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Heroic Parenting

A hero, by definition, is someone known for accomplishing a brave or noble act. “Heroes are born every day. Some heroes are genetically predisposed to greatness, I suppose, blessed with a rich family history of bravery and selflessness. Others are ripped out of their regular lives and thrown into heroic duties in a matter of seconds, revealing their true character in the process.” –Chapter 5, Heroes, Over My Shoulder

I wasn’t eating or sleeping. I wasn’t talking, or if I did I was spitting nasty, hate-filled words at my family members. I was seeing images of my two recently dead friends as I lay in bed. I was angry, confused, and sad. I was no longer functioning like the carefree daughter I had been only weeks before my friends had suddenly hung themselves a month apart from each other. My group of friends and I were spiraling downward quickly, trying to find ways to numb the pain and handle the grief. None of us showed any ability to cope using healthy mechanisms. Our toxicity spread to one another like wildfire.

Some of them drank and did drugs. I didn’t want any part of that. I no longer trusted people, and the ones I had been raised to trust the most were the ones I pushed the furthest away. I don’t even know why I hated them so much during those weeks. I suppose because I felt (as a self-centered teenager) that they had no idea what I was experiencing, and therefore had no business trying to love me or help me through it. Of course, that is as nonsensical as it sounds. The truth is, teenagers are not equipped to handle these Big Realities of life. Adolescent hormones, pride, self-centeredness and naïvity keep some teens from believing anyone else might possibly understand, which makes it feel impossible to believe anyone might care.

My parents were desperate. Seemingly overnight, they had lost the happy, respectful and caring daughter they had known for sixteen years. All of their attempts to reach me, connect with me, listen to me, support me or show me love were met with hateful physical and verbal outbursts. I knew I was acting ridiculous and mean. I disliked myself for it, but could seem to stop.

I’d had enough. 3:00 P.M. that coming Sunday, I would hang myself in the barn and join my two friends, escaping this impossible pain. Somehow my parents caught word of this plan and panicked. The fear of losing me did not paralyze them. Instead, the panic pulled them into action. Everything they had tried to that point was failing. They wondered…do we leave her alone? Do we push her and risk her pulling even further away? Do we send her to a facility? They sought the advice of a counselor who they had spoken with once or twice before. He said, “Act like parents’. What does that even mean?

They did just that…acted like parents. And in the process, became heroes; though that was never the goal or desire. They simply wanted their daughter back. I was pulled out of school, slept on a mattress on the floor in their room until they trusted me enough to allow me back into my own room, I was not allowed to lock any doors, I only had freedom to attend church youth group while they waited outside to be sure I didn’t sneak off, and many more solid boundaries were put into place. My mom would spend sleepless nights checking on me ten times to be sure I was still alive. They rescued me. They took control over me when I could not control myself. They kept me alive.

Maybe a week into the ‘takeover’, I surrendered. I had been spending weeks sitting on a couch across from my dad each evening, refusing to speak. But, their actions provided me the space away from the destructive communication with my hurting friends. The boundaries they instilled provided me the freedom to hurt without being judged. As much as I wanted to find life again on my own, I realized I couldn’t; I needed them. One night, I broke down sobbing and spilled all of my emotions and thoughts out to my parents for hours. Their patient and persistent pursuit of my heart won out.

I do call my parents my heroes. Not because they saved me then, but because they have never been afraid to give up their hopes, plans or ambitions in order to fulfill the role of ‘parent’ first. Those weeks of emotional chaos prepared my family for the encounters with death and destruction that were heading our way a year later.

I can only hope that when any of our four children begin to suffer some of life’s troubles, Patrick and I will be brave enough to ACT LIKE PARENTS and not cower with the fear that our kids might like us for it.

How have your parents acted heroically in your life? I would love to see your comments below!


For more details of my depression, planned suicide and recovery, and how I believe that prepared me for Columbine, you can purchase my book Over My Shoulder here.

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