But in talking with her, it's amazing just how far mental illness reaches. And it's hard to have a family member or friend go through it, let alone a parent. While it's encouraging to know that those with mental illness aren't alone, those who are watching a loved one go through this struggle need support too! Very few people are willing to talk about their experience with mental illness, even fewer come forward who had to watch someone they love go through it and how it affected THEM. Once again, thank you so much to Worst Mother of the Year for being my guest today. Here's her story of living with a mom with mental illness.
For the first ten years of my life, I thought my mom had cancer or some serious illness. She didn’t but whenever my dad would talk about her, he would say that she was really sick but that she loved me and would be in my life if she could. Not having the capacity at that age to comprehend a mental illness, my mind went to sicknesses that I could comprehend. It was probably better that way. I dealt with her being gone in a more innocent nature.
Though she left, my dad never talked bad about her. Considering all that she put him through (her fault or not), you’d think he would be bitter. He wasn’t. Either that or he was trying to keep me innocent. In the end, it had the same result; I thought my mom was a saint until I learned the truth.
The truth was that my parents had married after a very short dating stint. My dad had no idea that she suffered from a mental illness for a short time. As soon as he found out, he talked her into seeking help. Unfortunately, this included a stay at a mental hospital as well as medications that made her feel horrible. Medications weren’t so advanced back then and most of them “drugged” one up beyond functioning well.
My mom convinced my dad that she was fine and could deal with her bi-polar disorder without any help. I don’t know whether he was just in denial from love or believed her, but he agreed that she didn’t need help. When I was two years old, my dad came home to my older brother (6 years old) sporting a large black eye and burnt hands. He asked what happened. My mom informed him that my brother wouldn’t stop getting near the stove while she was cooking so she hit him, and then put his hands on the stove to show him how hot it was. She explained this just like it was a normal thing that everyone did. My dad’s eyes were immediately opened. He told her that if she didn’t get help, he would leave with us kids. “I can’t have you around them like this. Their lives are in danger.” She refused to get help. He left.
During the custody battle, even her siblings testified against her. My dad won full custody of us kids and she received supervised visitations. Being a parent myself now, I can only imagine the heartache this caused her. She eventually just left for good. This is when my dad started telling me that she was sick but that she would be in our lives if she could. This is when I thought she had cancer.
When I was ten, she came back. Only temporarily though. After some more dangerous events, a judge banned her from being around me until I turned 18. She was given a restraining order with threats of spending serious jail time if she came around. This probably caused her mental illnesses to be exasperated. Maybe the judge and my dad made the wrong decision. We’ll never know, but she was a serious threat to my well-being and I have no doubt that my dad was doing what he thought was best.
Throughout the years since I turned 18, my mom has come and gone in my life and not because of my choices. She never received any help for her illness and so her mood swings are severe. Personally, I think she suffers from other disorders as well, but I am not a doctor.
My mom will email or text or call and attempt to have a relationship with me, only to leave my life just as quickly over a text not replied to soon enough or something equally insignificant. It is
significant to her though. Her mind doesn’t work the same. While I see not responding to a text within 5 minutes as a sign that I am busy with the kids or whatever, she sees it as me not caring or something else extreme. So she will send a text raging that she wants nothing to do with me ever again. I don’t even reply anymore. A few months later, she will call again as if nothing ever happened. The cycle continues a hundred times.
I used to have problems with this behavior. I used to think she could control it. It used to enrage me and cause serious bitterness on my end. It doesn’t anymore. I know she can’t help it. I know she would be different if she sought help.
Unfortunately, like many with mental illnesses, she thinks she is perfectly normal. She thinks everyone else has the problem. She even thinks that the government is trying to control her and the whole thing is a big conspiracy (thus my theory that she has more than one mental illness).
Is it fair that I have to deal with a mother who seemingly has less maturity than my toddler? Probably not. Are there worse things to deal with? Definitely. At the end of the day, she is the one that gave me life. I will always love her. I have just learned, after many years of resentment, that she will probably always be like this.
Though I accept her, I still wish she would get help. How wonderful it would be to have a healthy
relationship with the one person who should be supporting me. I beg and plead with everyone slightly suspicious of having a mental disorder to seek help…even if just to ease your mind with a clean bill of health after seeing a doctor.
If anyone asks you to get help or even merely to be evaluated, just listen. Understand that it’s not your fault or anything you can control. Understand that life will be beautiful and enjoyable with some modifications to your life. Understand that your loved ones will suffer and they don’t have to. My life would have been much different had my mom just accepted help that was offered. I would have enjoyed many years with a mother. Instead I dealt with not having one.
As hard as it is, you have to be able to take that first step. Yes, mental illness is hard to deal with personally, but you don't know how far those ripples expand. They affect more people than you think. You have to be brave, not only for yourself, but for those you love.
And be sure to read the official blog for Worst Mother of the Year! You will not be disappointed!