My Mother with Mental Illness
My mother with mental illness died last week. She was 85 years old. Here I share my recollection of being raised by a mother with mental illness.
I didn't know my mother had mental illness. I learned of her illness five years ago when she was hospitalized because of an apparent manic episode. She was put on various psychiatric medications and stabilized. My dad and I became close via email as my son Bob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder around the same time.
Mom gained weight during the time she took psychiatric medication. Consequently, dad stopped giving her the medication because she was unhappy with the weight gain. After attacking a caregiver where they lived, mom was taken back to the psychiatric hospital.
Last year my father died of pancreatic cancer. Because my parents were married 58 years, my mother's health deteriorated quickly after my father passed. Not surprisingly, my mom died peacefully last week, the anniversary of my father's passing, with loved ones around her.
Mother's Mental Illness Was Life-long
After my mom's death, the stories of her life-long mental illness emerged. I was number five of seven children, so chaos in our home was normal. I had come to terms with my dysfunctional family. Yet I was unaware of the extent of childhood trauma my mom endured or her suicide attempt until an older sister mentioned it. As I connected the pieces, a life-long mental illness explained the puzzle.
I am not a doctor so I cannot diagnose my mother. To my knowledge, my mother was not diagnosed or treated for any mental illness until five years ago. However, during my life I witnessed many of my mother's behaviors that are typical in personality disorders.
My mother loved to be the center of attention. She was vain, egotistical and arrogant. She bragged about her children and lived to promote us. Our accomplishments were her accomplishments. She talked about her world incessantly.
When she wasn't bragging about me to others, she was verbally attacking me. She repeatedly told me I was a worthless and unlovable child. When I reached adulthood, she criticized my hair, weight, clothes and boyfriends.
Mother yelled a lot and swore often. I always felt like I was in trouble. My mother's moods and emotions were hard to predict, so I rarely brought friends over. I spent as much time as possible out of the house.
My mom had more energy than anyone I knew. She stayed up nights sewing costumes and special outfits. She vacuumed my room while I tried to sleep. She worked on home improvement projects like painting, wallpapering or reupholstering furniture. She hiked, biked, danced and shopped.
Daughter Recalls Mother with Mental Illness
My mother self-medicated with prescription drugs. I remember visits to the pharmacy and pills at night. There were trips to Vegas and Mexico for medication. Mornings she laid in bed with the covers to her lips as we left for school. Evenings the dinners burned as she slept.
There was violence. She spanked us when we were little with paddles and belts. Photos of a buckle shaped welt on my forehead remind me of the beatings. I remember them like the fog of war.
Mostly, I felt like I was never safe. I was afraid of my mother. I wanted to escape the war-zone, so I did as soon as I could.
As an adult, I tried to set boundaries on my relationship with my mother. I found little-to-no contact with her was best for me. She had plenty of support from my dad and siblings.
Eventually my mother's personality succumbed to dementia and my last visits with her were pleasant, though sad. The little old lady I met with looked like my mother. But my mother was gone.
The services were beautiful. Many relatives came to pay their respects. I wrote a eulogy describing my mom's intense pride and passions, as well as a poem about her love of dancing. Like all loss, my mom will be missed.
My mother's passing has strengthened my desire to educate others about mental illness. When I look past the now obvious signs of my mother with mental illness, I see a woman who fought a courageous and brave battle against a formidable foe.
Still, I live with the collateral damage. Education and advocacy heal my wounds and give me hope. I hope to help other families, other parents and other daughters living with mental illness by sharing my story.
Rest in peace mom.
Halli, C. (2015, June 28). My Mother with Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2015/06/my-mother-with-mental-illness
Author: Christina Halli
I'm just a lay person, so I can't answer your question, but I noticed a striking similarity in your mom's symptoms to personality disorders. Dr. Daniel Fox is a clinical psychologist who specializes in personality disorders, and he has a very good Youtube channel:
I'm sorry for what you went through, and I hope that understanding your mother will help you heal your trauma and bring you peace.
Joe's posting is very similar to my experiences.
I appreciate the opportunity to read and respond to this huge issue.
It does effect me daily. Grieving the loss of my mother, now that she has died, is added to the life long grief of not having a mother, in the normal sense. I still keep much hidden from the world...about the trauma I experienced and my mother's part in that.
I wish there were support groups specifically for children like us.
It is impossible for anyone to understand the extensive emotional damage that occurs when you grow up with a mother with mental illness.
At 49, I am still haunted by the past. My life has been negatively affected in every way. I find that I still take the path of least resistance in life. In other words, I have so much potential, but I do not believe in myself. As such, I have always taken jobs that are well below what I am capable of. Everything from jobs to relationships, etc. is affected. I have serious difficulties with intimacy with my wife who god bless her has been my rock during the many years that we have been together. She is the only one who truly knows the emotional demons that have plagued me, and continue to plague me. Yet somehow I turned out to be a great father, but I have attachment issues. This no doubt is a direct consequence of never having the comforting and nurturing of my mother growing up. She has always basically been bi-polar/schizophrenic. So now I basically feel like a broken child in the body of a man. And I have serious panic, anxiety and depression. Lucky me.
It is almost impossible o undo all of the negative stuff from my childhood - it has shaped who I am in a very negative way. Plus I inherited the anxiety and depression from her on top of everything else. I don't want my daughter who is in high school to grow up thinking that her father was a weak cry baby of a man.
Thought please. Thank you for listening.
My mother choose only to have one child. When I was a child she had good family support although my alcoholic father left in the first few years of my life. After being married ten years she was officially divorced by the time I was two. I lived with my mother although we both spent considerable time at my maternal grandparents home. Her last suicide attempt was when I was four.
She married a wonderful man when I was eight and I now have the greatest (step) Dad in the world.
My mother was finally put on medication that worked when I was 14 and she was 44.
My parents cared for me hen I was 22 and diagnosed with bipolar type 1. My mother was a great advocate the one time I was hospitalised. And my parents visited me in hospital every day for seven weeks.
I have lived primarily with my parents until the age of 34 (I will be moving out in less then 3 months when I get married). Even when I move out my parents will help my fiancé take care of me.
Today there is much more support for parents with mental illnesses and children carers.
My Mom admits to nothing. With my wife's help, I have become more focused on being diagnosed myself.
Condolences all the same. My mum has dementia. I think she was a narcissist all her life and she screwed us kids up. If she had kept going to her therapist at age 14, we might have been less screwed up...