I Didn’t Want You to Know Because…
“You can tell me anything,” she said from the stove as I set the table.
A smile began to creep across my face as she continued.
“I will always love you no matter what, so you should never be afraid to tell me anything.”
It’s not that I didn’t want you to know because I was afraid you wouldn’t love me. I didn’t want you to know because of how much you love me.
I didn’t want you to know because of that look in your eyes-the little wobble of your pupils. I didn’t want you to know because of the way you’ve voice ca-ca-catches and changes in tone as I vent to you over the phone.
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
I know you ask out of genuine concern but, I’m not going to kill myself because they ran out of cheese at the burrito line. I’m not going to kill myself because I forgot to print something out before class. I’m not going to kill myself because I cracked my phone screen.
I didn’t want you to know because I didn’t want you to worry. I can see you after I hang up the phone. I sense you resting your elbows on the grey tiles of our kitchen’s island, creating creases in them as you replay our conversations over and over and over again in your head. Did you miss any signs, symptoms, or clues to ensure the truth in each syllable of “I’m fine”?
Are you ok? Do you feel fine? I didn’t want you to have to share this weight. You already carry so much; you don’t need to share in my burden. You don’t need to hold my hand anymore.
I didn’t want you to know, but you were still the first person I could think to call. I was walking in the warm air, the sun low enough where it was starting to change from yellow to gold. I could hear the music as it traveled through the trees, floating on the spring breeze outward from cozy blankets on the green. Walking back from class, I was careful not to step on any of the cracks.
All the normal pleasantries were there, as was part of our daily routine.
But wait! Just one more thing:
“I think I have an unhealthy relationship with eating.”
“Okay,” you said, leaving nowhere near the amount of space I thought would be there in between. There should have been enough space for me to question whether or not you were still on the line. It should have been a long somber silence ringing out over the joyous spring soundtrack in the distance. But no–so natural, so easy, so fine-with-it. It was almost like you expected it.
This wasn’t everything.
It was a start, and it seemed to go well enough. But, after I hung up, I could see your train of thought, running backwards toward every memory that we had together: all the meals and snacks when I was little, looking for any possible mistakes that needed correcting. The thought of you losing sleep kept me up that entire night.
I didn’t want you to know because I didn’t want you to think it was your fault. I didn’t want you to think that you failed.
Some Sunday mornings I can still feel the warmth of our family cuddles sessions in your queen sized bed, radiating on my skin fourteen years later. Sometimes I can hear your voice singing “Now it’s time to brush your teeth” the tune of Wheels On the Bus echoing on the stained tiles of my apartment bathroom. Sometimes I can hear our giggles in every tick-tick-tick of the sprinklers in the summer time. Everytime I see tulips I can’t help but think of our Springs, digging around the garden with dirt-crusted knees. How the sunlight still brings out the little reddish flecks in my brown hair to match yours, making me feel even more a part of you. I think of blasting “Yeah” by Usher on the radio every time it came on, breaking it down at the stop lights in your silver Honda, windows down, no matter who was in the car next to us.
Lastly, and selfishly, I didn’t want you to know because I didn’t want to see your face when you heard it. I didn’t want to see your eyes start to squint, synchronizing with the twitch of your lip as I said to the doctor “I want to kill myself.”
You, the self proclaimed master of the poker face, have never been good at hiding your emotions when it comes to your kids. I get my expressive face from you.
I didn’t want you to know because I didn’t want to hurt you. This is why I didn’t go through with it in the end.
Still, I’m glad I told you.
I wish “Yeah” by Usher came on the radio that afternoon on our ride to the doctor. I could feel the exposed parts of my legs sticking to the black leather seats, and I was already beginning to dread the process of peeling myself off of them. The lack of comfort in the forced small-talk between us turned the thick air of summer more soupy and uncertain.
“How did you sleep? Did you dream? Man, isnt it a nice day?”
We both felt our anxiety rise with every white line passing by. But there was nothing to be uncertain about. This was all a part of the routine.
Depression is a symptom of fibromyalgia. I have been depressed on and off for about nine years now, but I can only blame fibro for about five of them. It started in fifth grade, thanks to those lovely little hormone changes, and seems to get worse every year. I have what I like to call reverse seasonal depression. Instead of being depressed in the winter because of lack of light, I become depressed in the spring and summer. I didn’t know if this is the doctor we should be seeing, but it was one more step in what I hoped was the right direction.
“I don’t think they validate parking anymore.”
