Growing up with a Schizophrenic Mother
I am exhausted. I am incredibly tired of properly educating individuals about schizophrenia. I’ve found my fellow Millennials think having a mental disorder gives you some sort of cool edge. I see so many obsessively beloved, fictional characters in this country who portray a serious mental instability.
Whether it be a television series, movie or character in a book.. people are always drawn to the “sick” minded. Or rather, the sexy factor the actor emits when playing a mentally ill person.
When it comes to reality, no one wants to make the effort.
The media gasps in “shock” when they see a school shooting. Days later we find out the shooter was mentally ill. Social media explodes with thoughts, theories and complaints but they don’t take any real physical action. They don’t educate themselves on mental illnesses. They don’t donate their money to research. They do nothing but continue to live their lives ignoring a huge problem they pretend to care about.
People are uncomfortable with the mentally ill. Everyone eagerly invites fictional characters into their home with pleasure.. but they look uncomfortably the other direction when a unstable homeless man asks for money.
Here is my everyday, non-sexy reality.
My mom is not praised for her condition. She doesn’t have a fan base. She is not making millions of dollars from the hell that consumes her mind. Everyday of her life she is left alone, in her tiny apartment, fighting so fucking hard to decide if it is worth living another day as a Paranoid-Catatonic Schizophrenic.
My mother developed Schizophrenia shortly after the time my sister was born. With mixed emotions my father continued his marriage to a woman who mentally did not exist. Seeking help for any mental illness, let alone Schizophrenia, is extremely difficult. He thought of his situation as hopeless and embarrassing, therefore kept it a secret as long as possible. From there he devoted as much time to his businesses as possible to escape the reality of his wife’s cripling disease.
My father is a very successful entrepreneur. Owner of multiple businesses and many investment properties. He is the hardest working, most talented man I know. He’s gone through a lot. He was put in some very hard, uncomfortable situations. Had they happened to me, I’m not sure I would have been strong enough to manage through like he did.
As a 25 year old woman looking back at my Hell most people call “childhood”, it is clear how difficult this situation was for everyone involved. As a teenager however, I couldn’t understand the complexity of the situation. I was confused, angry and I felt very alone.
With a father who ignoring the reality of his deteriorating home life, my sister and I were left with the responsibility of dealing with a schizophrenic mother whom we were terrified of. Many nights were spent with one eye open, afraid she may come into our rooms again. Come into our room starring at us for hours on end, not knowing if tonight would be our last.
I want you to truly think about this situation I am about to display.
Imagine you are 10 years old. You spent your day at school in silence. Other kids make fun of you because you are different. You can not relate to any of the other kids, therefore you have no friends. With no motherly figure around, your hygiene lacks. You are wearing the same outfit every other day, unwashed. You can’t see the whiteboard at school because you need glasses but no one knows. On top of it all have an untreated, unnoticed reading disability. You hate school. The kids are mean and you are scare to talk because anything you say will be made fun of.
Kids play fun at recess by pretending if they touch, they will be infected by a deadly virus.
But school is a walk in the park compared to your evenings and nights spent at home. Home is the place you are supposed to feel safe. A relaxing environment filled with love and encouragement. Your childhood home should fill you with memories of your sandbox and growth charts.
The memories of my childhood home reflect that of a living hell. An environment filled with constant stress is not how to raise a child into a successful, full functioning member of society.
Most cleaning, dishes, my baby brother’s diapers, driving, homework help, etc. was done by myself or my slightly younger sister. Being a mom instead of a child was not easy. My grades were poor, my math and reading levels were far below my classmates. I was constantly tired. I ate food to comfort myself when I was alone. I was overweight and extremely socially under-developed.
School was a nightmare and the responsibilities of being a child-mom was exhausting but I could somehow take it. What broke me was watching my mother when she was in the worst state of her condition.
As the oldest child I can recall my mother before her disability controlled her. Let me tell you about this woman who is my true mom. She was the nicest person everyone knew. She smiled constantly. Gorgeous face and figure but didn’t know it. Wore her hair in a messy bun with a oversized tee. She was patient and kind. Never once did I hear her talk badly about someone to their face or behind their back. She held me when I cried and rubbed my back every night until I fell asleep… after bedtime stories that is.
