I stood in the hallway and stared at the black and white tiled floors. On the other side of the emergency room doors, my mother’s screeches were louder than the PA system. “Let me go! I don’t want to be here. It’s their fault!” Screaming at the top of her lungs, the hospital bed she was tied to squeaked and groaned. My brother was back with the doctors trying to make a decision regarding my mother’s care. I couldn’t bear to walk through those heavy swinging doors. Exhausted from decades of her behavior, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

The screaming continued. My brother shook his head as he came out into the hallway.

“How bad is it?” I asked.

“Oh, she didn’t do enough damage to kill herself. She’ll have to get a couple of hundred stitches but her lungs are okay.”

My mother had slit her wrists and jumped into the pond behind our family home. A neighbor found her.

Over the years, I had tried everything I knew to help her. It was never enough and my mother’s abusive behavior toward me continued into my adult years. I had been groomed to accept her abuse and I did so for many years. I knew she suffered from childhood trauma. But she decided to turn that trauma into a whip with which she beat me and everyone around her both literally and figuratively. 

Now, here we were, yet again. Standing in the emergency room for another suicide attempt. Pity wasn’t enough to reach her. I watched as my fat tears dropped in the cracks of the square tiled floor.

“Leave.” I looked up at my brother. “I mean it,” he said. “You should leave. She’s never going to stop.” The implication was loud and clear. He was giving me permission to walk away—forever.

Her fading screams accompanied my sobs as I walked to my car. It did not matter how much I wanted to help. It did not matter how much I loved her. I was powerless. Things would never be as I wanted them to be. But I had a choice. Continue in her delusional world and succumb to suicide and depression myself or leave.

Feeling the sun on my face as I walked through that hospital parking lot, I wiped my tears and blew my nose. The darkness would not carry me away as it had her. “Mama, I whispered. “I love you, but I can’t sacrifice my life for you anymore. I can’t stop you, but I can stop myself.

Throughout our healing journey, we will come to many crossroads. Some will be big like the one described above. Some will be small going unnoticed by anyone but ourselves. Each is important. The greatest power each of us has is the power to choose. May we wield it with clarity and purpose.

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