Palms Up

Palms Up -- Sheli Massie for Mudroom

I just put my daughter into an ambulance. Strapped in like a caged animal who cannot escape the war roaming inside her head. The battle that wages for her control of her life.

Inhale.

Blood stained sheets on the bottom bunk, clinging to the safety that slips between my fingers like sand. Hair matted down with tears that haven’t stopped for months. And the silence that remains, is a blanket that makes me feel planted. Rooted in this constant fear.

Exhale.

I pushed for hours until I heard her first cry.

She screamed for hours as a child. Curdling, wake the neighbor screams.

For years we questioned. We wondered, what was wrong. Why were her screams louder than all the others?

When now the deafening silence leaves us on our knees.

Inhale.

I feel helpless as a mother. Her mother.

As inaudible as the cries for help are, I seem to hear her more today.

It leaves me feeling helpless. I can’t save her. I can’t physically keep her safe.

Exhale.

It’s like watching your child walk into a burning building and knowing that only God can carry her out the other side. I am being held back by my own helpless feelings of inadequacy.

Others want to help. They call. I don’t answer. I have no more words to speak. I have no more stories to tell. The pain that she is carrying is her own, and yet it is all of ours. And if I am honest I do not trust many in my life with the delicate pain she bears. I do not trust that they will love her the same. I fear that if they knew the full truth that empathy would be run through a legalist strainer.

Inhale.

There is a truth that engulfs her that I cannot even whisper aloud. What is plaguing her soul is something a week strapped to a bed cannot solve.

What started years ago in elementary school (in what we thought was isolated bullying) has morphed into years of anxiety, depression, and self harm. And when at the age of fifteen she can’t find a reason to breathe, as a mother, you breathe for her. Begging God for just one more day.

I ache and claw at my own skin for Jesus to take away the pain. Her pain. Our pain.

But if I can be honest, I fear that means he will take her away.

Exhale.

She is so weary. I can feel her bones ache. I can feel them just trying to breathe.

Jesus. Have mercy on us. Have mercy on your beloved child, that you would heal every part of her mind, soul and spirit. That she would know you and love you deeply. That she would feel your presence and tangibly know you are with her. Jesus please.

Inhale.

I can hardly breathe. It hurts to exhale. It hurts to move.

So I gather the good. The good safe people in my life and I lean into them. I look to them to point me to the good.

I ask if I can come lay on their couch until the world is kind again. Until they tell me the world is safe.

Exhale.

In reality, I know the world will never be safe again. But people can be. People are. It took me years to find the safe people. The courageous, brave people.

I tell my kids all the time, they will become who they spend their time with. If you want to be a video gamer then spend your time with games and people that are not real. If you want to be mean, spend your time with the mean girls. If you want to be shallow spend time with those that care only of themselves and things.

But, if you want to be brave, find the broken.

If you want to be courageous, find the ones who believe that one day they will rise again.

Inhale.

So you ingest that which is beautiful and you exhale the pain. My mentor told me that I need only watch, read and inhale that which is peaceful and good. Not that which tries to fix or find solutions. Only that which makes my heart smile

Rest, sunshine, quiet, reading, writing, coffee, all make my heart smile. Pictures of Africa make my heart smile. They make me remember that I am brave. Pictures of high school make me remember that I will rise again. Picture of my wedding make me remember that I am a fighter.

Exhale.

I can’t heal my daughter. It is the most helpless feeling to know that I cannot take away the pain that rules her mind.

And if I am honest. I am not sure I can save her.

Let that reality sink in. I have to live my life with palms up.

Palms up and if God chooses to take her, I will still believe in the one whose breath is in her

I have to stay in the power of the cross, at the foot of the cross.

I want to scream at Satan …You dumb ass, Jesus won. Jesus defeated you, so get the hell away from my family! Get the hell away from my girl who has been fighting to belong in this world her whole life.

So I scream. I cry. I plead.

For life. For second and third and fourth chances. For hearts of parents who are in the trenches, and for their sweet precious children they are trying to pull out.

Aching for even just a breath of restoration.

