When I Was 15 Years Old, My Mom Took Her Own Life

When I Was 15 Years Old, My Mom Took Her Own Life

This is my story.

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"Your mother is in a better place."

I heard the words, but the funny thing is, I don't remember being there, not really. I was watching another girl's life, detached, feeling nothing. My mom had tried several times during my childhood, but no one ever thought she'd really go through with it. None of that prepared me for this.

I remember how my aunt came over, my mom's little sister, and curled up in a ball sobbing for an hour, a successful, grown woman in her 40s I had never thought I'd see shed a tear.

I remember talking to my grandparents, who had been on vacation in Hawaii, on the phone and hearing how much strength it was taking them to keep their voices steady and hold back the pain.

I remember how I kept thinking, "OK, this is when I wake up, this is where the nightmare ends."

It never did.

After my sister and I had gotten home from school on Jan. 31, 2013, we wondered why our mom's car was still in the garage because she should've been at work. The door to her bedroom was locked too. We knocked and knocked and knocked, and our dad told us to try to pick the lock, but it was no use. I had never had to call 911 in my life, and when I told the operator what was going on, I could hardly believe I was considering the possibility my mom was really dead. Surely, that was ridiculous.

It seemed like hours before the police finally arrived. I showed them upstairs, and when they finally broke the door down, I watched in horror from a chair in the hallway. The memories get jumbled after that, but I remember hearing, "Your mother is in a better place." And I remember wanting to scream, "No, she's not! This was the better place."

Reading the suicide note of a loved one is like losing them all over again, every time. You're reliving a goodbye you never even got. They're saying their last words to you but you can't respond or show them any love, and you know they died all alone.

What's funny is that, other than my mom dying, my life sort of improved in the short term. That sounds so ridiculous to people, but for such an extroverted person like me, the support of others and a sense of belonging is what makes me feel best. My teachers made very generous academic accommodations for me, my friends would invite me over for a sleepover whenever I was sad, and people were always cooking my family homemade meals. During the first few months after my mom's passing, I had a lot of pain that was almost masked by the fact that I was overwhelmed with comfort and love. I kind of forgot how to live a normal life.

Late in my sophomore year, as the comfort dissolved, I began to realize how empty I was really feeling. I started shoplifting small items from several stores, trying to fill that void with something, anything. I'm lucky that never spiraled out of control, but it was only the first gust of wind in the category five hurricane that was to follow.

Trauma doesn't usually manifest in an obvious way, and often it acts as a catalyst for mental illness issues that likely already swam beneath the surface. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a hypomanic episode which resulted in me having to leave a choir I loved so much, followed by a deep depression which culminated in me begging my dad to take me to the hospital because I thought I might try to kill myself. By the end of my senior year of high school, I barely got out of bed, I was scared to show my face in school because I was terrified of all the horrible things that I thought might happen, and I was struggling to take my medication or eat much at all. My family decided to send me to a therapy program that summer and my graduation from high school was postponed until December. Luckily, I was able to get a medical deferral from my university, and I took a gap year.

While my recovery was in no way a linear process and is always an ongoing mission, I have seen a lot of improvement in myself since the end of high school. I considered a lot of career paths, but I could never quite talk myself out of the challenge that is going into medicine as my mom did. Often when I'm doing organic chemistry or genetics or physiology, I wish I could call my mom so she could answer all my questions. When I find a new TV show she would've liked, I have no mom to send it to. I'll have no mom when it's my turn to have children and I need advice from the person who knows motherhood best.

What I carry with me is the knowledge that even if my mom's mental illness ultimately took her life, I make a promise to myself daily that I will never go down that road. I have seen first-hand the way suicide shakes a family to its core and leaves loved ones with scars that can never truly heal. There is no lesson to be learned, or silver lining to be found, no shiny little bow to wrap this article up with. I tell my story openly and honestly because it is the only way I know how to process it, with the hope that I can show others the strength there is in vulnerability.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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The Permanence Of Recovery

Trying to explain what it's like when my brain is louder than my stomach.

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I never had an eating disorder.

I say it like that because I didn't. I was never diagnosed with anorexia, or bulimia, or binge eating disorder, or anything else that constitutes a medical resentment to consumption.

A diagnosis would give the issue a name, it would give it a face, which would make it that much more real.

My relationship with food and exercise--and with my body in general--has always been a very complicated thing. I never had an eating disorder, but I never knew how to eat a normal amount and not feel a sense of lingering guilt.

But most days eating always felt like a tug-of-war. I knew that I needed to eat, you know, to survive. The voice in the back of my head eventually became the voice at center-stage of my head. It added up every calorie I took, subtracted every sit-up, embellished my failure when I slipped up. I could never satisfy this voice.

There was always more water to drink, more distance to run, more meals to be stared at and then pushed aside. Sometimes the tug-of-war was just flat out war.

Growing up as a teenage girl in North America, over-exercising and never eating enough is just a part of life. Looking in the mirror and not seeing the human embodiment of an issue of Vogue was grounds for self-hatred. So I recorded everything I ate, tracked every step I took and grew progressively more proud of myself for looking at a glamour magazine.

But humans are not meant to fit in the shiny pages of lifestyle media. I am still trying to learn that. I am learning what it means to not imagine every calorie sticking to my body as if I were made of honey. I know now that it is not normal to make my nutrient intake at the end of each day add up to zero. I am still learning what balance looks like.

The permanence of recovering from living in a state of deprivation is hardly recovery at all. It is work. It is realizing sickness looks different on every body type. It is pushing away the first wave of shame when anything sweet or carb-heavy makes it past your lips. And the second wave. It is living in a world that told you a substantial body is hardly worthy of tolerance, let alone love.

There are little victories. There is a brunch with family or friends. Being so caught up in conversation and the morning's first cup of coffee, with a little extra sweetener, that eating is a breeze. There is fast food after concerts or a night out. So hungry in the middle of the night that you don't even think about reaching for a second taco from the consistently mediocre Taco Bell.

But there are holidays, and birthday cake, another glass of sweet tea, please. Sometimes it's hard not to return to old habits and fall back into the familiar cycle of restriction and denial.

This year and beyond I vow to seek balance. I vow to treat my body with kindness. I want to eat in a way that promotes healthiness, not sickliness, on either side of the scale. I am exhausted. I am tired of the dining hall being the battleground and I'm the one holding the weapon. I am tired of destruction and resentment. This year, I am embracing every curve, every soft whisper, every sigh of relief that I am composed of.

While I am not where I want to be, I am miles from where I started. And that is something to celebrate.

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