They say a mother’s bond with her child is the most powerful and unbreakable one. Every one’s relationship with their parents are different from the next. I am by nature a daddy’s girl. I was the only child. So, I projected most of my attention to dad. This probably could’ve been my first word. I don’t know that was over 34 years ago and my mother has poor memory. My relationship with my mother is simply complicated.
Don’t get me wrong, but I love my mother. I really don’t have to say the words “I love you” enough to her for her to know that I really mean it. I show my love for her in so many ways. But first a little quick bio on her.
My mother was born in 1955 and she was the fifth child of six. She has one sister and five brothers. Their childhood was dysfunctional to put it mildly. There was some mental/physical/verbal/emotional abuse, violence, but there was love there, too. I don’t know where violence fits into a loving family, but this world isn’t perfect, right? A family isn’t a family without conflict, right? I know quite a little bit about my mom’s childhood. She doesn’t talk about it at all. I understand that to a tee. However, her beginning into this world can’t be all bad. There had to be some good?? Her parents fought, so did her older brothers and my mother and her sister and younger brother were close. To this day, neither of them will talk about what happened. I remember visiting their house in Wausau and it reeked of smoke (they were heavy drinkers and smokers). I don’t remember staying very long during visits at their house. If I look at old photos, I will say: “I don’t remember this.” I don’t. FYI, my grandfather was notorious for being rude especially when he asked if I was hanging out or going to school with people of color. He was the kind of guy that would use a slur to someone’s face. Please don’t be like this. He said this to me. I can’t say the same with family.
But to put a long story short, some things were bad and there was definitely some kind of undiagnosed depression or other forms of mental illness that run in that family. Both of my grandparents probably had it and at the time, they probably thought that going to the shrink or the hospital was for crazies. My mother was diagnosed with major depression and paranoid schizophrenia around the age of high school and college age. My mother turned the negative in her life into a positive and left home after high school. She got accepted at UW-Madison and studied accounting and this is where she met my father. The rest is history. My parents are a good fit for each other and their upbringings are completely different. My dad came from a family of six (all boys and one girl) and they were a close tight knit family. So when, my parents got married, his side of the family wasn’t too thrilled about the marriage because my mom came from a rough home. I was the only miracle because my mother had health problems and endrometrisosis. So a hysterectomy later, I become the sole heir to the family. The miracle child.
My mother is almost 63 and doesn’t work at all. People who live with major depression and schizophrenia are typically unable to work. My mom is one of them. I saw somewhere that an estimated 90% of people living with schizophrenia aren’t able to work at all. So scary. But my mother will tell you that her attention span is very short. She can only concentrate for a few hours have to call it quits for the day. She used to work for the IRS for a while until she left that company. I don’t remember her the last time that she worked. It was probably more than 25 years since I’ve seen her work. She did work as cashier at a grocery store and delivered newspapers with me, but is “clinically mentally disabled” by the state. You can’t work if you have social security or disability. At least that’s what I’m told.
Growing up, I was always close with my dad and I still am. I have no qualms against my mother. There are some habits that she has that I don’t care for, but I’m not going to fault her on it. She talks very loudly. It’s kind of like a drill sergeant that’s calling you. The only reason is because she’s deaf in one ear. A nasty ear infection that blew out her eardrum in one of her ears caused that permanent deafness. She walks very slow in a store and gets easily lost. Don’t we all know someone like that? And has a nasty diet soda addiction. That’s no Bueno! With faults aside, I never understood her when it came towards her childhood and her mental illness. My childhood was great and yes, depression made its debut at 10. However, her childhood had more drama and it forced her to grow up than me. When she was a child, she fell off of her new bike and the kickstand went into her head. OUCH. A simple bicycle accident caused severe damage to her brain. I didn’t know this at all until the time that I fell off my bike and got cuts and bruises everywhere.
I’ll never understand what it’s like growing up in a broken or dysfunctional home. My home life was always loving and tight knit. She made sure that I didn’t experience her childhood in any way. Because of what she experienced, I’m very picky about relationships and marriage altogether. It’s not that I don’t believe in marriage. I don’t believe it’s healthy to stay in a relationship for too many decades if you’re unhappy and experiencing abuse. Her parents stayed together for decades because her mother didn’t want to be alone. Desperate, maybe. But I’d rather being single or dating than being stuck in a dead end marriage. I’m honing in on 35 years and I still see no desire to get married or have kids. I always say: “When it happens, it happens.” If it’s meant to be, great! If not, oh well.
I can’t even imaging working for the IRS either. I took accounting in college as part of my business degree and let me tell you, I wanted to take my pencil and stab it into my neck. That’s how much I hate accounting. A field that’s not my choice. My father is an engineer and he agrees with the hatred of accounting. When she did work at the IRS, she audited big Fortune 500 companies and it was stressful (I’m understating this when I say stressful!). I remember her telling me that she was harassed by clients, some would tell her to lie on their taxes or not report income on their taxes and she said that she was like the “villain” when it came to auditing companies. You know how food service industries hate the health inspectors, well some companies hating getting audited. The amount of stress that she endured was a lot. I think one time she had a stress induced heart attack (minor) and she didn’t elaborate more on that. I remember we had to change numbers a lot because she got a few harassments from people that she was auditing.
