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I wanted his old self back

Over time, Charles’ depression and addiction changed him. Depression sucked away his motivation and planted thoughts of suicide and by then his antidote was heroin.

The change was subtle, slow, and methodical. Laughter was less frequent. He slept really late. He was even more hyper social than usual.

More than once, I would wonder, “What’s going on?” Something was different. I would search his room after he left but it turned up nothing.

I would wonder why he always had to be with friends for every waking moment. I asked him about it and still remember the pained look on his face, how he diverted his eyes away from me as the afternoon sun streamed through his bedhead. His floppy, loose curls were even beautiful after his pillows had mashed it.

Why is this moment important? That look. That hesitation when he implied that he needed to be with friends.

“Mom, you know how much I hate to be alone.”

Did I ever ask why he hated being alone? I don’t know if I did.

He wasn’t looking for a job. Just sleeping late, waking up and then on the phone trying to find someone with whom to go to the river or whatever excursion was planned for the day.

I thought to myself, “Life isn’t all about hanging out with friends.” I was irked but also something else. But I didn’t say it out loud. I was sure he saw it on my face but then there was that look again, the one I couldn’t quite interpret. That is the one burned in my memory. I still see the sun lighting up the edges of his hair giving him an almost surreal, angelic appearance.

And here’s why I remember it. He wanted to tell me. He did and I could feel it.

He wanted to say, “Hey mom, I hang out with friends all the time because I’m afraid of what I will do to myself if I’m alone.” But he didn’t say it. His face did and I couldn’t translate it but the scene replayed in my head over and over and over for days and weeks after that trying to figure it out.

There was no way I would have ever come to that conclusion had he not left me the gift of his song lyrics.

My problem was that I was always thinking about his future. That’s what moms and dads do.

But he was thinking how he’s going to survive that day.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

4 thoughts on “I wanted his old self back”

  1. Anne, it is uncanny the similarities to Jill’s story that I see here.
    Behavior changes… Sleeping all the time? No motivation to get a job but just wanting to hang out with friends. Never wanting to be alone. This went on for years.
    She did and didn’t want to go on to school. She had dreams of things she wanted to do and would make the beginnings of a plan and then historically all would be dropped.
    This happened over and over. I knew sometimes it was related to drug use… Having marijuana, Xanax, and the exploratory use of many other things.
    I knew that underlying all this was deep depression and anxiety is very likely and undiagnosed mental health condition. There in lies the story of wanting to get her help but always roadblocks would arise…. For various reasons.… In the last couple years I begged her to get help and tried to help her, but then she would refuse.
    She put up many of her own ”roadblocks”. I would beg her not to be her own worst enemy… what could I do… She was no longer at home and she was an adult!
    I don’t believe I placed unrealistic expectations on her as far as school and the other competitive things that you’ve mentioned in other articles …. One of the things I learned very early on in FA was to drop all that and just want her to get well and be happy.
    I know some of the demons inside her but no matter how much I wanted to I could not get rid of them for her and I failed in motivating her in anyway to get the help she really needed.
    My love for her was not as powerful as the depression and the need to numb herself.
    She truly was an angel inside as well… She had so much love to give to everyone. Her sister said she had the biggest heart but that it could not sustain her… Her self… And her pain.

    Her Birthday is tomorrow… And I am fighting back tears every moment and I beg God to see her one more time.
    I did tell her many times that I loved her no matter what… Nothing she did would ever change that… I pray that I said it enough.
    It is amazing when I look back and feel the memories and hear her voice in the videos and recordings I have, to know how beautiful she was, is, and yet to know the pain that was almost always there.
    She deserved better. She certainly deserved a better ending.
    I want to turn back time, just like every other parent that’s been through anything like this… And it kills me that I can’t.
    Our saying was… You are my sunshine! She still is… But my sunshine was also taken away… And here I am struggling to learn to live without something I never thought I would… Not like this.
    Jayne

    1. “She certainly deserved a better ending.” That resonates with me as does your whole comment. Which I have read twice already. Thank you for not letting me feel alone, Jayne. With tears in my eyes today I think of you on Jilly’s birthday. I know you will survive and one day will thrive. Because you are learning to live with the grief. And that’s what it takes.

      1. Thank you Anne. I’m trying. Got through yesterday. Mostly felt that numbness and wanting to get it over with while wanting to make it a simple and beautiful remembrance.
        It was. Now today I cry again. Today I say Happy Birthday outloud to her and the sky. Yesterday, I could only keep it in my head. One of her friends who came reminded me that we needed to sing happy birthday.
        I hate this….this desperation for having what was, back and for what could have been different for her.
        Thank you for seeing her beautiful spirit. I’ll remember it all, but that is what I will cling too!

        1. It just takes time and pain to get to a point where it doesn’t take you to your knees for an entire month. It does soften. But the birthday always stings. For whatever crazy reason, this year’s anniversary was harder for me. But I no longer break out in ugly red rashes all over my neck and face. So that’s progress. But you are seeking support, sharing your thoughts, talking about Jilly and posting photos. All that does help the grief process. It’s totally healthy. It’s just f-ing hard.

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