My mother was my best friend; well at least that is how I like to remember things… In reality, she taught me so many more lessons than I thought possible. I did not realize experiencing such a range of emotions was possible until I found out she had overdosed on prescription pills. As far back as I can remember she had always suffered from depression. I do not remember her ever being admitted into a psychological facility or hospital, but I do remember being dragged to her therapy or psychopharmacology appointments and having to sit and color in the corner. My brother and I also often discuss how there were certain times when she would seem ok and others where she did not.
I was seventeen and my brother, George, was fifteen when we found out my mother had been hospitalized. Our parent’s medicine cabinet was always extremely full, and we were never allowed to go into their bathroom because of it. It was late march, but I remember it being a very cold day, and my brother and I were running late for school. I remember yelling goodbye as I quick grabbed a banana, and ran out of the door, my brother close behind. On our way to school I recall George telling me that he was annoyed with our mom because she had been acting so sulky. Being the older sister, I felt that I needed to protect my brother from her negativity and I thought shrugging off his observation would be the best way to do that. Inside I felt my stomach drop, as I was constantly worried about her and I was sick of all of the ups and downs her depression brought to our family. She would get so mean or withdrawn that I sometimes wished she would leave or change or just get fixed.
There were things I loved to do with my mom. We were the same size shoes and she always loved to go shoe shopping with me. There was also this place that we would go to get hot chocolate together. The cups were always half full of the hot chocolate and the rest whipped cream, which was delicious. I, for the most part, loved having girl-time with her. Unfortunately, her addiction and illness took that from me. Those fun times became more and more infrequent.
That March day, George and I eventually made it to school, only twenty-three minutes tardy. I was sitting in chemistry class when the phone rang and my teacher told me to go to the office. As I was walking I began to become increasingly anxious. I finally reached the office doors and saw my brother sitting in a chair. The principal told us that we needed to go and get our belongings and that our Auntie Steph was going to pick us up.
I thought this was particularly bizarre because I had driven to school that morning and had my car parked in the lot. I tried to ignore the nagging voice in my head that something was terribly wrong, but I was unsuccessful. When Auntie Steph arrived she was somber and said that she was taking us to the hospital where my father and mother were. At that point my mind started racing—were they in an accident? Did my dad fall? Did my mom fall? What was going on?
We arrived at the hospital and my dad was waiting by the double-door entrance. He looked distraught and his face was blotchy and sweaty. He stammered out, “your mother is gone.”
Gone? What did he mean? Gone? Where did she go? He then proceeded to explain that she had been battling with depression for years and more recently had been suffering from a prescription pill addiction. While we were at school he had confronted her about her pill addiction and she had assured him she would finally seek help. She said she was going to take a shower and over an hour after she had turned on the water he went into the bathroom to check on her. He said she was lying on the floor with three of her pill bottles emptied next to her. It sounded like his description was from a movie, but it wasn’t. He said when he went to feel her pulse he couldn’t find it, and he called 911. By the time the paramedics arrived, he said she was barely alive. “There was nothing they could do once we got here, honey.” Those words brought sadness, relief, horror, guilt, shame, confusion, helplessness and so many more emotions I can’t even put into words. It will take a lifetime to sort and work through all of them.