But that mother was gone. My mother was dead, except she wasn’t. The beautiful, loving person I remember has been replaced with a lifeless person I don’t recognize. This lifeless person is shaking her left leg in a repetitive motion, starring at a the vent on the wall for 2 days now.
Tell me, how do you mourn for a person who is still alive?
My “new” mother is usually harmless. Most of the month you can find her lounging around the house in a depressive, lifeless state of mind. Those were easy days. Those were the days everyone hoped for. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case.
There are two general types of hallucinations. Auditory and visual hallucinations. My mother has auditory hallucinations. This is when you hear one or multiple voices pushing you to do or think in a way you would not normally.
During these auditory hallucinations, she would go quiet and mumble things to herself. Her eyes would widen. Any sudden loud noise could send her on to a full on paranoid schizophrenic state, leaving full control to the voices in her head.
Many times I would find myself hiding in the bathroom with my baby brother and sister. Staying absolutely quiet so that she wouldn’t find us. Keeping a baby quiet for hours is very hard. I felt bad for my baby brother. This is not what he deserved, a 10 year old “mother” repetitively forcing a binky in his mouth to keep him from crying. It broke my heart.
But hiding was better than forcefully abiding to my mother’s hallucinations.
I’ve been dragged down into the basement for terrifying religious sanctions. I’ve been held a knife near my throat as I pretended to sleep in absolutely fear for my life. I’ve been forced naked and bathed in order to clean me of my sins. My sister and I have been through a lot. I can only hope my brother was too young to remember these horrible experiences.
This was my life. It was all I knew at the time. High School started. I had made friends over the years. As I watched my friends and their families interact in a loving supportive manor, I began to realize the severity of my situation. I was very conflicted and very much a teenager. No one noticed me. No one motivated or pushed me to be something greater.
I began drinking. A lot. Every night I could I would drink until I could no longer think. I was surrounded by drugs of all types. I put myself in some dangerous situations, hoping someone would notice me. They didn’t. I was extremely depressed. I got in trouble with the law and forced to a behavioral center.
Somehow I managed to get into a decent college. After my little sister confronted me, concerned and disappointed in me for who I was starting to become I started to stop my self harming habits. I stopped drinking and partying. After awhile I started to like how I was feeling. I felt stronger. I was working out. I became more confident. I realized I had the power to change my life for the better.
It took 18 years of silent bitterness towards my father to finally confront him. My 15 year old sister and I let it all out. Many tears were shed on both ends. I knew he felt terrible. I knew how much he loved us and that is why it hurt so bad. How could he put his babies in this dangerous situation?
Looking back today, I can see how difficult it was for him. He needed to make money to support his family. He was virtually a single parent. During this time, his father developed cancer and decided to end his own life. As my father’s business grew, he obtained many employees who he became close to. They depended on him for their paycheck, he couldn’t let them down. He was stuck in a loveless marriage to an insane woman. A confused man unable to emotionally connect with his children, especially two teenage girls.
After our confrontation, I felt we could connect as a family. Even though it was not always ideal, we became a strong group of individuals. We were all talented, intelligent people but we had always been too stressed and overwhelmed to show it. After my parents divorced, the house started to actually feel like a home rather than a mental institution.
The divorce left my mother utterly alone. Although she is very sick, she is a fair functioning person for about half of a month. My heart aches for her. She lives alone in a little apartment the state pays for. The local police is well aware of her and know to put her in the short term psych ward at our local small-town hospital, if she appears dangerous to herself or society.
It’s easy to be optimistic when you have a steady support group, whether it’s your family, friends, teammates or co-workers. But it’s hell of a lot harder when you feel alone. And for most mentally-ill people out there, they feel alone. Our society outcasts them. Family and friends leave them because they are “too much work” both physically and mentally.
I will admit, I am guilty of this. I am guilty and it makes me feel like shit to ignore the woman who carried me nine months. I am trying my hardest to separate my emotions from my logic so I can help her.
It’s a long process.
Fact is, mentally illness is not only affecting the individual who has it, but the many people around them as well. If you haven’t already, please educate yourself on mental illness and the mental health community. There is a great chance at some point in your life, you or someone you love will need your knowledge and loving support.
I hope reading this helped someone.