Australia welcomes you to the
National Network of Adult and Adolescent Children who have a Mentally Ill Parent/s. Vic. inc. Australia
for you to post your own story of coping with a mentally ill parent!
Directions how to post here...
Page 1 2
View NNAAMI Poems
in a big city on the street
One of the instigators for the Birth of a world organisation.
I am writing from London, UK after reading your web site. I just want to let you know how incredible it is to see that I am not alone. I was brought up single handedly by a mentally ill and compulsively abusive Mother. I am an only child and my father died when I was nine. No one would listen to me or believe me when I looked for help I eventually had to cut myself off completely from my mother after she threw me out in the street and said she wanted to kill me. I was 20. No one in my family would help me find her psychiatric help. Indeed, some members of my family excluded me from all family events and tried to cover up the very existence of me and my mother. Her doctor said that there was nothing he could do, that she was not a danger to herself or members of the public and therefore could not be sectioned. She would never accept that she has a problem, she was too sick to realise, and was paranoid and delusional. After ten years of not seeing my mother, I got the news that she had died, alone. I now have to come to terms with everything that's happened . No one in the family would come to her funeral. If it wasn't for a few friends of mine, I would have cremated her alone. I am receiving counselling, and surprisingly enough leading a normal life with a teaching career. I am still coming to terms with my feelings of anger, loss and terrible guilt. I would like to make contact with people who have been in a similar situation. However I do not know of any support groups or sites in the UK. I would be grateful to you could advise me or put me in touch with individuals or organisations in the UK, there are support groups for carers of the mentally ill but I can not find any for those who have been forced to cut themselves off from parent/s and /or are dealing with issues of past abuse and rejection by family and society. Thank you for your time and thank you again for your web site.
I think it would be a great idea to start a world organisation and I'd be glad to help in any way I can. Give me ideas on how I can help, I'll do what I can. Please keep me posted on any developments.
Your organization is wonderful. Very supportive. Is there
anything like it
in the US? I have been dealing for over 20 years with a mother, diagnosed
paranoid schizophrenic with bipolar illness -- what they call here
"schizoaffective". Support for families seems almost non-existent here in
North America. I would love to find a counsellor for myself who is
experienced in dealing with adult children of the mentally ill.
Thank you for any information you can provide.
From The United States of America.
letters and deep thoughts
Like a living monster
To Paul NNAAMI,
Thank you for writing back. I suppose that I am looking for
insight into my
own behavior and of how being raised by my mother who is mentally ill.
I am 38 years old. Recently I have begun to try to know my
mother better. Her
current diagnosis is Schizo affective disorder, bipolar type. About 6 years
ago the mental health clinic assigned my mother a different doctor. He began
to give her medication for depression, along with large doses of vitamin E.
The Vitamin E was to help get rid of facial twitches which was the beginning
of tarded disconetia brought on by years of taking stellazine. I could see a
dramatic improvement in her immediately. About 2 months ago she got on a diet
where she has almost stopped eating sugar and carbohydrates, both of which
are know to cause depression. She is like a different person and I am
grateful. I can actually communicate with my mother.
I never knew my mother. Growing up with her was like living
with a monster.
My mother and father divorced when I was seven and I lived with my mother
until I was 17 years old. I have always felt that something was not right
about myself, but it wasn't' until this year, when I started searching on the
internet that I began to realize that what I have always felt may be directly
related to being raised by a mentally ill parent. I have sought help by going
to a therapist, but I feel like that only made me feel worse, so I stopped
going. The therapist kept wanting me to dredge up horrible memories from
childhood. Honestly all the therapy did was make me feel like I am more
screwed up than I ever thought. I got so focused on what is wrong that it
began to make me very depressed. I want to feel better, not worse.
Mostly I am interested in how being brought up by my mother
has effected me
in my relationships, especially with men. I would like to get married and
have a family, but it seems like something is not right. I seem to be able to
meet people but I also seem to go from one strange relationship to another
with no break in between. Sometimes these relationships last for years, but I
won't commit to marriage. I feel so isolated. I want to have other friends,
but for some reason I stay alone a lot. I am a freelance artist, so I only
see clients when I do see other people. I think that I am a likable person.
People call me and want to be my friend, but for some reason I seem to push
them away, or I get really attached to one person and something screwed up
happens. I have begun to think that the way I act isn't really the way I want
to act, but more of some kind of behavior that was drilled into my head as a
kid growing up with a mentally ill parent. I just want to know if what I am
thinking has any validation or if I am imagining things. If growing up with a
mentally ill parent is effecting me as an adult and keeping me from getting
on with my life, what can be done about it? I feel very insecure about decisions
I make in my life, so insecure that most of the time I seem to make no
decisions at all, but let other people make them for me. I just want to
feel normal. I want to know that I'm ok. I want to be happy!
Thanks for writing me back. After I sent you my last email, I began to
think how silly and stupid to be sharing such emotions. I thought that I
must be sounding like a whiner. But now that I have read your reply,
your suggestions really make a lot of sense. It never really occurred to
me that as a child I had to try to read my mothers emotions and was
always trying to second guess about what she said really meant. You were
exactly right when you talked about that in your email, that is what I
had to do. I do believe that it served to create this distrust that I
have in other people, as well it helped to create feelings of
insecurity. I feel like I have to be calm and not get upset anyone
around one, even if I have to sacrifice my feeling to do so. I have
fears of upsetting other people, and at all cost I can't let other
people get upset by something that I have done. Everyone else's happiest
is more important than mine. It is easy to see why I spend so much time
alone, with trying to please everyone it takes all my energy for my own
self, instinctively it is just easier to stay alone.
The other horrid thing is that that to an extent I am
people who may act to me as my mother did when I was a child. I don't
want to be around emotionally unstable people, but those are the ones
that I end up closest associated. I see that by realizing that I do this
with my life, I can better make changes to break away from this
unhealthy behavior, and stop allowing the crazy people that I tend to
surround myself with, make my decisions about my life. If people aren't
pleased with what I do, that is their problem. I can't try to second
guess everyone in the world and their intentions or reactions.
Any more insight from you would be greatly appreciated.
that these feelings of fear doesn't mean I'm crazy and that they were
developed by being raised by a mentally ill parent is a great help.
You asked about using my letter on the site. Feel free to
use it if you
think that it could possibly help anyone else. I would rather you not
use my real name. You can use any name that you would like.
I have been reading a book and listening to it on tape that
very helpful for me personally. It is entitled, The Artist Way. It was
written to help people break free from what the author, Julia Cameron,
calls blocks. I have found it to be very helpful therapeutically as well
With fragments of the past creating tiny fissures in my mask of cultivated calm, I struggle to retain my composure as I listen to other people deconstruct the concept of mental illness. One by one the idiotic intellectual abstractions ricochet across the tutorial room, each one penetrating my skin more deeply than the last:
has theorised that institutionalization of the insane
came about as a means to remove unreason.
Only in the mid seventeenth century did madness come to be degraded as an existential condition.
Previously the mad could enjoy the special status of the wise fool, or that of a court jester mumbling riddles.
As the bombardment of words continues unabated I am afraid that any moment my insides will come spilling out all over the place. Yet somehow I manage to keep my mouth shut. Really, I have nothing to contribute to this topic. I am too immersed in the practicalities to make any sense of the theory.
My mum wasn't always as crazy as she is now. My best friend Saffy and I used to say that all the mums are crazy; the dads make them that way over time by being so insensitive. When my dad was around my mum used to crack it whenever he left his tea bags on the sink or when she caught him perving at a naked woman on TV. But it wasn't until dad went away, coming full circle in his marathon fulfillment of the cliches of mid-life crisis, that mum officially left the building.
The announcement, when it came, knocked me off my feet completely. She'd been planning it for a while. She had props ready. Of course she didn't tell me outright that she'd developed schizophrenia, but proceeded to introduce me to her wild new interest in conspiracy theories. She said the best way for me to deal with it was to treat it as a game, that way I wouldn't get too upset. She said that a very powerful and mysterious group of people were watching her every move, were recording her conversations, were bugging the phone, had satellites pointed at the house, and were constantly staging scenarios around her in order to observe her response. She didn't know who was responsible or why they were doing it, but she had first become aware of it in La Porchetta when there had been an abnormal amount of red-headed people in the restaurant. She pulled out a wad of newspaper clippings of articles that she believed had been created in response to things she had said or done whilst she was being observed.
It felt like being in a movie, one of those scenes where the actor comes into extreme close-up and the background shifts out of focus. At first I tried to get her to stop kidding around, then tried to reason with her, then got angry and started shouting. Finally I fell back on my poor sense of comic timing:
That's it, no more Truman Show for you!!!ï¿½
And with that I was out the door. I went over to Saffy's house and cried and cried. In retrospect I should've seen it coming. There were all kinda signs. The recently acquired habit of laughing randomly and at nothing, the hungry way she would relate coincidences that had occurred, such as too many white cars on the road or people she recognised from Centrelink turning up at Safeway. But she'd seemed less depressed than in previous months, more energised somehow, so that I had focused on the positive whilst ignoring the NQR.
I think I must have been the first, most trusted person that mum had confided in about her suspicions. She had come to me with her paranoia offering it like a gift, like a child's first tentative artistic endeavour, seeking validation, affirmation, someone with which to share her newly discovered world. My response of shock and disgust must have been devastating to her. From the moment of that first rejection mum's attitude towards me changed markedly. I was no longer on her side. My unwillingness to affirm led her to conclude that I myself must be on the payroll of them.
Over the following year mum's illness escalated dramatically, or maybe she was just more open about it. She stopped answering the phone for fear of bugs. She refused to speak to many of her friends, and she began to confide in those she trusted; either way the end result was isolation. She became more and more aggressive towards me, so that whenever something in the house wasn't put away properly, or was left on the floor, or in the wrong spot, she would accuse me of doing it on instructions. Whenever something in the house went missing I would have to drop everything and find it in order to prove that I had not hidden it in the first place.
