My kids used to live in West Africa. They moved there with their father’s family when I got sick. Staying in contact with them was easy enough; if the phone or skype was working. We used magic jack to talk, but sometimes it was out of service. For the most part though, I could talk to them whenever I wanted.
One time before they were set to return, I hadn’t been able to contact them for about 2 weeks because their phone was broken. I happened to be going through a dark depression that was made worse because of my mom’s ordeal with cancer. I really wasn’t well. Out of the blue, I started feeling paranoid that my family was tricking me about the kids. I had this sinking feeling that maybe I hadn’t talked to them because they had actually passed away. I thought that Senegal or ‘in Africa’ was just a euphemism for them being dead.
Maybe people thought I was too unstable to handle the truth and so they made up this elaborate story to try and protect me. Maybe they weren’t going to tell me until I was safe and not going to hurt myself. These are the thoughts that raced through my confused mind. I started grieving for my kids as though they were truly gone. I actually felt the empty pocket where my heart once was, and the negative space in my soul that one feels when they have lost a loved one. Everything hurt in a way it never had before. I walked around the house like a zombie for most of that day; touching their things and sobbing. I didn’t know who to trust to figure out what was happening. I spent hours trying to piece together the memory of when I last spoke to my children. Nothing came. I was in panic mode all afternoon. Why couldn’t I remember? Who would tell me the truth? Nobody, I felt that everyone I knew was in on the ruse.
Finally at some point in the evening, I got a phone call from my ex-husband telling me that he had just spoken to the kids and that they were doing well. He updated me with the latest goings on and how school was progressing. I wasn’t sure he was telling me the truth until he said that I should call and talk to them. I don’t think he had any idea about my thought process, but he must have sensed that I was apprehensive. Of course I rushed to call the kids as soon as we were done talking. At that point, even before the phone connected, I felt like everything was ok. I knew he wouldn’t go that far with whatever story I had concocted in my mind. He just wasn’t like that, alhamdulillah he’s a nice person. Talking myself through the paranoia helped calm me down and start to think more clearly. Then, of course, I was able to talk to my kids. This stopped the delusion altogether and I started to feel a bit better.
An interesting thing. Even though my fears were unfounded, I was extremely exhausted by the end of the night. I had spent the whole day grieving for my children, trying to get a hold on my memory and sanity, and trying to understand how long I had been in this state of confusion. It was one of the worst days of my life. I was so tired after talking to the kids that I had to rest and sleep for a few days just to get my strength back. This doesn’t happen to me often. But in a depression that includes psychosis or in mania where you lose touch with reality, this can happen. Thankfully, I haven’t had an experience like this in several years. By the will of Allah, I’m hoping to keep it that way.