It’s Not Even My Story To Tell


I debated about sharing these words.

Once typed, the words are out there in the world for anyone to read. And it’s a story that isn’t really mine to tell. I’m unsure if my words can capture the true essence of all that this story has become because this story remains to be finished. It’s a story of a Mother and Daughter. It’s a story about family, sickness, forgiveness and mistakes. But mostly, it’s a story about love.

How easy it was for me to judge the Mother, how quickly I made up my mind that her actions were unjust, or not right, or how many things she could have handled differently. But I guess we all feel that way, as outsiders looking in on the intrinsically drawn notions of family dynamics, most that we know nothing about. I’m trying to be better, to give her the benefit of the doubt, to appreciate that this Mother was doing the best that she knew how.

We are all so keen to distinguish someone else’s faults and struggles. Judging gives us permission to pat ourselves on the back knowing that surely to God; we would have handled their burdens with more grace and style. We would have had all the right answers at the most opportune moments.

This Mother loved her Daughter. She loved her when, as a three-year-old, she cut off most of her hair on the day before family portraits. She loved her at bedtime when she begged for “just one more story.” She loved her more every day when she thought it would be impossible for her heart to stretch any more than it already had.

Then this daughter hit the teenage angst years. This Mother believed that it was a stage, reminded of a not-so-distant memory of her own teenage rebellious streak. So she did nothing but let it play out. It was obvious to anyone who entered the house that something wasn’t right. This daughter was always hiding in her room, disengaged from anything remotely social. When asked, the mother would roll her eyes and excuse it as typical teenage behavior. Did she think it was normal? Why didn’t she demand that her daughter come out of her room and engage in normal family discussions? But there I go, judging again…

One day, to the utter amazement of this distracted Mother, she got a call from her daughter’s school. The guidance counselor shattered this Mother’s awareness to the core. Was she aware her daughter had been cutting herself? No, of course not? What did that mean “cutting herself?”

There were razor blades, skin, scars, and bleeding. Why on earth would a kid intentionally cut up their body? Emotional pain or perhaps they wanted attention, and they were unable to cope with pressure. Wait. What?
There were referrals to mental health providers, psychiatrists, therapists, and counseling. Everything changed. This Mother finally woke up. She raided her daughter’s room, her life, and privacy. She now realized what had been going on behind that closed door. Why hadn’t she done it sooner?

Finally, this Mother talked with her daughter and cried with her. She pleaded with her and wanted answers the girl wasn’t capable of giving. She wanted to know the how and why? She didn’t understand how her daughter with everything she had, and a life of endless potential would take her beautiful body and carve it up.

The Mother got mad. She felt guilt, shame, and denial, but mostly anger. Instead of reaching out to her daughter, she bottled up her emotions and became mad. This Mother dragged her daughter to months of therapy. She took her to sleep studies with a doctor that was positive that everything would be fine as long as this child would just get an adequate night’s sleep. Progress was nonexistent, but the Mother continued on this path because there were no other options. This Mother did all of this alone.

It was months before she told anyone what was happening at home, and even then she mentioned it only briefly. People never heard the depths of how deep this had run into her veins, and her thoughts. It robbed the mother of sleep and peace. Why didn’t this mother reach out?

The doctors didn’t help. It was apparent when the mother found the daughter bleeding and full of pills one morning. The daughter no longer wanted to live. She saw life without hope, and wanted to be dead. Yet, even at the hospital, the Mother didn’t reach out. She didn’t demand that her daughter stay and get help when the psychiatrist deemed her fit to go home. She didn’t plead for a different medication, or deeper therapy.

No, instead she traded her sleep for what the doctors thought best. She camped out, night after night in her hallway listening for any sound from her daughter’s room. The mother listened for any clue the daughter may be thinking about ending her life again. This Mother was a frazzled mess of short-term memory problems and extreme fatigue. The guilt gnawed at her soul. This Mother allowed her daughter’s illness to poison the entire family until one day it stopped. Not because she didn’t care, but because she cared too much. She cared for her work that was being unfinished. She cared for her entire family that was being neglected. She cared for a mind without the stress and a conscience without guilt.

She cared enough to sleep in her own bed again, to laugh when things were funny and sing along with the radio. That mother told her daughter that she was no longer going to stop living to try and keep her safe. She was no longer going to wait for the day the daughter killed herself. She was going to live her life. The mother realized no amount of waiting could stop the inevitable. Either the daughter was going to live or she wasn’t, but this Mother wasn’t going to give up her life anymore. Wasn’t that the worst possible thing a person could say to a suicidal teenager?

