By: Tosha Maaks
I am a lucky suicide survivor. In 2008 I tried to end my life after a hard day at my job. I came home, and I said good-bye to my children, and I climbed into bed to snuggle with my middle child and say my good-byes to him. My husband knew something didn’t seem right and knew how my state of mind had been in the previous days. He asked me what I was doing, and I quietly said to him, “I am saying my good-byes” and he didn’t hesitate; he knew what I had done and he grabbed the phone and called 911.
I was admitted to the hospital at that time. When I got out the Department of Children and Family Services came to my home to see if my children were ever at risk or in danger during the time of my attempt on my life. It was decided since my husband was home they were never at risk. However, the fact that DCFS had to come to my house stuck with me and made me more determined to get better.
I love being a mom and my children were and are my life. I didn’t know what I would do if they would have been taken away from me. I made the decision that I wanted to get better so that my children and my husband would want me in their life. I didn’t want my children to have to be embarrassed by me because of my illness. We started to openly discuss my bipolar disorder in my household to break the stigma around them and their friends.
Speaking openly about bipolar disorder has been the best choice for my family. It has given all of us the chance to be more compassionate towards others. It also has given my children the opportunity to recognize when they may not be feeling the best mentally and may need a break. They have learned how to say no to over stressing themselves out and how not to take on too much. I am very proud of that. I am glad that they can recognize what is most important and how to prioritize what needs to be done to stay mentally strong.
They have also been able to teach their friends that having a mental illness is just like having a broken arm. Their friends are not scared to come to our house and love to hang out at our house because we have such a welcoming home with open communication. It isn’t a place where they must hide when they aren’t feeling their best or when they are having a bad day. They know that at our house we have an open-door policy and that we are here to talk if they need it. They are all sort of like my extra kids and I think of them as extensions of my own children.
Being a survivor of suicide taught me that I didn’t want to ever leave my children. However, it taught me to speak openly with my kids about what happened. They never remember a time honestly where we didn’t talk about mom’s bipolar disorder. I am glad they know and don’t feel they have to hide it. I am thankful that they accept me for me. I am a proud mom of four boys. Four well mannered, well behaved boys, and I think being bipolar helped me in parenting them. It gave me the opportunity to be more real and explain my flaws. I helped me tell them why I couldn’t do things other moms could do. It just made more sense not to hide my illness from my kids and I will never regret that choice.