My girl, going
going, going, gone
My girl wants to go, meaning she no longer wants to be here. She no longer wants to be on this planet, which means she doesn’t want to be with me—the collateral damage I know she can’t consider. She came into this world through me, and I should have the power to affect her to stay.
Stay here with me. Please don’t go.
I don’t want to be here without you. I can’t be here without you. All that I am is wrapped up and around and through you.
You are my . . .
When you look at me and say, “Please, Mom,” your blue eyes as cold as the deepest spot in the ocean, you look at me and say, “please kill me. There’s something wrong with me. Get a gun or a knife. Something. Anything.” I freeze.
There’s nothing left. No life, no air, no home, no desire, no fortitude, no earth, no me, no you.
There’s only the hole through which I’ve fallen. I’m lost. I’m gone. I’m hallow. I’m hi-jacked.
My girl, going.
going, going, gone.
Soon after you beg me to kill you, surrounded by Noah and his ark and your stuffed animals and the shattered safety of our home, my girl going, my girl, going walks away from me—at 14 years old. My girl, going walks away from me into a residential treatment center because she cuts herself with razorblades and she won’t stop.
She cuts and cuts and cuts and I find her blood everywhere. In her bed. On the floor. Down the drain. I find her life force—it’s brown, crusty, old. I find her life force—it’s red, vibrant, young. It’s everywhere it isn’t supposed to be and for now at least it’s also where it is supposed to be. Coursing through the veins she imagines slicing. The skin she doesn’t imagine slicing because she goes ahead and slices through it, through the skin and the fat until the blood pools in the wound and you look up and tell us how cool it is to watch your blood pump through your veins, how cool it is to embrace the power you have to make it stop doing that, how cool it is to think about no longer being here, no longer being a part of this curse called life.
My girl, going, she walks away from me at 14 and into a residential treatment center and I am left standing in the lobby. My broken pieces litter the ground at two feet.
My girl, going walks away from me. What will she do? Who will she become in this place? No one here knows the girl I know, the one who used to belt out show tunes and who used to sleep with a different stuffed animal every night, the one who used to ask me every night to lay down next to her and to cuddle. The girl who helped me to realize that the sum of me would never again, could never again be composed only of the parts of me—my stomach, my thighs, my ass—because the sum of me is what created the perfection of her.
My girl, going.
going, going, gone
My girl is going and my girl is gone. She turns her back on me and walks away because the only option left is walking away. My only option is to walk away too, but I don’t. I can’t. There’s nothing left inside me that is me. Inside me is still on the ground at my feet—a liquid pool that’s love and hate and despair and more love and more hate because by god sometimes I fucking hate you for what you’re putting me through. It doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill and it’s not your fault and you can’t control your actions. I fucking hate you because I love you so goddamn much and I hate you because I can’t control you and I hate you because I have to walk away and walking away highlights my faults and inadequacies because I should be strong enough to hold all the pieces together.
But our pieces no longer fit together.
Our pieces are scattered and ragged. Our pieces were never designed to fit together let alone to stay together and now you are my girl, going.
My girl, going. She walked away from me that day. Walked into a bedroom that wasn’t hers in a house that wasn’t hers with people that weren’t hers. My girl, going turned her back on everything she’d ever known, including her dad and me. I knew at that moment that she hated me. I knew because at that moment I hated me, too. What kind of mother let’s her daughter be a my girl, going?
She walked away, my going girl and then she was simply gone.
She left and I did, too. She stayed there. I walked away. She remained. I departed.
I went to the house that used to be ours. I walked into the room that used to be hers. I left behind the shell of myself and embraced the madness. I attacked the only thing I could attack. I hurled the books from the shelf, threw the toys across the room. The evidence, I knew, had to be there and I was right. I found the bloody razorblades and the rags and the bandages, her stash to control the ebb and flow of her own life force. The shell of me grunted. The shell of me wailed. The shell of me cried for what we once were, for what we would no longer be, for our past and for our future. I cried for the her I used to know and the me I used to be and the fantasy of the grand total of our lives.
My girl, going took all of me with her. My girl, going left nothing behind.
On the floor of her room, surrounded by the detritus of her, I sat.
And then I got up.
My girl, going was me arriving. Nothing can mend without first breaking.
Soon my girl, going will be going to college. My girl, going came back home. My girl, going returned to me. Now she will be my girl, going, and all is as it should be.
My girl, going.
Something I did a lot, concurrent to trying to save my daughter's life, was cry. But what I never did was cry in public. I couldn't. I had to appear strong and in control. I had to be viewed as the mom who could and would do anything to help her daughter. I needed the clinicians and doctors and nurses to see me as strong, capable, even if I didn't feel that way.
Yesterday, I attended another of Beth Bornstein Dunnington's writing retreats here in L.A. The prompt, "My girl, going" was among the first of the day. As soon as she said the words my eyes welled. This is the one, I thought, and I'm proud to report that I cried through my entire reading of this piece. I blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and stockpiled tissues. Mascara ran down my cheeks. I cared, but not enough to stop. I didn't stop because I've learned that what kept my tears private, what kept them and me hidden, was shame. I'm no longer ashamed, and I want to speak out for those who aren't yet ready or capable. My tears yesterday were a sort of birth, an owning of me. Some of what I write here paints me in less than stellar colors, but this is true. This is real. This is what life is sometimes like with a loved one diagnosed with mental illness. Negative feelings don't mean I love my daughter less. They mean I'm human. Recovery can only be fully achieved with integration of all parts into the whole.
Thank you to all the beautiful souls who joined in this day. A safe space makes honesty possible. And thank you, especially, to the dear one who held my hand.
Thank you to my beautiful daughter. Four years have passed since the events in this story. She could easily tell me to forget it, to move on. Instead, she shares my passion and allows me to use our story to educate, support, and celebrate people living a diagnosis of mental illness and the family members who dedicate themselves to aiding in their recovery. Our story is one of hope and we willingly share it with you.