I’m not writing this to gain sympathy. I’m simply telling the world my side of the situation and helping them to understand how it feels to be a loved one of someone with a mental illness. You see, I gave up on my mom this past week. If you have read my blog before, you are familiar with my mom’s condition. She is mentally ill.
My mom has Bipolar Type 1 Disorder. She’s had it since I was very young. My family hasn’t always known what affected her, but through many arrests and periods of being institutionalized we’ve figured it out. By we, I mean my younger brother and myself. Our dad couldn’t fathom sticking around and helping the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish through her darkest times. So, he bailed. Fair enough. People are sometimes afraid of what they can’t understand. Especially when it comes to odd behavior that can’t be controlled. Well, it can be controlled by therapy and pharmaceuticals. That is if you actually think there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
To make matters worse, my mom is one of those people who thinks the world is wrong. That she is normal and that we are all out to get her. Her brain doesn’t work like people without the disorder. Her brain is in overdrive. She’s paranoid and has periods of delusional behavior. She hears voices and is convinced by her mind that certain events are real, even when they are quite obviously untrue. She would watch a television show and shortly after she’d begin talking about the characters as if they existed in real life. As if they were a part of her life. She was convinced that an actor named Adrian Paul, from the Highlander TV show, was my father and like Adrian’s character in the show, she could not be killed unless you cut off her head. I remember when I was eleven and she handed me a large knife. She placed her wrist on the kitchen counter and told me to cut it. She pleaded with me. She kept saying that everything would be okay, it won’t hurt her. She wanted me to cut her wrists because she thought she was immortal.
The saddest part of her story is the lack of family. Everyone in her family has forsaken her. Her only brother doesn’t want anything to do with her, because of the things she’s done in the past. He didn’t take the time to understand why she was the way she was. There is somewhat of a reason though. You see, my grandmother has the same condition. She was institutionalized when my mom was a child. My uncle is my grandmother’s guardian and he has stuck her in a nursing home a few towns away, so he won’t have to deal with her. My mom’s disorder seems to be genetic. Why is it so difficult for people to understand that her actions are due to her disease?
So, this way of life has been something we’ve always had to live with. She had been arrested many times due to her behavior. She was even tazed once for refusing to leave a hotel room she had been staying in. Her criminal history is a long one. She’s been institutionalized a few times in the past, but would never sign the paper to let me know what’s going on. I’d call and they’d inform me I wasn’t privy to their information due to her refusal. They’d release her a week later and she’d be right back to her same old behavior.
When I first went to college I took a few psychology courses in an attempt to figure my mom out. I have always known my mom was different and that she was dealing with some sort of mental illness, but not until I was in my early thirties did they put a label on her mental madness. She was arrested at the apartment she lived in at the time for harassing neighbors and not paying her bills. They evicted her, she refused to leave, and then they arrested her. She does as she pleases and doesn’t see anything wrong with the way she acts.
They ‘pink slipped’ her on that fateful day when she wouldn’t leave the apartment, which means they arrested her and took her to the hospital for evaluation. They admitted her to a psych ward for proper evaluation and told her she was dealing with Bipolar 1. This time, she signed the consent form to have me involved in her care. I went in and talked with her and the doctors and she agreed to start taking meds. I gave her an ultimatum that she needed to take care of herself or she’d lose me. She promised me she’d take care of herself from now on. That was music to my ears. I had been waiting for over twenty years to hear her say that. This was the chance my brother and I had waited for. We were going to have a mom.
It didn’t last long. She took her meds for about a year and then began reverting back to her old behavior. I tried to convince her she needed to take care of herself because I have to take care of myself for once. I had just found out I had multiple sclerosis (MS) and after years of taking care of her, I needed to start focusing on my health. She didn’t listen. She continued to act out, she called me names and accused me of working with her brother, and my absent father, in an attempt to ruin her life. I haven’t talked to my uncle or my father in many, many years. I couldn’t convince her of that though.
I began backing away from her. I had already cut her out of my sons’ lives. They are young and I remember how her actions affected me when I was their age. I was not going to let them go through that. She had already called my younger son ‘fat’, assaulted my husband at our home, and told both of my sons that their dad was going to leave me to find a woman who is skinnier. Those are just a few of the many incidents they witnessed. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. My brother and I were left to fend for ourselves with her when we were children and I was not going to ever let her get into their heads.
