I have no reason for this title other than the fact that I love this line from Coming to America so much and it makes me happy to say and hear it and see it, so there it is. Today is the anniversary of the day my daughter tried to take her life 3 years ago. So today I needed some humor and some fun to keep me going and to keep me from strolling down memory lane into the dark path like the one Maurice takes in Beauty and the Beast.
It’s been 3 years since I wrote this. And what a three years it has been. I have learned so much in the last 3 years and yet I feel like I still know nothing much like Jon Snow. I’ve learned how very, very, very lucky we are. We are so lucky that my child called out for help before going through with taking her life. We are so lucky that we are so close to Children’s Hospital and McLean hospital where she and we could get the best care possible. We are so lucky that we have friends and family who were not afraid to go to some dark places with us and help us through this period in our lives without judgement and without stigmatizing mental illness. We are so lucky that we met incredible people going through similar journeys who we could just cry with or just sit with because the understanding was just ever present. We are lucky that we are in a school district where mental health is addressed just as much as academics. We are so lucky because it very easily could have had a very different outcome.
I’ve learned that just when you think things are hard and can’t possibly get any harder, guess what they do just that. I’ve learned to stop thinking and saying that this is the worst it will ever get because that is just never true. I’ve actually learned to ask myself what is the thing that would be even worse than this when something bad happens. This way I can problem solve out of it before it even happens and it makes me feel slightly better about everything else. Slightly.
I’ve learned that I can’t fix everything no matter how much I want to or think that I can. I cannot fix my child’s depression and anxiety. I can’t fix her wish to not be in this world. I can’t fix her low self esteem and lack of self confidence. All I can do is support her in any way she needs as she fixes herself. I can tell her how much I love her and how my world would be the darkest and loneliest place without her in it. I can plant seeds and provide sunlight and water but it’s up to her to grow and flourish. This is one of the hardest lessons for me because I am a therapist by profession and thus have strong desire to “fix”. But being with my child through this all has taught me a lot about how to be a better therapist with my patients and my students. And for that I am eternally grateful to her for teaching me this lesson.
I’ve learned that even though I can’t fix everything, there are some things I can fix. I can help bring awareness to mental health. I can help end the stigma around mental illness. I can help other people navigate a broken, frustrating, and maddening system. I can advocate for more funding for mental health in schools and communities. I can sit on the phone or through text and listen to people going through their own challenges with a loved one who wishes to die. So while I can’t fix everything, I can work hard to fix some things.
I’ve learned that my daughter is one of the strongest people I know. She came through a debilitating and life threatening illness that she still battles everyday as a goddamn champion. She gets up everyday now, takes a shower, gets dressed and goes to school without dread. She goes out with friends, is interested in dating, and has dreams of going to college. She manages to make everyone around her smile and laugh and feel better about themselves. She is absolutely the best travel buddy I could ever ask for. She is an absolute super star. As a sophomore she played Tracey in Hairspray and this year is Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. She is learning that there is nothing she can’t do if she puts her heart and mind into it. I am in absolute awe of her and I know that will only grow as she becomes a grown woman. I am sure she can change the world for the better.
And lastly, I’ve learned that lizards can be therapy pets. Go ahead, fight me on this one, I dare you.