Original drawing by Melissa M. Cook

My heart is fighting me again. This time is not as severe as before. Before my last surgery. Yet it is bad. I do not believe I need valve surgery again. I was told I should never need it again. However, something is lurking within me. Something that needs to be found. Something that needs to be treated. Last night and today was the point at which I gave up my battle with wishful thinking. With an urge to avoid possibly painful and intimidating treatment. I pulled my self-imposed blinkers off. I came to be saved. Am I exaggerating? I don’t think so. Maybe I will survive without a diagnosis. Without treatment. Yet life would be barely worth living. The only thing keeping me going would be my children.

Currently, I sit on the couch asking my children to help me. To help themselves. We have lived in our apartment for months. I have yet to take a walk around the block. I’ve never been a huge walker, but I was always willing to go for a stroll. Memories of me walking from work to this hospital and back, in sub-zero conditions, one and a half miles each way fight against my excuses for my current condition. I am not willing to resign myself to a miserable life, contracting day by day, until it is not a life at all.

I have suffered from severe mental illness. It remains present, but as a feeble replica of itself. I am functioning. Mentally. I am outwardly loving towards my children. I give enough of a shit to come here today. Will the rug be pulled out from under me now? Will whatever that is wrong with me be the end? Was my struggle to climb out the other side of depression pointless? The answer has to be “no”. Two more years of unequivocal, overpowering love for my children. For me. Holding them in my arms. Rocking them. Watching their beautiful bodies and minds as they sleep. Somehow containing a need to be with them so close that we might be one. Tears and my bursting heart, colliding into an impossibly furious, violent, yet perfect state. The heart of my mind. My shuffling, sputtering, weak, pathetic, useless, sweeping of cells, shoddily put together into a thing that is nearly futile in its effort to function as an object to sustain my life. That physical heart. My physical heart. That which will likely be my undoing.

The organ that pumps feebly and out of time. A crushing hand, perhaps my own, suffocating itself, suffocating me. Blood oozing out of the chambers through the vessels. That which should be attached to my body, floats in place or is sometimes held by me. Not cradled. Squeezed. My hand is angry. My pitiful yolk, too stupid to fight back. In its brain, continually gushing the elixir of my life. In reality, resembling an ancient, near-dead, decrepit, ruinous thing. A clock ticking to its own beat. Proud of itself for keeping time. Unheeding. Ignorant. Unknowing.

He is destined to stop, you know. To stop early. Before what might have been his time. My time. He will not reach old age. I will not reach old age. I want to fight the prick. I’m pissed. At him. Not at my childhood medical team. They didn’t know. In fact, they don’t know. Those doctors are four thousand miles away. They are retired. I was an anomaly. This was not supposed to happen. All that remains is it, him. And so that, he, is what I blame. I ponder if I am cutting off my nose to spite my face. A phrase so silly and trite means nothing. Am I really doing more damage because I hate him? What’s the point of trying? The point is that a miserable life, followed by a miserable death, is the inevitable outcome.

I have the ability to think abstractly. I am an evolved homo sapiens. There is a reason we are the species that has risen to the top on our planet. Morality aside, we are here. Allowing my emotions to cause misery and doom for me and scarring and emotional damage to my children, is idiocy. Yet, if my best efforts result in a slow wade through sludge, and silt, and slime… Is there a point for my children to see me live miserably despite best efforts? To have their most vivid memories of me be wretched? For guilt to take up permanent home in their heads for leaving home to live their own lives? For leaving me behind? Is giving up my freedom, for them or for me? Is a dead parent easier to mourn than a specter of one? A parent who is in the room and screaming in her silence? They should be set free, but do I teach them then, that quitting is okay? Is giving up precious gift, this blessed life (as some might say) somehow wrong? Or is knowing when to quit a quality to be lauded?

My darlings. My babies. To those I reach out to. I love you. With a ferocious vigor, unquenchable by all. When we are apart, my arms are around you. More forceful than they could ever be face-to-face or in life. My protective life force (or death force) surrounds you. A pool of invisible energy. Strong yet tame. Safe. There. Never doubt me for a minute. My person was flawed. Is flawed. Yet as your mother, I am indestructible. Unstoppable. Bear with me as I figure this out. As the healers figure it out. As IT or HE figures it out. If it can be figured out. I want to see it through. Parent you as long, as far, as best I can. It’s not fair on you for me to go. You have so much more to get from me. I have so much to give. I see in you, things you cannot imagine. You are amazing. I am not such a parent to think you are perfect. Such a being does not exist. It is healthy to be flawed. I am the parent. You are the child. I will lead our tango and you must push back. Through that, you will flourish. For now, I’ll continue to fight. And you must continue to grow.

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