I was living in a world full of hope, happiness and love before Oscar died. I believed that so long as I kept putting my recovery first, which included all of the time that I was spending on myself to go to meetings, play music and exercise, that I was setting an example for Oscar that would somehow rub off on him. Somehow it would inspire him to recover from his depression. Before Oscar died I lived in a world that avoided conversations about suicide. I lived in a world that denied the reality of mental illness. A world that believed mental illness was a choice.
The world I lived in was like a beautiful, fragrant garden. An early morning garden where the leaves and petals of the plants and flowers are still covered in a soft, filmy dew. A garden full of bright colors and rare blossoms. The warm morning sun slowly melting away the chill of the night before. Steam, like fog, slowly creeping into the brightening sky.
After Oscar died the world instantly plunged into darkness. While my eyes were adjusting to the lack of light I had to use my hands to feel my way in this new place. I would slowly reach forward, shyly testing my new boundaries. The pain no matter where I placed my hand, or how gingerly I attempted to discover the new terrain was shocking. All sides of this new world pressed in on me, causing the greatest pain I have ever felt. The world that was once bright and full of hope was now small, black and lifeless. Suffering was my new companion. As I slowly, so slowly, learned to integrate this new sensory stimuli my vision began to see another world. As my brain began to make sense out of this new stimulus my understanding of life without Oscar grew.
The world I live in now, two years since Oscar died, is gray. There are moments of joy and happiness. Pierce, Vivian and Phoenix’s smiles always bring light. I have learned how to carry the weight of my grief. I can see the garden again, it is just colorless now. The fragrance of the sweet blossoms has gone. It is shrouded in a gray haze.
I see things that I didn’t see before. Life is now defined by death. My extreme ignorance regarding mental illness has been replaced with the keen wisdom of lived experience and a clinical understanding grown from hours of research. Mental illness is not a choice. Suicide is a disease process that affects certain regions of the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Suicide has it’s own cluster of diagnosable symptoms.
Also in this new world, one where Oscar is dead, I have a new sense of the other side. I feel Oscar on the other side. I feel his spirit self. His angel self. He has been making himself known to me through dreams and impossible coincidences since the moment of his death, when he crossed from this plane of existence into the other. The first time that Oscar hugged me in a dream after he died I felt an incredible comfort, like an itch was being scratched that I could not reach no matter how hard I tried. Within that dream, after that dream hug, Oscar said to me, “Mom, keep yourself open to me and I will be able to keep doing the work that needs to be done.” And so I do, and so I will.
In this brave new world without a living, breathing Oscar I will keep having the conversation that no one wants to have, the one about pediatric suicide.