Sheli Massie

I am a writer on good days when a child isn’t puking or screaming or the dog hasn’t run away for the zillionth time or when the house doesn’t look like a Hoarders episode or I didn’t forget to pick up one of the five children from school. I live in the western suburbs of Chicago with my husband who has pushed me to be a better version of myself for sixteen years. I adore my best friends and I get anxiety attacks around anyone pretty or skinny, so I stay in my yoga pants and write about my redemptive story at http://shelimassie.com/

Latest posts by Sheli Massie (see all)

  • Anna

    I can’t even begin to know the pain your family is living. May you all know and feel the loving embrace of Jesus this day.

  • Oh Sheli, what words do we say that you haven’t already heard? Breathing prayers for your family today for the days you can’t pray them anymore. Sweet friend, thank you for sharing your words in this place. I can’t imagine they were easy to let go of but I know they will matter and resound through the hearts of so many.

  • Stephanie Thompson

    Beautifully written and painfully honest-as it should be. I can identify as my 15 year old daughter has struggled with Mental Illness. She too was hospitalized and your words, “you breathe for her” illustrates many of my moments. I appreciate your vivid description and raw feelings as you walk this journey-believing in our sovereign and merciful God who you trust in the midst of the unknown.

  • Thank you for your incredible honesty. We are earnestly praying for you.

  • Thank you for taking us with you into the horror and the helplessness. May your words carry us into a place of greater trust in God for our own challenges (which seem light and momentary by comparison).

  • Pingback: Palms Up- The Mudroom()

  • Maria Weber

    The foot of the cross is the best place to be. My prayers are with you and your family and your daughter. prayers for strength and courage and healing. Your writing is beautiful, your honesty inspiring and your faith and fears real. Hold on to your faith and let us hold you up when you are weak.

  • Melody Riefer

    >>”I tell my kids all the time, they will become who they spend their time with. If you want to be a video gamer then spend your time with games and people that are not real. If you want to be mean, spend your time with the mean girls. If you want to be shallow spend time with those that care only of themselves and things.

    But, if you want to be brave, find the broken.

    If you want to be courageous, find the ones who believe that one day they will rise again.”<<

    There is so much truth is these words of yours. Stay true to these words and seek out people who have recovered from the dark place your daughter finds herself in. Seek out the loved ones who have recovered from the dark place, as well. I hope you will be open to those who will look beyond medication or seclusion or restraint and seek out helpers who can help your daughter hold her pain and learn that there is a way to heal, to have a meaningful life, to have relationships that are affirming.

    There is hope! There is hope!

    [Check out the work of Patricia E. Deegan, PhD and Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD]

  • Oh, Sheli, my heart goes out to you from one mother to another. Sometimes there is heartache we feel we can’t bear and maybe people won’t understand and we’re afraid “..empathy would be run through a legalist strainer.” Your writing is so beautiful, raw and honest. Thank you for sharing here. I pray God would send peace and healing and hold you close, You’re having to walk such a hard road. As a mother of 7, I know what it’s like to feel helpless when you know you can’t always fix the problems, but the foot of the cross is the best place to be. God does hear and feel our pain. My situation is not like yours, but our God is the same. I keep going back with the same plea for one of mine. I want to continue to trust and know that one day God will answer even when it looks hopeless. I’m glad you’ve found safe people who can share and help and pray. I will remember what you have said, “So you ingest that which is beautiful and you exhale the pain.” Thank you! {{HUGS}}

  • Rea

    I can’t heal my child. Those are hard, but honest, words to confront.

  • And my sister…I scream with you. Bring peace dear Father to this momma and her sweet girl.

  • Beautiful aching words, Sheli. You have put to paper what I can only imagine was impossible to write. I am trusting God with your little girl right alongside you. Jesus have mercy.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I have a special needs son who is currently in the hospital for self-harm. He’s nine.

    This is a hard and lonely road. Don’t isolate. Cling to God AND those He’s given you.

    The enemy will win some of the battles, but I promise you, he will not win the war.

  • CDK

    Thank you, Sheli, for bravely entering into the places that are so dark for so many and shining a light of grace and mercy.