Growing up with mental illness.
I grew up with a mother who constantly declared she was not mentally ill. She would say her sisters didn’t know what they were talking about and they were wrong. This confused me as a child and teenager and I didn’t understand her need to declare herself sane.
It wasn’t until many years later, as an adult, facing her crazy, bizarre behavior that I understood her statements. She knew something wasn’t quite right with her though she was the last person to admit it. Whatever she believed or heard in her head must have been loud and blaring— she constantly reminded us she was normal.
Normal. A life I never had growing up.
Because I come from a family who has experienced and lived through mental illness, it’s never far from my mind. When my mother was going through some major episodes and was still living in California, before she sold her home to move to Idaho, I was a complete wreck.
I questioned my own sanity.
I was a mess. I couldn’t think straight. Some days I didn’t know up from down.
I found myself wondering, “Maybe I’m the crazy one.” Every odd episode or manic behavior I exhibited, my immediate reaction was, “Well, I must be crazy too. It does run in families.”
When I talked with my brother on the phone after I was past this stage, he admitted he had similar thoughts. When your mother is diagnosed as paranoid delusional, then those paranoid feelings can easily creep into your own life.
Mental illness does run in families. It can go from one generation to the next, or it can skip generations. When you ask doctors the dynamics of why one person has a mental illness and yet other family members do not, if they are honest, they can’t really answer the question.
Many times when a family member acts odd or has bizarre thinking, mental illness is not at the forefront of one’s mind. As a teenager, I thought my mom was just odd and why couldn’t she be like other, regular moms. She was able to cope just enough to appear normal, but behind her facade, she was really falling apart and barely able to manage her life. Years later we discovered she was able to “manage” because she had a psychiatrist who walked her through life and basically tutored her in parenting and life skills.
Focus on personality disorders.
I don’t know the statistics of mental illness and what percentage of people today are suffering from one. Usually if they know they have a mental illness, that is more than half the battle and getting care and proper help is more likely.
Even after going through the trauma I have experienced with my mother, mental illnesses are still not easily detectable. My husband and I are currently in the middle of a relationship that we believe is suffering from a form of mental illness and yet for now, there is no help, nor is there any acknowledgment there is a problem.
Our difficult relationship has led us to some research, counseling and reading books on the subject. Our area of focus has been personality disorders.
Great resources for personality disorders.
Here’s a great article with some insightful points from Mental Help,“Why Don’t People Know They Have a Personality Disorder?”
Here’s a link to some of the symptoms of a personality disorder. This covers all the personality disorders in an organized and concise format at Mayo Clinic.
For my husband and I, we have found this information educational and encouraging.
Look for my next blog post on the benefits of naming a personality disorder.