Innocently Brave

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Her eyes sparkled like the stars; her face beamed like the sunlight. She always ties her hair in a neat bun, wearing an elegant white uniform dress. 

"Your mom is so pretty. She is so beautiful." I can't count how many times people have told me the same when they see my mom for the first time. She was the perfect picture of a working mom, a woman that exudes confidence on the outside. What they didn't know was that she was broken inside.

When I was eight, I didn't know what anxiety or depression was. Then, before I graduated from high school, I got a piece of information about it. "Anxious? Depressed? You are not alone. We are here for you!" All words are written on a career path symposium pamphlet. I was supposed to attend another speaker's talk, but my feet dragged me to the outdoor tent with banners hanging with big, bold letters "WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!" It got me tongue-tied. I slowly went over the pictures that showed signs of depression. Each image showing scenarios about mental health issues brought me back to that afternoon eight years ago.

"Mom, are you okay? Why didn't you go to work today?" My tiny eight-year-old hands untangled strands of her long hair in a perfect mess.

I didn't get an answer, only countless "I'm useless! I'm never right! I'm nothing!" I didn't understand then why my mom kept repeating the exact words for hours while she washed my father's shirt repeatedly. My heart knew something was wrong, but I did not know what was. The only thing I did was comb her hair and sit beside her for hours. I fed her and myself with my leftover crackers from school. "You are like a baby, Mom! Did you like my crackers?" I only left her side when I got water for the two of us. "Cheers, Mom! Let us drink our water!"

"What the hell are you two doing?" My father's nerve-wracking voice interrupted the Mom-daughter time we were having.

Mom, who gets rattled whenever she sees my father, was unfazed. She stayed seated, saying the exact words while washing the same cloth over and over and over. My dad tried all ways possible to get her attention but failed. His face turned into a pale white. Finally, he told me to look after Mom. He came back with my grandmother. She tried talking to my mom but got no response. I confirmed something was wrong when she started crying as she gave Mom a tight embrace. 

That night, Dad left without saying goodbye.

"You must be brave and strong for your daughter," said Grandma. 

So every night, I whispered, "Mom, you are brave. I love you." Slowly, she regained her sparkle and elegance. Mom was Mom again.


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