Gradually the mom who spent hours rocking in a chair or sitting at the table playing scrabble or solitaire was replaced by the mom I had known before she went into the hospital. Convinced there was nothing wrong with her and distressed about the magnitude of side effects she developed while taking the large dose of anti-psychotic medication, she decided to go off of it, and her paranoid delusions returned with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, I had gone from my comfortable world in junior high school surrounded by a small group of friends to entering a large high school and being in classes where I knew nobody. My shyness and insecurities increased as did my weight from turning to food for solace. I blushed whenever someone spoke to me, and walked the halls alone in between classes, scanning the crowds for any familiar face, but to no avail. As the cold winter months descended upon me, I felt a sense of doom whenever my alarm clock rang in the morning and I had to get out of bed to go to school. Fortunately I still had my friends at church and attending church functions as much as possible became my act of rebellion, as my mom forbade me to go because she thought it was a conspiracy.
My dad worked long hours starting up a new business and struggling to pay the medical bills, and my brother was a senior by now and rarely came home. He had no tolerance for my mom’s behavior and would leave whenever she acted out. I assumed the role of protector to my younger sisters and tried to spend as much time as possible with them. The more out of control I felt at home and school, the more I developed rigid, black and white thinking about how things should be.
My mom and I had never gotten along well, and I developed a stubborn obstinence towards her in my adolescence that led to even more intense altercations. The avoidance that had kept me protected as a younger child was replaced by a confrontational attitude. Unable to truly understand her illness, I was desperate to make her get better. I thought if I reasoned with her about the delusions she would finally realize they weren’t true. The more anxious I felt, the more I focused on trying to change her, resulting in arguments that lasted for hours. I needed her to get better so that I could feel better.
The only thing that filled the void was eatinging my favorite foods, but I soon became acutely aware of the resulting weight gain and tried to exert control by fasting for several days. Each day I would resolve not to eat, but each day would end without success. I began to feel hopeless, unable to change my mom, and unable to change myself.