The following post was written by Daylee, one of our Spring ’15 interns, and her mother.
When we got the call to fly Daylee home, everyone was on board. I committed to love and be there for her, but secretly I was terrified. I had no experience with self-injury. I worried about the reality that she could unintentionally hurt herself far more than she planned. I worried that she would get hepatitis or an infection. But I knew that, as frightened as I was, my fear could not compare to the terror Daylee felt in the face of the inner war she was waging.
Daylee and I worked together to find professionals to help her, and I sought information for myself at the same time. Even after Daylee was told she was “too old” to attend Children’s Hospital in Seattle, we stayed with providers and nurses she deemed safe. It was her healing and her program; I was her advocate. We sought out a psychologist who provided us both with the room to heal and grow through this experience together. Some days my presence was needed in sessions and some days it wasn’t, but I was always ready afterward with cups of tea, nurturing food, and an abundance of love.
Getting up with Daylee was different every single day; it depended what she was struggling with and what the day’s events might trigger within her. I shut down outside activities and focused on Daylee and my family. I decided day-to-day tasks, like getting the laundry done and shopping, would become opportunities to share and communicate. Some days we walked in the park; other days we drank copious amounts of tea while she shared music or a saying and we talked. I gave her permission to come and see me at work whenever she needed to. Some days it was, “Yes, I need you to drive me to appointments.” Other days it was, “Driving alone will give me time to process.” I cannot emphasize enough that, as with life, every day was different.
One evening, Daylee, her sister, and I ended up in the emergency room; Daylee had tried to find a way out of pain through the use of prescription drugs. She didn’t want to bother me when she became concerned about her choices since I was asleep, but, thank God, she reached out to her sister. One step forward as we found the path to healing, two back.
She found TWLOHA through a friend. A little at a time she would share what she knew about the organization with me. I encouraged her to grow her circle of support knowing she would need a peer group and others who had walked where she did. It was difficult as there was not as much understanding of self-injury out there and depression was a subject people were not comfortable talking about. None of this was easy; it was a process and that was just fine. We continued to practice presence and encouragement as we went. One step at a time and one breath at a time.
If I, as a parent, can stay centered in who I am, if I, as a parent, can remember my intention, my belief system, and stay grounded in my core values, then I, as a parent, can be available to help my child. Daylee needed the peace of knowing that, as things felt like they were falling apart, her anchor would be steadfast. When I told her I was not going anywhere it was as much a promise to her as it was to myself. It does not mean it was easy, far from it. It took courage, tears, and speaking out my own fears to keep myself centered.
When I became a mother, I realized that nothing – and everything – you experience prepares you to be a parent. Before Daylee was born, I struggled with self-worth, feelings of brokenness, and depression. I come from a difficult and good past, and I learned that joy and pain could walk side-by-side. I think it’s because of all of this that God knew Daylee needed to be my child. God kept me safe through it all, and he knew I could keep Daylee safe as well.
So Daylee, my dear sweet child, please know this: I see you. I hear you. I love you, unconditionally. Past, present, and always. I promise: I’m not going anywhere.
There’s this thing called unconditional love. It’s something I have for a very special person in my life: my mother. Although she loves me unconditionally, the truth is I’m still learning how to trust this love she has for me. I’m still learning how to receive this love. When she would tell me, as I sat blinded by my own pain, “I am not going anywhere,” I learned to trust her. But she wasn’t the one I was convinced might leave: I was worried about myself. As I struggled day-by-day, moment-by-moment with self-injury, she would say, “I’m not going anywhere.” And I would recommit to being clean. But I could not make the same promise. I couldn’t promise that I wasn’t going anywhere. The only promise I could make was that I loved her. Unconditionally.
At the time, that was enough. I am alive today because I held on to the unconditional love I have for my mother. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her the mess I had made. Time and time again, she helped me pick up the broken pieces. She hugged me tight, no matter how numb I was. She promised me the same thing every day: “I am not going anywhere.” And she didn’t. She showed up. No matter how ugly the situation was, no matter how scared we all were. She showed up.
This is the part I must emphasize: They all showed up. My family and close friends were there. We did life together. We made our new normal, something that looked different every day. Some days it looked like long, tearful conversations that were scarily honest. Some days it looked like a long hug between work shifts and therapy sessions. We kept the conversation going no matter what life looked like. And conversations are a powerful thing—they are windows of opportunity, chances at recovery. This was how my mom continued to teach me how to practice presence. I’ve come to believe there is no greater way to love someone than to simply be there for them.
However, my habit had a tendency to overshadow this amazing love. Self-injury was like a familiar friend—a constant companion that promised control, stability, and a temporary escape. But this “friend” would often keep me from my loved ones. My mom lovingly checking on me would intensify the guilt that waged a war in my brain. Whenever I was around people my mind would spin in circles, taunting me with all the things I wasn’t and all the ways I wasn’t living a good enough life. I hated myself. I felt worthless, empty, and alone. That was my “friend’s” best trick: making me feel alone by isolating me from those who were always there for me. It was a never-ending cycle and temporary relief was seemingly the only escape. This only further reiterated the tape playing on repeat in my mind saying I was unworthy of love, acceptance, and a life away from my “friend.”
Even when I was not able to truly believe that I was loved unconditionally, even as I struggled with self-injury, I held on to my mom. And she held on to hope. She held on to faith. Her consistency and words of encouragement kept me going, kept me alive. I will never truly be able to convey the depth of how much she means to me. But, maybe that’s the best part about unconditional love. We are given the promise: “I’m not going anywhere.” And while on the dark days we may not believe that, no matter what, we have each other.
So mom, please know this. I hear you. I see you. I love you unconditionally. Always. I promise: I’m not going anywhere.