The Super Girl Syndrome Print E-mail
Written by JB   
After wishing for so long that I could find people who could actually relate, I found this forum.

My mom became ill for the first time 25 years ago, when I was 10, and she 39. It's quite an unusual age for the onset of bi-polar illness (with psychosis) but nothing about her case seems to fit "the norm".
My mom is a loving, giving, caring human being, who also happens to have a very severe mental illness. Because I love her dearly for who she is (or was before she got sick) I have never been able to "let go". I've strived to separate he from her illness, although admittedly it hasn't always been easy to do. At 10, I used to literally tie myself to her at night, to keep her out of harms way AND to keep me from waking up in a panic to the eerie sight of her in front of a snowy television set, in the darkness, listening to "the voices". The phone would often be left off the hook, the sound of which would wake me up. And the stove jets would be maxed. There were also nights when she'd wander outside in the cold NY night, naked, to stare at the moon (which like most light sources beamed private messages to her). I was always a super independent child, and my dad was 26 years her senior, so I took it upon myself to be her night watch person, since poor old dad had the day shift. I also had a brother one year my senior and another out of the house who was 11 years my senior. Neither my dad or brothers seemed to have what it took to deal with the harsh reality of her illness. They all were content to pretend it wasn't real until it was too real to ignore. I knew better. I knew it was real, and dangerous. So from that tender age of 10 I became "super-girl", convinced that if I did "x,y and z" things would be kept under control.

As bad as her episodes were for twenty years, they always got better after hospitalizations and weeks (if not months) of medication adjustments. When lithium first was approved, my mom was amongst one of the early receptors. And it definitely helped. Her episodes were no longer as frightening or violent (she'd often hallucinate that a tumor was growing out of my brother's side -- and try to remove it for him with a butcher knife -- which was truly more of an act of love than violence but she was also a physical force to be reckoned with -- as it often took up to 3 people to constrain her if she was trying to make a fast break for the front door while psychotic)

With lithium, her illness took on a comedic psychosis at times - she was prone to "holding people up with bananas" and breaking into a Broadway rendition of "there's no business like show business" on street corners. You have to find humor in these things or you will go mad yourself. Anyway, for 20 years, the I somehow managed to feel in control of her illness -- because her episodes could be stabilized with time and effort. And although it was hard (I put myself through college, while she was ill at times, with precious little support from anyone) I managed on my own for the most part. (My dad passed away at 84 and I still had the strange compulsion "to protect" my brothers from the harsh reality of her illness.)

The one solace that I did eventually have was meeting an marrying a kind, understanding, intelligent and compassionate man. I also worked in wholesale travel for years -- which allowed me the much needed ability to escape from reality at times. I don't think I could have made it without my loving husband or those occasional get-aways! Anyway, my biggest fear was always that my mom would become ill beyond control when she was elderly...and as if a premonition, that's exactly what happened. Fiver years ago. my mom had a manic episode (with psychosis as is her norm) that she never fully recovered from. After months in different hospitals (she kept getting bounced after 30 days which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the CA max. covered stay in a psychiatric facility). Eventually she was sent to a locked facility, where she was brutalized. -- That was the worst experience of my life. (Fortunately for her, as with many of her psychotic episodes, she doesn't remember the experience much.)

After the physical attack the floodgates finally burst and ALL the repressed sadness and despair of 25 years came flooding to the surface. I suffered my own bout with severe depression and only overcame it with the loving support of my husband.

I was able to get her out of the hell hole, and she now resides in an assisted living senior residential center. She's also been bounced around between doctors several times these past years, as fewer and fewer accept MediCal. She is now seen by the Stanford geriatric-psych clinic, since she was hospitalized there last. Since her visual and auditory hallucinations have not gone away over these past 5 years, her actual diagnosis was officially changed from bipolar with psychosis to schizoaffective disorder.

Having to watch her suffer the nearly ceaseless agony of hallucinations for 5 years has taken its toll on me. I am no longer the infinitely optimistic "super-girl" of years gone by. I now live on an emotional roller-coaster - doing well when she has a good day, and feeling full of despair and sadness when she has a day filled with frightening hallucinations.

My mom is a wonderful woman who does not complain or ask why, she is spiritual by nature and I've heard her say that her faith in god is what kept her from ever considering suicide as a relief option. I am thankful for that, because HER strength now sustains me.

I have finally come to a painful conclusion after these 5 years of constant med trials which culminated with her starting on clozaril (the famous "last resort med" which requires intense blood monitoring and doctor's appts.) - and that conclusion is that she will probably never fully recover. I resisted this notion for so long that I put my entire life on hold for these 5 years, focusing almost exclusively on her care.

I now need to give myself permission to move on and stop being "super daughter". I have dreams that have been on hold for far too long, and I yearn to fulfill them. But I am still racked with guilt and a sense of abandoning my mom, even though I've been more like a mom to her for most of my life. Part of this is cultural, as I am half Hispanic and it is a cultural norm for the daughter to be care-taker of the parents.

I've never shared this story openly and still find myself keeping the details of her illness from people - because of the stigma and ignorance that I've been met with the few times I did try to share it. Which really pisses me off because of who my mom is, and how strong she is.

My in-laws (also Hispanic) constantly ask why my husband and I haven't had children yet. There are many shared reasons, and we both feel uncertain about whether or not to be parents, but I have a whole other set of reasons that include being tired of being a parent, since that's essentially what I've been since age 10, wanting to FINALLY have my own life, and being terrified by the prospect that my child would have a 25% chance of having a mental illness. That's just not something I could handle. The decision to have a child is ours and ours alone to make, and I know that, but I can't help feel the pressure or resent them for not understanding -- since they are aware of my mom's illness and how much care I giver her.

Anyway, I guess I just need to get all of this out in the hope that someone out there can relate. There are so many unique emotions involved for the children of parents with mental illness. I find myself resentful when someone compares there situation to mine because they are now taking care of an elderly parent...because I've taken care of my mom for most of my life her being elderly just happens to complicate things. She is 74 now, but aside from her mental illness I think she's physically healthier than I am. Longevity definitely runs in her family, so this is all the more reason why I tried so hard to help her get well, since I'm sure she has many years of life left.

There are also many senior issues to deal with, which are also greatly complicated by her illness, like primary care doctors who CONSTANTLY put her on trendy senior meds. that wind up counter-acting her psych meds. EVEN THOUGH THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER. I regularly provide current med lists to both doctors, and that's all I can do, but somehow it's not always enough...which just drive me crazy and induces a lot of anxiety in me.

She also has a unique living arrangement that could be terminated at any time -- and this is another source of anxiety, since there are literally no quality senior assisted living residences or skilled care environments that even accept people whose primary diagnosis is mental illness. So in addition to my ongoing fears for her stability, I also fear the precarious perch we seem to be on in terms of her living situation.

Is there anyone out there that can relate??? It would be so great to hear from you!

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.

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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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