Am I mentally ill?

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and books (not to mention blogs) lately about people who struggle themselves or have family members with mental health issues. I have seen a common theme that I can’t disregard. One of the most important factors in recovery that I can’t deny is having parents who are supportive through this struggle.

If I think about it, the most difficult thing about my dad was not his porn addiction. It wasn’t his hoarding. It also wasn’t his lack of good hygiene. For the most part, he just didn’t care and that was a good thing. We tried hard to keep under his radar because we didn’t want him to notice us. Him noticing us involved bursts of explosive anger. He frequently told us how stupid we were or how we would never amount to anything. Our dreams, aspirations, and goals were ridiculous. He laughed when we cried.

The hardest part though for me was when he would taunt us with the things we were most afraid of. He amplified our fears. For example, he knew I was afraid of weeds. One of the few times he went in the lake with us as kids, he grabbed me and forced me to stand in the muck and weeds. I cried as he laughed at all of the things that slithered under the weeds that my feet could be touching. It was horrifying. I screamed and I cried for him to let go while he laughed. When he finally let go I ran for shore while he chucked weeds and even a dead fish at me while calling me names.

Then at times in my life when I am afraid, I wonder why God hates me. I wonder why I have trust issues that no one else seems to have. I wonder why I almost feel better at the thought of a distant God than one who hates me. Duh?

My relationship with my mom is much more complicated. She always expected too much from me, perfection. I felt this way since I can remember. But the first real memory of this for me was when my mom had me watch my three younger brothers in the lake by myself so she could spend time with my dad in the cabin. I was 6 and one of my brothers almost drowned. That’s too much responsibility.

My mom never confronted my dad for his poor behavior. But she would move heaven and earth for Matt. If someone gave him a wrong food just to be nice she would call the school and chew that person out. But when I had to go to school to try out for cheerleading while I had the flu and a high fever and I was the only person that didn’t make the team nothing was done.

My mom loved playing the martyr card. She got a lot of attention for having a special need’s child and an asshole husband. But she never did anything about it. She never gave Matt the skills to live without her. She never confronted my dad for being cruel to their children or anything else other wives would’ve left him for.

She also likes to manipulate, control, and guilt trip. She was jealous when I had friends because I was her best friend. She pulled me out of school from 8th through 10th grade where I lived in extreme isolation. She didn’t like the guy I was dating so she set me up with my ex without me knowing it. She made me feel guilty about even thinking about leaving the area to go to college or living my own life that didn’t revolve around helping her or caring for Matt. But the hard part is that I think my mom is a genuinely good person. She just saps the life out of everyone she is around with her negative energy.

My dad struggles with depression, my mom with anxiety. I can’t remember a time in my life before I started struggling with anxiety and depression. Not only was it modeled to me but there probably was a genetic component as well. I really could’ve used their help with my own struggles. I could’ve used their help when I was raising my own children. I could’ve used their help when I had to deal with my own children’s mental health struggles. But they always needed me to help them. It’s no wonder why I feel so alone. My husband doesn’t have any family either.

I guess maybe the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I needed to be a certain way such as untrusting in order to survive then maybe I shouldn’t shame myself for having a lack of trust. It might just take a little longer than most people to get there. If nothing else my husband and I, although neither one of us has had it, try to be supportive parents of our children when they are struggling with their own mental health issues. At one point I even thought that maybe they wouldn’t struggle if we were good enough parents. Unfortunately that’s not true. There’s hardly a sane person in the family. What did I expect??

But we can do our best to help them through. Besides, sane is boring anyway!! I’ll keep telling myself that.

The full story…coming soon

I got invited into the popular group once in middle school. They gave me a handful of candy. I threw it away.

I could never bring them to my house anyway. The outside of the house was brick, big and beautiful. But inside was another story altogether. I couldn’t do slumber parties and sleepovers.

My dad roamed the house in his underwear. He answered the door that way. On occasion, he mowed the lawn that way. Sometimes he would even get the mail that way. The truth is that he was more interested in porn than his own wife and kids. He never hugged me, held me, or told me that everything would be okay. Maybe it was a good thing he had an aversion to touching me.

Our house was a hoarder’s paradise. Piles of magazines and papers littered all seating surfaces, our table, and floors. My mom hoarded food so there was always rotting food in the fridge. There were cupboards full of food, a fruit cellar, freezer upon freezer, refrigerator upon refrigerator. But we knew the newest food was always in bags on the dining room floor. There was always a stack of unwashed dishes on the counter full of you guessed it rotten food. The whiff of rot hit you as soon as you entered the door.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there was always pee on the bathroom floor and a dirty sink. My dad was a greasy guy in more ways than one. He rarely showered and criticized us for showering daily as if we were the strange ones. My dad didn’t brush his teeth but wiped them on the hand towel so I always had to strategically plan where to dry my hands in a spot I thought would be the cleanest. I don’t know how I ever survived the 8th grade hand washing compulsion.

Then there was my brother Matt. He was the school ‘retard’. That’s what my classmates called him anyway as they mocked his bizarre behaviors. He heard voices that told him to attack other children and he listened. He ruled our house and my mother bowed down to him. Anything for Matt. Never mind her three other kids.

