My Mom Has Schizophrenia
It's a typical day, you're young, naïve ... And then your dad tells you you're mom is sick. I already knew something was different; for quite some time I had noticed her weight gain and the instability in her moods. I was still too young to understand mental illness, and so little talk about it among society left my family with very few resources to cope with the disease and the stigma it carries. My parents chose to keep the diagnosis a secret for fear of family shame. Dad kept me in the dark throughout my early teen years, which left me wondering what the hell was really going on. Why can't my mother work? Why aren’t we keeping up with the Jones'? I was in my late teens when he finally revealed that she was schizophrenic. My mother heard “voices”.
(side note: I got the ages wrong when talking with the boys, apparently I am bad at math … I was 4-5, Mom was either 32-33 when she was diagnosed. ) I find it coincidental that at the age of 28, the age my mother was when I was born, I am sitting in a basement sharing our story with complete strangers. I’m doing this for the sake of my own personal growth and alas, freedom from the disease. Even though I wasn't the sick one, I was, in a sense, raised by mental illness; this has had an inevitable effect on my development as a child, teenager, and today as a woman. This interview will be semi-anonymous so as to respect my family's privacy; they may not be ready to push the elephant out of the room, but I feel relieved to share our story, which is far from singular, in hopes of engaging in a much needed public openness about mental health.
I’m happy that I didn’t grow up with the technology we have now, because I was forced to cope with my situation head-on. I found ways to escape the negative atmosphere in my household, the "episodes" as we called them, by listening to music, learning dance choreographies from music video's, or taking walks outside. Thank you 90's!
My mother is the most caring, loving, STRONGEST woman in my life. Now that I have a better understanding of her daily struggles, how she wakes up with the courage to fight the demons everyday is beyond me. It's a shame that during 20 some years of battling such a serious condition, she was heavily medicated because there was a lack of knowledge about the illness in this part of the country at the time she got the diagnosis. Those medications had a copious amount of side effects. Today, her condition has greatly improved because we have a better understanding of the illness. I have taken it into my own hands to help her process her thoughts via different techniques, but it is undeniable that the medication she has been taking for so long has made her mentally numb. Her memory is poor, but through one-on-one discussions with her, I've witnessed her mind find peace when the voices take over.
We almost lost her 2 years ago now, that’s when my role of care taker came in. I got a call on a Thursday night from my father, saying she had trouble breathing so they were heading to the hospital. By Monday morning she was induced into a Coma for 2 weeks, the doctors were preparing us for the worst but I refused to believe that it could all end this way. Thankfully, she pushed through like I knew she would. I've since learned to be a helper instead of a bypasser during her "episodes". I know now that as her daughter, a familiar voice, I am an essential component of her healing and wellbeing. I’ve learned so much about how complicated mental illness really is, and hope that my story can help people find courage rather than shame when dealing with their own illness or that of their loved ones.
My mother's illness has had a profound effect on my life, one that lingers still. I am thankful for the people who are in my life, and their support. This was the first time I didn’t have tears in my eyes taking about my story.
If you are a frequent listener of the podcast, you may have heard Jeremie's wife talk about her experiences; I feel that my experience mirrors hers, and I hope to help, in any way I can, to make the remainder of my mother's life as easy as possible. I aspire to help my mother find a more positive outlook on life, so that she can turn her misfortune into whatever she wants. If any of you want to learn how one with schizophrenia has a choice, here is a great talk The voices in my head:
To all appearances, Eleanor Longden was just like every other student, heading to college full of promise and without a care in the world. That was until the voices ...
I will leave you with this, and hope you enjoy the podcast. Just know that no one is alone, no matter where you stand in this kind of situation. Never let anyone tell you that your only option is to fall victim to the illness. You are so much more than the illness. Learning, everyone is slowly learning...
PS : my two motto's
one by Kendrick lamar :
Apply yourself to supply your wealth, only limitations you'll ever have are those that you place upon yourself - IZM
And with the Beatles:
you get by with a little help from your friends