This will be the most difficult post I have written thus far and is an extension of what I wrote last night. I slept well after writing and was surprised to awaken with strong emotions as additional memories surfaced. My usual response is to discount those feelings or ignore them and get on with my day. Today, I decided they were worthy of further contemplation.
As I recalled the abuse and neglect that I often endured from my mom, it struck me how alone I felt and how I often felt responsible for it happening. I was too young to protect myself adequately, and now I can’t help wondering why so many people who knew about the situation just looked the other way and did nothing to help. Many people knew first hand about my mom’s erratic behavior and yet didn’t seem concerned about the safety of her children. This included relatives (my mom had 7 siblings), teachers, members of the church I attended, neighbors, and even our family physician and the doctors who treated her. My dad had a huge responsibility to meet our physical and financial needs and could have used some assistance in dealing with the other issues we faced.
When I put it into context of the era that my mom was ill, I realize that people were most likely following the code of social conduct that was prevalent at the time. People tried to stay out of each other’s business and did whatever they could to keep their own issues private as well. In many cases protecting the family’s image was more important than whatever protection an individual family member might need.
Fortunately this attitude has improved with increased awareness about mental illness and the many resources that exist to support the large circle of people who are often impacted by someone’s untreated mental illness.
Unfortunately, I must now work to overcome the impact my experience has had on my own psyche. I am not always able to distinguish whether a situation is healthy or unhealthy for me. I have been conditioned to persevere and endure and don’t always recognize when I have a choice about whether to continue on a certain path. The time has passed where others can step in and intervene on my behalf. Therefore, I need to become more aware of my choices and cultivate an inner voice that has my best interest at heart. This means letting go of the illusion that I can change anyone else and focusing on my responsibility to take care of my own needs.
Despite the painful situations I’ve been through because of my mom’s schizophrenia, I still empathize with her and strongly advocate for improvements in treatment options and mental health benefits. At the same time, I must now learn to advocate for myself and others who have also suffered as a result of someone else’s illness so that better safe guards can be put into place to prevent this from happening in the future.