We had crazy rules to live by for the sake of Matt. For example, no one could come into our house that was wearing perfume. That is why you could find me before middle school started ratting my hair in the middle school bathroom along with the girls that changed their clothes into outfits not allowed out of the house. My unscented hairspray had too much scent. For awhile we had to brush our teeth with peroxide and baking soda. We had to shut the windows if there was an east wind blowing auto exhaust fumes into our house. We didn’t have A/C back then. My mom even took down her brand new curtains because of the formaldehyde and hung old blankets on the windows. We had to take shelter if a neighbor was spraying his fields. The air purifier ran constantly. But none of those things stopped the voices or the attacks.

So you can see I had to reject the popular kids before they had the chance to reject me. I hand selected a few close friends but in the end I lost them anyway because of Matt.

I hated my life. I didn’t belong. To make matters worse, kids looked at the outside of my big brick house and thought I was richer than they were. In high school I drove a bright red Firebird. I was an exceptionally beautiful child voted most likely to be a supermodel by the graduating class which did nothing to help me fit in when boyfriends of potential friends flirted with me. People envied and hated me for the things they saw outside. Things that I didn’t have any control over. In a heartbeat I would’ve given it up to just have a normal healthy family.

The kids at school could never see the pain and sadness inside of me. After awhile I stopped caring about what people thought. I hated small talk and following all the stupid rules anyway. I said screw them and became a rebel, strong and unreachable. When I got hurt, I retreated to the corner and licked my wounds alone. I had to take care of myself because no one else really cared.

I am still the same person. I try to play the best game with the hand I’ve been dealt. On the good days, I thank God for all my blessings. On the bad days, I reject God because I feel he has rejected me. I can’t sing that God has been good to me all my life when I don’t believe it. Why do I feel like God hates me when I try hard to be a good person? I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect but it didn’t matter.

What is the purpose of pointless suffering? How has it made me a better person? How does it help anybody else? There will always be a part of me that feels alone no matter how many people are around. Maybe God will always be off in the distance and uncaring just like everybody else. I can’t seem to reach him either. I could never find a way to connect to normal people. My life has been way too crazy. I’ve had very different life experiences.

I will never be the motivational speaker that others seem to be. I am not the one who will tell you my anxiety went away by praying more or that my depression was cured by positive thinking. I don’t have the answers, just more questions. I am a broken person that will never be put back together right. Before my brain finished developing I experienced trauma more than compassion and love. I didn’t have that one teacher who made a difference in my life.

What can I say? I have a lot of trust issues. Who else has my back better than me? How am I supposed to trust?

Maybe someday I’ll get it right. Maybe someday I won’t feel angry anymore. Maybe even someday I will trust. But one thing I do know for sure. Soon I will be telling the full story. And it’s far from boring…

It’s not too late

It’s been quite the adjustment with my mom living with us. The first week or so it has been rather triggering. I needed to tell her that I did not feel comfortable as her daughter to process her trauma or our shared trauma with her. I also do not feel like it is a good thing to process your trauma with your children or your grandchildren. The jury is out on Paul yet whether or not it is a good thing for my mom to process her trauma with him. I feel like it is important for her to talk about these things and let them out, but maybe with a sibling or a friend.

It got frustrating for me because my mom talked about a traumatic incident of mine regarding my dad as the delivery guys showed up with my new refrigerator or right before I went in for a crown. She bombarded me with my trauma/problems at times where I was already under a high amount of stress with no consideration with what I was going through at the time. I did not want to talk about some of my most traumatic moments in life as a delivery man was about ready to ring my bell or as I was freaking out about my dental appointment.

Not only that, but my mom has had my brother Matt over last weekend and will this weekend as well. That is okay, I said once a month is fine to have him at my house. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is her babying him. It’s my house and it is hard to feel comfortable in it with her here because she doesn’t always like the things I do. She doesn’t like my music or some of the shows I like to watch. She doesn’t like it when other people come over. I know I should have more of the attitude of this is my house and my life and I am living it the way I want to. Too bad if you don’t like it. I have no idea how long she is planning on staying either. I find myself getting very annoyed about these things and I have been trying hard to say something so it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it does.

Her anxiety is through the roof. She wants me to take her to the ER when she feels very anxious. She wants to quit taking her medication. She has had several serious adverse reactions to medications. Then an ER doctor prescribed her a medication for anxiety that could cause irreversible dementia in elderly patients. I have to question what the hell they are thinking. Some nights my mom only gets an hour or so of sleep at night. After several days of that, she is a mess. She doesn’t want to take the meds that could cause dementia and I don’t blame her for that. The nurse put my mom on a new anxiety med and after several sleepless nights she wanted to quit taking it because it could cause insomnia. I told my mom that she needs to keep taking it and that she already had insomnia before taking it. So now when she wants to go to the ER or quit taking her medication, I tell her to call her doctor’s office first if she doesn’t want to listen to me. It has been all very frustrating for me.