My mom’s voice interrupted my thoughts
“Yeah?” I questioned, trying my best to feign interest.
“Yeah, last time I was here I don’t think they stamped my card.”
“What bullshit! We’re already paying them to come here,” I scoffed, sitting up in the car seat I hadn’t realized I’d been slouching in
“I know! It’s crazy, my lady. Crazy!”
She says in a playful tone, trying to break up the unnecessary tension as we park. Hint taken.
“You’re right, Sharon. It’s crazy.” I smiled as I unbuckled my seat belt.
“What did you say?” she asked, leaving her mouth in an open smile
“You’re right, Sharon.”
“Don’t call me Sharon,” she said shaking her head.
“But Sharon, that’s your name,” I said getting out of the car.
“Don’t call me Sharon.”
“Sharon!” I yelled over the car.
“Don’t call me Sharon!” she said walking over to me
“Shaarrooooooon!” I said in my best Osbourne voice. She started to poke at me.
“Ow, don’t poke me!” I giggled.
“What did you say?”
“What did you say?”
“Mom! Mom!” I pleaded instead of uncle.
“That’s right,” she said, putting her arms around me as we walked through the sliding glass doors. Normally they don’t see us, those stupid motion detectors. My mind brings me back to the many times we’ve stood in front of CVS or Big Y waving our arms in front of the closed doors for five minutes, only for them to be opened by someone walking up behind us.
The elevator door opened. We walked in and she pressed our floor number with her elbow, because who knows how many people have touched those buttons?
“What company is it?” I asked looking around for a logo.
“Kone,” she said pointing to the inspection form.
“Ew,” I joked. My dad is an elevator mechanic for Schindler, so whenever we’re in one, we like to check and see if it’s one of his.
The doors opened. We walked down the hallway, greeted by the office doors’ frosted glass. They opened, the hospital smell seeping into my nose. You could tell that someone tried to cover the stench up with the three, friendly flower arrangements on the check-in desk and the Febreze air fresheners periodically spraying lavender lemon fresh. Underneath the fresh and fake floral aromas, soaked into to the very foundation of the room, was the persisting smell.
I followed my mom across the blue-gray carpet to one of the waiting room couches. Colleges and hospitals must get their furniture from the same places. The upholstery was different, but these were definitely the same couches in my library at school. I shared my epiphany with my mom, and began to sit next to her.
“Wait, what are you doing?” Her question makes me stop mid-squat.
“How are they gonna know that you’re here if you don’t check in?”
“Don’t you do that?”
“Morgan,” she said in her cool, casual parent voice. “You’re eighteen. Go check yourself in.”
I dragged my feet over to the rounded island in the middle of the office. I rested my hand on the desks fake oak finish, making polite eye contact with the woman on the phone behind the sliding glass. I winced with the screeeeeech of the it heavy sliding.
I smiled to complete the script: Morgan Stabile. Yes. No. I don’t know. Okay. Thank you.
Returning to my mom with clipboard in hand, I sat next to her and stared at the words. I watched them move around the page, as my eyes went from focusing on the black letters to the spaces in between them. I shook my head slightly, blinking heavily for a minute, then looked to my left. Sure enough, Sharon was there, immersed in her Bejeweled iPad game, but as soon a she heard the first scratch of pen against cardboard, she rejoined me.
“Give that to me.” She closed her game and reached for the clipboard
“But I’m 18 now. I can check myself in,” I said, moving the board away from her reach.
“Yeah, but your handwriting is still messy,” she said, grabbing the clipboard from me, “and mama can still do some things for you.”
She flashed a full smile. I returned it with a full-half smile: full because all my teeth were showing, half because I was not smiling on the inside.
I don’t understand why it’s important for you to be on time for doctor’s appointments when they always run late. All doctors run late, or at least all of my family doctors do. I wonder if it’s a requirement to get into med school: running late and having shitty handwriting. If this was the case, I could be a doctor no problem.
A full thirty minutes of staring at different spots in the room passes, and I couldn’t force my brain to space out for much longer. I definitely wanted to save at least five minutes of that in case of emergency boredom during the actual appointment. I grabbed a magazine from the coffee table in front of us and started to flip through the glossy pages, just to hear it’s floppy, high-pitched wobble sound. Anything was better than the sunny smiley pop music they played. If I heard “It’s a Beautiful Day” one more time, I might have just thrown a chair at the window behind us.
I turned my attention from inspecting the durability of the glass window behind me, to the smiling nurse standing by the door. I got up walked about halfway to her.
