Shelley's Ten Commandments Print E-mail
Written by Shelley   
I am 41 years old, the child, the niece, the cousin, the grandchild, and the grand-niece of mentally ill loved ones. As my dad had prophetically told me when I was nine, I was going to learn many things "the hard way". So many of you who are writing in this forum are in your twenties, unable to trust that you will have a fulfilling life yourselves. I was there once, in the process of becoming seriously depressed myself, without knowing why, but I figured out what I needed.
1) If you have a chance to move out of the house, do it, ASAP. If you have a well parent that is living with your ill parent, they will understand. They're staying around so YOU have a shot at a decent life and break the circle of pain that accompanies the "family curse".

2) Do what you need to do to get well/stay well yourself. Learn what you need to do to sleep through an entire night, to stretch and relax your muscles when anxiety puts you in pain, to get the stress out of you through writing or art or music, to stop the pain with meditation and breathing exercises. Dance. Remember, you couldn't help your parent when you were young because you were not strong enough yourself. Strengthen yourself in every way you can: socially, financially, psychically so you CAN help without snuffing yourself out.

Sometimes You Have to be the Bad guy to be the Good Guy

3) Search and read what you can, and explore EVERY possibility as to what diagnosis fits your ill parent. The more you know, the better armed you are when you are in the position of dealing with your parent's doctors and medications. Remember doctors have NOT observed everything you have, especially if your parent has a history of putting on a public persona to appear "well". If you are dealing with a psychiatric emergency, and have to get a parent to the hospital, document as much as you can on paper BEFORE you call 911. Because after you make that call, and the nice policeman comes to buckle your parent into your car to drive them to the hospital, YOU may be the one that's pacing and upset, and your parent may be putting on the show of their lives for strangers. Also, beware of the "official" version of your family history: for years, I'd heard about what a monster my grandfather was for putting my grandmother in the hospital, where she was subjected to electroshock in the 1960s. After having to call the cops on Mom so I could get her in hospital, I am left wondering about what kind of monster I'm supposed to have become... Sometimes you have to be the bad guy to be the good guy.

4) Good spouses do exist. Marry them. Enjoy them. But don't load all the problems you grew up with on them. They won't tolerate it for very long at all.

Love people and

5) Give your kid the hugs you didn't get. Practice the consideration to your husband and kid you never got. Have the sleep overs, the birthday party with guests, the vacations you never had when you were growing up. Don't feel guilty about it. Buy yourself flowers.

6) F***k the secrecy of what's happened in your family. At my age, I am surrounded by coworkers dealing with their parents' dementia and Alzheimers', which is catching them blindsided. They'll understand where you're at when you have to take family leave to attend to your parent. For a while, I hung a Newsweek cover of Robin Williams as Patch Adams, pressing stethescope to forehead, in my cubicle at work. The cover story was, "Is Everybody Crazy?: The New Science of Brain Chemistry". And yes, my daughter knows Grandma isn't well, and the nature of her illness. She's unhappy that she's been deprived of a Grandma like her friends have, but she's not deprived of wonderful relationships with other adults.

7) If you have siblings, talk to each other and support each other any way you can. Talk to and support your siblings. You need to not only the support of siblings. Establish connections between you and relatives that have been alienated from your family during your parents illness. This includes not only your well relatives, but those who are ill, and those are in similar position of care-giving, They can provide you with an enormous amount of perspective! Lastly, if your il parent is still living on their own ,establish connections between you and their neighbours, because They will be your immediate support in an emergency.

8) Take pleasure in things you can get for yourself now that you couldn't as a child. I get so tickled every time I buy new underwear. I revel in the dance lessons I induge in once a week.

9) Love your ill parent, but DON'T ever let them make you choose between your spouse 'n kid and them. If this happens, your spouse 'n kid take priority, DESPITE the guilt you may feel. Maintain the boundaries you need to to stay well.

10) If you are accused of being callous and unfeeling (most of all, by yourself), talk to someone else - your friends, your clergyman, your counsellor, your shrink - and get a reality check. I have lost the ability to cry when loved ones (human or animal) die - I'm all cried out, I guess. But I do my best to show my love in other ways: I've been called upon three times last year to deliver formal eulogies, which I am honored to do.

Peace to all who have written to this site,

Shelley, who's been there.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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The 'Forgotten People'

by Anna Malbon from the Progress Press October 22, 1996

WHEN nine-year-old "Tom" was asked to draw a picture of himself with his mother be drew her trying to strangle him.

Tom entered the world of adults too early. If he was ever immune to the complications and pain of life that adults try to shelter from children, he says he can't remember.

Bulletin Board

I had to struggle extra hard

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I.

They only listened to her stories ”

“ I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know.”

Hi, I had a mentally ill mother. She passed away last year. I literally grew up hanging around mental hospitals because my Mom's condition was a cycle that always ends in a mental hospital. When I was younger, there was a long period when I cried my eyes out every time I was separated from my mentally ill mother because she had to stay in a mental hospital. After I grew older, my Mom's mental illness became impossible for me to bear.

Literally, my Mom's mental illness ruined my life. I think. I had to struggle extra hard for everything because of my big handicap at home. There was no support at all from anyone other than my father. Nobody else wanted to know about it. My mother's own cousin even said to my father not to bring my Mom to their place. I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know. My mother's own sister has been complaining since 2000 and her last complain was on 5 July 2014. This particular aunt keeps complaining about the same thing. That she had to take my Mom for her weekly injections and complained that my father and I was not around to do it. Then, she goes on to say that she saw my Mom beat me up with a cane. When she said that, I asked my Aunt, you saw my Mom beat me up with a cane? She said yes and than, she walked away.

