An unforgiving Illness

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Sometimes I feel like a terrible daughter.  My mother who raised me the best she could for as long as she could suffered from mental illness. She is a Bi-polar Manic depressive to be exact.

She never wanted to take her medicine. She said she didn’t like the way it made her feel. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be in her shoes. Dealing with something so severe on a daily basis.

At her best my mother was soft spoken and loving. She loved to sing to us her children and she had a beautiful voice to match.

At her worst she thought the devil was trying to kill us and constantly moved us around all through out my childhood. Sometimes she would stay up all night talking to herself, and sleep all day when she had one of her mood swings.

My father  was never around when I was growing up. He is a Vietnam war veteran. I don’t doubt that he and my mother loved each other very much at one time. I have heard that as much hate as you show someone at the end of a relationship there had to be an equal amount of love at some point. They haven’t been together in over twenty years and to this day they are still legally married. So there is that.

I think war is a terrible thing and I wonder how different my life would have been had my father stayed in college instead of going off to fight. Would he still have abandoned us? I assume when he came back he must have been a changed man.

I have to think that it wasn’t just a character flaw and that the drug and alcohol abuse is evidence of that.

I don’t remember him ever being a father figure but my older siblings do. They say he was a really good dad at one time. I wish I had some memories of it. Once my father and mothers relationship ended he stopped coming around completely.

As I grew up my mother who lost her own mother at 12 years of age, was the one who raised us. Even as chaotic as my childhood was, I never doubted her love for us. At around 16 years of age and after moving in and out of my moms home several times it all became to much for me and I left.

11 years later the responsibility for my mother fell to me. I was the only child of six in the state of California who could take care of her. At that point I had children and my mother was rapidly becoming worse over time.

She still refused to take her medicine and her paranoia was ever present. Part of my mother’s illness is having paranoid delusions. This caused her  to throw things away all the time. In fact growing up I literally had no toys or pictures. Everything normal for children or famiy including school was deemed evil. I literally don’t have one picture of my mother and I together.

This made it impossible for me to live with her or subject my children to that. So my only other option was to find her a small studio near my house that she could afford.

It lasted one year before she was asked to leave because of her behavior. This went on for several years. In California the laws for the families of mentally ill are completely flawed.

The doctors would not commit her without her agreement, in a mental health facility because she wasn’t a threat to anyone. They would not tell me anything about her illness. They do however require her to have a payee for her social security disability check she received every month.

Of course I was good enough to be her payee and handle her money for her but I wasn’t allowed to be told what medications she was taking? The system set up for the mentally ill is fundamentally fucked in California. There is no safety net set up for them and my mother fell through the cracks.

After three and half years and moving her three separate times my mother was on the verge of a complete mental break down. I didn’t know how to help her anymore. Her health was rapidly deteriorating due to the high anxiety from her dilusions. Sometimes she would see things. Scary things. She would never tell me exactly what she saw but the fear she would show told me it was bad.

Finally my sister offered to take her out to Utah where she lived. The week before my mother left I stopped by to check on her. She was in a terrible state and whatever she was seeing scared her half to death. For the first time ever she begged me to take her to the mental health facility that for years she had refused.

A week later my younger brother arrived to get her. Of she course she was still in that place and was due to be released the next morning.

When I picked her up she was a mess but glad to be going to live with my sister and her boyfriend. All she ever wanted was to live with me and my family. As sad as it is, I couldn’t give in. I refused to let my children be subjected to what I was growing up. I was relieved and happy for her that she was finally getting what she wanted.

Six months later my sister called me and said my mom had left and she didn’t want her back. She was way to much to handle. She had stopped taking her medicine and started throwing everything out again. It was understandable. There was no way I could live with her myself.

Luckily my oldest brother stepped in and got her in to a facility in Utah. Surprisingly Utah does have a safety net for those with mental illness. She lives in a place that employs a full time staff. Her social security check covers most of the costs. She takes her medicine regularly for the first time in years.

I hadn’t talk to my mother in 8 months. I am terrible daughter. As soon as she was safe I went on with my life and didn’t even so much as ask about her. The truth is it’s to painful to think about.

Sometimes as selfish as it sounds I wish I could forget my entire childhood. My mother whom I love dearly is a constant reminder of that.

Her mental illness even with medication will never make her “normal”. She has set backs all the time. Today my brother went to see my mother and called me for her. She sounded drugged up but we had our first normal conversation in years.

When I asked her where she was she wasn’t sure. She had fallen and cut her chin open and she thinks she had 18 stitches. She thinks?

My heart broke just hearing that. How selfish am I? I haven’t asked about her. She’s been stuck alone in some facility I have never been to and I haven’t even checked on her.

Of course my brother is there for her but I am still her daughter. I should be there for her especially when she can’t be there for herself.

I once received a picture of my mother from when she was around 16 or 17 years old from one of her relatives. She was living with her older sister at the time, my aunt. It was the 1960’s and she was standing in one leg of a pair of men’s striped pajama pants. She was so tiny and had a mischievous look in her eye. She looked like she was quite a character.

I wish I could have known that version of her. Unfortunately her mental illness kicked in soon after I was born when she was 33 years of age. So I have no memories of her in a normal frame of mind.

I use try and imagine how she would have been had she been normal when I was growing up. Its hard for me but I imagine she would have been a lot like I am now.

Two weeks ago I turned 32 years old. I am not far off from my mothers age when her symptoms first kicked in. Talking to my mother today reminded me that she is still here and that I still have the chance to become the daughter I would wish I had, if I was in her situation. It’s not to late to be the daughter I should. It’s never to late to stop the regrets before they start.

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For my mother, who despite all the terrible traumas she has faced in an unforgiving world never gave up on her children

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