Every year we get older we learn new things and oddly enough on the eve of his seventh birthday, he learned that being brave meant more than just jumping off of the top of the steps or tasting that new vegetable or reading a poem in front of the class or ditching that last training wheel.
Although all of those are astounding testaments to childhood bravery.
He learned that being brave is telling the truth about your feelings.
Over the summer, nighttime had suddenly become a tortuous song and dance of tears and begging to stay glued right next to us in our bed until day breaks. There was no reason for this behaviour he claimed. He just wanted to snuggle and I wish I could snuggle forever — forever and all the days I’d snuggle with him but I also enjoy not tasting my hemorrhaging spleen in my throat when his elbow rams my stomach.
I also do not care to smell his bum in my face when he rotates his way across the mattress as if he was eclipsing my entire body like the moon does the sun.
It was at three in the morning while seated straight up against the wall, breathing rapidly and clutching his favourite stuffie when he finally told me, “I can’t stop my brain at night. I told my brain to stop thinking bad things but it doesn’t and it scares me in the dark.”
“Momma, I’m scared.”
Talking about negative feelings is hard.
It shouldn’t be, but it is.
I know it is.
I remember the very first time that I said that I wasn’t ok.
It was almost exactly seven years ago that I was seated on a cold stretcher across from my OB, naked from the waist down. I cried and spewed out incoherent sentences about hair loss and leaky boobs and crippling anxiety and paranoia and smashing dinner plates with a fork as my husband looked on in horror. I think I ended with “I’m f**king crazy” and thank goodness he calmly responded with a moustachey “No. You’re not crazy. You have postpartum depression.”
And I got help immediately.
Then just on Tuesday when I crumpled at my psychiatrist’s office I honestly seriously contemplated NOT telling the truth that I had been crying every day all day and thought horrible things.
But the night prior when I watched my son who was so brave in telling me about his feelings, march on to bed after we exchanged hugs and kisses and ninja’ed the hell out of imaginary spiders with five eyeballs under the bed and closed closets and windows and flipped on a lamp that is so bright that I’m sure that we will all get skin cancer, but at least it makes him feel safe enough to fall asleep — I knew what I had to do.
The fear of what came next, feeling ashamed, the awkwardness of saying “Thanks for your hard efforts over the summer Dr. B. PS. I want to ram my car into a wall. I am still your most frustratingly incurable patient ever.” I had to suck it up and be honest and tell him. It was the only way that I was going to get help.
I couldn’t live another day like this.
Nor should you if you’re suffering.
I know it may be silly to compare a child’s bravery at night to that of a person with a mental illness and trying to find the courage to seek help — but this kid, he teaches me more about life than any textbook, any teacher, and any experience I’ve had. He’s the reason I fight even though he still sneaks in our bedroom every once in a while and kicks me in my kidneys for good measure.
Please reach out and get help.
You’re never alone. I promise you that.
There is a life that is worth living and you are worth it.
If you are in a crisis, call 1-800 273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention LifeLine