Giant Steps to Write Print
Written by Annie   
Hi. I just wanted to tell you what a tremendous relief it is to find a support for adult children of mentally ill parents.

My relationship with my father has been extremely confusing and painful. My parents divorced when I was five because of his complete denial of his paranoid behavior and psychotic episodes, and my sister and I would spend weekends and many holidays with him in this state. When I look back at the huge responsibility to care for him physically and emotionally I feel a cocktail of emotions, usually anger and deep sadness.
He was diagnosed with schizophrenia ( so I have been told by my mother, the only person who will discuss it ), and was hospitalized against his wishes numerous times. It was so lonely to be a young child and have no person to turn to for an explanation. All my sister and I ever heard from our grandparents was hes not well and be a good girl and just show him you love him , not easy when you are terrified of whats going on around you. So we became children with no voice and HUGE eyes and ears. Even today I analyse practically every situation and person to see if I am safe, always watching my back.

Many weekends were spent with little food or supervision as he was catatonic or had just disappeared. We had to watch every word we said in case it would be interpreted as a criticism and he would become not well and it would be all our fault, we thought. I would become extremely anxious at his unpredictable and disturbing behavior and developed series after series of unexplained headaches and stomach aches which had no apparent cause.

Sometimes I just think of my childhood years as one gigantic mess, it is so difficult to piece things together, like where we lived ( he often had to move from various share houses ), how I felt about my father, how I deal with the shame and secrecy.

I have found it incredibly difficult to trust my own judgements and my gut feelings, for when I felt something was wrong I would be told I was going crazy, or I had to pretend it wasnt happening in order to survive it. My sister said to me recently that if we didnt have each other it would be hard to distinguish the truth of our experiences from a collection of freaky nightmarish fantasies.

The hardest thing to deal with is the guilt. Guilt at being ashamed of him when I was young, being different.

Guilt at not being loving enough toward him, not doing a better job of being an adult/child, even guilt about writing these feelings down as though somehow I am not honoring our family secret! That secret is still alive and well in our relationship with my father. Even to this day I cannot talk to him about any aspect of his illness ( he is currently doing quite well ).

I would fear him becoming unwell or hostile, possibly violent. It is as though that part of my life has never existed although I am haunted by it regularly.

I am now a mother of three children and have a very supportive and loving husband. While life is good for me there is a persistent fear of becoming my father and hurting the ones I love. I have struggled with depression throughout my adult life probably due to the stress of my early years, I just pray that I will be okay.

To have a voice, to break the silence is extremely healing. Secrecy doesnt protect anyone, especially children

Thank you,