Waited for Sharon to get her purse together.
I flinched as the door auto locked shut behind us. It echoed in my head as we walked into the examining room, which was then replaced by the echo of that door shutting to the tune of “the doctor will be with you shortly.” We both knew that “shortly” meant about twenty more minutes of waiting.
The room was blindingly white: white walls, white tile, white cabinets. They all forced me to squint as I made my way to close the blinds. When I closed them, though, it didn’t even help, the artificial fluorescents still creating a glow.
I sat down with a crunch. The worn red leather examining chair, the only color source in the room, was still covered by the white parchment paper. Sitting on it always makes me feel like a cookie waiting to be baked.
“I’m gonna take a nap,” I said, shifting to my side in a choir of crunches.
“Didn’t you just wake up an hour ago?” my mother says from chair in front to me as she takes her iPad out again.
“It feels like it’s been longer. I’m still tired.”
“Okay, baby. Rest up.”
There was no way I could fall asleep in that room. It was too bright. Even with my eyes shut I could see the light reflecting off the counter tops. It created a orangey haze behind my eyelids. Had this office always been so bright? I couldn’t remember. I’m pretty sure this was my third time here. I don’t see this doctor very often. With eyes closed, I tried to think back to my last visit. I still couldn’t remember. After about fifteen minutes of not remembering, a soft knock is heard at the door.
“Come in,” Sharon called out as I sat up.
“Hello. Good afternoon.” He greets us in a slight south-Asian dialect as he walks into the room.
“How are you?”
“Okay. How are you?” I responded.
“Fine. Fine. What brings you in today?” I look towards my mom then look back at him, then back at my mom. I was waiting for her to jump in like she normally does at all my doctors appointments. But this time she didn’t.
Instead, she responded to my confused look: “Go ahead. Tell him.”
I sighed, trying to release a little of the tension in my shoulders. I tried to remind myself it was all part of the routine: all the doctors ask the same questions.
“I’ve been severely depressed lately,” I said
“Okay, depression is a symptom of fibromyalgia. But how do you know you’re depressed?”
“Because I’ve been depressed before. I know what it feels like.”
“She’s tired all the time,” Sharon interrupted. I knew she couldn’t resist jumping in. I smiled, slightly relieved, as she continued. “She sleeps most of the day, she’s irritable, her appetite isn’t normal.”
“When did it start?”
“Like, my depression in general, or this specific time?” I asked.
“This time, specifically”
I glanced over at my mom. These are the things she knows, I think. The things that are okay to say, in front of her, but don’t get carried away. Don’t get carried away.
“A few months”
“I’ve experienced depression around this time of year normally, but it hasn’t been this bad in a long time.”
“Do you know why you’re depressed?”
“Does anyone know why they’re depressed?”
“Yes, but do you know what has caused them in the past?”
“When was the last time it was this bad?”
“Freshman year of high school.”
“What caused it then? Do you know?”
I didn’t want to look at him. I knew it was rude. I didn’t want to be rude. I never want to be rude. But I couldn’t look him in the eye. I couldn’t look at her. I couldn’t look down. I looked at the door, both of them in my peripheral.
“Yes. I umm…I had a lot of body image issues.”
“Why?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t like the way I look. I’ve never liked the way I looked.”
“Do you have suicidal thoughts?”
“Back then? Yeah. I wanted to kill myself.”
It’s almost like the voice that answered wasn’t mine. I quickly glanced over at her. I didn’t want her to hear it this way. I was going to tell her, but not like this. I didn’t want to surprise her in the middle of a doctor’s office. I could see her face began to twist and twitch. Her eyes started to blink fast, trying to push back the tears, or at least make them small enough so that I wouldn’t notice.
“That’s why I’m here. I can feel it getting to that point again. And I don’t want that,” I finished.
I could see her eyes starting to squint, synchronized with the twitch of her lip, moving her hands under her thighs. She was trying to stop the magnetic pull they felt to cover her mouth, clenching a sob in her jaw.
At that moment, the little voice in my head said: “See? It didn’t matter. You still hurt her. You should have just gone through with it.”
Still, most of me is glad I didn’t.
This lovely piece is from community member Morgan Stabile, a talented writer who has shared this beautiful excerpt from her larger book project. You can find Morgan on Instagram and on her blog. Please send some kind words & lots of love to Morgan in the comments!
Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.
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I LOVE this story. You can feel the closeness between mother and daughter. Thank you for your story