I have never hurt so much, nor cried so hard as I did in the months before I left home. Living with a schizophrenic you feel as though you are never standing on solid ground. You think that if you remember to put everything back in its right spot, if you follow routine to the utmost extreme then somehow you can avoid suspicion and harassment. But no matter how hard you try, no matter how many things you remember to do right it is never enough. You will always be caught out in some way. And no matter how much you want to be understanding of the illness, sooner or later the barrage of accusations will make you lose your cool. And then the shouting starts, and the tears begin. And the mother who once helped you wipe them away and reassured you that everything would be alright has nothing but antagonism towards you, because she thinks that the tears and the pleas are fake, part of an elaborate script prepared beforehand by some Machiavellian plotter. She tells you coldly: only when you stop following orders will she be your mother again.
you remember how it was before she was ill and it
If ever you ever find yourself in a situation with a family member who is a paranoid schizophrenic, be aware that there is virtually no social support for someone in your position, no one to help you get your parent or brother or sister well again unless you have something interesting to barter with like bruises.
My first port of call in my quest for assistance was mum's GP. Although he had seen mum on a fairly regular basis over the past two years Dr. Wilson had had no idea what was going on inside her head, as he never thought to extend his consultation times beyond the financially optimal 9.2 minutes. Whilst never delving beneath the surface he had offered mum a smorgasbord of medication, from serapax, a mild anti-depressant, to arapax, which is stronger, to hormone replacement therapy just-in-case she was going through menopause early. He was reluctant to speak to me for long outside of billable hours, indicating that unless mum voluntarily came to see him for a referral, there was nothing he could do.
As the accusations became more and more scary and life became less and less tolerable I turned to the Crisis Assessment Team for help. Calling a team of mental health specialists to come into your house and assess your mum is not an easy thing to do on the sunniest of days. You wonder if your parent will turn on you, or if they will be carted away, leaving you to feel like the evil betrayer-child. As it turned out the mental health people were rather friendly. Mum admitted all her delusions to them without hesitation and they suggested a regime of anti-psychotics. The first time round they considered her a suicide risk, so a social worker came to visit twice a day for about a week to make sure she took her medication, and to suss her out a bit further. When it became clear that she was not suicidal, but merely schizophrenic and delusional, they stopped coming. And mum stopped taking her medication.
I called them a second time, when things got really bad. They came in for a squiz and told me that unless mum was physically a risk to herself or someone else there was no way to force treatment on her. They told me that many people live with delusions. I told them, I'm not coping, I don't know what to do. They said, We don't know what you should do, and left.
Apparently children of parents with mental illness are eight times more likely to commit suicide than other children. Little fucking wonder.
One day I woke up and I knew that I couldn't survive there anymore. Leaving wasn't a choice, it was more like a rubber band snapped inside my head and I just had to go. With a heap of support from my friends and the awesome people at Student Support Services I was able to get myself settled in a new place fairly quickly. What sucks is that I had to leave my two primary school aged brothers behind.
Because they are at an age where she can control them, mum hasn't factored my brothers into the conspiracy yet. And she lives for them, so their lives aren't too bad, or so I tell myself. Aged eight and nine, they don't seem to understand the implications of her raving at the walls. Although I wonder what its doing to them long term, living in a house where mummy spends the better part of each day locked in the spare bedroom talking to her imaginary friends. Wil says that he openly tells his friends that his mum is scrambled in the head. Jamie says it upsets him when mum talks to the walls in the kitchen, but he just pretends its something else.
I hate that there's nothing I can do to help mum get better; I don't think it makes for a great quality of life, being shut up in a dark room most of the day thinking everyone is out to get you not for her, not for my brothers and not for me. I should never have had to leave my family. What's worse is that I know that it is just a matter of time before my brothers' start claiming a measure of independence, at which point she is bound to turn on them too. I don't know what will happen then. From what I've read welfare services are a bit sketchy, the policy is to try to keep the child with the mentally ill parent for as long as possible, supplemented by short stints in foster care.
I read in the paper the other day about a little girl who was placed back with her schizophrenic mum under questionable circumstances, and who one day, without warning, was set on fire. In recovery she would speculate that it was because she wore her hair in a ponytail that day, something she did not usually do.
Up until the part about the being set aflame, the girl's story was all to familiar to me: the unpredictability, the anxious second guessing about what little thing will trigger another round of animosity. At the end of the day I don't care about creating more constructive community attitudes, about removing the stigma from mental illness so that the problem can be made even more invisible. I just want some kind of help with making life in that house livable, so that it's never my brothers recovering in the burns unit.
hi, I recently moved outta home where i was living with my
mum and two primary school aged brothers following the
escalation of mum's schizophrenia. I was thinking of
getting involved in your group as I visit my family every
week (primarily to see my brothers) but each time I am
berated for being part of the conspiracy and playing
tricks, or even worse mum ignores me and talks to her
imaginary friend in the spare room I just wind up feeling
I always feel so delighted to see my brothers because we get on great, but so agitated at seeing mum. i would like to get to a point where I can better understand her illness and also would like to feel less alienated.
also I am 22 and going to Melbourne uni and am interested in writing an article about general lack of options for children of mentally ill parents-have sporadically written articles for uni since I started uni in 1998. I was hoping that maybe you could help me out with some research material: facts and figures or newsletter type-stuff. any assistance would be much appreciated,
My parents met in group therapy at an outreach clinic. My
mother had been in an institution and received electric
shook treatment, my father suffered from depression and was
in and out of prison and a heavy drug user. Just writing
this is a "wake up" call for me, because I always knew
these things but they became "normal"!
My cousin has recently been hospitalized and is Bipolar...It has brought up a lot for me as she has a little girl who she is raising as I was raised. My mother was more neglectful than violent (unlike my cousin. I did experience violence with my stepmother, whom my father also met at a hospital.
I have nothing to do with my parents anymore. It was heartbreaking for me, especially with my mother. I finally feel "free" and so much better about myself. I've been married for 15 yrs and have two boys. I did "medicate" my pain for years with alcohol. I've worked hard to live a life without that "constant fear" that something would go wrong. Slowly I am building a life that is "safe" and that I enjoy - without all the confusion, drama, and uncertainty. And without "band aids". I feel good and can give myself the love my parents never could.
Dear Mr. Mckillop,
I visited your website tonight. It is wonderful. I'm a 25 year old adult child of a mentally ill parent. I love my mother dearly, but my childhood was hell. I always felt that I had to be the protector; I had to protect my mother from herself. Until the time came when I had to protect myself. I got myself out of the situation when I was 14. I went to live with my grandmother permanently and of my own choice. Although I have achieved an associate degree in nursing and am now a registered nurse, I feel that with better circumstances and better opportunities I could have gone much further and felt much less pain. I feel the emotional scars daily, but am healing. I'm trying to be a successful mother, wife, and nurse. However, the problem has gotten worse. I have three little sisters. The twins are 12 and the oldest is 14. My mother has never been truly "right", but she has managed to hold down the same job for 25 years. She has recently gone through a divorce from my stepfather and the father of my little sisters. Her mental status has once again taken a spill. I lived in the home with my mother and stepfather as long as I could. I love my sisters dearly. I want stability for them. I wanted stability for myself as a child. Since the divorce, my mother's mental status has steadily declined. She has been hospitalized a few times, but will not take the medication or continue with the therapy. I moved in with her and the girls for two weeks to see that they were being taken care of and to try to get my mother stabilized. The situation became detrimental to my daughter's well being. She is 6 years old, and does not understand why grandma would say, "There are beings that can float through walls and they go from house to house and rape women and young girls while they sleep." I brought my daughter back home. My older sister came up and stayed with my mother and the girls for about three weeks. My mother took the medication for a while and started to show improvement. My sister had to go back to the army. My mother has steadily declined over the last four months and I don't see any relief coming. I have come to the realization that I cannot make my mother well. She is not capable of understanding that she is ill. She has ideas of grandiosity and feels that she is gifted by God. I am concerned for my sisters. They are at the age I was when I first attempted suicide. My older sister attempted suicide as well. We have both done heavy experimentation with drugs. I feel that we were very lucky to have made it this far in life and be as well rounded as we are. I am concerned that my younger sisters may not be so lucky. They are very intelligent and loving. They have wonderful values and goals. They are amazing. One of them has talked to me about wishing to die. Two of them have expressed to me that they want out of the home, but feel that my mother's condition will worsen if they leave. The other one is very shy, somewhat withdrawn and tells me that she has no desire to leave for hope that if she does the right thing and stays with our mom that she will get better. I am contemplating involving DHS and am currently searching for an attorney to see if I have any chance at taking custody. However, I am extremely concerned whether this will just do more emotional damage to the girls. If my mother were to get worse, maybe commit suicide after the children were removed from the home, they will feel that they caused this. I can deal with mentally ill patients and their families in a professional manner, but when it comes to my mom I forget everything I have learned in school. I feel like a helpless child. My heart is broken. I want to do what is best. Sincerely,
Hello again Paul,
Thanks for your message. In case this is of interest or help to you: I am deeply in love with (and married to) a brilliant and gifted man who grew up with a schizophrenic mother. Our relationship has always been difficult, and last spring he told me he didn't want me in his life anymore. We had been living in UK, where he is living still.
I'm now in USA. My husband and I do not communicate at all. I've been struggling to figure out what went wrong, and why. It occurred to me that most of the troubles that destroyed our friendship might be rooted in his relationship with his mother: his refusal to get emotionally close to women; his insistence on being in charge of defining "reality", and never allowing anyone else's viewpoint to influence him; his chronic subterranean rage to which he won't admit; his obsession with work; his refusal (or inability) to show spontaneous, true feeling of any kind; his refusal to hear or know about the emotional challenges in my life, the kind of issues that real intimates share and support each other through. "You have a duty to keep it to yourself so you won't depress other people," he always told me. He has a very hard time being idle, playful, spontaneous, frivolous, or sensual.