The strangest thing happened. The Mother began living again, and you know what? Slowly, the daughter did too. It took years. They took some steps backward. The Mother joined a support group of other parents facing the same issues. The Daughter found a group of teenagers for support.

Even now that things are looking up, I still can’t help but to be critical of the way that mother handled everything. I try and remind myself that she did the best she could, but sometimes I’m still critical about the details.
Such is life when you are unsure of the entire story, especially one that is still ongoing. I know I was hesitant to write these words because it wasn’t my story to tell. It was only half mine. I am that Mother, and that is my Daughter.
This story isn’t finished, not even close. My Daughter still has her whole life ahead to live. We both do, one forgiving step at a time.


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About the Author | Angela Penny

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1 comment to "It’s Not Even My Story To Tell"

  • Katherine

    I am that mother as well and my daughter and I were slower to pick up the pace and face the one reality we each had to face.Your story is ongoing as well is ours. My daughter now in her 40’s, you could have been writing about her and her childhood and her teenage years but I did not know what to do but to stand by her side and help her try to correct her course as best we could but now my husband and I in our 60s supporting and acting as guardians to our two grandchildren while my daughter works at being able to care for herself. We finally had to let go of expecting normal. She is bipolar, recently diagnsosed and a self-medicator for both. In the last seven years when we brought her home to try to help her stand on her own we had no idea how much help she needed. We had to choose whose lives were more important to protect and how to let go and give space to some stranger that screams at you in the ER to leave so she can weave her lies to the behavioral therapist who will be evaluating her because of the slit wrist and the extremely dangerous levels of alcholol and maybe other substances. I had got a call from my 11 nearyly 12 year old grandaughter at 2:00 Am in the morning telling me clearly that “Mom cut herself and the ambulance is taking her to the hospital and she wants you there”. We tried to get her help and all that did was embed her further into her manic phases which spelled danger and disaster for herself and her children, so when she got the chance to leave with some stranger while leaving her children with us she took it. She has to choose to have a life rather than continuing to try to destroy her life. But I am saying no more unless it impacts the safety of her children when she shows up reeking from the smell of alcholol and expecting to take the children for a visit. I am telling you the nightmare only gets worse by expecting her happiness that is hers to define. But you are so right the story continues. What I have learned is the only life we really have any right to is our own and although we may love the other equally to our own self and source we cant love with conditions placed on that love otherwise it is bondage we offer other than freedom to be, freedom to be loved and love. Life is a funny thing. I am now 3,000 miles away from my daughter, my husband is back home with help by a live in sitter for the children who see their mother with a sleepover usually each weekend unless something else takes precedence. Still the space between my daughter and I is but a small crack in the mountain that became us. Your story is a so much like our story a story about learning to recognize and give and be unconditional love. That is all we have power over whether we offer conditions in the guise of Love or we accept no conditions and accept the powerful surrender and allowing that brings us to our knees at the face of our mountain and as we learn to love with out condition and we learn to offer love without condition and we learn to be love without condition we take a small step up that mountain and maybe one day we will experience the summit but whereever we are on the mountain path is just exactly where we are to be as we trust love that offers no condition for being loved or for loving. Learn to name the conditions that insist on being better at providing you unconditional love and learn that these are your decievers or your tricksters name them and let them go on done your mountain you no longer need to proceed further with their weight or confusion. Clarity of emotions, clarity in body mind and spirit offers and affords the wisdom that comes from picking back up and taking the next step up the mountain with the assistance only of no conditions to accept or offer Love. I feel as if I lost a daughter but all I really lost was my expectation and defintion of who my daughter was or should be “healthy, happy and free to choose for herself” Ooops did I say free to choose one giant condition I had to break down moment by moment. I have no idea who my daughter is but I do know she is now old enough to make her decisions and that there is a social services safety net there for her as well as any other and if she wants to have a relationship with me my first question is under what conditions, love comes without conditions but relationships come with one and that is trust – trust in the other and trust in oneself to allow love to be non conditional but not allow oneself to be decieved by the lure of love that is wrapped around dishonesty or another reason for offering love. Best of luck to you and just know you have to love and discover yourself most importantly.