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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
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.
thanks for your information on children of depressed parents on the alice miller website. i am the child of a depressed mother and i am 38 now. i went through excellent counselling at the age of 27 and was able to heal so much of my scars from her depression, among many other things i worked through. She never hurt me physically or went insane, it was just a daily living with insecurity and imblance and emotional abandonment. i have spent hte past 10 years working through my own depressive episodes, very similar to hers and have come to realize that mine are simply methods of coping, learned helplessness. and i am at a point where i can just sit in my overwhelmed state and not allow my brain to want to shut down and become depressed. i am breaking the pattern and not passing it down to my children, thanks to my excellent counselor giving me the tools to continue to heal myself. i am also beginning to research the effects of depression on the brain, and the ways my body may have become biologically changed becuase of living with a depressed mom. i am now getting my pscyh degree and hope to be a counsellor and i do believe i am pulling towards helping depressed moms and their children.
even though i've worked through and healed a TON, there is always a small, aching loneliness in me that i don't believe will ever heal, despite my incredible marriage and relationship with my kids that i have now. so reading your article is validating and i go to that website often to remind me that it's okay that i still hurt and that i am not feeling sorry for myself, it's all real. thansk for reading my email. there are so so so few people in the world that can understand emotional pain and healing and this website is a little retreat for me that i can go to and be validated. thank you for your research and sharing your knowledge with the world.
Having had a parent with bipolar1 which was not treated for a long time I have the sneaky suspition I have no chance at normalcy. I am an adult who has struggled at everything; including social skills, finishing college and fighting with depression and extremely low self esteem. Recently i was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and since then I have been hospitalized twice. My mother is med compliant and is very stable, yet she has a cruel side which stayed with her.
As an aside and to my mom's credit she raised my sister and I alone as my father died when I was 8 after a long illness where my mom had to care for him at home. He was so sick he smelled from uremic frost as his kidneys were hardly working. My mother was 28 then. She flipped shortly after he died and a number of times after that. She save my father's belts to beat us with.
My sister is on an antidepressant, and I am on MANY meds including lithium. I have been hospitalized twice.
Sadly, I cannot forgive her although I know she could not help herself. When I was 'babysitting' her one day when she was VERY delusional I layed on the couch with a butcher knife because I was so afraid of her. She did not even recognize me. My stepfather and I hauled her off to the hospital.
I think personality disorders may be largely hereditary, yet my childhood makes me wonder if a great part may be environmental.
I am writing from Canada. I just finished reading a story on your website by Cerian Jones. My god!!! That is my life. I never ever thought of myself as an adult child of a mentally ill mother. Isn't that funny? I know now why I never trust anyone, Why I am always trying to read another meaning into their words and body language, why I am still afraid that maybe I too will be ill one day, or maybe I already am. To be a child and never know when you came home from school, who would be their. Will it be someone so parinoid that they wont let you out to play? Will you be accused of wearing the wrong color shirt as some secret code? And by the way, what is the wrong color today? Is watching TV ok today, or are the commercials going to brainwash me? Being the only girl in the family, and the middle child, I always felt like their was no way out. I tried to spend alot of time in my room, but that left my younger brothers to fend for themselves, and they never understood the ranting and raving at the radio and TV. My older brother seems to have missed out on the worst of this, and says he doesnt remember it being that bad. Lucky him I guess. I finally left home at 16, and to this day feel never ending guilt at having to leave my younger brothers behind. The effect on them was emotional murder. I remember begging social services to put me in foster care, but my dad said no, I think he just wanted to bury the worst of it from the neighbors. I would pray for him to come home from work early, just for some peace. Once when mom took too many pills, and sat on the floor not able to get up, I actually wished her dead. What a rotten thing to think, when at that time, I was sure somehow I must be the cause of her distress. I think back now that I am nearly 50, that I wish I had recognized this years ago, as having nothing to do with me. Can you believe it? Until I actually said to myself "I am an adult child of a mentally ill mother" I didnt even realize somewhere deep inside I still felt that if I just stayed calm, maybe mom would be normal for just a little while. Thank you so much for your website. I dont have to wonder why I am different from everyone else, or at least I feel that way, I have a starting point to begin healing .I think I will write my whole story down, maybe it will be of some help to someone else one day. How many of us are there that still cant even talk about mental illness in our family?
I realize this morning how much my issues are about the shame I felt/feel about my childhood and thus my life. I learned to feel ashamed of just about everything about myself. Even the good parts. If I was good as a child, it did not matter, it was never good enough. Each time my mother was hospitalized I was shamed and ashamed on several levels. I thought I had done something wrong and that I had not been a good enough girl and each time I felt more and more ashamed for this. I was ashamed of the things she did when she was manic, like dancing in the local cafÂ¨Â¦ with her dress up and no underpants on. These kinds of things I had to live with regularly. I like it better when she was depressed because then I had more control over her. I was somehow easier to be able to hide anything in the house that she might try and kill herself with and to stay awake all night to make sure she did not jump out of the window. But in the end, I was ashamed of all of it because no matter my effort she always ended up back in the hospital. I was ashamed of having to be the one to have her hospitalized. I had to go to the hospital emergency room and as for a letter from them to give to the police. I had to call the police and explain to them, then show them the letter when they came. I had to let them in and I had to endure her yelling and screaming and telling me I was the crazy one and that I would go to hell for this. I had to sit with her in the emergency room while she called me everything but a child of God, with people watching and looking as if they believed her because she seemed to be talking sense to them.
Then there is the shame of the childhood sexual abuse that occurred because my mother was too sick to know it was happening or to protect me from it. The man who did it to me gave me and my siblings food and so I thought at the ripe old age of seven that I was doing it for my family. There is the shame of having in some way enjoyed the special attention and the fact that it seemed this person was treating me more gently and with more care than my own mother. There is the shame of having felt I somehow deserved it, after all, my mother was beating me ruthlessly on a regular basis. I thought I deserved it all. I thought I was this awful person who had somehow done something really awful to deserve all of this. I felt ashamed that my mother was not protecting me. I felt ashamed that she neglected and abused me. And I grew up feeling ashamed of my body, both because of the abuse and because my mother was relentless in the effort to make me feel ashamed of my body.
