On the Eve of Mother’s Day

As a daughter of mental illness, I carry with me a profound sadness and pain that I don’t think will ever fully heal. I am never unaware of it. How could one ever forget such a fact? But the big-ness of it usually, thankfully, sits back from my day to day. I don’t actually think there’s room for it, if I am to carry on as a mother myself and as a generally functioning person of society. But now and again, such as tonight, on the eve of Mother’s Day, it arises ferociously and insistently and quite literally knocks me off my feet with its horribly painful reality.

I once came across this post:

by Mari Andrew

My first thought was: How lovely. Yes. Love to all on this Mother’s Day weekend.

But my second thought was — well, it wasn’t so much a thought as a wave of recurring heartbreak — a pain I wish I could alleviate by screaming, a nightmare I wish I could wake from, memories I wish would start to fade.

I am okay, and simultaneously I will never be okay. For the entirety of my life, I will grieve my mother and I will work to continue to make peace with the mental illness that kept her from me.

For as long as I can remember, I loved when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day came around. I had fun preparing little surprises for my parents. I distinctly remember printing signs one Mother’s Day from my computer — “You Are The World’s Best Mom!” and the like. I used happy font and bright-colored paper, and what minimal artistic ability I had to decorate these signs and tape them up all around our house. On the surface level, I was simply being a daughter. Showing appreciation to my mother as pretty much every other child was doing on that day. But on a deeper level, I was desperately grasping for and praying that there could be something, some tiny little thing, that I could possibly do to help her. To make her less sad, less angry, less sick, less pained, less wanting to die.

There was never anything I did or could do, that actually helped.

But I never stopped trying.

Partly I feel cheated. Now that I am a mother, I feel so much compassion for Little Me, for having had to navigate life under the circumstances that I did. But, mostly I feel so indescribably sad for my mom.

In therapy, I work on giving myself the support I didn’t grow up with, that I — as all children do — deserved. But my overwhelming wish is not for myself. It is for my mom. For her to feel even just one day of true peace and ease within herself. There is not much I would not sacrifice for myself for her to have even just a moment of that. For her to experience life without the fog of brain damage, medication, or mental illness.

I am haunted by thoughts and regrets.

I failed her.

I couldn’t help her.

I wasn’t enough for her.

She was in such horrific pain.

And while I am sad for myself when I was a child, and for myself when I was a new mother going through postpartum depression, neither is a match for the depth of my sadness for my mom. I will never stop wondering what exactly happened in her mind to send her off on the path she ended up on. I will never stop trying to make sense of something I know is impossible to process. I will never stop wishing I could do something, anything, to change her history.

I would give up, forever and in a heartbeat, all of my own Mother’s Day celebratory rights for her.

I am a mama, writer, yoga teacher, and mental health advocate.
More posts by Leah Kim.

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