As the Thanksgiving holiday passes and we all take time to think about what we are grateful for, who we are grateful for, I am reminded that being grateful has a whole other meaning when talking with anyone who has a Mental Illness.
Sure, I am extremely grateful for my beautiful, caring, intelligent daughter. I am grateful for my husband who took his wedding vows seriously and has stood by me through hell several times in the last 19 years. I am grateful for my parents who helped me and advocated for me instead of abandoning me. But, what am I most grateful for?
I am most grateful to be alive. I am grateful I didn’t slash my wrists seventeen years ago. If I had done that, my daughter would not exist today. There would not be the light in many people’s lives that is Sophia Faye. There would be no blue-eyed, dirty-blonde-Hermoine-from-Harry Potter hair. There would be no sweet smiles and daily kisses. She would not be here because I would not be here. If I slashed my wrist then, I not only would have killed myself, I would have killed her.
I am grateful I did not run away nine years ago. I am grateful I could not think of where to run away to because that kept me home. It kept me with my husband. It kept me with my daughter. It kept me from missing so many firsts in her life including her first word, “Mama” at 10 months old. If I ran away, I would have missed her first step, her first real hug, her first day of school and eventually her high school graduation, marriage and any future grandchildren.
I am grateful I did not gain access to that screw on the lunch tray table in the Behavioral Crisis Center last January. If I did, it would have pierced my skin and gone into my head. I could’ve caused myself extreme damage that would have made my daughter motherless. It would have caused her so much pain, years of psychotherapy and possibly hospitalizations. She would feel the grieving I felt then and so much more… the grieving I still feel now. I would have given my only ever supportive husband a vegetable for a wife. I would have extolled my pain, guilt and anger on the 2 people I love the most in this world who have only ever supported me.
As we all sat just a day ago, going around the table saying what we are grateful for, these are the things I instantly thought of… not committing suicide, not running away, not giving myself a lobotomy. The real answers of someone with a Mental Illness. But when it was my turn I said, “I am grateful for my loving supportive family.”