"Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds." - Orison Swett Marden

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mother's Mental Illness

As a child I was removed from my mother's custody more than once to be placed into foster care. My parents had been married ten years when I was born, and two months later were divorced. My mother had mental illnesses, was a single parent and both the youngest of her siblings and the black sheep of the family. I was scarcely of school age when I remember accompanying her to at least one visit to her 'shrink's' office. I knew Dr. Finch was her psychiatrist and he prescribed my mother pills......medication to quell her rage. Which even in multiple doses they did not at times. It was the mid to late 60's and I don't believe terms like bi-polar or manic-depressive were around. But she most definitely suffered from these types of chemical imbalances as well as paranoid schizophrenia.

My mother sat me down at the age of about eight and informed me that at that time my father - who was back in California, we had moved here to the East coast perhaps six or so months previously - was drugging her. In this elaborate scheme she explained he was paying people, those at the establishments where she frequented for coffee and food, and drive thrus, and others to 'break' into our apartment and drug her coffee. I listened to her explanation quite seriously as the complexity and unreality registered.....this could not be! Even in my eight year old head I could see the scope of such a scheme was beyond my father's orchestration and financial means! Never mind that it sounded ridiculous, but none-the-less I gave an affirmative nod and answered yes when my mother pleaded "You believe me Bobbi Lynne, you believe me don't you?!". I knew she needed me to say yes, and I most certainly couldn't speak of anything rational against her, her need so vital of me believing in her and this as well.

What had begun happening is that she would get wound into a rage, it would escalate and climax, she would rant and rage for sometime before winding down and then repeat the process. She could go on for hours like this, and she frequently did! She would start these rages even while sitting down at a restaurant after having drank her coffee. She had a mouth like a truck driver and she spared no expletives. It was horrifically embarrassing and always scary because we, her then boyfriend Ernie and myself, knew there was no curbing any part of her actions and behaviors. We were in it for the long haul. If we were out in public we had to wait until she would comply with our directives to leave -  you sure as hell didn't try to shut her up or hurry her to leave! And then we went home to ride it out. There were many a nights where I got little sleep or rest for her 'bummers' as we called them appeared as though they would have no end. When she did not pick back up I was too relieved for words.....but I also knew 'it' would rear it's ugly head again....where and when nobody could know. 

It would be years down the road before I ever acknowledged that I had been abused by my mother. I was actually 38 the first that I even thought of or ever verbalized myself as having been an abused child. While the system had removed me from my mother's care, and I had been fortunate, blessed if you will, to be placed in good foster homes to my age of eighteen, it had done so without ever teaching me how to deal with my mother's mental illness, nor of it's affect and impact on me.