My mother was in and out of hospitals from the time I was six until she died when I was 30. I was ashamed that I had only one parent. I was ashamed that we were on welfare. I was ashamed that I had no decent clothes, was often hungry and could not invite anyone over because of my crazy mother and how our apt. looked. Every time my mother beat me or yelled at me or called me a name I became more and more ashamed of who I was. I did well in school, it was my refuge. It was the one area in which I received positive feedback and when my mother was on her meds she praised me highly for this and strongly, almost with vehemence, encouraged us to do well in school. School was my saving grace. But somehow I have not been able to fully appreciate or feel or take advantage of my talents in this area or any part of my life. I have left job after job. I have left a almost completed doctoral program and began and ended two other masters programs. I use school as a way to get away from it all and as a result I have over $100,000 in student loans. The little bit of peace I find in my life is always in schools. I feel safe and protected there. And of course I feel ashamed of this. I feel ashamed of the fact that I desperately want and need to feel safe and protected.
From the time I was about 13 or 14 years old I would not report to the authorities that my mother was hospitalized and it was usually only for 3-4 months. Once she was on medication she did really well. She would come home and be the best mother any child could ask for, no one would ever have known she was mentally ill. But of course she would not stay on her meds. As a child I could not understand how she could love us so much and still choose to not take her medication, thus it had to be my fault. I took complete care of myself and my 3 younger brothers and sister. We had been placed in fosters homes twice in our lives and bad as home was, that was worse for all of us. At 13 I decided I would not allow us to be separated again. So, each time I had my mother hospitalized or when she did it herself, I never told anyone. Only the neighbors knew and because I did such a good job caring for us, no one ever came asking. No one ever asked when went to the hospital to visit my mother each week. We were clean and well mannered and appeared to be well cared for. No one ever missed school and everyone did well in school. We lived in New York City, so in a city with thousands of neglected children no one ever asked any questions. I cashed my mother's welfare checks at the local check cashing place, with her ID and no one ever asked questions. I paid the bills and did a much better job than my mother, who would often spend everything in a mania mode. At one point, during a long hospitalization, my aunt went to the welfare office and said she would care for us but that was only so we would not be taken away. She lived in another area of NYC and worked nights and would check on us from time to time but I still did all of the day to day care. I was a child raising children and I yelled at them and beat them and tried to control them the way my mother did me, the only way I knew how. And of course I felt/feel ashamed of this. At that age I had the pressure of raising a family, including my mother, and even though every one familiar with the situation agrees that I did a remarkable job, I still feel ashamed that I somehow failed all of them. After my mother died I tried to keep the family together but it became too exhausting and when I stopped trying everyone went their separate ways. No one has heard from one brother in over 14 years, my sister stopped speaking to most people in my family over 12 years ago. I had a painful encounter with my youngest brother some 8 years ago and we have little to no contact. It is extremely painful and I still feel it is somehow my fault and I should be able to fix it. I feel so hurt and resentful that my siblings have never so much as said thank you for the fact that I gave so much of my life to and for them, even long after they were all grown I continued to feel responsible for them and tried often to try and save them at the expense of myself and my own needs. Even though I am very aware of the logic of it all and how much pain each of them must be in, I cannot seem to get over how resentful I feel about this and of course I feel so ashamed that I still, at 46, feel so much pain, hurt, guilt, and resentment about this.
So, I awoke this morning thinking that the absolute worse part of being an adult of mentally ill parents is the breadth and depth of the guilt and shame. You grow up feeling so responsible for what is happening to your parents and so guilty and so ashamed and most of all so much like it is your fault you somehow deserve it all. I use to long to go on one of those TV shows, like Oprah, and tell my story to the world in order to somehow get it all out there for the world to see and tell me once and for all that it was not my fault and that I did not deserve this life. I feel it would take 20 million people telling me this in order that I might someday really believe it AND to tell the world would somehow relieve me of some of the shame because then everyone would know.
The shame is at times sooooooo unbearableÂ¡Â This is why I am writing to all of you on this forum. My New Year's Resolution is to face the shame, to let it goÂ¡Âbecause it is killing me, I cannot live, I cannot breath, I cannot loveÂ¡ÂIt keeps me isolated from the world, from myself, from seeing and believing in my gifts, from taking any real risksÂ¡Âsometimes I can hardly believe the magnitude of the shameÂ¡ÂI feel ashamed of both my strengths and weaknesses, my talentsÂ¡ÂWhen someone is jealous of me and I know this to be the case, it can through me into a depression, I display some talent that someone else feels threatened by and thus they try and put me down and it worksÂ¡ÂI feel guilty, ashamed and undeserving, so I try to make myself as small and invisible as possibleÂ¡Âanything to not upset or anger or draw any kind of criticism or intense emotion, from anyoneÂ¡Âwhich is a very difficult place to be considering that one of the gift/curses of this childhood is the ability to sense what people feel and need and want from you and a very good sense of how to meet those needs. Constantly having to gauge, assess, determine needs and wants every minute of the day, always being hyper vigilant, often I catch myself living like I am in the witness relocation program, this constant emphasis on survival and no clue about to live and enjoy life, to just be, to trust that all is well in the world, to trust that the world is a safe place and the universe is here to support me, that there are good and kind and loving people in the world who want absolutely nothing from meÂ¡Â I have very few friends and have very little contact with my extended family because I cannot deal with people wanting and needing things from me. And of course people are drawn to me for this very reason, I am so good at helping others without even trying. How can I be with people without being/feeling drained by them? I often seem to add to their lives but mostly feel they only take away from mine.
So, my goal this year is to let go of the shame that is at the very core of who I am, I can feel it in every cell in my body. I have tried just about everything under the sun in order to heal and God knows it has gotten better but still the one thing I need and want the most continues to elude me, Love and Intimacy. I have noticed that some people or even groups of people seem to do the Triumph of Tragedy extremely well and/or to the extreme but it seems to be a much harder road to travel for those who grew up with mentally ill parents, especially if this was your only parent. We are a very complicated group of people and I can hardly believe that more attention has not been given to this area of study.
How does one Let Go of the Shame? Do I tell my story to anyone who will listen? How do I really convince myself that I have nothing to be ashamed of? How do I convince myself that none of it was my fault? How do I come to really and truly believe that I did not deserve this and that I deserve to be happy and experience genuine joy in my life? How do I stop the cycle of isolation? How do I learn to really and truly, once and for all love myself? How do I come to believe that I am good enough and always was? How do I learn to really relax and enjoy life? I remember some years ago I heard a woman of some 70 plus years being interviewed. She was a renaissance woman of sorts. She had done many, many and very different things in her life. The reporter asked about this and she said something like: "It is true, I have had many wonderful experiences in my life, it is too bad I was not there for most of them." This has always stayed with me since it is very much how I feel. I am not here most of the time even as it appears that I am very much an active participant.