I feel very sore with this aunt. Number one, the period she was complaining about was when I was still schooling and my father's and my mental health had deteriorated so badly that we had to leave the state for our own sanity. Before joining my father, I had to live alone with my Mom and my baby sister for almost a year. My aunt who lived a few minutes drive away did nothing when my Mom beat me up every day for months until my father managed to cut the red tape to remove me. My body was full of bruises and I was terrified to go home after school. Nobody helped. Not the neighbours who can hear all my mom's shouting at me, nor my aunt, nor my grandparents, nor my school's teachers. Someone should had intervened for a 12+ little girl. No adult helped. My father was trying his best to get me away to stay with him. Nobody helped him.

On XXXXXXXXXXXX, my Mom's sister let slip she saw my Mom beat me with a cane. And yet she did nothing! My aunt even had the cheek to say that my Mom beat me up because I said I wanted to go live with my father. The way my aunt said it was like the beatings were wholly my fault. What is wrong with the picture? You have a 12+ girl being beaten up daily, you are an aunt who knows something is going on and did nothing. Yet for years later you complain about having to take your own blood sister for her injections. And, I do not think she did it for longer than my own experiences. Probably only a few times because my father and I had to travel frequently to see to my mother. Due to the cyclic nature of her illness.

I have been going with my father when he took my mother for her weekly injections as a little girl, knee high, ever since I can remember. My own aunt is so calculative. There was a nurse that visits my Mom to give her her injections. But, the problem is my Mom will not let the nurse into her house that is why the intervention is needed. I have lost count on the number of times I had to go with my Mom for her injections as a little girl.

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I. They only listened to her stories and full stop. I think my Mom's doctors are the most heartless people I have ever met in my life. Until today, I do not like anyone who officially practices psychology because those doctors etc... contributed to my life being ruined. That is how I feel. I have been scolded by my Mom's medical team and they even dumped my Mom on me after I just turn 18 and there was no other adult around. And, they knew the situation. I was terrified because my Mom was a very violent. My Mom has pitched me, beaten me up, she has biten me with her teeth, she has smashed my head against the table and threatened to beat me with a piece of hard wood. I experienced all these as a little girl at the tender age of 12+ I had to learn karate to protect myself from her violent ways. And, when my Mom was home, I would lock my room's door and place a chair against it. I was that terrified of her.

All our belongings can go missing because my Mom is good at that sort of thing. You never know what is what with my Mom. It is like having a criminal live under the same roof as you.

My aunt kept repeating to me that on my mother's death anniversary I will have go visit her cemetery. I live in a different state from where my mother's cemetery is located. And, my aunt knows that very well. However she repeated her question to me until I said yes. I hate being forced to do something against my will because I have been forced to do things against my will my whole life.

My life is in ruins because of my mother's mental illness and people like my aunt is perpetuating the troubles for me after my mother's death. When I was 12+, my mother's mother said to me that it is my father's job to take care of my mother. In other words, my father's job and mine. And, they never lifted a finger to help. Just helping a little, my aunt has been complaining about the same thing for more than a decade. Unbelievable. Shameful.

Even though my father and I lived in a different state from my mother, we had to travel up and down every weekend because that is demanded of my mother. Sometimes, we had to travel after school and upon our arrival, she won't let us in and we had to travel all the way back. And, my father will not let me sleep at home as it is a school day, I had to go to school. My education was very important to my father. My mother could not be bothered if I succeeded or not.

I have seen more than any of my Mom's relatives have seen with regards her mental illness but people whom I just met behave like I have no idea about my Mom like they are the authority on her behaviour and her illness. Goodness gracious.

Despite this huge handicap in my life I persevered with my studies. My Mom did not give me any moral or emotional support at all. In fact her mental illness cycle will peak just or during my important exams. In other words, I had to deal with my exams and on top of them a mentally ill mother. By my final year in university, I could not take the pressure of exams and a mentally ill mother's break downs anymore.

When I was in my teenage years and early adult years, I was suicidal. I had to call Befrienders a lot. Thank God for Befrienders.

Before XXXXXXXXXXdate, I do not wish my experience to be experienced by anyone else because it is torture. However, after feeling how hard hearted my aunt is. A so called holy person, a church goer, rich person who has successful kids and grand kids. And, she can talk like it is my fault that my Mom beat me up and she (my aunt) had to take her (her own sister) for her injections when I was a kid. I really wish that my aunt must reincarnate as my father (a few lifes) so that she can eat her own words. If my aunt reincarnates and is put in my father's shoes, she would really deserve it. Hope she learns compassion through it all.

Why can't the world give children of the mentally ill a break? I am so fed up with all this troubles that stem from my mother's sister's attitude towards my father and I. After all shel lives a great lives. Rich live. What is wrong with these people? I really cannot stand them. This is my story.

After I wrote the above - I am more myself now, and I totally forgive my aunt and everybody who did nothing to help my father and I. And, everybody else who were heartless towards my father and I. However, I still think that by living a few life times as my father (my aunt) - would do her some good. But, knowing her character, she might become a psychopath and pose a threat to humanity. My father is a very, very kind soul. My aunt is a hard hearted, prejudiced, narrow minded, one tracked mind person.

How I cope? Trying my best to keep out of their way, and hang out with positive people. There are plenty of great people out there. Nnaami is included :)


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