I did everything I possibly could to make my relationship with my husband work. When I suggested therapy, he told me to leave. I feel like the ghost of his mother has been fighting with me for him all this time, and now she's won. Though he isn't in my life anymore, I will always love him. When I found your website, I thought that if there were a similar organization in UK, I might be able to guide Peter toward them through mutual friends, without his having to hear my name. I wish so much that he could find help and support, and a way to heal himself. So far all he's done is patch together a kind of psychic barricade designed to keep certain things out, like love. It's fragile and rigid, and defending it takes up most of Peter's energy. I would so love him to be freed from that burden.
His childhood situation was appalling. He lived in a suburban house with his father, two brothers, and a mother who was paranoid and delusional. His father always insisted that there was nothing wrong with his mother, and refused to let her see a doctor or receive treatment of any kind. Peter and his brothers had to pretend nothing was wrong, while sharing a home with this utterly unpredictable schizophrenic woman. She also had OCD, and compulsively collected piles of rubbish in the house. Eventually the whole place was full almost to the ceiling, with only narrow little walkways left to allow people to get from one room to the next. She boarded up the windows. Everything stank. She ended up dying in that house, six years ago.
Peter never would talk much about his mother. But I feel her with him all the time.
Even if there is no support in UK for adult children of mentally ill parents, I'm still very grateful for all you've done, and for your website. It helps me A LOT to understand why Peter is the way he is, and why he doesn't want me in his life. Thank you for helping me cope with the huge grief of losing him.
All best wishes to you,
I think its really great that NNAAMI exists, especially for kids who are still trapped in that environment. it is so vital for them to be able to express the frustration and fear that they feel in an environment where that act is not alienating.
after a while u start to take it for granted that no one will ever understand how it feels.
I recently saw your website on adolescent children of
schizophrenics, and I was relieved to see that there is an
organization like this out there.
It seems as if we are the forgotten people and sometimes the after effects manifests themselves later on in life. I have been harboring a range of feelings for so many years, and never had any real reason why I have these feelings. After visiting your website, I realize that all these feelings are quite normal. I realize now, that our experience is just as important too.
I live in the United States, and I wanted to know if there are any online support services about schizophrenia. Please let me know if there are any.
Thank you for all the information.
Thank you for responding to my email. I have a relative who has been ill. I sometimes don't fully understand this illness. However, I do know the effects it has on lives. It was great to read your website and find that there are others who have endured this illness. Is your organization limited to Australia or is it global?
Well Jack we are global from Australia anyway, and soon to launch the ' World Organisation of Young People and Others Who have a Mentally Ill Parent' WAYMI internet site. Paul NNAAMI
I was so pleased to see a website for children of the
mentally ill. After reading some of the letters, some of
which resemble my own upbringing, I just had to write. My
Mother had schizophrenia for 34 years until her death in
1996. I am 42 now. The oldest of 3 children. My family
won't talk of mums illness and Iv 'e only heard my father
mention "schizophrenia' once. My mums sisters and brothers
pretend it didn't exist. My whole life Ive hidden behind
the embarrassment of mums condition. What if your friends
find out!. My Dads mother didn't like my mum and made it
obvious as did Dads sisters. The reason being they viewed
her as a "nut" . I find it difficult as an adult to trust
and maintain friends. I suffer depression, low self esteem,
suicidal thoughts. I failed at school, I won't take risks
incase I fail. Or take risks incase I succeed. I feel like
the blinds have half down my whole life. Our family wasn,t
offered any counselling. My Dad I know was hospitalized
once for stress caused by Mums condition. Poor bastard. He
never once ran down Mum to his children. I love him for it.
My Nana after abusing my mother one day, verbally, got a
taste of her own medicine. Mum told her where to go and
smashed her reading glasses. Nana told everyone Mum was
violent in the small country town we lived in. Mum never
helped at the tuckshop, had our hair done nice, came to our
sports carnival ect. So I overcompensate where my three
girls are concerned. I'm always on the lookout for signs
one of my kids will end up like Mum. I can't talk about all
this to my husband, as he comes from the "Brady Bunch"
family. I get angry when all there are,are funding for
"nice" disorders, such as breast cancer ect. I write to
magazines about Mum illness. But unless a celebrity comes
down with schizophrenia it won't be our in the open.
Mentally ill people aren't treated with the same respect as
people with physical illnesses. This became evident when my
Mum became seriously ill. The doctor told us Mum was
imagining it. She died a week later!. Someone said to me
today. Are you upset that your Mum died. I said. "That was
the easy part". I love you Mum.
The eloquent, and heartfelt messages of adult children of mentally ill parents (or parent)......have touched my heart....
I am the 48 year old oldest child of a mentally ill mother. My only memories of growing up include bizarre, distorted recollections of a mother who was and still is paranoid, delusional...out of touch with reality...
It is unfair...it is a curse....it is hell....
I read through the letters and articles and just cried and
cried- what the people were saying was so true- everything
they said I could relate to.
I remember going to school, and more recently going to university, and people talking about how terrible the stigma of mental illness was, and how it'd all be fine if it was accepted in the community.
I remember being told by my mother's psychiatrist, by my father, by counsellors- that I was my mother's support, that I had to "be strong". I was lucky that I got to have most of a fairly healthy childhood- odd, not quite normal, but one which made me happy. Moving into my teenage years I saw my mother break down year after year after year- all the while I was expected to shoulder the burden and be the support for the family, I saw her getting worse and worse and the doctors not doing anything about it.
I remember the first time my mother was hospitalised since my birth- I was 12 and she had been talking about things which seemed odd, crazy- but surely this was normal? My mother wasn't *that* mentally ill, surely? Even when she started telling me that I would give virgin birth, I wasn't convinced that she was unwell, I even wondered if she was right.
Since then she has been hospitalised every year, sometimes multiple times a year, and in the beginning, in the breaks between hospitalisations I could see my old mother- concealed behind a veil, maybe, but she (or some part of her) was there. In the past 2 years or so, though, I have lost touch with her- I can't talk to her in a reasonable manner, I hear her talking about how "fish oil will save us", how she can take the poisons out of tobacco, how she will cure me of my lung problems by burning "heavenly incense" (tobacco) around me... and the list goes on. When I talk to her I feel as if I'm in some surrealist movie, or as if I'm talking to someone high on drugs- except that I know she won't come out of it in a couple of hours, and I won't be able to tell her how silly she sounded.
Every day I worry about her. I am (and I know this) the only person left who talks to her- her youngest child. I'm not yet 20, though I have (thankfully) moved out of the house, and I don't think I would be alive now if I hadn't. When I don't talk to her, I feel guilty for not supporting her, and when I do talk to her, it fills me with such sadness and grief- as many people have said- I feel as if my mother is dead, but there is some other creature in her body, and I desperately keep reaching out to her in the hopes that my mother will reach back, but my mother isn't there anymore. I wonder if she ever will be again.
Thank you so much for providing the website, it is very helpful to know that I am not alone, there are other people who have been through similar things. It hurts me to see that even though what I have gone through is incredibly painful, what many of these people have gone through is far worse.
I am so angry. I am tired of lies, and placations. I
applaud you and your efforts to reach out to children of
mentally ill individuals, and am saddened by my own
country's refusal to acknowledge the needs of this group.
If you have any knowledge of a US based group like yours,
or even a suggestion of how to start one, please let me
My own story is repeated time and again on the pages of your bulletin board, with minor variations here or there, but a recognizable thread that rings true to the marrow of my being. My mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was 4 years old, but I did not know this until years later. My younger sisters and I were told Mom was in the hospital for "back injuries". I was very lucky in that my father was around to try and shelter my sisters and I, but he worked long hours, and didn't like to be home. My mother was paranoid, and delusional, and for whatever reason believed I was "in on" her delusional fantasies of persecution. My earliest memories are colored by sharing my mother's world - the world of a young child alone with an ill parent - monsters under the bed are real, and the world is a dark and unsafe place. My mother would hide my stuffed toys, telling me they ran away because I was "bad" until I cried. She taught me to fear everything, trust no one - especially myself -and did the same to my younger sisters. The ironic part is that I had no idea that this was not real. My mother tortured me, frightened me, abused me, and I thought it was my fault. She was sly and manipulative, and only when she was most floridly psychotic did she get caught. My father either knew and turned a blind eye or didn't figure out what was happening, but either way he chose her well being over ours and stayed silent. I developed night terrors, school and social anxieties, facial tics and obsessive -compulsive disorder. My mother cut off my hair in a fit of rage, and fed my fears about insects, demons, contaminated food and God hating me. She told me that my sisters and I had been molested by relatives (a delusional fantasy of hers, covering up her own middle of the night "medical practices"). This was before I was 10. When I was 15, I found out the truth, that my mother was mentally ill, and had been for my whole life. At this point, she had had multiple hospitalizations and went through a five year period of very intense illness. My sisters were sent to stay with relatives and friends of the family. I was kept home from school to care for her, and was left alone when my aunt, her sister, left because my mother was so psychotic she "couldn't take it any more". I have sporadic memories of the three days before she was institutionalized. I became severely depressed myself, and begged to be hospitalized. My parents refused. The first time I attempted suicide, my mother sent me to school to "find someone who cares because I don't". That attempt began a long chain of self-mutilation and suicide attempts that lasted into my late 20's. Now, at 31, I have been in therapy most of my life. My arms are covered with easily over 200 scars from suicide attempts and self-abusive episodes. I am on medication for Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For the first time, I am in a relationship that is not one sided, or abusive. By acknowledging my past, I have been able to make a kind of peace with it, and even with her. I am a social work student, re- enacting my own drama time and again by trying to save children the way I begged to be saved from my mother and her illness. My therapist once asked me what was the reason I would do such horrible things to myself and my body to cause the scars I have all over me. I thought of the movie "Sybil", where the little girl tells of how she would draw on the walls when her mother would lock her in the coal bin, just so one day, people would know she was there. For the rest of my life, no matter what lies my mother tells, I know I was here, and what happened to me was real.