I think part of the confusion for me is that my mother jumped so often from being "perfectly" fine to being crazy and even in her craziness she had lucid moments. She was wonderful when she was on her meds and in general she was an extremely intelligent, highly intuitive woman. Physically, royal and elegant, would light up a room when she walked in. She was kind hearted to a fault and when on her meds a very loving mother. She came to visit me at college for parent's weekend during a "well" time, one year. None of my friends knew my story, when you are giving so much of yourself to others, often no one notices that they know very little about you. People came up to me and told me how much they loved my mother and more than a few expressed how lucky I was, how regal and graceful my mother was, how beautiful and kind. A couple of friends who at least knew I was poor said they would have thought I came from a wealthy family after meeting my mother. I think back and I realize how confusing this must have been as a child. Being loved by her one month and the nxet yelled at constantly and beaten with an extension cord or broom handle or belt buckle. And as a teenager what must have been the dynamic of me going back and forth between being the child and the parent and my mother going back and forth between these two roles. I never felt I really knew who she was outside of her illness. If it was not readily rearing its ugly head I was waiting and holding my breath for it to show up at any minute. This means I grew up not knowing myself outside of my mother's mental illness.
I am back in school once again and this time I will be studying psychology. I had not understood exactly why until this moment. I want to know all there is to know about what happened to that little girl and young adult woman? What effect does this situation have on the various developmental stages of life? I know intuitively that something very distinct happens for children in our situation and I want to know more, or as much as I can, I hope to start a support group next semester.
I guess mostly I just said all of this to get it out, to in some way make it public, to begin my anti-shame campaign for my self.
Thank You to anyone who has taken the time to read this. It would be helpful just to know that you have read it and also if you can in anyway relate.
To All involved with NNAAMI.
My mother suffered form post-partum psychosis after the birth of my brother when I was 11. My father suffered form paranoid schizophrenia and suffered a major psychotic break after my mother became some what stabilized with her mental health for the remaining years of her life. My father's breakdown came when I turned 14 and in his delusion, I was his target or persecution. His condition became stable when I was in my early thirties.
I found your site by accident while doing research for issues of mental health as a nurse.
I cannot tell you how affirming and healing it was to read stories that could have been written by me regarding my own terror throughout my childhood regarding my parents mental illness. It was the first time I felt some one understood what I went through as a child. I am now 61, have raised two great kids and have two beautiful grandchildren. I still struggle with some relationship issues that go back to those childhood wounds. I marvel at, having lived a full life, what both parents were able to give me in spite of the mental illness that robbed them of so much happiness and self-fulfillment in their own lives.
Are there chapters in the USA for adult children of mentally ill parents ?
I have enclosed tow poems, one addressing my loss of not having a father and two, not having any mothering during a critical development period in my life.
May God Bless You for all your work in this area.
'I wish things could have been different for us all'
Madness in mum, the Terror, Horror, the Shock & Anguish of Suicide in my family.
Pretty in Pink
Journal entry, a letter never sent.
I wish things could have been different for us all, including you...no starting with you. Your so lovely when your well and so mean when your not. I wish you were born well, and people could see who you really are. Dad sees it, we see it. But when your not well... all the things you say and do. So sad to watch, so painful to hear.
Mud sticks, and this sticks too. You burnt my clothes, you called me names. It was then you hated me, but you don't remember, I remember. I remember everything, and take it with me. All those years, all those relationships that have felt the impact of my pain, that I gave no name to the shame. I want to let it go mum. I forgave you along time ago. Now its time to forgive myself, no evil, not ashamed. But I wish it were different way back then, because it would be different now, and I mourn the loss of that life. I want the next 41 years to be different from the first 41.
(My mother has bipolar disease, she started a bonfire in the back yard once when I was 8, my little brother 6, and my big brother 9. She believed that all the books in the house were evil, and everything that was the colour pink was evil too. So the colour pink burnt, after a huge fight in my room with my mother, where everything in the house that was pink was stored. All my pink clothes, all my pink toys. I remember saying, begging 'please mummy don't take them I look so pretty in pink'.
I stored my ' hope chest' in the top cupboard of my room in our childhood home waiting for my grown up life.Our childhood home was brought by my little brother. That room later became he and his wife's bedroom. When he was taking equipment off the farm preparing for it to be sold he stored the guns off the farm there for a few days. His wife did not know they were there. He was diagnosed with bipolar disease about 18 months ago).
The phone rang.
I'd waited all day for the call.
I had felt it.
Knew it was coming.
I was afraid.
My husband screams,
I know, I fall, I hear,
"This is the worst news I'll ever have to tell you. Your little brother has shot himself"
"But he's alright, He's still OK"
"No he'd dead love, He shot himself in the head.
I cry, I scream,
"It's not fair.....no.....no.......no................no"
How often do I repeat that I do not know.
Perhaps half an hour.
The children wake. They know.
I know, life will never be the same.
A part of my heart has died.
Life will never be the same.
"What time is it? 1030 pm.
"What day?" Sunday 26.6.05
The day my life changed.
I do not sleep.
I cry from the soul.
But it is real.
I talk to his wife in the morning 27.6.05
The farm is to be sold.
He is unhappy.
He came home after a 3 day fishing trip last night.
He rang mum about 7pm.
The voices in his head are back.
They are bothering him.
But he never wants to go back to a doctor again.
He calls each of the children one by one.
And says goodbye.
His wife sees his eyes theyv'e changed.
A glaze, a gun.
Only enough time to get the kids out of the house.
A single shot.
His life is gone.
It can't be true!
But it is true.
He has no face, no head, no brain.
It is all over the hall, the couch.
The children hear.
They do not see.
I think, "How do I comfort?",
The children, how to they cope.
It can't be real.
I am in shock.
I fly home.
I arrive in time to help prepare for the funeral,
on 30.6.05, the day the farm is to be sold.
If only he knew how many people loved him.
Both families had lived in the community for over 100 years.
There were over 1000 people at the church.
As many people that were inside, there were outside.
Crying.... we were all crying.
At the graveside Elton John plays,
"Don't let the sun go down on me",
And of course I wear pink.
"I look so pretty in pink", or so I think.
Grief is a curious thing.
When it happens unexpectedly.
It is as a bandaid being ripped away, taking the top layer off a family. The underbelly of a household is never pretty, ours no exception.
There should be a statue of limitations on grief. A rulebook that says it is alright to wake up crying.....but only for a month, or maybe two. That after 32 days you will no longer turn with your heart racing in panic as you remember the day.
That there will be no fine imposed on you if you have a good day. That it is OK to measure the time he has been gone (almost 1 month today), the way I once measured his birthday.