Everything began to go further and further downhill these past few months. She began calling me leaving messages about how she knows my safety is at risk and that she was going to free me from my abusive relationship. The only abusive relationship I was in at that time was my relationship with her. Her mental abuse had wreaked havoc on my life for years. I couldn’t take it anymore.
So, I cut her out of my life. I tried to answer a few calls from her because my heart broke knowing I was giving up on her. I had tried for so many years to get help for her. She had help in the palm of her hand and she crushed it and threw it away. She doesn’t care if she has me or my brother in her life. Okay, maybe she does care. She is just so consumed by her disease that she doesn’t even know how her actions destroy the people around her.
You see, that’s another fun part of mental illness. When you are a loved one of someone with an illness, you can’t get them help. I have put countless hours into calling professionals, organizations, the police, and many other people. They all tell me the same thing, she has to be a danger to others or herself before they can do anything. She has to get help for herself. Are you kidding me?! Does it not matter that these mentally ill people aren’t physically injuring people, but they are certainly mentally abusing them? Why is it okay to write them off until they hurt someone in a physical manner or attempt suicide before we can help them? They won’t ask for help if they’re like my mom. They will get arrested countless times or end up going over the deep end and killing someone. Why do we not act in a proactive manner instead of a reactive one? I guess our system is crazy too.
After trying and failing many times to get her help, I gave up. This past week, she was evicted from her apartment for harassing neighbors. Her landlord got the paperwork to have her evicted and on Monday he and the police showed up to remove her from the apartment. They placed her and her belongings on the street. Later that day, it poured. It rained a few times off and on, the whole while she sat there on her couch. On the curb. In the rain. I called the women’s shelter and they couldn’t take her in due to her mental capacity. I called the police to see if they could help me find somewhere to take her for counseling. They said she told them she created Microsoft, but other than that they don’t see her as a problem just yet. The officer actually said to me “it’s not a crime to be homeless.” I get that, but I can’t take her in with her mental condition. Not around my children. It’s not fair to them and I have given her plenty of chances to take care of herself.
So, she was left there. I tried to call her cell. She’d answer and tell me it was my fault she was there and that I was a ‘bitch’ for letting this happen to her. The next time I’d call she would beg me to come to get her so she could figure things out. Sometimes when I’d call she would ignore me completely. After spending a night on the street, the police offered her a hotel room for the night. She could have called her social worker and got into another place. She could have gone to her doctor and got things rolling toward better health. She refused the offer of shelter and continued sitting there. People were kind. They would stop and give her food. They saw her and felt bad, but they don’t know her story. I know from a few people who talked to her that she was telling them I did this to her and that I didn’t want anything to do with her.
I did do this to her. I abandoned her. I became an awful daughter, but I’m okay with it. I’m not completely heartless. I have cried, worried, and tried to find her help. I’ve doubted my decision to abandon her as I sat in my car, almost heading in her direction to save her. To get her to a safe, dry, and healthy environment. I didn’t go to her rescue though. I have rescued her too many times and it has done more harm than good. So, I left her to fend for herself. I think the part that has hurt the most is what I said to her when I spoke with her the first day and she was pointing the blame at me. I told her “now you’ll see how it feels to have absolutely no one to help you and maybe now you’ll try to take care of yourself.” I have now become like everyone else. I gave up on her. I’m okay with that though.
I think with people like her, ones that need help but won’t get it, there has to be a breaking point when what has not worked in the past is stopped. I have drawn the line and stopped running to her rescue. I hope by doing this she can get the help she needs. Someone has to help her, but it can’t be me anymore. I have been in contact with people who are keeping tabs on her whereabouts. The last report I received about her was that she had been arrested and the police had removed all of her belongings from the curb. She’s in the system now. It’s up to them to see that she has been arrested multiple times, that she is not capable of living on her own, and that she needs help. The help that I can’t get for her.
I know there will be people who call me heartless and judge me for this. I understand. I don’t deserve it, but I understand. I just hope that someday my mom gets the care she needs and she can look back and know that my actions were not due to my lack of love for her. I love her very much. I just can’t be a good daughter anymore.