Please let me know - I so want to be a part of your organization!! If there is anything here that you think someone would find helpful, feel free to use it as you see fit. Thank you so much for your work and for being a beacon in the darkness!!!
My name is Rebecca and I have been dealing with my mothers
mental illness for 25 years. When I was twelve she told the
police that my father was a satanist and that he was
abusing myself and my brother. She aquired a restraining
order and had him removed from the house. She then would
make my brother and I sit while she made us memorize all
the things she said my father did to us that we didn't
remember saying we had repressed memory disorder.
She threw me out when I was seventeen telling me she wished I had died instead of my sister.
Now that I'm older, have a child her condition has gotten worse. She calls in the middle of the night to scream at me and tell me I'm a piece of crap, she just got arrested for shoplifting, her house is just stacks and stacks of boxes full of things, and she refuses to take medication of any sort.
When she applied for social security a couple of years ago she had to be mentally evaluated. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, narcicistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and muchaussen byproxy. I was able to read up on these disorder but the only information I have been able to aquire on coping is that I need to set boundaries. I feel guilty most of the time, even though logically I know it isn't my fault.
State law where I'm at won't allow me to commit her unless she is a threat to others or herself.
My spouse can't deal well with the change in me every time she has one of her episodes because the way she behaves is a really heavy load for him. I'm afraid that the pain she causes me is so all consuming that it could effect my relationship and my ability as a parent.
I hope that I can find some sort of support group or someone else to talk to, to validate my feelings and maybe some pointers to dealing with her since I can't put her on another planet.
Thanks for listening,
Washington State, USA
I AM A FEW YEARS OVER 50 AND I AM PRESENTLY RAISING MY 7
YEAR OLD GRAND DAUGHTER. HER MOM (MY OWN DAUGHTER HAS A
SERIOUS MENTAL PROBLEM) MY DAUGHTER ANNA, I WILL CALL HER
ANNA, HAS BEEN IN AND OUT OF TREATMENT FOR YEARS, ANNA IS
27. WHEN ANNA DECIDES SHE IS CURED, SHE DOES NOTHING FOR
HERSELF AS FAR AS TREATMENT OR MEDS OR ANYTHING. I HAVE
BEEN STRUGGLING FINANCIALLY PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY
TRYING TO RAISE MY GRAND DAUGHTER BERNICE, ALONE AND UNDER
THESE CONDITIONS, BERNICE, THE 7 YEAR OLD, HAS A FATHER
THAT CHOOSES NOT TO BE WITH HER. NO CHILD SUPPORT, NO
SUPPORT OF ANY KIND. I WILL CALL BERNICE'S FATHER, BEN.
BEN'S MOTHER WAS INSTITUTIONALIZED FOR BI-POLAR SHORTLY
AFTER HE WAS BORN, WHICH WAS ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO. MYSELF, I
HAVE RECENTLY GOTTEN BEATINGS. MY GRANDCHILD HAS BEEN VERY
EMOTIONALLY ABUSED AND I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO. I WENT
THROUGH HUD, GOT A 3 BEDROOM HOUSE. MY DAUGHTER, MY GRAND
DAUGHTER AND MYSELF SHARE THIS HOUSE. I KEEP AS MUCH PEACE
AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. BUT AT TIMES I FEAR FOR MY LIFE. THE
POLICE HAVE BEEN AT TIMES AND UNLESS MY DAUGHTER BEATS TO A
POINT OF BLOODSHED, THEY SAY ALL I CAN DO IS PRESS
HARASSMENT CHARGES. WHICH THE LAST TIME I CALLED THEM, IT
WAS BECAUSE MY DAUGHTER WAS GOING FOR A KNIFE AFTER SHE
BEAT ME IN THE HEAD. AT LEAST CALLING THE POLICE BROKE THE
MOMENT. WHY AM I HERE?? MY BEAUTIFUL 7 YEAR OLD GRANDCHILD
LIVES HERE TOO. MY GRAND DAUGHTER HAS ADHD, BUT AT LEAST I
CAN GET FOR HER NOW AND HOPE FOR THE BEST. MY MOM WAS NEVER
DIAGNOSED WITH ANYTHING, BUT SHE IS 70 AND I BELIEVE THE
OLDER PEOPLE DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY COULD PERHAPS
HAVE A PROBLEM. ACTUALLY BOTH OF MY PARENTS MADE MY LIFE
HELL AND NOW I AM GOING THROUGH IT AGAIN ONLY MUCH WORSE.
IS THERE ANYWHERE TO TURN??? I WOULD LOVE THE GET A WAY FOR
MY GRAND DAUGHTER AND I. ACTUALLY ANY INFORMATIVE HELP
WHERE I CAN GET ADVISE OF ANY KIND WOULD HELP. THANK
"A few years ago it suddenly occurred to me why our family
life when I was growing up was so different from other
families. There was a distinct lack of fun in our family.
We did very little together, my sister and I never had
birthday parties, we never had birthday cakes, we never did
sleep overs, we never had friends over to play, we didn't
go to the movies, the local pool, we never had a parent
read a book to us. When I was about 10 or so my sister and
I so wanted to go to the beach, but knew we never would,
that we made a pretend beach behind the garage with some
sand. It was moderate fun for a while. Sometimes I would
think about the sister we had lost, and I would go into the
back of the wardrobe and look at the pink dress that was
hanging there. That was her dress. In the bottom of one of
our mother's drawers were some faded flowers. They were
from my sister's funeral. My mother kept them till the day
she died. My mother had a mental illness, she had a
personality disorder, and after my sister was killed on a
country road by a young, speeding motorist, she went
downhill fast. She became addicted to prescription
medications, she became a recluse, she became phobic, and
she blamed my father who had been supervising my sister the
day she was killed. My mother was referred to a
psychiatrist who she continued to see for the rest of her
life, and he made moderate progress I suppose. She had a
few admissions into dreary psychiatric hospitals and we
would visit her and my surviving sister and I would be
terrified and ashamed of seeing her in that environment.
That was when I was a child. I remember so acutely that
there was no support for us - my father, my sister and I.
We were left to struggle on alone. There is a huge well of
grief inside me about that. Nobody seemed to care. My
mother had alienated my father's family and they were in
another state, anyway, and her family were odd and some
were in another country. My father was a good Catholic but
no-one from the local parish wanted to know about us. I
wish there had been a group for children of parents with
mental illness back then, more than 30 years ago. Although
I was a shy kid, I could have really used it."
I have always thought of myself as "different". For many
years I have blamed it on myself without putting the blame
where it belonged; on my parents. It's hard to do, when as
a child what you grow up are told what you are living with
is "normal", when in reality it is only "usual" behaviour.
Especially when in the extended family, aunts, uncles,
cousins they all seem the same.
The true nature of what mental illness both my parents have I will never know. I only know about being a child growing up seeing them pop pills supplied by doctors and at various times being admitted to psychiatric hospitals. The feeling of never knowing what mood you would walk into, often scared to go home, living in a world of "when it was good it was wonderful, but when is was bad it was hellish". I dreamed of how I could live in my bedroom and never come out. I escaped into books. I escaped in my mind until they forced their way in.
One time when I did go to seek professional help, at the same clinic where their medical records were kept. I was advised that upon what I could tell them at that time, it was most likely they each had behavioural disorders. These disorders I was told were not dangerous, not even classified as a mental illness, but only effected their ability to have healthy relationships. (I would love to know how bad they considered dangerous to be!)
I went to this place, not only for me, but to get them to look closer at the games my parents played with these "so called professionals". They needed help, I needed help, but all was dismissed because there were no visible scars and I appeared well adjusted and what I told them was beyond what they wanted to believe. So again my lack of faith in the medical profession was reinforced.
As a survivor adult of growing up in a "madhouse" I use the internet to search for information. Here I feel safe and have learned a lot from various sites, support groups and articles. I have learned to accept that I did not cause their illness and I cannot cure their illness. Nevertheless, in one way or another I will have to live with their illness effecting my life, for the rest of my life.
Mental illness can kill a person as easily as a gun, the only difference is that the person remains on this earth. They are not alive, they merely exist and the destruction that follows them goes on for generation after generation unless the child has the ability to walk away (emotionally, spiritually and/or sometimes geographically) and to rebuild the damaged self.
My wish is for governments/professionals to understand that if they could break the cycle through the children, rather than turning a blind eye, then perhaps they could save the huge financial costs related to living with and around mental illness in a family. I see so many people in this instance trapped in a lifestyle filled with substance abuse, gambling abuse, living on "Social Security payments" rather than learning to take responsibility for themselves and progressing. They do not have dreams because survival and escape are the only reality they live with.
I've visited your website a number of times to read other internet user's emails & articles. I read the email from Janice, from the UK tonight which is almost a mirror image of my own experience, except that my mother is still alive - just physically as well as mentally very ill. It's amazing as I read all of the accounts from different people with so many common experiences, feelings, and behaviours, both by the adult children, and the sick parents.
