Coping with Mental Illness

It’s really hard for me to accept my mother’s mental illness. For as long as I can remember I’ve thought that she would be alright if a certain thing could happen. If she got a better paying job, had more education, ate better, or made some new friends, then she could start to get better. There had to be something that would buoy her. Unfortunately, nothing helps.

She makes a lot of bad decisions. I have to parent her all the time, and it just zaps my energy. I’ve been parenting her since I was 11. I’ve decided that I’m going to stop trying to be rational with her. I keep thinking that my explanations of how the world works will help her make better choices. It helps my 18 year old brother. But when she makes a mistake, she martyrs herself to it a million times.

It’s so hard to let go of my hope that she’ll heal. I remember when she was sharp. I remember when she was smart, when she had the answer to every question, when I looked up to her and I was her world. Or did I imagine that time? Was her omnipotence the product of my six year old innocence? I question my memories of her – those memories of life before I turned 10.

I’ve often told myself she would get better if only she would get help. She’s been seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist for roughly two years now. I don’t see any progress. She’s proud of herself for going. I am, too. I fear it’s too little, too late.

I never know what to say when people ask me how my mom’s doing. People often ask about her either because they know she’s crazy or they know she has lung cancer. The prognosis for the lung cancer is better, so I often limit my discussion to oncologists and lobes and x-rays. It’s less complicated.



Filed under The way the world works

7 responses to “Coping with Mental Illness

  1. I’m really glad you posted about this – this is such a complex and difficult thing and I think most people our age cannot really understand or grasp what parenting a mentally or physically ill parent is like unless they have dealt with it first hand. I can relate to some degree – while I did not have to contend with this as a child, ever since my mom had her stroke a year ago she’s been clinically depressed, verbally abusive to us and mentally ill to the point that my sister and I have to parent her and there is nothing easy to accept about that. She had her stroke a year ago this month, and as I was thinking about the anniversary of this event and how it’s changed me and our family, I realized that I’ve been chronically exhausted ever since. It’s taken an emotional toll on me to parent my own parent and I’m reminded of this each and every time I talk to her – just yesterday she called me to express that she was upset about about several things related to her buying a couch from Aaron’s Rent-to-Own. There was some issue pertaining to her credit card and the couch (that’s the othe piece of this issue is we cannot always understand what she’s talking about). I tried to tell her that the rent-to-own places are the equivalent of loan shark places but she didn’t really get it. My mom does not need to rent-to-own furniture, she simply didn’t know better anymore. I have no idea what the fallout from this will be – I called my sister last night and suggested she get mom to get a new credit card number. I don’t have a magic solution to this – I just get up every morning and deal with things as they come and try as best as I can to compartmentalize things with her and take care of myself mentally in tandem which I’ve found to be the most difficult part.

  2. Katy

    Many people live with siblings, children, and parents with serious mental illness. Stigma against persons with mental illness is a dangerous thing and is often reflected in our national (and State) Medicare and Medicaid policies. I recommend that you read the book “72 Hour Hold” by Bebe Moore Campbell. Although it is a fiction piece (and you will see instantly that it is not), it addresses how hard it is to recognize that consistently going to psychiatric treatment for two years is a wonderful achievement, despite the fact it isn’t the goal that you set out to see her achieve.

    NAMI Indiana is a terrific resource for consumers and families. It is difficult to grieve for a person with mental illness because the grief gets intermingled with hope and despair. My mother is bipolar and my sister is paranoid schizophrenic. Both have had dozens of hospitalizations in state and acute facilities. I devoted every waking moment and spare dollar to them for 4 years, then I woke up one day buying a casket for the one person I had overlooked in my obsession with them. If you need to talk – I’m here and I understand.

    And, people ask you how your mom is because they care about you. It’s a chance to let you share how you’re feeling :~)

  3. Katy

    Whose boobs are in the Rosie shot to the right? Looking good.

  4. Those would be mine. Thank you. 🙂

    Doesn’t Rosie look cute in her Scooby Doo underoos?

  5. Wha’ts with all the T&A?

  6. What’s with all the T&A?

  7. Well said,i applaud your blog, mental health consumers are the least capable of self advocacy,my doctors made me take zyprexa for 4 years which was ineffective for my symptoms.I now have a victims support page against Eli Lilly for it’s Zyprexa product causing my diabetes.–Daniel Haszard

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