I felt the buzz of a text and looked down to read it. I was curled up on a friends couch.
Once every two to three weeks, three families and a few singles got together. We rotate whose house we meet at. We eat a meal together that we all contribute to. We live life together. We journey celebrations of work promotions, adjustments of schedules as some take on a heavier work load, toss parenting ideas around, hug each other when we greet each other, encourage the students, listen to the children’s stories and admire their art work, help cut up meat and dish out food, raise a glass of grown up drink; it sounds magical and it is. It is our Hub. We feel the pulse of life together even though we are all very different. We are a pastor, an administrator, a few teachers, a few doctors, a few students, female, male, adults, children, happy, sad, tired, overwhelmed, content, rich, just making it by, gown up with faith, newer to faith, creative thinkers, black and white thinkers, musical, leaders, followers, outgoing, quiet; we are journeying together.
My eyes scan my lock screen to see my youngest son, Chris** who is 16, who had not joined us at Hub, was texting.
“Brent** just told me…” (Brent is my middle child who is 18). I fumble briefly to get the right finger on the pad to open up the phone to see the whole text.
“Brent just told me he took a bunch of his pills today in order to kill himself”
“Idk what to do”
“I’m keeping him with them but idk what to do other than that”
“On my way home”
“He says he took 5-8 about 3o min ago”
By the time I got to the end of the first text from Chris I had stood up abruptly and told my husband to follow me into the kitchen. We finished reading and abruptly left our Hub. It is in this moment that we were so thankful that we were purposefully journeying life with people who lived a stones throw from us. We were home in 4 minutes and my husband gathered Brent as I tossed the empty bottle of medication at him as he headed to emerge. I collapsed on the couch and gathered Chris into my arms. My 16-year-old is a level-headed young man who in a moment of crisis will lead and be in control. Together we wept as we waited for word from my husband on what was going to happen next.
This moment in time will stick with me forever. I liken this to trying to take a picture with an old point and shoot camera of someone waving at you, or a child running. You get the moment frozen in time in that picture, but it is a blur. A frozen blur of motion that you can forever see in hard copy. We all have moments like these. Some of them are traumatic events that forever change the trajectory of your life journey, some are random moments that for some reason your brain feels like you should remember.
I have three children. Anne** 20, Brent 18 and Chris 16. When Anne was in grade 10 she formally got mental health diagnosis’. It was not then that I started my journey working through mental health in my family. It had been building for some time, slowly behaviors changing, as personalities grew into young adulthood they gently swayed off the path that they had started on; nothing too dramatic at a time, which made it the hindsight, after diagnosis, to see the real changes and how subtly they had settled into our lives.
It was this moment however that brought my thinking that I could be a good parent of those struggling with mental heath issues crashing down. I questioned my ability as a parent, wife, sister, daughter, friend, person. I felt blame and shame. I felt inability to be called mom, support, protector. I was unable comfort, encourage or fix as had been my role for the past 18 years in Brent’s life. A band-aid wouldn’t bring a smile back on his face, a cookie wouldn’t redirect his thinking, a hug wouldn’t stop the shuddering tears, holding his hands didn’t make him feel safe and locking eyes didn’t make us laugh.
Here I am six weeks later and realizing how discombobulated I feel as I journey as a parent with a family going through life with mental health struggles. I want to journal my thoughts, talk to those who are on this same journey, hear from those who care for our family members, those who don’t understand mental health struggles, and anyone who wants to step onto the path that I am walking on.
Thank you for joining me
Remember it’s ok to take a deep breath and pause
**Names of children changed