Unlike Janice, I left home at 13 to become a foster child, as my mother was highly delusional. She was violent & hallucinated both voices & visions. She was quite positive that she was a "prophet" of God, and was being persued by alien spirits, trying to trick her into sinning so she'd go to Hell. Eventually, Christ himself became an alien, and Heaven a frozen wasteland where "saved" spirits would live eternity in cold, mindless devotion. She packed our whole house up in boxes ready for a move to a "holy farm" & we were not allowed to associate with other people, our whole lives revolving around prayer & bible readings. She would often make us fast for over a week at a time when the "things" told her she had to. Her delusions have changed a lot over time (I'm now 31) but are still just as vivid. She has never had any treatment for her illness - we lived in a country town, and while she hid her condition well, even though the results of physical abuse on me & my sister was clearly visible to anyone (including teachers), no-one wanted to "get involved". Now, all these years later, I've had only limited & occasional contact until about 6 months ago when she found my address & phone number and has been calling & writing, begging & pleading with me to be her daughter again, and to look after her as she is now physically unwell. My older sister, after a longer period of no contact, who has a young daughter, had contact with her over the last two years, but her husband has now forbidden contact of any type. Our mother criticized everything about my sister & her life - she can be a very nasty & spiteful person - and had my sister in such a state that she was contemplating suicide. The last straw was when at my sister's still-born son's cremation, our mother announced to all present that my sister's evil ways were the reason her baby was dead - that she was responsible for killing her child.
With that, my brother in law drove our mother home - over 500kms - immediately, and she has been banished. She still has nothing good to say at all about my sister when she writes to me, despite the chance at a new start being offered. Our mother's physical abuse was very severe indeed toward my sister - worse than mine, and any chance at all to re-establish a relationship was a generous offer by my sister. The rest of my family has pretty much disowned my mother, and me (when I left home at 13), so now it's just me that my mother wants in her life. The thing is, I know what it means to be in her life, and I simply don't want to be! I can't do it. I don't want to ruin the rest of my life with her. She won't get treatment anyway, so her condition will be constant. I believe I am a warm & compassionate person, and have no tolerance for cruelty, violence or spite, but I can honestly say that for once in my life - and hopefully the only time in my life, despite having no hate or even bad wishes for my mother, I really wish she would die. I don't know that the guilt, and torn emotions of feeling you should help, but wanting to run the other way as fast as you can, would be any worse if she were gone.
Thanks for your site
I am 41 years old, the child, the niece, the cousin, the
grandchild, and the grand-niece of mentally ill loved ones.
As my dad had prophetically told me when I was nine, I was
going to learn many things "the hard way". So many of you
who are writing in this forum are in your twenties, unable
to trust that you will have a fulfilling life yourselves. I
was there once, in the process of becoming seriously
depressed myself, without knowing why, but I figured out
what I needed.
1) If you have a chance to move out of the house, do it, ASAP. If you have a well parent that is living with your ill parent, they will understand. They're staying around so YOU have a shot at a decent life and break the circle of pain that accompanies the "family curse".
2) Do what you need to do to get well/stay well yourself. Learn what you need to do to sleep through an entire night, to stretch and relax your muscles when anxiety puts you in pain, to get the stress out of you through writing or art or music, to stop the pain with meditation and breathing exercises. Dance. Remember, you couldn't help your parent when you were young because you were not strong enough yourself. Strengthen yourself in every way you can: socially, financially, psychically so you CAN help without snuffing yourself out.
Sometimes You Have to be the Bad guy to be the Good Guy
3) Search and read what you can, and explore EVERY possibility as to what diagnosis fits your ill parent. The more you know, the better armed you are when you are in the position of dealing with your parent's doctors and medications. Remember doctors have NOT observed everything you have, especially if your parent has a history of putting on a public persona to appear "well". If you are dealing with a psychiatric emergency, and have to get a parent to the hospital, document as much as you can on paper BEFORE you call 911. Because after you make that call, and the nice policeman comes to buckle your parent into your car to drive them to the hospital, YOU may be the one that's pacing and upset, and your parent may be putting on the show of their lives for strangers. Also, beware of the "official" version of your family history: for years, I'd heard about what a monster my grandfather was for putting my grandmother in the hospital, where she was subjected to electroshock in the 1960s. After having to call the cops on Mom so I could get her in hospital, I am left wondering about what kind of monster I'm supposed to have become... Sometimes you have to be the bad guy to be the good guy.
4) Good spouses do exist. Marry them. Enjoy them. But don't load all the problems you grew up with on them. They won't tolerate it for very long at all.
Love people and
5) Give your kid the hugs you didn't get. Practice the consideration to your husband and kid you never got. Have the sleep overs, the birthday party with guests, the vacations you never had when you were growing up. Don't feel guilty about it. Buy yourself flowers.
6) F***k the secrecy of what's happened in your family. At my age, I am surrounded by coworkers dealing with their parents' dementia and Alzheimers', which is catching them blindsided. They'll understand where you're at when you have to take family leave to attend to your parent. For a while, I hung a Newsweek cover of Robin Williams as Patch Adams, pressing stethescope to forehead, in my cubicle at work. The cover story was, "Is Everybody Crazy?: The New Science of Brain Chemistry". And yes, my daughter knows Grandma isn't well, and the nature of her illness. She's unhappy that she's been deprived of a Grandma like her friends have, but she's not deprived of wonderful relationships with other adults.
7) If you have siblings, talk to each other and support each other any way you can. Talk to and support your siblings. You need to not only the support of siblings. Establish connections between you and relatives that have been alienated from your family during your parents illness. This includes not only your well relatives, but those who are ill, and those are in similar position of care-giving, They can provide you with an enormous amount of perspective! Lastly, if your il parent is still living on their own ,establish connections between you and their neighbours, because They will be your immediate support in an emergency.
8) Take pleasure in things you can get for yourself now that you couldn't as a child. I get so tickled every time I buy new underwear. I revel in the dance lessons I induge in once a week.
9) Love your ill parent, but DON'T ever let them make you choose between your spouse 'n kid and them. If this happens, your spouse 'n kid take priority, DESPITE the guilt you may feel. Maintain the boundaries you need to to stay well.
10) If you are accused of being callous and unfeeling (most of all, by yourself), talk to someone else - your friends, your clergyman, your counsellor, your shrink - and get a reality check. I have lost the ability to cry when loved ones (human or animal) die - I'm all cried out, I guess. But I do my best to show my love in other ways: I've been called upon three times last year to deliver formal eulogies, which I am honored to do.
Peace to all who have written to this site,
Shelley, who's been there.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
After wishing for so long that I could find people who could actually relate, I found this forum.
My mom became ill for the first time 25 years ago, when I was 10, and she 39. It's quite an unusual age for the onset of bi-polar illness (with psychosis) but nothing about her case seems to fit "the norm".
My mom is a loving, giving, caring human being, who also happens to have a very severe mental illness. Because I love her dearly for who she is (or was before she got sick) I have never been able to "let go". I've strived to separate he from her illness, although admittedly it hasn't always been easy to do. At 10, I used to literally tie myself to her at night, to keep her out of harms way AND to keep me from waking up in a panic to the eerie sight of her in front of a snowy television set, in the darkness, listening to "the voices". The phone would often be left off the hook, the sound of which would wake me up. And the stove jets would be maxed. There were also nights when she'd wander outside in the cold NY night, naked, to stare at the moon (which like most light sources beamed private messages to her). I was always a super independent child, and my dad was 26 years her senior, so I took it upon myself to be her night watch person, since poor old dad had the day shift. I also had a brother one year my senior and another out of the house who was 11 years my senior. Neither my dad or brothers seemed to have what it took to deal with the harsh reality of her illness. They all were content to pretend it wasn't real until it was too real to ignore. I knew better. I knew it was real, and dangerous. So from that tender age of 10 I became "super-girl", convinced that if I did "x,y and z" things would be kept under control.
As bad as her episodes were for twenty years, they always got better after hospitalizations and weeks (if not months) of medication adjustments. When lithium first was approved, my mom was amongst one of the early receptors. And it definitely helped. Her episodes were no longer as frightening or violent (she'd often hallucinate that a tumor was growing out of my brother's side -- and try to remove it for him with a butcher knife -- which was truly more of an act of love than violence but she was also a physical force to be reckoned with -- as it often took up to 3 people to constrain her if she was trying to make a fast break for the front door while psychotic)
With lithium, her illness took on a comedic psychosis at times - she was prone to "holding people up with bananas" and breaking into a Broadway rendition of "there's no business like show business" on street corners. You have to find humor in these things or you will go mad yourself. Anyway, for 20 years, the I somehow managed to feel in control of her illness -- because her episodes could be stabilized with time and effort. And although it was hard (I put myself through college, while she was ill at times, with precious little support from anyone) I managed on my own for the most part. (My dad passed away at 84 and I still had the strange compulsion "to protect" my brothers from the harsh reality of her illness.)
The one solace that I did eventually have was meeting an marrying a kind, understanding, intelligent and compassionate man. I also worked in wholesale travel for years -- which allowed me the much needed ability to escape from reality at times. I don't think I could have made it without my loving husband or those occasional get-aways! Anyway, my biggest fear was always that my mom would become ill beyond control when she was elderly...and as if a premonition, that's exactly what happened. Fiver years ago. my mom had a manic episode (with psychosis as is her norm) that she never fully recovered from. After months in different hospitals (she kept getting bounced after 30 days which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the CA max. covered stay in a psychiatric facility). Eventually she was sent to a locked facility, where she was brutalized. -- That was the worst experience of my life. (Fortunately for her, as with many of her psychotic episodes, she doesn't remember the experience much.)
After the physical attack the floodgates finally burst and ALL the repressed sadness and despair of 25 years came flooding to the surface. I suffered my own bout with severe depression and only overcame it with the loving support of my husband.
I was able to get her out of the hell hole, and she now resides in an assisted living senior residential center. She's also been bounced around between doctors several times these past years, as fewer and fewer accept MediCal. She is now seen by the Stanford geriatric-psych clinic, since she was hospitalized there last. Since her visual and auditory hallucinations have not gone away over these past 5 years, her actual diagnosis was officially changed from bipolar with psychosis to schizoaffective disorder.