Journal entry, of a letter never sent.
Dear Da Da,
I've really missed you today. Your are the first person I think of in the day,
and the last.....before I go to sleep.
My heart is broken. It feels complete.
It has only been broken like this once before, it is his 47th birthday
today.....and you will never be 47.
Wish it weren't true.
Your big sis,
I can't stand the noise.
The boys are watching "The Last Samari".
I can't stant the noise.
The sound of fighting and dying.
Cutting vegies in the kitchen.
I feel panic, and annoyed.
Don't they know I cann't stand the noise anymore.
I can't stand watching the news, reading the papers,
and most of the evening TV dramas.
I need to be quite.
I need to be still.
Too many memories.
I don't want my mind filled.
I need to be still.
A quite space in which to find Grace......
Slow deep breaths,
but I still can't stand the noise.
My grief feels complete.
Life goes on but,
I am alone.
Soccer carnival today.
Made me realise again,
that I have no real friends yet in my new town.
All the ladies took their kids to Maccas,
no one asked me to come.
On friday the girls at work were talking about their book club, no one asked me to join.
I feel so alone, magnified by the grief.
I don't want to set my heart to stone.
I cried at the playground,
I feel so alone, no one to talk to.
About my life, wish it were different.
Wish you were here now.
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.
"My first memory of her was of us drawing pictures together. I was 4 years old, not even in kindergarten, and I can clearly recall the feeling of distrust I had as she showed me how to draw a man in a hat. The feeling that I must be on guard, and that things are not safe."
An Only Child of a Schizophrenic Mother
Yesterday, I was reminded of the past. I live one state away from my parents, in a nicely-furnished apartment bordering on woodlands. I just successfully completed my first year of law school, and am in love with the subject. My life is rich: I have a small, but strong, group of wonderful friends, and have, for several years, dated a man who makes me believe in the word "soul-mate." Further, I am happy, overall: I revel in good books, and am inspired by nature, music, the good individuals I've met. Life is full of possibilities.
These things stand in stark contrast to what was. Yesterday, my parents visited and my mother was showing schizophrenic symptoms again. Getting her out of the hotel room was a chore for my father: she'd run back in and sit on the bed with melodramatic grunts. Once we got out, she had little interest in the historical sights or gardens we saw, and was full of eerie, insane observations. She soon started shadowing me, following around her only daughter without leaving the normal amount of space. And then she'd stare at me, unblinking, nonstop. My patience vanished, replaced by memories of life in their house. I'd snap at her, and she'd scurry away for a bit, looking back angrily and reproachfully, with no coherence in her gaze.
Familiar feelings of self-contempt welled up. I should be more patient; she's just ill and she cares about me in her own sick way. I suddenly felt heavy and tired, effectively reliving deeply-ingrained childhood memories of unworthiness, loneliness, and hopelessness. One such: I felt that since I didn't love my own mother, I wouldn't - and shouldn't - be able to be a part of the normal world or to have friends. Her illness was mine, and failing to keep control or to make things right meant I was tainted in the darkest way, spiritually and socially. Or another: there was a feeling of corrosion every time she came near. Like others who have posted, as a child I often thought of her as an It. Proximity was - and is - gruesome to me.
In all honesty, I don't love my mother. It was only in my middle twenties I could use the word "mother" at all: she was always "my father's wife" or a creature. My first memory of her was of us drawing pictures together. I was 4 years old, not even in kindergarten, and I can clearly recall the feeling of distrust I had as she showed me how to draw a man in a hat. The feeling that I must be on guard, and that things are not safe.
Until fourth grade, she'd have normal periods: my parents would have craft-group meetings and go square-dancing, and every once and a while, my mother would show me or my friends an interesting craft. I knew something was terribly wrong and that I was different, but there was an unspoken mandate of silence over the house. Though I did learn early on that she had schizophrenia, I knew I wasn't "allowed" to talk about it with anyone outside the family. I found solace in books and in science, declaring myself a rational Atheist at the age of seven.
By fourth grade, she had a very pronounced episode, tearing down my childhood works of art from the walls (I was a very good artist for my age) and trying to throw them away. After a joyful reprieve of having the house to just me and my father, she returned and was consistently ill afterwards. As her only daughter, she was of course obsessed by me and whatever I was doing. I was hounded often. Sometimes, she'd leave me alone and I could spend time thinking or reading, but other times, she'd drift over constantly, staring at me with her mad gaze and ordering me about, as her unhealthy whims dictated. I felt more and more trapped, and like there was no boundary between her and me: we were intertwined people, and I felt sickened and alone. Just getting out of the house was an effort. Everything was unpredictable, and I hated the constant fear, and the way I'd loose control and shout at her. Something told me that I must be calm always, and not show emotion. When I grew older, I realized that fear of the disease made me fear emotion... anything that was not based on pure reason was suspect, most of all within myself.
An analogy came to me as a child (and I've now seen it echoed on this website): having a schizophrenic parent is like a constant funeral, where you're never allowed to bury the body.
No help came from the outside world. My mother's psychiatrist was - and is - an arrogant, highly-religious man who hates to be questioned. He only spoke with me once one-on-one, when I was in sixth grade. Calling me into his office and shutting the door, he proceeded to berate me for not believing in God, saying that my lack of religion was making my mother worse. I started crying eventually, after trying to defend my own beliefs, and my father came in. The doctor didn't tell him why I was crying, and I couldn't form the words to explain it. My father was, above all, naive. He trusted the authorities unconditionally, and never tried to get another doctor. I think he was - and is - depressed himself. Another parent might have done more to defend and encourage their child, but I had little positive feedback, and was left to figure things out on my own. Still, I idolized him for a long time, for he was the only sane parent I had. The only other family members were a grandmother and uncle who lived in another state. Neither had much presence in my life, and I didn't feel any real connection with them.
My father stuck by her, and still does. He will probably be with her until one of them dies. Hopefully her, I'm no longer ashamed to wish, both to give him some rest and to make elder care easier for me.
I enjoyed school and did well in it, so I got through childhood only by clinging to the hope of university. My biggest fear in high school was that my father would die first, leaving me with my schizophrenic mother, and that I would not be able to go to college. Once I got out and started my B.A., I was paralyzed by the apprehension that my father would die and that the authorities would make me go back home and take care of my mother. It took me many years to realize that no one could, in actuality, make me go back. I was also terrified of getting the disease, and indeed - as a child - I often supposed I must be sick myself, to be where I was. These fears faded and then vanished with age: my mother had her first episode in early college, and was verifiably schizophrenic by her early twenties. Once I passed these markers, I felt like I was clear.
