A couple of months ago, my son noticed a change in me. He said, “Hey Mom, what’s wrong with your eyes?”
I was no longer able to hide it from him, the full throttle visitation of my manic depressive illness, the illness I secretly called my black bitch, a nod to Winston Churchill’s “black dog.” This time, my bitch was frustrating my concentration and numbing my senses. The last time she pounced on me this hard my son was a baby.
I didn’t answer him but he knew. He was a smart boy and knew about me taking the medications, knew how much the illness had cost me and his father, knew it was the kind of thing that could become dangerous.
When I got up from the sofa, he followed me into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and poured him a Coke. He was staring at the knife block. When I first told him why I was on meds, he started asking me and his dad about all the ways a person could kill himself.
I knew it was vital I get ahold of myself right away, that I send that slathering hound back to a dark corner with a bone. So I took his chin in my fingers and moved his face gently to mine. “Hey,” I said. His eyes slild away. He didn’t want me to read him. “Hey,” I repeated softly and when I caught his gaze, I looked at him as steadily as I could manage, right into those light blue eyes and said, “I would never do that, son. Never.” And then I took him in my arms and I held him for a minute.
And then he went off to play.
“Bitch,” I said, under my breath. And for a moment, I was free.
First appeared in A-Minor Magazine under the title “Needful Words”