I’ve been under the weather for three days now. If you’re sick in my household, it means you’re quarantined inside your bedroom for the duration of your illness. So I’ve been in my room with nothing to do but lie in bed. And with a lot of time in my hands, I am surely guaranteed hours of negative thoughts running wild in my head. PTSD is real and the creep usually stalks at night. Hence the lack of sleep.
When the internet blew up about Kobe Bryant’s death, I couldn’t sleep thinking about him—the short but well-lived life he had. I hardly watch basketball. I’m not a huge fan of the LA Lakers (or any team). I don’t even think I’ve ever watched Kobe play. But something about him reminded me of a time, not too long ago, when my family was struggling with mental illness.
Anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows about our medical story. Although I did a good job keeping everyone updated about my son’s medical treatments, I excluded a lot of details from the updates.I hardly told anyone about all the emotional roller coaster we all dealt with on a daily basis. All the violent outbursts of crying and screaming. The feeling of wanting to give up and wishing I had the courage to pack my belongings and leave. I wished I didn’t have the conscience of a responsible adult because it would’ve been easier on me not to carry any burden and leave all the suffering to my husband. But my kids are everything to me and because of them I’m still here. But at the time, I was bursting with anger.
Dealing with my own emotions was tough but watching my teenage son grapple with his emotional, psychological, and physical struggles was more heartbreaking than anything that I’ve been through in my life. Every night I prayed not to dream and sometimes I begged God to let me die in my sleep. I didn’t want to wake up to another unpredictable day, fearful of what might come. If I was in a dark place, my son was even in a darker place. He mostly isolated himself in his room, asleep most of the day. And when he was awake, he binged on video games. He was a lost soul, doubtful of a future, not knowing whether he would survive or not. The rest of us were lost too, unsure of how to help him. We tried to cheer him up with pep talks about his bravery and strength. Sometimes they would help hoping it would stick but the next day or two, he would once again retreat to his room and regress back into that angry person. My older son tried to help him the way he knows how but it wasn’t welcomed and instead was met with a lot of hatred and resentment. We would run out of things to say or figure out ways to encourage him to keep going. As a mother, I was failing. I didn’t know how to help him. It was hard witnessing my son spiraling deep down into depression, and slowly withering not from the harsh treatments of the disease he was diagnosed with but sadly from mental illness.
Fortunately this boy was built strong. He fought hard with his demons and on the days that were good and when the mind’s clear, he would read about inspirational people. He’d excitedly talk about them, the difficult life struggles they too had endured. He found strength from those stories.
One day he decided to redecorate his room to lift him up. A box from Amazon came and inside were three pictures of three inspirational people: Bill Gates, Muhammad Ali, and Kobe Bryant. He hung them to his wall along with a poster that said, “never settle for average.” All three men weren’t perfect. They had flaws. But somehow he found inspiration from them and they were hung there to remind him everyday he too can achieve greatness someday (in his own terms and definition of what he thinks greatness means).
As we speak, my son is now back in school full time. He now reaches out to his older brother for advice and no longer resents him. He’s also working out a lot, eating healthy, and had just joined the track team. Each of us is working on our own demons, getting as much help as we can. I have stopped crying hysterically. I have faith that God sees the tears I won’t cry and will let him guide me through all my Fears. We are still trying to pick up some of the broken pieces but relieved cancer didn’t completely crush us. We may have lost some of our courage along the way but our love stayed and love helped us through.
Next week we will attend a luncheon for an organization that helps fund cures for blood cancers. They asked my son to fill in the blank for “Love can ____” and he wrote “inspire.” He’s right on the target. Love can inspire.
RIP Kobe. Thank you for the inspiration you’ve given to many.