From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

My Mother: Her Depression, Her Strength

I grasped my blanket in one hand and my doll in the other as I reluctantly pushed open my parents’ bedroom door. I shivered as I stepped into the dim, frigid room and tiptoed to the side of their bed. A single arm cautiously reached from the bundles of blankets and sheets and sorted through the countless bottles of medication on the nightstand. “Oh, hi baby . . . do you want to come lie down and take a nap with Mommy?” I crawled into the king-size bed, snuggled up next to her warm back and laid with her for the next couple of hours. This was the most contact I’d made with my mother for many years of my life. I thought that all families functioned as mine did. It took me several years of frustration and confusion to understand that my mother suffered horribly from depression.

As I began making close, personal friends in school, they shared the details of the relationships with their mothers with me. I realized I was missing out on something wonderful with my own mother and began suggesting to her that we spend more time together. She would continuously find an excuse or dilemma that would hinder her from going out with me. She would then proceed to her bedroom to take medicine and go to sleep for the remainder of the day. I remember sitting in my room crying so many nights because I could not make sense of her broken promises and refusal to spend time with me. It broke my heart to know that she would rather sleep than spend time with her own daughter.

My mother’s behavior soon came to affect my entire family. My father would constantly question and quarrel with my mother, not understanding her illness. He built his entire life around pleasing her: cooking her favorite comfort foods and making sure I never made a single noise while she was sleeping. Why did my father put up with my invalid mother all those years? Adopting my mother’s ways, my sister began sleeping all day, only coming out for meals or to log on to the Internet. The way things were going, I felt like I was the next in line to be plagued by this disease. So I kept myself active and hardly ever spent time at home. The only way I could face the fear of becoming depressed was to distance myself from the people who were most likely to cause it.

The culmination of my mother’s battle with depression came when I was a senior in high school. It was an early Saturday afternoon, and I had just returned home from band rehearsal. I could sense that something was wrong the moment I unlocked the front door. I heard the shower running in my parents’ bathroom, which seemed odd because my father was working in the front yard, and my mother should have been asleep. As I cautiously walked toward the bedroom that adjoined the bathroom, the sound of someone weeping rushed to my ears. My stomach dropped. I was afraid to go in because of what I might find. I carefully opened the bathroom door to find my mother huddled in the corner of the running shower, fully clothed and sobbing uncontrollably. I rushed outside to tell my father. For reasons I still do not understand, he became angry and stormed inside, shouting at her that he didn’t have time for this and to get out of the shower and dry off. We called her psychiatrist and he immediately admitted her to the mental institution wing of Baylor Hospital under a suicide watch. I was in denial about how critical my mother’s condition had gotten and explained to all my friends that she had hurt her back and had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days. Visiting my mother behind the secured doors of the institution was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

Wounded and hurt, my mother watched as I could not meet my eyes with hers. I sat across the cafeteria table from her, barely making conversation and fidgeting my fingers. I did not want her showing me the macaroni art that she had created earlier that day in “craft therapy”; I needed her to give me a long, safe hug and tell me that everything was going to be all right. I trudged out the hospital doors that day wondering what my life would be like if my mother had actually followed through with her intended plan. It terrified me.

After her short visit to the hospital, my mother became dramatically healthier. It was not because of any prescribed medication or therapy session; it was because she realized that she did not want to spend the rest of her life in so much emotional pain. We sat down together after the hospital released her, and she attempted to explain to me what was going on inside of her mind and body. She felt that she had nothing to live for and did not see any point of going on. But as she was crying helplessly on the floor of the shower, she saw me standing there and found a reason to go on. She called me her “angel” because, in a sense, I had saved her life. After all those years, I finally understood my mother’s pain.

My mother and I have a bond today that surpasses everything that happened in the past. I love my mother more than anyone in the world, and I am so proud that she has overcome her depression and is the remarkable mother that she is today.

Laura Pavlasek

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