Having to watch her suffer the nearly ceaseless agony of hallucinations for 5 years has taken its toll on me. I am no longer the infinitely optimistic "super-girl" of years gone by. I now live on an emotional roller-coaster - doing well when she has a good day, and feeling full of despair and sadness when she has a day filled with frightening hallucinations.
My mom is a wonderful woman who does not complain or ask why, she is spiritual by nature and I've heard her say that her faith in god is what kept her from ever considering suicide as a relief option. I am thankful for that, because HER strength now sustains me.
I have finally come to a painful conclusion after these 5 years of constant med trials which culminated with her starting on clozaril (the famous "last resort med" which requires intense blood monitoring and doctor's appts.) - and that conclusion is that she will probably never fully recover. I resisted this notion for so long that I put my entire life on hold for these 5 years, focusing almost exclusively on her care.
I now need to give myself permission to move on and stop being "super daughter". I have dreams that have been on hold for far too long, and I yearn to fulfill them. But I am still racked with guilt and a sense of abandoning my mom, even though I've been more like a mom to her for most of my life. Part of this is cultural, as I am half Hispanic and it is a cultural norm for the daughter to be care-taker of the parents.
I've never shared this story openly and still find myself keeping the details of her illness from people - because of the stigma and ignorance that I've been met with the few times I did try to share it. Which really pisses me off because of who my mom is, and how strong she is.
My in-laws (also Hispanic) constantly ask why my husband and I haven't had children yet. There are many shared reasons, and we both feel uncertain about whether or not to be parents, but I have a whole other set of reasons that include being tired of being a parent, since that's essentially what I've been since age 10, wanting to FINALLY have my own life, and being terrified by the prospect that my child would have a 25% chance of having a mental illness. That's just not something I could handle. The decision to have a child is ours and ours alone to make, and I know that, but I can't help feel the pressure or resent them for not understanding -- since they are aware of my mom's illness and how much care I giver her.
Anyway, I guess I just need to get all of this out in the hope that someone out there can relate. There are so many unique emotions involved for the children of parents with mental illness. I find myself resentful when someone compares there situation to mine because they are now taking care of an elderly parent...because I've taken care of my mom for most of my life her being elderly just happens to complicate things. She is 74 now, but aside from her mental illness I think she's physically healthier than I am. Longevity definitely runs in her family, so this is all the more reason why I tried so hard to help her get well, since I'm sure she has many years of life left.
There are also many senior issues to deal with, which are also greatly complicated by her illness, like primary care doctors who CONSTANTLY put her on trendy senior meds. that wind up counter-acting her psych meds. EVEN THOUGH THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER. I regularly provide current med lists to both doctors, and that's all I can do, but somehow it's not always enough...which just drive me crazy and induces a lot of anxiety in me.
She also has a unique living arrangement that could be terminated at any time -- and this is another source of anxiety, since there are literally no quality senior assisted living residences or skilled care environments that even accept people whose primary diagnosis is mental illness. So in addition to my ongoing fears for her stability, I also fear the precarious perch we seem to be on in terms of her living situation.
Is there anyone out there that can relate??? It would be so great to hear from you!
Thank you for your words of wisdom and your kindness.
I'm so glad that your organization and this website exist. They are definitely steps in the right direction.
I think that one of the hardest parts of trying to cope with mental illness and the issues that surround it is the sense of isolation - the feeling like no one in the world could possibly understand what you are going through or feeling. This can't be understated. It's a sense of silent suffering and at times shame that weighs you down and adds to the pain of the situation. When I think back to being a kid, that is the one thing that causes the most pain -- where was everyone? why didn't anyone explain anything to me or offer any support? That conspiracy of silence is what trained me to keep it all in and take it all on my own shoulders
So I am comforted by the fact that children can now find information out there and an organization like yours online. It may be a baby step, but I know it will make a tremendous difference for those who just want someone to talk to, listen, understand or comfort them.
I really wanted to express that. I also wanted to share information on two books that have helped me a lot recently. The first is "The Burden of Sympathy - How Families Cope with Mental Illness" by David A. Karp. I would HIGHLY recommend this book. It made me laugh, cry and never want to put it down. The second book (which I am still reading) is called "When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness" by Rebecca Woolis. It offers both insight and amazingly practical advice on how best to deal with our loved ones who are ill (including advice on how to keep your own life in balance.). After 25 years of care-giving I am still finding it to be very informative, so I'd say anyone can benefit from it.
If you haven't already heard of them I think you'll really enjoy them and people in your organization will benefit from having them available.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond, and please keep up the good work!
My father has bipolar disorder and has been in and out of hospitals for the last year or so. I also just found out that he has been using cocaine. I would like to hear from others who have similar experiences.
Your story is all to painfully familiar to me. I am the oldest of six children who suffered an agonizing childhood at the hands of our mother who is mentally ill. The "secret" we kept in order to protect our mother smothered us until finally as adults we were able to speak about our horror and be set free. My mother in all her dillusions was extremely abusive. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I have alot of guilt due to the fact that I have so much anomosity towards her and that I can't seem to "forgive" her for all that she did to me and robbed me from. I say to myself over and over...she didn't do these things on purpose, she is ill. But somehow I can't fully convince myself of that. Even when I hear beautiful stories of what a wonderful person she was before this illness took over her, I can't place the two different personalities as the same person. I never knew the person that existed before her sanity was stolen from her. I wish so much that I had had the opportunity to know her and love and and to have her know and love me. I wish I had had a mom. My mother is currently living with me and I am still struggling with caring for her and her needs. She still refuses to ackowledge that she is ill and that she needs to be on medication. Unfortunately, unless she is a danger of hurting herself or others, I can't seem to get the help that I need to force her to take care of herself. Everyday is a constant struggle.
I will pray for you and for your family and I wish you the best of luck. Please know that there is someone out there feeling your pain and also wishing that someday there will be a cure for this well kept "secret"
Dear mr. McKillop.
My name is Karin van Schooten and I live in Holland. I happen to read something about your work on www.thisisawar.com. There was a sentence that said: No matter where you are in the world, please contact mr. Paul McKillop for information, support or advice. It struck me and so here I am.
I have a mother who has borderline personality syndrom. She has been doing well over the last few years. So have I, I am 23 years old now, I got my diploma (I'm a nurse in a psychiatric hospital now), got a home and dealt with my past for the larger bit. I never thought I could get to be this happy but I did. There is a slight problem left which I do very much would like to get rid of, but I can't seem to achive that. It's about the look in my mother's eyes when she was punishing me for whatever. Her eyes used to be full of hatred, disapproval and even disgust. In daily life it's not much of a prblem anymore, but I'm a singer in a band which I absolutely love to do, but I'm too scared to go on stage. What happens is, when I stand there and everybody's watching me, I see the look of my mother's eyes in front of me again. Than I get scared to such a degree that I lose control over my voice and I sing falsely. So I haven't been on stage for a while, but I would like to get on there again, feeling comfortable and confident, because I know I can sing, I just can't sing in front of people. I'm pretty sure I can deal with this like I dealt with other issues, but on this one, I don't know where to start. I have talked to a couple of people about it, but there advices don't work on me. I have tried many different ways, but I can't change seeing that look in front of me, it keeps popping up. Have you got any idea how to get me started on this issue, so I can get rid of this once and for all?
And I'd like to ask a last question, am I one in a few that finds the look in her eyes one of the worst things I have experienced in my past. I have spoken to people with the same experiences and the far majority mentioned the physical beatings and so on as the worst, while I find that one of the least bad things that happened. I have never ever heard anybody mention what I have just mentioned.
Already thanks a lot.
The face in the mirror looks back at me and I wonder who it is? My mind knows it is myself but somehow I feel detached from the image. Wondering why, I look closer into the reflection seeking recognition. My mind is aware that I try not to look too closely at myself because I see my mother who I don't want to be. Then comes the dissection, where I split my features and smile at myself. Letting myself like the image but knowing in my heart I am scared of my image. Never to feel attractive or believe your partner, children and friends that to them you are. I wonder how many other's feel like this?
Write a Poem on the nnaami site ..Follow the links on the Home page................
yeah this is the first time i have contacted you. i think your site is wonderful. especially for the people who have loved ones with the disease. i also think it is very educational for people who don't have to live with the disease (either with a loved one or themselves). this site gives an inside of what it is like to live day in and day out with schizophrenia. as i stated my mother has it. and right now her medication is not working like i would have hoped. for instance, last night she got mad at the world (my father and myself) because the television was telling her stuff. it is truly amazing how she does not understand that the television (or the people on television) don't have a clue who she is or what other people in her household at the time are doing. she unfortunately does not comprehend that, which makes life that much more unbearable when her schizophrenia acts up.
your site is also a wonderful opportunity for people, such as myself, to unload and read other statements of what others have to go through. it is a wonderful feeling to know that you are not alone when dealing with schizophrenia. i do have to admit, as wonderful as it feels it is also heartbreaking to know that others are having to go through the same thing i am. my heart truly goes out them.
Paul, if you don't mind me asking, how are you dealing with the illness in your life (loved one or perhaps yourself)? well, either way, THANK YOU!
I want to say "wow"! This is a wonderful site and makes me feel like I am not so alone. I live in the United States and have been dealing with a parent that has schizophrenia since I was born. Luckily, I don't remember the stories that I am told of what it was like when I was just a baby, but unfortunately I do have the haunting memories of the past as I was growing up. My mother's illness has escalated and for the past 12 months her paranoia has gotten extremely bad. She has been hospitalized twice in that time period. Even though I am 27 now, it just does not seem to get any easier to deal with. The hurtful things she says and does is heart wrenching. She has been on a number of medications and for a long time one was working really well. I don't understand why the medication has seemed to have stopped working now, but hopefully soon we will find one that will work again.
