TRIGGER WARNING: Mental Illness
This is a very hard post to write. I contemplated for weeks whether or not I wanted to write this, but as more and more events occur, I see the need to speak up. This will be a very blunt and honest post from me.
If you have someone in your family or a friend that you know needs professional help. STOP PUTTING IT OFF. Confront this with the circle of people still around to care about this particular person. If someone you know is spiraling out of control, say something. Plain and simple. Because mental challenges are much more common than we allow ourselves to think. If you feel out of balance, seek help. Reach out.
With that said, I have been a lifetime witness to many people with mental challenges. One of them being my mother. My mother was professionally diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia when I was 12. I always knew something wasn’t quite right, but an outside source finally confirmed this. It gave me some solace but no courage, because my only understanding of schizophrenia came from episodes of Law & Order.
During my childhood I noticed my mom’s random choosing of people to come in and out of our lives. Our sporadic moving around from city to city, her constant beef with someone “talking about her”, and most of all her random violent outbursts on people. Sometimes directed towards me. Even to this day I inwardly flinch when she walks towards me.
I knew she loved me, but when she had her “episodes” there was this blank and distant look in her eyes. Then I knew I lost her and had to protect myself. When I saw the love again in her eyes I would cling to her, but was in constant fear of whether or not I’d lose her tomorrow.
She had moments of clarity from time to time. At one point she let me go to the foster system when I was 10. She knew she couldn’t properly take care of me.
This affected me in many ways. Since she was so paranoid of others I often thought there were just droves of bad people against me. I trusted no one. I would be angry when she would randomly quit her job, and send us back into poverty. There were many days without food and years without proper nutrition. I would eat every meal like it was my last, because sometimes it was for a while. In a way, I mimicked her behavior and felt like I was slowly losing it myself. Especially when I was in abusive foster homes. I was slipping away with each slap and chokehold. It almost felt like a big relief. I felt if I completely lost my mind then I could finally not be aware of my severe depression anymore. I wouldn’t have to be logical and operate inside of the rules; because being fully aware and knowing hurt me deeply.
Many saw my mother’s struggles but often never did anything. It was just a bunch of people taking advantage of her state and then leaving her worse than ever. Then I’d be left alone with her to deal.
It took years to realize what was “normal” behavior vs. what I learned from her. I was an extremely strange kid and very skittish. I didn’t have many friends and was a loner. I always felt older than the kids around me and always manipulated the innocent feelings they had I considered unnecessary and false.
I had some semblance of childish wonder. I loved science and space. I often would dream of flying away and almost broke my neck with the “wings” I made out of cardboard to get to Brazil (don’t ask).
If you ask me to make a timeline out of my life it’s really a blur mostly. Faces are pixelated and school names are forgotten. I just remember how I felt though most of it. Lonely and waiting to finally take care of myself.
At 15 I was granted a slight break from total chaos and got to live with my sister. I still had many challenges but am grateful I finally realized: It’s not my fault and it’s okay to live fully.
As I mentioned before I got therapy in my twenties to finally get some healing. I confronted many events I pushed away and just simply stated them to myself out loud for the first time. I also had to accept that my father, even though I wasn’t raised by him, was diagnosed as a Disorganized Schizophrenic. So knowing both of my parents had these struggles messed with me and made me very sad. But I am not ashamed.
It’s normal to feel anger and frustration with your mentally ill loved ones. Just know that at this point that it’s not either yours or their fault and your love is enough. Even though it may not be enough to change them, the fact that it’s there is more than nothing.
I still have challenges with the relationship with her, but I am at a place now where I can distance myself if I need time and be in a place of healing. I now have control over my own life so that helped a lot. I’m no longer under her whims or a ward of the state. I haven’t been for awhile and the more time in this space in my life the more healing comes. The more I can heal the more I can help her to the best of my ability. However, I must understand that I can’t “cure” her and that I am not the parent. Even though I felt like the parent for most of my life.
I hope that someone reads this and truly gets either themselves help & healing or a loved one. I watched the absence of love destroy a mind and watched her to have the unbelievable strength to still somehow fight back for it.
The more we understand the pain and move past the lackluster trope of “get over it”, then we truly can find a better state to be in. It starts with ourselves and the ones around you.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/
- Coping tips for Adult Children and Siblings of persons with Mental Illness
- My Parent’s Keeper: Adult Children of the Emotionally Disturbed.