When she left the IRS, it was a relief for both of my parents. Unfortunately, her mother passed away not too long after she left the IRS. In July of 1991, my mother had a breakdown from all that stress and losing her mother. Her mother passed away after a battle with diabetes and other issues. She was placed in a psychiatric hospital for quite some time. I remember saying to dad: “Where’s Mom?” He said: “Mommy is sick and is getting help in the hospital.” My father kept it straight forward and never sugar coated anything. But at about 9 years of age, I didn’t know what mental illness was. I was diagnosed a year later. And was put on Wellbutrin for a little while and saw a therapist. I personally don’t remember going to the therapist’s office let alone what was said. It was strange and it made me feel like an outsider. I felt like the only kid going through this, but I’m not.
So to this day, my mother is a homemaker. She can’t work. She does go to therapy and to her ECT treatments. My dad and I have to force her to go. Again we tell her: “Either you do it or you do it.” Committing suicide isn’t the solution to all your problems. I remember my father told her during a visit to the hospital: “Think about the pain that you’ve inflicted on me and your daughter. Open your eyes and take a good look at your life. You have me, you have your daughter, you have two dogs, you have family that loves and cares for you. Why cause more pain than good? Do you want to spend the rest of your eternal life in hell with the devil or spend it in heaven with God when he says it’s your time to go?” That was food for thought after her last attempt over 5 years ago.
Hallucinations, delusions and suicidal attempts are something that I’ve never experienced at all with my depression. You may say: “What? C’mon, you’re lying.” Seriously, I have never tried to hurt myself. Even during the worst blue periods, I will not take any sharp objects because I hate needles and knives. Guns are not allowed in my house nor my parents. I don’t like medications so I won’t pop them like my mother used to do. I handle each day to the best of my ability. I try to think positively and remember the old adage: “This too shall pass.” It always does.
But my first hallucination & delusional encounter that I saw was when (before) I was diagnosed and before my grandmother passed away. One stormy morning, my mother told me to get my stuff and head off to school. So I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the car. She said that we were walking. I said: “Mom, it’s pouring outside and thundering, too. Besides, school is miles away.” She said: “We’re going to walk. Let’s go.” So we walked and got wet. Not too far away from the house, she started talking to herself. She then started looking back and said: “There’s someone following us.” I said: “Who? Dad?” It wasn’t dad. There was no there. No one was following us. She then looked back and started screaming and grabbed me by the hand and we started running into traffic. Cars swerving everywhere. People were honking and shouting obscenities at us. I was scared. I thought we were going to be killed. Several cars stopped and said: “Hey lady, are you f@#%ing nuts. What’s the matter with you?” A police officer picked us up and said that we were jaywalking in the road. He knew that she wasn’t well and transported us to the nearest hospital. The officer said: “Is this your mom?” I said: “Yes.” He said: “Where’s your daddy and how do I reach him?” I said: “My daddy is at work and I don’t know the number.”
My dad was contacted and the officer stayed with me while my mother was placed on hold in the psychiatric ward. I didn’t know what was going on and it traumatized me a lot. The most recent hallucination and delusion was about 5 years ago this past August and her schizophrenic mind starting going. She thought someone was after her again. No one was. She started talking in her sleep. She started pacing around like she used. She even tried breaking into her safe that we keep for her medicines and almost downed the whole bottle of pills that she takes for various medical issues. One time during college, I was working and got a call from dad saying that she downed an entire bottle of anti-psychotics medicines. I had to leave work and that was a hard conversation to tell my employer that my mother tried to attempt suicide.
This last time, we knew she was going to have a breakdown and we had 911 on speed dial. But this time, she voluntarily said: “I need help.” So we took her to the hospital and got her placed in a psychiatric hospital to help her get better. This is always hard. Always! Her doctor that was overseeing her case said that she needs more than just anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. She needs something to relieve that along with suicidal tendencies. My dad and I said: “What can we do?” The doctor said: “ECT treatments.” I said: “Electro shock? Oh, hell no.” My dad said to be quiet and listen to what the doctor was telling us. She’s on the highest dosage of medication for someone with schizophrenia and depression, but ECT treatments help with that but also relieves the suicidal thoughts and tendencies. We watched a video of how ECT treatments are done and how many times they are required. I almost hurled after watching the video. I had to step outside and let out a good scream and a cry. But we had no choice. This was a last resort option for us. My dad said to me: “Do you want your mother to die or do you want her to live?” Live, of course.
Her treatments are done in Houston and they’re an hour away from where we live. One of us will drive her to the hospital in Houston and then sit in the waiting room until the doctor arrives and it’s her turn. In the few hours that you sit in the waiting room (oh yes, hours!) so many things run through your mind. I’m really scared that one day it could be me getting ECT treatments. I don’t rule out anything. I’m scared that she won’t wake up from the anesthesia. I’m scared that it won’t work for her anymore and what happens next. I would love for someone to cure this disease known as mental illness. I’m really terrified that my mother will attempt suicide and this time be the final attempt. I’m really scared about that’s how she’s going to die. But who knows, maybe future technology will bring something new and better. For now, I hope.
Oh wow – your story is definitely no laughing matter. So sorry you and your Dad have to go through this but I imagine it is even worse for your Mom. May God give you the strength to handle every opportunity or disappointment with grace and thankfulness. Every day you have your parents is another blessing even when they are suffering. Stay strong. Regards Bev
Thank You! It’s tough. I always survive! That’s what I tell others. Mental illness is no laughing matter!