After a first, brief marriage to the wrong person, I saw a cognitive therapist for a while. Only someone else from the same background can imagine how difficult this was: my mental associations with therapists were all bad ones. However, I was lucky, and found a good person to work with. But in the end, most of my healing came from getting away from the situation and building my own life. In college, I'd come back and stay with my parents for the summer, a huge mistake in retrospect that served only to make me repeatedly miserable. Some part of me always thought that I had grown enough to "handle it" and that I had "failed" if I went back and still felt anything other than perfect love and calmness towards my mother. Now I realize that I can't build on something that wasn't there: while I've managed to have a few good chats with my mother when she's somewhat stable, it has more of the character of a distant, dutiful friendship then. But when she's in her episodes, I quickly feel, as I did growing up, that she's at best a contemptible younger sibling.
I've also found a good deal of healing in dreams and in Jungian philosophy. The mythic imagery in both have helped me better understand the past, and to integrate my emotions and cut-off parts of myself back into the whole. I feel healthy and happy, though - in retrospect - I was very depressed in high school and college (and indeed considered suicide quite a few times back then). The other key for me has been unabashed honesty, in direct opposition to that deep childhood fear that "my secret" - having a schizophrenic mother - would be exposed. Secrecy, I think, is a horrible burden and us children of the mentally ill must shake it off as quickly as possible. Society, I'm sure, would rather pretend that it didn't abandon us and that even families with mentally-ill parents are mostly full of Kodak moments: this is a lie and it needs to be fought. By sharing our stories, I think we each are taking a very positive step in that direction.
East Coast, USA
All my life I've tried being the perfect daughter for my mother. But as always i was never perfect enough. All my life I did everything according to her opinion, lectures, advice or guidance (just to make her happy). I always tried getting good grades, wouldnt go out with my friends just so she wouldnt be alone, finished univeristy and married. Everytime my older brother and sister did something wrong towards her I was always the one that coped the lecture and blame. She would always say that she was "unlucky to have children like us", "what did she do to deserve such ungratefull children like us?".
I always asked myself why my mother "blamed me"??? Why was i getting stuck in the middle when I try so hard to be the perfect child???... I've never found the answer. I hope one day I will...
'I really just lacked a reference point as to how parents behave'
I realize that my mom has been ill all these years! She is 78 and was diagnosed with dementia and alzheimers 3 years ago. I began thinking that her earlier sympltoms could be important predecessors to her current diagnosis, when I came across this information.
I request more info about erratic behavior in parents. I suppose I really just lacked a reference point as to how parents behave. I have only one half sibling who was raised by mom, and he is 13 years my senior. He has cut off all contact with mom, or anyone who speaks with mom. He has expressed to me that he cannot deal with having abandoned me when he left for college (I was 5).
When our mom was finally diagnosed with delusional disorder a few years ago, I spoke with my brother and he said that mom came in nuts, she lived nuts and she will die nuts, and that he washes his hands of her.
Today I am hearing that mom may truly have been ill all these years! Prone to "fits" of violence marked with tremendous affection (seemed contrived). My children fear my mother...she has taken my youngest by the neck and screamed in her face "God Damn you to Hell" almost pushing her all the way down the stairs, all this because my daughter (then only 7 years old) wanted to go along with us in the car. My children have witnessed my mom making breakfast, when all of the sudden she through a cantaloupe melon to the floor.
I am realizing that my own childhood too, was a constant stream of her erratic behavior. All these years I have thought that I was somehow making this stuff up, or that I was the one who is ill. Mom used to say that I was schizophrenic...all throughout my adolescence. I have been in therapy for many years and have been assured that I am healthy...although I have trouble accepting this information. Any input/feedback is very much welcomed and appreciated!!!!
'Later she yelled at us how could we blame everything on her and told us we were liars.'
Dear Mr. McKillop,
I am trying to start a camp in America for Children of Mentally Ill Parents. As I was doing research I found your website. I was thrilled to see that we are on the same wavelength. I myself am shocked that this is something I have to start from scratch. How could something like this still have not been addressed? I too am an adult child of a mentally ill patient. My mother is bipolar. I know too well the struggles these children face everyday. In my research I have found that the mental health profession is now recognizing these children. Sadly I feel it is in the wrong way. Here in the US they are trying to start Family Counseling. This is a nice attempt to address the problem, but falls short of what is needed. As a child I went to family counseling with my parents and two brothers. I recall one of the first sessions we were told to express ourselves about the problems in the home, and we would not be punished. When we did my mother got up and left the room. Later she yelled at us how could we blame everything on her and told us we were liars. We never said another word but were forced to continue going for months. Because of this experience I know counseling does not work. It became another thing we dreaded. We would have said anything to get out of going. Nothing will make a child feel safe until they are away from their mentally ill parent. Family or Group therapy simply adds one more burden to the many burdens that the child already carries, trying to please both the psychiatrist and the parent. Additionally, this doctor is also the parent's doctor. How can the children see them as someone on their side? I feel a camp is the only way to allow the children to get separate attention away from the parent. I also see it as a way for them to connect with others in similar situations hopefully easing their feelings of hopelessness and being all alone. When I saw your statement that these children needed to not be in the same system as their parent I was thrilled. As I said before I am doing research. I am trying to apply for a government grant. I have found a lot of information on what the children need and information on how a camp can increase a child's self esteem but I was hopefully to find some proof of the two. Do you have any information that you would be willing to share with me that would support our position. If you would like to take a look at my temporary site it is http://harboroflove.blogspot.com
Thank you for discussing my issues with my mother with me.
I know I am a bit late posting, but here it is.
I have had a lot going on, hence the lateness.
To make a long story short, I am 31, I have a beautiful 10 year old daughter, and live on my own with her. I have been single for quite some time now just concentrating on having a balanced life for myself and my daughter.
I grew up with my mother and two sisters, one a year older and one a year younger. I had a medical condition from birth and had 14 operations by the time I was 9 years old (I have now had 17) and was in and out of hospital all the time (well at least once a year for surgery and a couple for tests). I remember my mother bashed me nearly every day (pulled my hair, hit my head against the wall/floor, hitting me and biting me where she would leave bite bruise marks on my arms and I would go to school with a skivvy under my dress uniform so no one would see the bruises, in summer mind you). She also called me STUPID all the time, and I believed her I suppose because her brainwashing was successful, because I was so young. I will never forget she also told me I would never be sexy!