A couple of days ago, after several nights of severe insomnia, my mom gave my son Alex money to go to the smoke shop to buy some CBD gummies that a friend of my son told her about. My son brought back a couple of gummies. One of the labels was so small I couldn’t even read it with a magnifying glass. My mom popped a couple of gummies and tried to go to sleep.

The next morning my mom was not up when I got up. I almost had a panic attack myself. What was I thinking having her take a couple of gummies from a product from a smoke shop where I couldn’t even read the label? My God, what if she was dead? Should I go in and check on her? She had an appointment that morning. What should I do? I thought long and hard about what it would be like if my mom were to die under my care. She is an adult and can do what she wants, but I would feel some responsibility for her and so would my son if something went wrong. We don’t know what we are doing, but do the doctors that she is seeing? They push her on through and give her some nasty meds that could be habit forming and cause dementia. Seriously, is that the best that science has to offer?

I think after worrying that my mother was dead I was able to change my perspective a little. I’m not as annoyed. I have more compassion. I have to be honest and genuine with myself and her. I was able to see my therapist this past week and she said having my mother live with us was an opportunity for me to heal. This could be a special time together to mend some wounds and find some sort of closure before she is no longer with us. I now have the opportunity to say everything I wanted to say. It is not too late. I have to keep that in mind when I am frustrated.

Good Girl, the fixer

It didn’t start well and probably won’t end well either.

They got married almost 50 years ago on a cold February day in front of the justice of peace. That evening the bride cooked supper for her new groom and sponsors. Then her husband walked out the door for his 3rd shift job as the freezing rain started to fall from the heavens. The bride spent her wedding night alone.

He wasn’t the same after the war years before. She wasn’t the same either after watching her mother die while he was away. The husband spent many long hours staring off into space holding a gun. Many a times he wanted to pull the trigger. He flew into awful rages that one time left his bride with bruised ribs. She wanted to leave, but he said he would change so she never did.

Soon after they had several kids. First came the Good Girl followed by the Wild Child, then invisible, and ended less than 5 years from the first with Baby Boy.

The husband didn’t really change all that much. He still was depressed and flew into rages. Good Girl wished her dad loved her. She wished she was as beautiful as the girls in the magazines her dad loved. When she was very little she stared at the glossy photos of the girls on the center page. She showed the pictures to others little girls who told their parents which got Good Girl into trouble.

The wife never told the husband she would not tolerate her children seeing the magazines he left laying around the house. She buried her head in the sand. She was always working. After the wedding night, the husband didn’t want to work that much. Plus Wild Child was always taking up her time. Wild Child physically attacked all of his siblings. He hurt them then they were sent away to mend their own wounds because they were normal.

The mom screamed and confronted anyone that posed a threat to Wild Child. Even if he was hurting someone, the mom yelled not to hurt Wild Child as he was pulled off of them. The mom yelled if Wild Child was not treated like royalty. He was sacred and meant to be worshiped. Everyone should know that their world revolves around him. There was a list of rules to be followed in the sacrifice to him of their childhood.

Meanwhile, invisible was invisible. Baby Boy acted like Wild Child so he could get attention. Dad was fond of harshly disciplining him. He called Baby Boy lazy and stupid. Dad liked to scare Baby Boy so he could laugh at him. invisible laughed along with dad and dad protected him. Good Girl acted like she didn’t care to stay under the radar. Dad neither hugged nor hit her. He just said mean words. She felt bad for Baby Boy, but instead of protecting him she hid so she wouldn’t get hurt.

Mom complained, but didn’t do anything. She wasn’t cruel herself, but didn’t protect the children from Wild Child or dad. She cried louder than the children so they would take care of her. The mom was a martyr and Good Girl became the fixer.

One day everything changed. The children grew up. Good Girl stayed close to home to help fix. Wild Child became Mild Child. But still the mom raged. They didn’t brush Mild Child’s teeth good enough. They don’t exercise him. They don’t make him the right foods.

invisible moved far away in the middle of nowhere. Baby Boy left too. He told his parents how much they hurt him. Then he left home, got married, and joined a healthy family so he didn’t have to come back to his broken one.

The mom and dad grew old. Still the mom did nothing, unless she had to yell at someone about Mild Child.

Then one day the mom decided she wanted to confront the dad about all of the bad things he has ever done. She asked the Good Girl to come with her. This made the Good Girl feel upset and stressed out. She asked the mom why she wanted to confront now and not 25 years ago. The mom said she couldn’t then because invisible would disappear forever if she did.

Good Girl did not want to be put in the middle of the mom and the dad as missiles were being fired. She wanted to be the Bad Girl and say ‘no’. The mom’s family was calling up Good Girl to be the fixer. They tried to make her feel like a bad daughter for not helping the martyr so they did not feel guilty living their perfect lives.

Good Girl is very strong because she built a fortress around herself, but she is crying to be let out. No one sees that.

Good Girl no longer wants to be a fixer and will not go. Good Girl never wants to see her dad again unless he is calling with an apology. Good Girl is done and just wants to live her own life. She thinks her parents should be helping her, not the other way around. This makes her sad. It is hard for her to move on because it never seems to end.