I just want to say to anybody dealing with this illness that as much as it hurts to see a parent or loved one go through this; and as much as you might want to "run away" from it but can't bring yourself to leave... You are a strong and wonderful person and that loved one is blessed to have you in their life.
I was happy to find your site. I wish there was something like your organization in the USA. I have only recently begun looking for support for myself in dealing with my mentally ill mother. It is good to know I am not alone because there are so few that really understand in day to day life.
When I was too young to know it, my mother had several "episodes" of losing her mind and being hospitalized. I never knew anything was wrong with her until I was a teenager. One day when I was about 14, she was on the phone. I was waiting for her to get off to ask her something. While I was waiting, I started fiddling with the sink. There was a dish drainer in it and I took some silverware drying in it and was poking at the plastic on the dish drainer. My mother saw me doing it and flipped out. She started asking me what I was doing and why. She completely over reacted to what was the equivelant of doodling on paper while you are waiting. I was a little confused about it but didn't think much more on it. Then a few days later she pulled me out into the livingroom. She showed me a countertop where there was something wooden, something red, and something metal nearby. She then pulled me somewhere else in the house where there was something wooden, something red, and something metal. She then told me that someone was doing witchcraft in the house. I tried to explain to her that no matter where you went, you could find something wooden, red, and metal nearby but she didn't really listen. Then a few days later she disappeared. For a day or two I did not know where she was. She ended up stopped at a house somewhere and telling them to call and ambulance because she realized she was sick. That was the first time she was hospitalized that I remember. The feelings I experienced then were very hard. I felt as if my mother had died. I wondered where the woman I loved had gone and who it was in the shell of her body. I wondered if I would every get her back. I was forced to live with my grandmother for a few weeks. No one really talked about what happened. No one tried to explain it to me.
After she was released, it still took some time before she was back to normal. Even when she was, I was always on the lookout for signs that she was going to go crazy again. I didn't know what caused her sickness. The only thing I did know was that she stopped sleeping before she had the episode.
She was okay, although a little eccentric after that until I was 22. I had moved out and lived on my own by then. Suddenly one night she called me and started talking about things she had read in the bible and the end of the world. I started to get nervous. Then she began calling me at all hours of the night. She would come over my house and say strange things. She took a bible and set it on top of my computer and told me she was playing chess. My boyfriend witnessed this which caused me a tremendous amount of embarrassment. I knew she was in the middle of another episode but did not know what to do. One early morning my grandmother called and told me my mom was missing again. It was the middle of winter and they were worried about her walking around without a coat. My mom called me a short time later and told me where she was. She had started walking to my house and stopped at a store. The man at the store realized something was wrong with her and had her call someone. I went to pick my mom up at the store at 5am that cold winter morning. I remember the look on the man's face as I came and and led her out the door. He looked at me with pity. I brought her to my grandmothers house where my uncle tried calling her doctor. He was nervous to say anything was wrong with her because he feared that they would take my sister(who is handicapped) away from her. I remember hearing him talking to the doctor and telling him that my mother just "wasn't acting like herself". I wanted to grab the phone from him and explain that she had lost her mind. We gave her her medication and tried to make her sleep but she kept getting up. At one point she looked at my grandmother with fear in her eyes and said "you aren't my mother!" My poor grandmother started sobbing. My mother was seeing things and paranoid. I finally convinced her that she wasn't well and needed to go to the hospital. She agreed as long as I brought her to a certain hospital that was further away because she was paranoid about the local one. As I was bringing her out the door, my family stopped me. I can't remember why. They ended up trying to force her to the local hospital. They emergency room took so long that she kept taking off. At one point she beat up her boyfriend to get out of the car. They did finally get her in, though.
Since then, she has never really been back to normal. I am not sure if when I was younger I didn't notice it or if she is recovering less after each episode. She can function in society but isn't normal. She won't share any of her medical information with me so I am not sure what her diagnosis is. She doesn't want to talk about those things and seem to has a problem admitting there is something wrong with her. Life with her is a challenge. She hasn't had an episode for a few years but I imagine it is only a matter of time. She is still paranoid which interferes with her life. She is irresponsible and can't keep a job or pay her bills on time. She has no boundaries and doesn't respect mine. It has gotten to the point where it is starting to cause problems in my own marriage because my husband hates her and hates that she tries to be involved in every facet of our lives.
I'm glad to know that there are others out there with similar problems. I always felt like I was so alone.
US New Hampshire
Hello,I was searching the internet for information about the impact of mentally ill parents on the development of young children and found a website with your contact information.I live in XXXX and have a grandchild whose mother is bi-polar. The maternal grandmother is also bi-polar with a lengthy history of physically abusing her daughter, the mother of my 3 year-old granddaughter. The mother of my granddaugther is 20+ years old and currently not taking her medication. Just two nights ago, she cut her wrists and ended up walking to a nearby hospital emergency room. My son was able to pick up his daughter and bring her home with him. He is seeking custody and for a while the mother agreed that she was not stable enough to care for the child and would sign the legal documents to change the existing custody order.However, she has now changed her mind and we are going to court to proceed with trying to change the original custody order. I want this young woman to understand how her illness and her inability to properly care for herself is impacting her child now and how this will impact her future.Do you have anything that could be emailed or mailed to me that I can forward on to her to read? She is an intelligent young woman, but at this time in her life she is choosing to forego her meds in order to drink and smoke pot with her boyfriend and his friends. They stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. and keep the child up so she will sleep until noon when they are ready to get up. She must be made to understand how incredibly negative this is for her child. Most of the info I'm finding on the internet is geared more toward adult children of mentally ill parents or bi-polar children, but nothing about the impact on pre-school age children living in constant emotional turmoil. When the child visits with her dad, she cries when it's time to go home and doesn't want to go. She's been with her dad for three days now and has not asked even once about her mom or about going home. We have to save this child.Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated
(NNAAMI replied to above)
Thank you so much for your response, I appreciate the time you've taken to read my email and get back to me with your comments.
I am happy to report that in May my son won custody of his daughter and things have definitely improved since that time. The mother of the child does have visitation, and we never wanted to deny her access to her child. Stipulations regarding visitation include the mother providing monthly drug test results to my son, along with monthly statements from her psychiatrist and evidence that she is back on her prescribed medications.
Before we went to court I did try to speak to the mother about her experiences as a child and how, in the past, she had told me about the impact of her own mother's mental health issues on her as she was growing up. We had begun what seemed like a meaningful conversation when her boyfriend took the phone and wouldn't let me speak with her again. Since then, we have not spoken due to their anger around losing custody of the child. But, I met this young woman when she was still in high school and I know that she doesn't want to be the kind of person she turns into when she doesn't take care of herself. I don't think she has much support in getting better, so the court orders seem more like punishment to her than an avenue for an improved quality of life.
While the mother is still very angry that she lost custody, she has been complying with the court order. Another stipulation, which we are unable to really monitor, is that she maintain the regular bedtime that has been established for the child now that she is living with her dad. The difference in my granddaughter's mood and behavior is greatly improved and she's a much happier little girl these days.
We want to see her mother get better and really take care of herself so she can be the best possible mother she can be to this child. While she resents all of us at this point, we're hopeful that one day she'll come to the realization that these things can really help her have a better life, and by improving her own life she will improve the life of her daughter. We try to keep a positive thought for her success in taking better care of herself, but we're also prepared to deal with the fall-out if she is unable to continue to do so.
Yes, you may certainly post my email in the event our experiences could be helpful to others and you may use gramie as my user name.
Again, thank you for responding and for providing a valuable resource to parents and grandparents dealing with the many issues surrounding mental illness in families.
I have come to this site every 6 months or so since it opened. I come here and read the different articles and stories. Mostly I come when I need to cry. At 28 years old I am still unable to cry for myself, or the child that never was but I can cry for other people and their stories. It's sad in its way, but it is also therapeutic in another. And always, always I am left thinking what childhood? I never had one. I am an only child who was raised solely by my mother, who became ill when I was 3, maybe 4. Too young for me to really remember. One of my earliest memories is of her in a paranoid, delusional state. Hiding us in the middle of a bed, that she moved to the middle of a room, with all the covers pulled carefully up off the floor and us under them. Hiding from a non-existent lizard that she swore was out to get us. We stayed like that for days. And since it was during a snow storm no one knew. That is one of my better memories -- of the very few memories I have. For me, 'childhood' is mostly a blur. I tried to count up memories once and from childhood to around 16 I have less than a dozen. I know that says something but I have no idea what it is.
From there she got worse. From butcher knives and imaginary people chasing us to choking and smothering me. There was always something going on. And when there wasn't, I was always waiting. Waiting for the next shoe to drop. The next instance of insanity. Only to me, then, that was normal. To some degree it still is. She always watched me...searching for something in me that I will never comprehend. Or perhaps it was the demons she was seeing. And in reverse, I watched her. Always searching for the slightest thing out of place. She never disappointed me and the madness always returned. I stayed in a constant hyper-vigilant state the entire time I was growing up. Even now, I find myself in it more often than not. I became her caretaker. It was my job to count her medication and see that she was taking it. If she stopped, it was my responsibility to call my grandparents, or aunts and uncles and let them know she stopped. And if I failed to call, then it was my fault she was sick. I reminded her when to get groceries, made sure she kept up on bills. Watched who she was hanging around with. I was her parent. And I lived alone with her during every madness induced cycle she went through. And there were many.