These things are what I remember. She did kick me out and my two sisters in our early teen years (I was about 13). And we all have basically lived out of home since then. I tried going back a couple of times, but it did not work.
I finished my schooling whilst living in different refuges for homeless youth, and also had two major operations one at 17 and one at 18.
I went to year 10 at school. Then I worked til I was seventeen then I went and did year 11 and 12 in one year.
Anyway, I got on with my life as best I could, I had my daughter at 21 and that changed my life, I thought she was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
I have had instability in my schooling because of my upbringing, and in my work, because unfortunately a lot of people have been bias on my medical condition. But I have dealt with that so it is not so obvious. I have been at a current job now for two months and hope it works out, as I really like the job and the people I work with, I have managed to work in legal and have consistency in that since I finished my schooling. I am working in commercial law at moment.
So the reason I give you the rundown is that I have a lot going on in my life, I am 31 with my daughter, and a great new job, which I really like, and stability. But my mother keeps dumping herself on my doorstep with no where to live because she has a mental illness and obviously attracts the wrong sort of problems and can't stay living there, and is homeless and expects to live with me. I tried helping her out and she was staying with me and my daughter but I found out she called my daughter names and swore at her and pushed her into the table, and I noticed my mother was nagging my daughter a lot.
Even my mother will put my daughter down to my face. I can't believe it. For these reasons I told mum it was not working out and it was best she left and I told her why it wasn't working out.
Since she left she got into my unit, I accidentally left my bathroom window open, stole my new pair of swimmers for swimming training and left a very nasty note on my table. This did not stop me from going swimming training. I went and got the pair of swimmers out of the bin (my old pair I threw out) and wore them. I was determined not to let her ruin my life. I have been swimming training four (4) nights a week in a squad, and I really enjoy it.
Anyway, I have two choices, don't let her win and don't move and make sure our windows are locked before we go out.
Or move into a unit in a security block.
If anyone has any advise I would appreciate it.
This is the first time I have openly talked to anyone about the above problems with my mother.
Thanks for listening :)
To be continued on WAYMI Forum on this site. Go to WAYMI Forum...
Well, thank you for existing! It was very validating to find you. When I was seven my mother had a "breakdown" and required electric shock therapy, and was not really able to care for me and my sister emotionally for over a year. Dad wasn't good at that either. The emotional neglect I suffered led to a lifetime of depression, low self esteem, and suicide attempts. I'm doing much better now at 44 thanks to a good therapist and finding the right antidepressant, but I thought it would be nice to talk to other "invisible" children- no one knew we suffered because the marks on our body were on the inside and not the outside.
Thank you for responding.
New York City
Dear Mr. McKillop:
I hope it is all right that I'm writing to you and that contacting you is not reserved for emergencies only. It is wonderful that organizations such as yours exist to help people in situations such as mine. I visited your website for the first time today and the stories gave me support that therapists have been unable to give. I plan to visit your site frequently.
I am an 18 year old female going into my third year of university. Only in the past two years have I begun to see that my mother has mental difficulties (however there has been no formal assessment of her mental health). This realization has left me feeling scared, alone, frightened, crazy, guilty and worthless. My grades have suffered and I've had difficulty concentrating.
When I was 11 years old my father left our family and I lived alone with my mother until I was 16. After my father left, there was not enough money to provide the basic necessities of life for my mother and I and this worsened her problems. As an only child, I was the sole receiver of my mother's psychological abuse. At 14 years I developed anorexia and lost 60 pounds, but did not seek treatment (I gained the weight back myself within a year but still face issues with food). I have cut myself various times but did not find it very pleasurable and will likely not do it again.
I have sought help from counselors at school and therapists, but in my confused and desperate state sought help from too many people - which didn't help at all. Every day I worry about money and school and do not feel capable of having relationships with other people. Currently, I am seeing a therapist but often leave sessions feeling sad and overwhelmed. It is a continual shock to think that I lived through years of emotional abuse and extreme poverty.
I seem brave to others and am trying so hard to 'fix' everything and have an adult relationship with my mother, but I feel so much pain every time I try to confront these issues. I've tried so hard to be private (with friends) and popular but have just ended up feeling empty and alone.
Nowadays, when I visit my mother at home her abuse and neurotic behaviour is worse. Within the last year, she developed xxxxxx and this has made me feel guiltier than ever. I am continually blamed for causing her xxxxxx, verbally abusing her, and needing to be 'locked up' for my eating disorder.
Anyways, I'm sorry for rambling on and on. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and I would just like to thank you for providing the support you do. It's weird to think other people have gone through similar things, but I'm sure you've helped a great deal of them.
Thanks for getting in touch. The username Yuyu is fine. Thanks for asking about my situation too, I really don't know where to start, so much has happened, it's a bit of a blur and I'm actually starting to feel quite numb to it all now.
I am 26 years old & live in London with my parents. My father is mentally ill/severely depressed. There have been two serious episodes with his illness, the first when I was very young (approx 2 years old) which escalated with him strangling my mother, severely beating my brother (approx 6 years older than me) and throwing me around the room by my hair. Essentially he tried to kill us all but fortunately he stopped. He then ran out of the house and threw himself under a train. He didn't die but he did lose an arm. After this incident my mother tried to cope as best as she could with two young children, having no support from friends or family - in a foreign country (she is Japanese).She found it almost impossible to survive while my father was in hospital and even more so when he returned home. She has never forgiven him or forgotten what he put her through all those years ago & even now it's a very raw memory for her. What happened then damaged our family severely but whatever her reasons she decided to stay with him. 'For the sake of the children.' - isn't that funny?!
Throughout the years, their marriage has been turbulent to say the least. My father doesn't cope well with stress, finding it hard to communicate. Often he turned to violence to express his frustration mostly towards my mother, sometimes towards my brother. My brother actually moved out at 16 and we have no real contact with him even now. I was left alone to live with two very volatile, fragile and angry parents and I can tell you now that it was far from easy. I feel I had to stay with them rather than leave as from a young age I've always known that I was the 'peace-maker'. The serious incidents often occurred when I wasn't at home & I just returned to witness the aftermath. Both of my parents have told me individually that the other one is 'better' when I'm around, it's actually true even now.
I have seen & heard so many bad things from such a young age, I've always had to be the strong one in the family - never causing trouble, always supportive & balanced - trying hard to reduce the stress. It's a strange thing to say but because of this I feel like I don't even know who I really am.
