Today’s Guest Post if from Jennifer, who blogs regularily at Spaghetti Harvest and teases me at Creative Wanderings. She is one of the people in my life who reminds me to always be the best wife and mother I can be, and that illness is never a good enough reason.
I am an only child of a woman with Paranoid Schizophrenia; she was given an official diagnosis when I was 13. She stayed on medication for about a year until she decided that she wasn’t the crazy one, and things went back to their usual insanity. That year still haunts me; it was full of glimpses of what could have been. I seriously wish she never went on medication.
According to family lore, my mother has been “off” since she was a teenager. Further research on my part leads me to believe that she suffers from Borderline Personality disorder; a relatively new diagnosis that captures all those people who are not floridly ill, but are walking that fine line between “normalcy” and diagnosis.
My family pretended that her illness didn’t exist. My father, who had left the marriage when I was 4 told me that fighting for custody of me in the 1970’s would have been futile. I still feel like he abandoned me and struggle with this in my relationship with him even now. I was left at the mercy of my own mother by all the other adults who knew she was nuts. I was her victim and the main player in her delusions, paranoid beliefs and dramatics. The scars I received from her from trying to take my life are visible on my skin, and on my soul.
Much of my early life is one large drama with my major life events being coloured by her dramatics. Birthdays, holidays, school events, even my highschool graduation has been marked by her. Her sickness has made me who I am.
As a child, I believed all families lived like we did. It wasn’t until I became a rebellious teenager, and ventured into the lives of friends and boyfriends that I discovered that families cared for and about one another, some families even took care of and loved their children! It was a novel concept that made me very angry and confused. Suicidal even. What was so unlovable about me? Why did my mother wish me dead? Why did she blame me for everything that went wrong in her life? Why didn’t she act like the other moms?
I further learned that families taught their children things, common sense kind of things like when to change your underwear, the awesome invention of deodorant, regularly brushing your teeth and your hair, bathing, good nutrition and social traditions.
I learned about most of these things the hard way. Some I’m still learning about, and I’m 34.
Social traditions are hard for me. I’m a social retard. I don’t *get* games. Not because I’m obtuse, but because I’ve never learned to play them. I don’t really know how to make and keep friends because I always overstep social boundaries or make an ass of myself in some way. Worse, I tend to lay my heart out to the wrong people for it to be stomped upon and shred to pieces.
These are things that parents are supposed to teach their children. No really, they do. When you correct your child, teach them lessons, this is all building who they are. What happens though, when you’re absent in their lives?
I’m still learning. I don’t know what to do at weddings, or when babies are born, or when someone dies or when someone compliments me. Did you know that traditions actually vary from one area of the country to another? Me either. So even when I try to be diligent, I still look like a dork when I have to ask what protocol is, which in turn makes me hesitant to ask.
My biggest problem is changing the way I think. My mother was my role model. She was the most important person in my life. I learned from her. I looked to her to shape my view of the world, myself and those around me. Because her view of the world was distorted, twisted and wrong, I too developed this view. A person does not have to have a chemical imbalance to be mentally ill, it can be learned.
Boy did I learn.
It has taken me a degree in Psychology, many years of Psychotherapy, even more years of life experience and an unwavering (pain in the ass) husband to change my view of the world and myself. Wait, that’s wrong. I’m still learning. Even now, I slip back into the old habits, the old way of thinking and it takes a good kick in the arse by the husband to get me back on track.
I have good days, and bad days. I’ve done a ton of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, all of them make me numb, I feel better but it doesn’t fix me. I need to learn more. At some point I’ll get there. I don’t know when, but I know that I’ll get there.
I can’t even really make a general list of how her being ill has affected my life; it colors every corner of my life. Not having a stable environment growing up, being neglected, emotionally, mentally and verbally abused has essentially shaped me into who I am today. Part of me realizes that the experiences I have had, HAVE shaped who I am and I should be proud. But on the other hand, I have a hard time even knowing who I am from day to day. I’m still discovering who I am. It’s like now that I’ve grown up, I can finally start to grow.