Childhood, what childhood? Print
Written by Keely   

Friends were non-existent. I couldn't afford to have any.

I have come to this site every 6 months or so since it opened. I come here and read the different articles and stories. Mostly I come when I need to cry. At 28 years old I am still unable to cry for myself, or the child that never was but I can cry for other people and their stories. It's sad in its way, but it is also therapeutic in another. And always, always I am left thinking what childhood? I never had one. I am an only child who was raised solely by my mother, who became ill when I was 3, maybe 4. Too young for me to really remember. One of my earliest memories is of her in a paranoid, delusional state. Hiding us in the middle of a bed, that she moved to the middle of a room, with all the covers pulled carefully up off the floor and us under them. Hiding from a non-existent lizard that she swore was out to get us. We stayed like that for days. And since it was during a snow storm no one knew. That is one of my better memories -- of the very few memories I have. For me, 'childhood' is mostly a blur. I tried to count up memories once and from childhood to around 16 I have less than a dozen. I know that says something but I have no idea what it is.
From there she got worse. From butcher knives and imaginary people chasing us to choking and smothering me. There was always something going on. And when there wasn't, I was always waiting. Waiting for the next shoe to drop. The next instance of insanity. Only to me, then, that was normal. To some degree it still is. She always watched me...searching for something in me that I will never comprehend. Or perhaps it was the demons she was seeing. And in reverse, I watched her. Always searching for the slightest thing out of place. She never disappointed me and the madness always returned. I stayed in a constant hyper-vigilant state the entire time I was growing up. Even now, I find myself in it more often than not. I became her caretaker. It was my job to count her medication and see that she was taking it. If she stopped, it was my responsibility to call my grandparents, or aunts and uncles and let them know she stopped. And if I failed to call, then it was my fault she was sick. I reminded her when to get groceries, made sure she kept up on bills. Watched who she was hanging around with. I was her parent. And I lived alone with her during every madness induced cycle she went through. And there were many.

Too many to count. The days of lucidity were far out numbered by the days she was out of it. I still feel terror when thinking of that trance like state that so many schizophrenics get. She had more than her fair share of those. Often, at night, she would go into one. And then in the middle of the night while in it she'd come to my bed to 'sleep' with me. If I was asleep, I'd awaken to find her standing at my doorway, in her nightgown, just staring at me. Only she wasn't seeing me. I was some demon that she fought. And in her fight she'd hold me and suffocate me till I couldn't breath. I learned not to fight. To this day if you stare at me while I'm sleeping I'll instantly wake up. And sleep for me rarely comes at night. I am terrified still, of the night. When I was little I rarely slept. I still wonder how I survived then, on so little sleep. But I always remember even at 6 and 7 years old, laying in my bed at night, stock still, hoping and praying that she'd leave me alone that night. That she wouldn't start doing something crazy when she thought I was asleep. I kept a constant vigil.

Friends were non-existent. I couldn't afford to have any. Because they always wanted to do the sleep-over thing. And that wasn't something I could risk. Nor was it something their parents were willing to risk. She taught school where I went to school, so everyone knew. She kept her job only through a lot of pleading from her parents, and a lot of understand on the school boards behalf. Mostly I think they were afraid she'd sue. And her fellow teachers weren't supposed to discuss that kind of thing, but they always did. And everyone I ever went to school with always knew she was mad. Only they called her insane, then. A few kids tried to be friends, but there parents wouldn't allow it for long. So I learned to be alone and eventually I became a loner. I'm still a loner. I have friends now but I always, always push them away. I'll go for a period where I talk to them regularly for awhile and then I just...pull away. And disappear for three months or slow. Eventually I resurface again. They've learned to accept that...for the most part. And back then, I learned to exist in my own world. That's not something that is easy to unlearn.

I learned not to count on people, not to trust them. In the end, when I needed someone to save save me from her, they always left. And in its way, I think growing up with someone that is schizophrenic is worse than if you were given up as child. If your given up, it usually only happens once. When your parent has schiz they abandon you repeatedly. Sometimes everyday, sometimes once a happens again and again. I taught myself not to believe in anyone. Not to have expectations beyond those for myself. Life was easier that way. I learned early on to hide my emotions and reactions to things. To never show that I cared for something. Because my mother, if she knew I did and her illness struck...she'd take them away. From something as simple as a doll, to dumping the only thing as a child I ever learned to love, my cat. And I do mean dumping. I came home from work when I was 16 to find him gone. She had decided he was insane. Ironic. I don't know that I will ever break free of those things I learned as a child.

The funny thing is, growing up, I didn't know she was schizophrenic. I was told by family members she was bipolar. Had I been told, as I got older, I might could have understood what she was going through a bit more. As it was, I'd read the definitions for manic depression (it was still called bipolar back then) and I'd end up thinking I was the crazy one. Because those definitions, those symptoms listed where no where near what I was experiencing with her. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I discovered the truth for myself. When I confronted the family members about it, they told me 'well, you didn't seem to care or be interested. I was living there. with her, not them How much more interested did I need to be? Yet they were able to tell me, as a child, that it was hereditary and I had better be careful or I'd end up like her. More than anything in my life, I am terrified of turning out like her.

And still....still I am responsible for her. She's alive and as well as she'll ever be and she is still my responsibility. I first moved out when I was 17 and she went right off the deep end. Each time I've tried to move to put distance between us she goes mad again. And I've moved a lot. Always running from the demons that now haunt me. If I go without talking to her for more than 2 days she starts panics. When I used to live alone, if she went 3 days without talking to me she'd start calling people -- my university, the cops, my landlord.. .everyone. I've learned not to disappear from her. She'll always find me and then when she does, to the person that looks for and finds me, be it the cops or my landlord, I turn into the bad guy. "How could you not call your mother, you bad child" I am always responsible. And I know, because it has happened time and again, if I try to cut her off completely then she ends up in the mental ward somewhere. And then starts the vicious cycle of blame by my family, towards me. I have enough guilt...guilt for her illness that no shrink can ever make go away. I refuse to add more too it by trying to save myself at her expense. She, for whatever reason, is my cross to bear.

And twistedly, the only thing that will give me any semblance of peace is if she were to die ...or at least leave me alone. But she can't do that. Either of those things. She tenaciously hangs on to life. Part of me says that is unkind and that I am awful for even thinking such things. But they are my thoughts and they can't be helped. Nor will they change. Especially when she still comes to visit me. Bringing the terror I felt as a child, right to the forefront, but this time in my own house. I can't cancel a visit because that too causes her to spiral. Part of me thinks I could forgive her to some degree, if she would ever just admit some responsibility for her actions. Even if it was as small as saying, I'm sorry I went off the medication. I shouldn't have but the illness was over riding my good sense. But she can't do that. No, years ago she became quite heavily involved in the church. The church taught her that the devil made her do all the things she does. He was tempting her. So instead she blames the devil. "I'm sorry, the devil made me do it". To this stay she will not even admit she has schizophrenia and if you mention it in her presence she'll blow up.

I believe in counseling and I think it is helpful to a lot of people, yet I myself am unable to go. I was scared deeply as a child by those that used to call themselves psychiatrists. I've watched them deliver electro shock treatment to my mother and they also locked me in a room with her, in the hospital, when I was a child. Simply because she was calling for me and they thought I might 'help' her. Helping her at a great expense...especially to a child that is already terrified of her mother. Much less being trapped in a locked room with her, at the hospital. A hospital that I had always associated with bad things to begin with. Of course, there were other instances...but like so many things, they are too many to name. Perhaps one day I will be able seek counseling without wanting to hide somewhere, myself. But for now I try and find things on my own, that I find therapeutic.