Too many to count. The days of lucidity were far out numbered by the days she was out of it. I still feel terror when thinking of that trance like state that so many schizophrenics get. She had more than her fair share of those. Often, at night, she would go into one. And then in the middle of the night while in it she'd come to my bed to 'sleep' with me. If I was asleep, I'd awaken to find her standing at my doorway, in her nightgown, just staring at me. Only she wasn't seeing me. I was some demon that she fought. And in her fight she'd hold me and suffocate me till I couldn't breath. I learned not to fight. To this day if you stare at me while I'm sleeping I'll instantly wake up. And sleep for me rarely comes at night. I am terrified still, of the night. When I was little I rarely slept. I still wonder how I survived then, on so little sleep. But I always remember even at 6 and 7 years old, laying in my bed at night, stock still, hoping and praying that she'd leave me alone that night. That she wouldn't start doing something crazy when she thought I was asleep. I kept a constant vigil.
Friends were non-existent. I couldn't afford to have any. Because they always wanted to do the sleep-over thing. And that wasn't something I could risk. Nor was it something their parents were willing to risk. She taught school where I went to school, so everyone knew. She kept her job only through a lot of pleading from her parents, and a lot of understand on the school boards behalf. Mostly I think they were afraid she'd sue. And her fellow teachers weren't supposed to discuss that kind of thing, but they always did. And everyone I ever went to school with always knew she was mad. Only they called her insane, then. A few kids tried to be friends, but there parents wouldn't allow it for long. So I learned to be alone and eventually I became a loner. I'm still a loner. I have friends now but I always, always push them away. I'll go for a period where I talk to them regularly for awhile and then I just...pull away. And disappear for three months or slow. Eventually I resurface again. They've learned to accept that...for the most part. And back then, I learned to exist in my own world. That's not something that is easy to unlearn.
I learned not to count on people, not to trust them. In the end, when I needed someone to save me...to save me from her, they always left. And in its way, I think growing up with someone that is schizophrenic is worse than if you were given up as child. If your given up, it usually only happens once. When your parent has schiz they abandon you repeatedly. Sometimes everyday, sometimes once a week...it happens again and again. I taught myself not to believe in anyone. Not to have expectations beyond those for myself. Life was easier that way. I learned early on to hide my emotions and reactions to things. To never show that I cared for something. Because my mother, if she knew I did and her illness struck...she'd take them away. From something as simple as a doll, to dumping the only thing as a child I ever learned to love, my cat. And I do mean dumping. I came home from work when I was 16 to find him gone. She had decided he was insane. Ironic. I don't know that I will ever break free of those things I learned as a child.
The funny thing is, growing up, I didn't know she was schizophrenic. I was told by family members she was bipolar. Had I been told, as I got older, I might could have understood what she was going through a bit more. As it was, I'd read the definitions for manic depression (it was still called bipolar back then) and I'd end up thinking I was the crazy one. Because those definitions, those symptoms listed where no where near what I was experiencing with her. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I discovered the truth for myself. When I confronted the family members about it, they told me 'well, you didn't seem to care or be interested. I was living there. with her, not them How much more interested did I need to be? Yet they were able to tell me, as a child, that it was hereditary and I had better be careful or I'd end up like her. More than anything in my life, I am terrified of turning out like her.
And still....still I am responsible for her. She's alive and as well as she'll ever be and she is still my responsibility. I first moved out when I was 17 and she went right off the deep end. Each time I've tried to move to put distance between us she goes mad again. And I've moved a lot. Always running from the demons that now haunt me. If I go without talking to her for more than 2 days she starts panics. When I used to live alone, if she went 3 days without talking to me she'd start calling people -- my university, the cops, my landlord.. .everyone. I've learned not to disappear from her. She'll always find me and then when she does, to the person that looks for and finds me, be it the cops or my landlord, I turn into the bad guy. "How could you not call your mother, you bad child" I am always responsible. And I know, because it has happened time and again, if I try to cut her off completely then she ends up in the mental ward somewhere. And then starts the vicious cycle of blame by my family, towards me. I have enough guilt...guilt for her illness that no shrink can ever make go away. I refuse to add more too it by trying to save myself at her expense. She, for whatever reason, is my cross to bear.
And twistedly, the only thing that will give me any semblance of peace is if she were to die ...or at least leave me alone. But she can't do that. Either of those things. She tenaciously hangs on to life. Part of me says that is unkind and that I am awful for even thinking such things. But they are my thoughts and they can't be helped. Nor will they change. Especially when she still comes to visit me. Bringing the terror I felt as a child, right to the forefront, but this time in my own house. I can't cancel a visit because that too causes her to spiral. Part of me thinks I could forgive her to some degree, if she would ever just admit some responsibility for her actions. Even if it was as small as saying, I'm sorry I went off the medication. I shouldn't have but the illness was over riding my good sense. But she can't do that. No, years ago she became quite heavily involved in the church. The church taught her that the devil made her do all the things she does. He was tempting her. So instead she blames the devil. "I'm sorry, the devil made me do it". To this stay she will not even admit she has schizophrenia and if you mention it in her presence she'll blow up.
I believe in counseling and I think it is helpful to a lot of people, yet I myself am unable to go. I was scared deeply as a child by those that used to call themselves psychiatrists. I've watched them deliver electro shock treatment to my mother and they also locked me in a room with her, in the hospital, when I was a child. Simply because she was calling for me and they thought I might 'help' her. Helping her at a great expense...especially to a child that is already terrified of her mother. Much less being trapped in a locked room with her, at the hospital. A hospital that I had always associated with bad things to begin with. Of course, there were other instances...but like so many things, they are too many to name. Perhaps one day I will be able seek counseling without wanting to hide somewhere, myself. But for now I try and find things on my own, that I find therapeutic.
Hi. I just wanted to tell you what a tremendous relief it is to find a support for adult children of mentally ill parents.
My relationship with my father has been extremely confusing and painful. My parents divorced when I was five because of his complete denial of his paranoid behavior and psychotic episodes, and my sister and I would spend weekends and many holidays with him in this state. When I look back at the huge responsibility to care for him physically and emotionally I feel a cocktail of emotions, usually anger and deep sadness.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia ( so I have been told by my mother, the only person who will discuss it ), and was hospitalized against his wishes numerous times. It was so lonely to be a young child and have no person to turn to for an explanation. All my sister and I ever heard from our grandparents was hes not well and be a good girl and just show him you love him , not easy when you are terrified of whats going on around you. So we became children with no voice and HUGE eyes and ears. Even today I analyse practically every situation and person to see if I am safe, always watching my back.
Many weekends were spent with little food or supervision as he was catatonic or had just disappeared. We had to watch every word we said in case it would be interpreted as a criticism and he would become not well and it would be all our fault, we thought. I would become extremely anxious at his unpredictable and disturbing behavior and developed series after series of unexplained headaches and stomach aches which had no apparent cause.
Sometimes I just think of my childhood years as one gigantic mess, it is so difficult to piece things together, like where we lived ( he often had to move from various share houses ), how I felt about my father, how I deal with the shame and secrecy.
I have found it incredibly difficult to trust my own judgements and my gut feelings, for when I felt something was wrong I would be told I was going crazy, or I had to pretend it wasnt happening in order to survive it. My sister said to me recently that if we didnt have each other it would be hard to distinguish the truth of our experiences from a collection of freaky nightmarish fantasies.
The hardest thing to deal with is the guilt. Guilt at being ashamed of him when I was young, being different.
Guilt at not being loving enough toward him, not doing a better job of being an adult/child, even guilt about writing these feelings down as though somehow I am not honoring our family secret! That secret is still alive and well in our relationship with my father. Even to this day I cannot talk to him about any aspect of his illness ( he is currently doing quite well ).
I would fear him becoming unwell or hostile, possibly violent. It is as though that part of my life has never existed although I am haunted by it regularly.
I am now a mother of three children and have a very supportive and loving husband. While life is good for me there is a persistent fear of becoming my father and hurting the ones I love. I have struggled with depression throughout my adult life probably due to the stress of my early years, I just pray that I will be okay.
To have a voice, to break the silence is extremely healing. Secrecy doesnt protect anyone, especially children
I shall call myself "Jane" for lack of a better name.
I have been fortunate to finally get help for my parent, who is living 450 miles away, in good physical health but.... Three years ago, she was hospitalized for major depression with psychotic features, after a lifetime of terrorizing our family into never letting on that she was not well. Since then, numerous trips back "home" to rescue her, playing the "are you taking your meds?" game, and relapse have been the order of the day. Last Christmas, I found her anorexic, pacing the floor endlessly all night, and believing that someone had broken into her home and was in there moving stuff around - including the two large meat cleavers she triumphantly brandished after pulling them out of her underwear drawer as her "evidence"...
Fortunately, I was ready for the next move: I had hired on a home health service which speciallized in such cases, including meds management. Best thing that ever happened!!!!! After her general practitioner called to tell me he had decided to drop her (the result of her meds games), the terms of home health service (they would become her primary health care) were easy to deal with.
I have learned the hard way that 1) Meds mean the difference between life and death for Mom; 2) Daughters are NOT in a good position to be their mothers' case managers; 3) I made the right decision for everyone involved - most of all, respecting my responsibilities to my husband and children.
It is not a "happily ever after" story by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been able to bring my daughter with me this summer to see Grandma, in as low-pressure and controlled an environment that I could muster. Mom was doing the "activities of daily living" that determine whether she is able to continue to live independently (although not much beyond that). And surprise, surprise, she is allowing her furnace to be replaced before the winter, which involved her having to overcome her fear of spending money - something which pleased me greatly, as last winter I'd had to call the furnace guy away from a New Year's Eve party for emergency service. Sure beats freezing in your own home.
Take care, everyone, and do all you can to enjoy life.
Bulletin board continued on page 2.Bulletin Board Extra - The Leena Transcripts
View NNAAMI Poems
Mr Paul McKillop. Convenor NNAAMI.
Phone / Fax +61 3 98893095. Mail; NNAAMI P.O. Box. 213. Glen Iris. 3146. Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. email,
BACK TO HOME PAGE