|Trigger Warning: This post discusses adolescent suicidal ideation and uses adult language. Please be advised.|
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, 24 hours 7 days a week.
I didn’t post any Christmas pictures for 2022. There was nothing “festive” about this past holiday season. Weeks before Christmas, my child and I were sitting in the E.R. waiting for a pod to come available in the psychiatric unit. You see, my child told their school social worker that they were thinking of taking their life.
My child is in the 7th grade and is a biracial, pansexual, non-binary person with ADHD (pronouns: They/Them/Their). Those are the labels the world (and damn TikTok) sees in them. Beyond those labels, I see my tween: A brave, strong, brilliant, sensitive, compassionate, beautiful, creative, lovable Being with eclectic musical taste and a bold fashion sense like their Grandma June.
I remember seeing the poster for Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem in my sister’s apartment when I was a kid. Ever relevant, it inspired the title for today’s post. Please note: Mak gave their permission to post this entry in order to help other kids and their families.
On top of being in middle school, which nowadays is only a step and a half above a stint in San Quentin prison, my kiddo has survived layers of tumult at an early age— from their paternal grandmother dying of emphysema, to the divorce of their parents, along with racist-pandemic-destructive-political bullshit.
Yes, I’m back to cursing. No other words can describe the hellish experiences I have watched this Freespirit go through.
Because I was emotionally disconnected from myself in prior years, I did not help support Mak the way I could have if I studied them as closely as I studied the Facade of Success handbook. Okay real talk, there were no books involved. Just lived experiences and modeling damaging behaviors and patterns. I was failing my child because I was well-practiced in failing myself and making it look good.
But not this time and not anymore.
Some people will understand the description of having a hyper-aware outer body experience. That is the best way to describe what I felt and am just now coming out from under. I recall that we “laughed” about the toddler who had his mom jumping out of her seat every few seconds. We grimaced as a person being wheeled in held their vomit bowl as evidence while they spoke to the front desk staff. We witnessed so much during our wait while I went over the list of issues that got us there: Other people’s expectations of what their grades “should be,” constant fighting and rotation within their friend group, rejection of a crush, being a Student of Color with all white teachers with varying degrees of experience and burnout, me and their dad being hostile with each other…all of it. All of us.
The medical team was remarkable and very responsive to Makkie’s needs. A Helpful Tip: If you ever have to stay overnight at the hospital with a patient, make sure to bring the nursing staff something to eat. Those shifts are long.
Mak tried to sleep while a nurse kept watch over the entire night (quite literally a Suicide Watch– watching over someone who may be suicidal). As I sat in the chair next to Mak’s bed, I listened to the nurses’ conversations (I’m always ear hustling). There was a particular patient that they discussed that helped underscore how important it is to show up and be fully present for our loved ones as they regain their mental and emotional strength.
When we first reached the unit where Mak was going to be assigned, there was a person who was having a psychotic break. It seems she was reliving violations done to her by others. Screaming against those who were not physically present but who mentally and emotionally were very much real and present in this person’s mind. As the security team surrounded the person’s room, she became even more agitated. I checked in with Mak, assuring them that they were safe and that the woman was just having a hard time. Mak was not shaken at all and requested that I not stare at the person because doing so may “…make them feel bad.”
Still thoughtful even in their time of distress.
Later that night, I heard the nurses talking about the same person. How she had no one to check on her and nowhere to go when she was stable enough for release.
I am quick to admit that I’m still working on the whole Mothering thing. As I have mentioned previously, I am a bit of a hovercraft parent at times and I’m still working on the balance between “Old School” parenting and “Gentle Parenting.” However, one thing is for certain; I always show up.
At times I struggle at being a good listener. It takes a great deal of work for me to not go into fix-it or coaching mode, but I am learning to get hyper-focused to hear my kiddo’s stories.
The other area that I know I excel in is that I am a willing and active lifelong learner. I will keep studying my child so I can continue to show up for them in the ways they need me to show up. Whether it’s sitting in the school parking lot ready to “whoride” through the school because of a mass shooting threat, or following the school bus because the driver looks “a little bit unsure of the route,” I will continue to show up in the ways that matter most. We will be there.
As I am able to reflect on the experience now, I realize that if this scare happened 3 years ago, I would have likely lost my child. During that time, I was mentally unwell and emotionally unsafe. I thank God for the therapy that Mak and I have had since then that is helping us work through life’s challenges.
A Personal Lesson: It is critical that if a person is to be mentally/emotionally and spiritually healthy, the family (biological and chosen) need to be actively engaged in the process, as well as doing their own healing work.
So no, there are no pictures of Christmas trees, presents or candle lighting for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa posted on social media for 2022 (we did celebrate the holidays as a unit of three for the first time since 2018). What we have gotten is additional support for Mak and for us as co-parents who are committed to our child living a long and healthy life.
2023 is teaching us about celebrating every moment that goes well, making quick course corrections when needed, and dismantling generational curses/patterns so that the generational growth and truths can be revealed through and in us.
To those families who have had a child express thoughts of ending their life or have engaged in self-harm: Keep showing up and fighting for them and do not allow shame to silence you or them. Please continue to reach out for support and resources in the community and at your kid’s school for them and also for yourself.
I have mentioned in a previous post that there is a saying in the Learning and Leadership world of “…we can only lead as far as we’ve gone ourselves.” Your kids deserve to have emotionally healthy people around them and so do you. They deserve your love and so do you. They deserve you at your best and you deserve the same. They deserve to live to see every sunrise and every sunset. So. Do. You.
One more sunrise.
One more sunset.
Live to see a new day.
There is always a new day.
Well, now that I’m back to being a cussing mama, I will end my post this way…
Fuck Mike. I would much rather be like Mak.