The second episode was triggered by my father's redundancy in February of last year. Again, he started to withdraw but this time rather than expressing it through violence or using his temper he started to stay in bed longer - refusing to participate in family life. It gradually worsened & eventually he took and overdose in July of last year. My mother found him on the landing covered in urine in a terrible state (I had gone away for the night). Again he did not die and there were no long term effects from the tablets but to this day my father is convinced that the overdose rather than the mental illness/depression causes his behaviour. He believes that the tablets somehow stopped his brain from functioning, making him unable to cope. He holds onto this belief strongly regardless of what anyone says or even when a brain scan proved different!
Since his attempted suicide my father has been in and out of hospital, often staying for months on end. The majority of the time he leaves home saying he's going for a walk and then just doesn't come back, we then get a phonecall in the middle of the night to say he's returned to the psych ward & wants to stay. While in hospital, I have been to meetings for him, I have taken him changes of clothes & money, kept his house running and do you know how he repays this on his return?
He steals money, he smokes in the house when asked not to, he tells lies and makes excuses for his behaviour, he tells me if I hadn't gone away for the night he wouldn't have tried to kill himself, he told my boyfriend that if he'd been around more he wouldn't have taken the overdose, he leaves urine trails from his room to the bathroom, he leaves the house knowing that he has visitors or phonecalls from the hospital coming for him without telling us, he gets straight into bed when he returns from the day centre, he does not brush his teeth, shave, wash his face, take baths or wash his hair. He doesn't change, wash or put away his clothes. He doesn't even open the curtains or windows claiming that he can't cope or function, refusing to pay bills, yet he can write out cheques to the local shop for cigarettes and he can lie and make excuses with absolutely no hesitation - I don't get it!! My father has so much support around him - us, the day centre team, the hospital staff, the crisis team, his social worker & he even took on a solicitor! My mother and I have no-one that can help or support us, no-one that can give us advice or listens. The balance is hugely in his favour yet he does nothing to change himself.
As we have absolutely no income coming into the house & my savings have now disappeared the only solution is to sell the house, pay off the debts and for my parents to go their seperate ways. The reason my father's behavior is especially frustrating for me is while he's been in bed moaning that he can't cope or function I have been paying the bills, taking care of the finances, cooking, cleaning, supporting my mother. To prepare the home for sale I have paid for a new driveway, a new hob & oven & to have them fitted. I have painted the entrance, the stairway, the landing, the dining & living room, my bedroom, my father's room, my mother's room, the bathroom, the kitchen and fitted new flooring. During this time I became ill with Bell's Palsy, so to top it all off - the left side of my face has been paralysed for months!
My mother has crumbled under the stress and in some ways is as much of a burden on me as my father, she relies on me heavily and doesn't really take responsibility for anything anymore - it's all been left up to me, basically without me nothing would happen or progress.
There is an immense amount of pressure on me, taking care of my parents as well as their responsibilites gives me almost no time to look after myself. There is no-one to share the burden with, no-one who really 'understands', no-one that can just take over even for a short while to give me a break.
As much as I understand that my father is ill, I don't feel I can forgive him or even forgive my mother for the life they have given me. I have their responsibilities & more to deal with ON MY OWN. I feel like I am the one being punished for their weakness, I'm tired of being the strong one. Tired FULLSTOP. I don't know why I was born or when I'll have the chance to actually live my life - I really feel like everything has been stolen.
I just have to remember that there is ALWAYS someone much worse off... Thanks for taking the time to read this,
I was 5 years old... my mother has a psychotic break down
'I discovered a support group but most were siblings or parents themselves'
Hi! I am a 55 year old lady, who is an only child who had a mentally ill mother and still have a lesser mentally ill aunt.
When I was 5 yrs old my mother had a psychotic break down and I came to live with my Aunt and Uncle. My mother would live with us periodically - in and out of the hospital with schizophrenia and then bi-polar schizo affective behavior. I did not have the best relationship with my aunt and uncle as they were rather difficult also and of course the whole frustrating situation made it worse. After high school, I tried to escape for awhile to a different state, but of course had to come back to help mom. My mom was trying to live on her own also which wasn't working due to lack of support. She continued to do the revolving door lifestyle and ended up in nursing homes and still somewhat the revolving door. She even got on a plane and left the state at one point which is when I discovered a support group - the local NAMI - but most were siblings or parents themselves. Not the same, however I did get a name to help me get my mother back after 5 years of absence. Of course I never shared this with anyone at the time other than the support group.
Meanwhile my aunt who raised me was also having Manic -Depressive episodes and went into the hospital some. Not to the degree of my mother. My Uncle helped take care of her also in his own controlling way. Neither would admit anything was wrong with them.
My Aunt and Uncle moved out of state and she continued to be extremely depressed and under psychiatric care but at home.
My Aunt and Uncle finally decided to come back near me and moved into assisted living. I was also visiting my mom in the nursing home or whereever at that time. Mom passed away in 2003. My Uncle passed away in 2004. Now my Aunt is bi-polar and in a geri-psychiatric ward waiting to be placed in a nursing home which, for me is bringing back painful memories.
In my mother's family there are three that have/had mentall illness. Their youngest brother was also schizophrenic but lived in another state - he passed away several years ago.
I quit going to the NAMI support groups as no-one had ill parents and I could not relate. I wrote to NAMI's national office but got no response. I have seen this site for a couple of years, but I was hoping to see one in the U.S. The hardest thing for me has been almost no witnesses because I am an only child, no validation, no one to relate to. I was afraid to have children who might be schizophrenic and do not regret that decision but also find it hard to relate to anyone with families - which is almost everyone. It is great to read some of the same feelings finally. It sounds like we really need to get together somehow.
Thank you for your web site,
My sister and I just tried to grow up, manage my mother's condition/s, become well adjusted into society, finish our educations and appear to be...
Hi, my name is Jane.
My ability to cope with a mentally ill parent feels like it is finally come to an end. I have no more energy, not even to look after myself anymore. I am twenty seven years old. Supposedly, I should have the 'world at my feet' and be 'full of life' and 'full of energy' to live and experience the world and to be who ever it is that I am supposed to be. The problem is that I just can't seem to find the energy to keep on keeping on anymore...
Anyways, before I start...I want to say that it is truly amazing that this site and other services are now available for today's children of mentally ill parents as there was nothing available for my sister and I back when it all started for us in the late 70's and the early 80's. Not even my very smart, high society parents (one of whom is extremely mentally ill) ever stopped for one moment to consider us, the kids and the possible long term effects.
