It has taken a lot of courage to share my last birthday wish from Lilly with everyone. My Birthday is just never going to be perfectly HAPPY without her. How am I supposed to wish for something, when I know what I wish for will never come true? In the grief and sadness, I’m grateful that Lilly left me this beautiful gift to read on every birthday as long as I live. I will always feel her right beside the other kids and her father wishing and loving me when I read her letter.
Oct 22, 2019 - Family Therapy
Counselor: “Lilly, I believe You have something to tell your parents”
Lilly: “Yes, I do”
Me: Praying - Oh God, please No! Please no more drugs!
Lilly: “I dropped out of school for the semester, I want to concentrate on my mental health, and I bought a puppy”
Me: “Hmmm - Lilly the rules were simple: stay in school, stay sober, and continue with rehab”
Lilly: “I’ll go back to school in January, I am sober, I am in rehab, and I need a puppy for my mental health”
Everyone: “NO LILLY! YOU DO NOT NEED A PUPPY! YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON YOURSELF”
My husband and I were not in favor of the puppy. We knew that Lilly could not look after herself let alone a puppy. This purchase was definitely made during a manic episode. Lilly needed to focus on herself. I had fought tooth and nail to keep her at home and to convince my husband to let her join another rehab to help her with both her mental health and addiction. According to the rehab counselor, I was enabling Lilly by keeping her home, providing for her, and paying for her rehab. After a relapse, a lot of rehab counsellors recommend that you kick your loved one out and let them hit ‘rock bottom’. Lilly had equal rights to the home and finances just like the other kids. Lilly would always have a home. I was NEVER going to leave Lilly! I was always going to be there for her no matter what!
Things were strained after the family therapy meeting. I was not happy about being lied to. How were we going to move forward if she wasn’t going, to be honest? I didn’t make a fuss of her dropping out of school. I knew she would finish her degree at her own pace. She was an intelligent and bright student. She loved studying psychology and wanted to make a difference in the world. Right now the priority was her mental health and getting her stable. My husband and I were going to think about the puppy. In the meantime, a friend of Lilly’s would be keeping the puppy.
Oct 23rd, 2019:
Lilly wrote me this beautiful letter and bought me a rose gold pandora ring. She was working and loved to spoil everyone. I was in tears when I read the letter. So much grief, shame, guilt, and gratitude. How could a child even think that a parent would hate them? I have never hated you Beto (my child). Why couldn’t she see the light that I saw in her? She was not the worst child nor the cause of my sadness and depression! Life had dealt us our cards and our family could get through anything and everything as long as we had each other. I used to tell her all the time that she was my greatest teacher, my best friend. She made me humble, grounded, loving, and non-judgemental. Why was she so critical and hard on herself?
What could I have done differently, did I do something wrong while I was pregnant, did I not love her enough, did I not support her enough, did I not understand her. So many doubts. I knew scientifically that bipolar disorder and addiction were genetic. On my side, my father suffered from alcohol addiction and in hindsight, I’m sure he was bipolar. On my husband’s side, there is a history of Autism and addiction. Bipolar Disorder is on the lower spectrum of the following mental illnesses: Autism, Aspergers, and Schizophrenia. Over time, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, and Aspergers can develop into Schizophrenia. I knew that Lilly had a lot of challenges ahead of her. Challenges that were out of my control. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel responsible and guilty for her genetic disposition.
Why the shame and guilt Lilly? I would go blue in the face trying to convince her that we were not ashamed of her. She had nothing to feel shameful and guilty about. She had to get off this hamster wheel. The shame and guilt would turn into destructive, depressive thoughts. Which would result in her self harming and self-sabotaging. It was a vicious cycle that was hard to break.
I have read and re-read this letter countless times since she passed. I get stuck on the following sentences:
”Thank you for saving my life countless times“
”Thank you for coming to my rescue”
“I’ll make you proud one day”
I wasn’t able to save you, my love. I wasn’t able to rescue you. In the past, I would feel it to my core when something was about to happen. This time, NOTHING! I keep replaying the night before: I was awake, I should have come to your room, I knew you were using!
June 10th, 2020 - Rosemary Beach:
Me: “Lilly, you’ve lost a lot of weight, I think you’re using”
Lilly: “You never trust me, drug test me, I know I’m clean”
Me: “No, Lilly, I’m not going to drug test you. I know you’re using. You’re 20! You need to own your diagnosis and take responsibility. I’m here if you want help. You know, WE ALL LOVE YOU, NO MATTER WHAT!”
Lilly: “You’re right! I’m NOT using but my mental health is not good. I need extra mental health support. Will you come with me to check out this rehab for mental health after graduation on July 18th?“
Me: “Sure, Lilly. I think you it would be good to get the extra support“ (Not wanting to push the drug use and make her feel defensive, guilty, and ashamed. I made a mental note to text her therapist)
Lilly: ”You know if I overdose again, my body won’t make it, I’ll die”
Me: “Lilly, before you take anything, think of the 5 of us. We will be devastated! WE LOVE
YOU! We won’t be able to live without you”
Why didn’t I drive her to an inpatient facility? Why did I tell myself, just be patient and wait till July 18th? I am her mother, it was my duty to protect and save her. She was just a child. I knew what happens when she entered the depressive, destructive state. In my heart, I know I failed you Beto. Please forgive me, Lilly.
I will always be proud of Lilly. She faced so many struggles and challenges, but met each one of them with integrity and attempts to maintain her dignity. Each time she fell, she lifted herself up and tried harder. Lilly, I pray that you choose me as your ‘mother’ in each lifetime. I promise to do better, protect you better, and love you harder!