I was taking her to school after a morning appointment. We were chatting about some plans that she had with her father later that evening. I remarked how much fun she'd be having going to a diner that she and I had previously gone to. She replied that I was welcome to join them. It was at this point that I felt the tiniest of tears forming on my eyelids. I told my daughter about them and how silly and stupid I felt. She reassured me by telling me that it wasn't silly or stupid. I then went on to tell her how much it meant to me to be invited to join them on their father/ daughter date.
When my daughter was so unstable, she hated me. She resented that I had quit my job to care for her. She only knew her father as her caretaker. He was the stay at home parent since I was so busy working full time. As I drove along, I reminded her of these things. While we reflected on some very dark days in our family's history, my daughter got very quiet. Then, in what can only be called a moment of clarity and wisdom, my daughter said, "Mom I'm sorry for any physical, emotional or mental harm that I caused you in the past. I'm sorry for any scars you have on your heart that are from me. I hope that you will forgive me."
At that point, I lost it. The flood gates were opened. These very special words just came out of a 12 year old child's mouth. Who was this child? Wow! I never thought I'd ever get an apology from her. If I did, it wouldn't be for years to come.
As I heard these words, I thought of all of the moms and dads who may never get apologies from their children. Some parents of adult children with mental illnesses are entering their twilight years. I consider these words a priceless gift.
Once I'd dried my eyes with the back of my sleeve, my daughter went on to tell me that she doesn't like thinking about the times when she was aggressive. For her they are painful memories. She knows talking about them is part of the healing process for our whole family. She explained to me that her experiences, good and bad, with mental illness; are why she wants to continue to tell our law makers about changes that need to be made in our mental health system. She said, "As long as they want me to, I will keep going to Washington, D.C. I want to let others know that it is OK to have a mental illness. I'm not a bad person. My brain was all jumbled up and confused."
Soon after this, we arrived at her school. Before exiting the car, I asked her if I could share her powerful words with others. She graciously agreed.
I understand that my daughter still has many more years under my roof. Some of those years may be very turbulent ones. For today, I will cling to the words that were music to my ears. The memory of these words may serve me well during periods of instability. They show me what my daughter's true heart's desire is. I will continue to help her advocate for herself and others like her.
Now excuse me while I get some more Kleenex.
My daughter and I on Capitol Hill in 2016