My sister and I just tried to grow up, manage my mother's condition/s, become well adjusted into society, finish our educations and appear to be normal kids from a normal family by keeping the 'family secret' secret at all times. We both tried so hard everyday to be and become everything we were expected to be and expected to become from within the instability of our home environment which was devastated by my mother every moment of every day in one way or another. The result of our experience is that I am sure my sister and I are both suffering from something truly horrible now and neither of us became in the end what we were expected to become and our family disowned us...
We both ran away from home at 15 and 17 years of age to find a normal life and neither of us completed our educations, we both can't seem to hold a job, and neither of us have developed a career even though we have both tried to, relationships on any level (work, friends, family and partners) are all extremely difficult and all of our relationships seem to end in disaster, we both move around a lot, the list goes on... So I guess we never found the peace we both left home to find and now I realise at twenty seven years of age that although I have tried really hard since my earliest memories to cope, find hope, suppress all the bad feelings, get on with my life and be the best I can be, and even though I really, really want to achieve my dreams and goals and I am sure my sister wants to too, I just feel like I can't cope anymore and I seem to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for energy and motivation as all I really want to do is wither away and hide in a dark corner for a while until I am rested enough to try it all again.
My mother's conditions are both major OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) coupled with major Manic Depression. All the usual symptoms... screaming for hours, crying for hours, inability to get out of bed & shower, inability to perform daily tasks without supervision/assistance, aggression and violence towards others - family members only in this case, suicide attempts, irrational, illogical and delusional behaviours, panic and anxiety attacks, specific obsessive and compulsive behaviour etc... all on a daily and minute to minute occurrence.
We were not ever allowed to discuss anything about my mother with anyone. The family name was obviously worth more than the health and quality of life of anyone of us.
My parents now refuse any accountability & blame us kids for ruining both their lives and our own lives... They say they do not want to know us... They say that we are a shame to the family name... They tell us that we are the one's with the problem as we are the one's who ran away and left our family...
We are both very lost, we are both very hurt, we are both very alone in our struggle and we are both without family support so it is nice to come across a site like this where we can see that we are not the only ones.
What does everyone think I was doing as a child and growing up? I was my mothers strength and support. I was the parent. Her illness stole my childhood. Where were the professionals for me?
Hi I am a 43 year old Australian female who was bought up alone by a schizophrenic mother. To say the least, life was no picnic. I was 8 years old when I first noticed changes in my mothers behaviour. It was 3 years after that when she was first hospitalised and I was devastated. Devastated by an abrupt announcement by her Dr telling me that my life for the past 3 years was all part of my mothers delusion. That was it, that was all any professional ever said to me. Oh and that my mother has an illness called "Paranoid Schizophrenia". Of cause I knew that there was something not "Quite Right", with my mother, but this announcement confirmed to me that my mother was "Mad". I carried the shame of being an illegitimate child. In those days, the 60's and early 70's, it was not the accepted social "Norm", to be born out of wedlock. That in itself was hard enough to live with and so I had something else to feel ashamed about. There are many stories that I could tell of my mothers illness, but I won't. Instead I want to express the emotions. My emotions. For many years I felt ashamed, guilty, responsible, unworthy, isolated, depressed, anger, hatred and resentment. I stayed with my mother for as long as I could, until I could no longer bare it. I was 19 when I left home. Things didn't improve, although over the years up until 5 years ago, I kept in contact with my mother and tried to keep things as normal for her and for my 4 sons, as possible. 5 years ago my mother disowned me and her grand children.
The reason why I am telling my story today, is because I have just received a phone call from a Dr, telling me that my mother has been hospitalised and asking me all about her medical and life history. She is 73. And I guess people feel sorry for her because she tells them that she has no family. The only reason why the hospital knew I existed was because my mothers neighbour gave them my details. Her Dr asked me if I would visit her in hospital. I asked him if she had asked to see me and he said that she hadn't, that she claims not to have any children or living relatives. I declined his request to visit. And he was noticeably upset by my decline. He said that my mother was stable and not in psychosis and recommended the visit from me for the good of her health. I began to feel all the emotions that I grew up with and had worked so hard over the last few years to overcome. So I informed him of how many times over the years had I ran to my mother each time she was stabilized, only for her to stop taking her medication after awhile and going down hill. I explained that for so many years I was the only person to stand by my mother and pick up the pieces each time.
The anguish and devastation that I felt and went through when she rejected me, caused me to have an emotional break down, which resulted in divorce and the breakdown of my own family unit. Which I am still picking up the pieces. My breakdown was so severe that I was suicidal. I was 38 when my world finally crashed down on me. Not far enough in the past as far as I am concerned. So today I feel anger. How dare a so called professional ring me and try to lay the guilt trip on me. My mothers mental illness almost destroyed me. And when I was going through my personal emotional hell, not one professional came to the aid of my children when I rang every professional organization I could think of to help me look after my children when I so desperately needed looking after myself. Her illness and the way it effected me destroyed my marriage and almost my children. Because I couldn't cope when my two eldest sons needed me the most being only 12 and 14. I haven't had a mother (in the real sense)nor a father. Being a parent for me has been a challenge without any guidelines or role models. I do the best I can and I learn from my mistakes. I know this is how most people describe parenthood, but I really believe that parents who have been bought up by mentally ill parents, have an incredible hard task because of the lack of guidance, stability, etc.I refuse to set myself up for another fall. I lived with false hope and expectations for too many years that my mother would be well and normal this time. Well I have learnt, this time is not in this life time! My priority is my family, Myself and my health. The professionals are there and always have been there for my mother. She could not be a mother to me and I could not be a daughter to her because of her "illness" Nothing is going to stop me from being a mother to my children.
I love my mother. I hate her illness. after her suffering the illness for this many years, she has disappeared. It is as if she has been taken over by someone or something else. I do not know this person. I can not relate at all to her. She looks at me in a manner which I describe as "The Death Stare". She is vacant and cold emotionally and it is a really eerie feeling. How can a professional who understands the disease and it's effects, possibly ask me to visit? How do I switch off my emotions and visit this stranger in my mothers body and not be effected emotionally? When do I get treated like a victim, or a survivor, rather than a support person? When do I receive support? I received no support when I was a child or growing up and now that I am an adult I am expected to keep a stiff upper lip and be my mothers strength. What does everyone think I was doing as a child and growing up? I was my mothers strength and support. I was the parent. Her illness stole my childhood. Where were the professionals for me? Thank you for giving me the opportunity to finally express myself to people who have had similar experiences.
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Mr Paul McKillop. Convenor NNAAMI.
Phone / Fax +61 3 98893095. Mail; NNAAMI P.O. Box. 213. Glen Iris. 3146. Melbourne, Victoria. Australia. email,
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