Saturday, May 17, 2008

What do you think of when I say the words mental illnes? Do you picture a homeless person that wanders the streets, talking to themselves or imaginary people? Or maybe you think of the cat ladies that have been in the press recently. You know the ones-they have over 20 or so cats that they can’t care for, their house if overun and close to being (or already is) condemned.

Where do you think their children are? Did you think of that? Many people don’t. In fact, almost no one does. The children of the mentally ill are an invisible community. We are expected to somehow take in our homeless parent and make them whole. Society turns away from us when we can’t do our supposed duty of making sure our mother doesn’t have more pets than she can take care of. The parent that raised us in chaos and heartache is put above our own life.

I’m not just throwing this out for the hell of it, I’ve been through it. My mother handed me over to the family child molester when I was 4 because she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be in the center of a family drama. I forever after that heard about her pain of having one her children abused yet if I said one word about the pain I went thru I was immediately told I just couldn’t understand what she was going thru.She forced me to stay in my bedroom for a day at a time, leaving food by the door and requiring that I ask permission to use the bathroom just down the hall. It didn’t matter that she fell asleep on the couch and didn’t hear me, I either asked permission or I paid for my transgressions against her.

One particular instance of this stands out. It was a Sunday and as I stayed in my room, I could hear the laughter of Sunday dinner downstairs. I heard my mother’s unspoken message loud and clear-I was expendable from the family. After this I tried frantically to show my worth to her but it never worked. The harder I proved myself the higher the hurdles were placed.

Growing up with a mother that has BPD is like being a living, breathing war zone. When I see pictures of bombed homes in Bosnia or Iraq I see my heart. I had no way to defend myself against her. She used covert tactics. My mother is extremely proficient at psychological black ops. The neighbors couldn’t put their finger on it……teachers were pulled in by her masterful BS, and my siblings and I launched whatever insurgent attacks we could.

So much of what I endured was visible. People saw her berate me in public. They knew I was hospitalized (twice) for wanting to kill myself when I was the tender age of 12. Even that wasn’t enough for professionals to realize that something was drastically wrong with my home life. Yelling , insulting, and generally using your children like cattle evidently just isn’t sexy enough for the pros to give a damn. Show them bruises or broken bones and they are all over it. A broken heart and a bruised soul don’t matter.

Time and again my other would charm these professionals. I would sit in therapy amazed at the way mom was able to blame a child for causing their own depression. I was even more amazed when these same people would listen and believe her, despite what I and my sibs told them. A mother knows best, right? Mothers don’t abuse. To acknowledge that would shatter all they knew, all the money they spent on their expensive educations. Better to ignore the children and buy the lady’s BS rather than take the time to help her kids.

The US has a skewed view of domestic violence. Domestic violence in the US is seen as a woman abused by her husband or boyfriend, leaving in the middle of night to seek help at a women’s shelter. There this woman will get safety, support, help, and so many other things to put her life back together. No excuses are made for a man that abuses his wife or kids.

But……if a woman is abusive, her children can’t leave. Very few places will take a man and his children fleeing an abusive wife/mother. Excuses are repeatedly made for a mom that abuses….she’s mentally ill (ya think?), she needs help (wow, that’s a brilliant deduction!) and on and on……..

When you are an adult that breaks free from a mentally ill, abusive parent, in my case my mother, you are reviled by society. How dare I think that my own well being matter more than making sure mom hasn’t tried to kill herself again. I am selfish for wanting to put an end to her tearful phones telling me how awful my father is (he isn’t, btw).

What was I thinking, to treat my mother as an adult that needs take responsibility for her illness and subsequent treatment? How dare I treat an adult as an adult!

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