A year ago my family was on vacation in Hawaii the week after Christmas. On the third night of our trip, my step dad ran into my room at 12:45 in the morning. He told me there was something wrong with my mom. I ran into their bedroom and saw my mom laying there gasping for breath. She was rushed to the closest hospital, which was 45 minutes away. By the time we arrived, they told us she had passed due to a heart attack. I was in shock. I never thought I would lose my mom this early in my life. She was only 56 and for most of her life had taken good care of herself by eating well and exercising. My mom was my best friend. We had an extremely unique mother/daughter relationship, I told her everything and we spent a lot of time together.
Losing my mom has affected me in a lot of aspects. When she died, there was only a week left of vacation before I was supposed to come back to school. I came back to Cal Poly hoping to be able to participate in Winter Quarter because I knew my mom valued my education more than anything and I didnt want to disappoint her. I tried really hard, but I had depression and anxiety attacks regularly. This made interacting with friends and going to classes really difficult. Most days I did not want to get out of bed and I kept to myself a lot. I ended up having to withdraw from the quarter because I could not get myself to put in the work that I needed to in order to succeed in my classes, even with a lightened schedule.
The most difficult part of this experience is not having the one person I always needed to support me. Whenever something bad happened, I would always go to my mom first, she always knew what to do and how to make me feel better. Since she is no longer here, I feel like I don’t have anyone to make me feel better. My friends and family have all been really supportive, but the feeling is not the same as having a mom there to help you through the difficult times in life. It is hard to imagine that she will no longer be there for the big moments of my life. She will not get to see me graduate, get married, have children, or anything else that a mother should be there for.
I do not think that I have gotten to the point of overcoming and growing from this yet. Every single day is a struggle. I struggle to see the point in doing things without my mom here, I struggle to see why we put so much effort into school and work if there is a possibility that we will never make it to see the fruits of our labor such as retirement. I try to remind myself that there are people other than my mom who love me and care about me, but it is still difficult. To help myself in day to day life, I got an emotional support dog. Some people may see these dogs as just pets, but he is so much more than that to me. He is someone who relies on me. When I am having my days where I just want to stay in bed and not do anything, I have to remind myself that there is someone who depends on me. He needs food and exercise and he needs a lot of things done for him because he can’t do things for himself. He forces me to not be selfish and to think about what he needs. When he is happy, I am happy. He also helps me when I am feeling like there is no one else I can go to. He is always there, always loving, and a companion that I can rely on.
I think the hardest part of all of this has been the thoughts of not wanting to continue living. When you struggle to see the point of things, you begin to think that ending it all is a good option. Sometimes it is not about having no one to talk to or feeling alone, it is about life in general and having a hard time seeing the point of it. I have only shared these thoughts with three people because suicide is a very difficult concept for some people to understand. Some people will call you selfish for having these thoughts or it makes them uncomfortable to talk about. When you already feel unhappy, you do not want to scare friends and family or make them think something is wrong with you by sharing these thoughts. Although mental health has become more of an open topic recently, it is still hard to gauge who will understand where you are coming from when you share your thoughts and feelings. I guess I never shared this on social media because I was afraid of the responses people would have and I also did not want pity from people. I had enough people telling me their opinions and thoughts on what I should do after my mom died, and I understand that people are only coming from a place of love, but it can be stressful to hear so many different ideas on how you should live your life.
There have been times where I have thought about writing an essay or letter to express to the people I care about how I have been feeling and share it on Facebook, but I am afraid of the responses people may have. People always say “I am always here to talk if you need to” but that is not always what is needed. I feel like people would be scared and worried if I were to share these thoughts and feelings on social media. I do not want people to constantly be keeping an eye on me because they are scared of what I might do. I am afraid I would lose the freedoms every college student has if I told people about how I have been feeling. Everyone knows that I miss my mom a lot but I have never shared the deeper thoughts and feelings. People are sympathetic, but I think it is a hard concept for people who have never been in this kind of situation. I feel like some people will never understand the life long effect this is going to have on me.
If I talked to someone going through a similar experience, I would say that whatever you are feeling is ok to be feeling. There is no one right way to respond to this kind of situation. Some people have a delayed response in emotions and some people feel it really really hard. Whatever it is, just do whatever makes you feel better. It is ok to take suggestions from other people on what works for them, but every person is different and do not feel bad about yourself if something that works for one person does not work for you.