surfaced during stress. And because I hadn’t quite sorted out that thinking isn’t magic, I also felt afraid that the thought in itself was dangerous.
Worse, those kinds of thoughts are accompanied by a feeling I can only describe as the motion of cutting my wrists. If you put it all together, it starts to seem like suicidality.
I’m beginning to understand that that’s not it. I may have felt depressed to the point of despair in the past. I may have felt genuinely suicidal.
But this thought is about something else. It’s a memory. All of it.
The mantras that repeat themselves in my head are what my mother said.
The motion I feel is a memory of trying to show someone else what my mother had done, because I didn’t have all the words for it. I don’t think I was more than two years old.
I’ve written about this before–a number of times. Despite the other horrors I’ve lived through, this one seems to be the one that lingers on for me, the one I can’t quite get past, that I can’t make sense of.
My father was evil. He remains in my mind as something like a dangerous dog, one who has been trained so effectively to be aggressive that even the Dog Whisperer can’t cure him, and there’s nothing more to be done for him than to put him down.
My mother was ill.
The horror for me in that memory is that she so badly needed help and no one really helped her. What she got instead was a series of band-aids–medication that took the edge off, talk therapy that gave her a safe place to fall apart but not much more.
I suspect she didn’t get the help she needed because her psychiatrist assumed either that she couldn’t improve substantially beyond the level of functioning she eventually achieved or because healing takes time. But she had two young children at home. She didn’t have that kind of time.
I suspect the culprit was complacency, an unwarranted satisfaction with current methods that really weren’t adequate, and a lack of deep curiosity about what might work better.
What surprises me is that underneath the fear that speaks so loudly in this memory lies a terrible sadness. I went for help, but no one really helped her.