Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mental Illness

Growing up with part of my family being Catholic and the other being Mormon was a little confusing. I always joke that I had the Pope and the Prophet covered. After the trial I tried to become a good Mormon. I memorized the 13 Articles of Faith, prayed, took the Sacrament, gave my pennies and tried to know God. My mother started school after the trial in a town about an hour away. She was so histrionic that she bitched about "risking her life" on the interstate every time she had to go to class to provide a better life for us. We were just glad she was off the farm so we could play.

My mom had this knack for drawing the weirdest people into her life. She had friends that lived in a barn (Mormons), friends that lived in a circus tent (vegans), friends who had mental health issues (almost all of them), and friends who, like her, took life to the extreme.  In our house, the extreme was religion, cleanliness, and obedience. I began noticing the lives of other people after the trial. There was a girl who rode my bus that only wore dresses and never cut her hair. Most everyone who lived in our county was poor and so no one really felt poor in relation to others. It was just a lifestyle. My grandmother had more time with us since my mom was in school. I took a lot of opportunities to ask her questions in an attempt to understand my mom better.

I wish there was some way I could describe my connection to my grandmother, but there aren't really any words. We didn't need words. I could place my hand in her hand and draw energy from her. Strength.

We went for a walk one day to pick elderberries and get sassafrass root for tea (taste like rootbeer tea,... REALLY yummy).  I asked her why my mom was so different from other moms and as always my grandma was honest with me.

She told me a story about my mom's real dad. I did know that my grandpa was her step-dad.

My mother's father was a schizophrenic. He drank a lot of alcohol and abused the family physically and emotionally... except for my mom. My mom was the youngest. The golden child. "What's a schizophrenic, Grandma"... "Someone who has a brain that messes up their thinking, sweetie"  The aunt and uncle (who I haven't introduced into this blog yet) took a lot of abuse from their dad. My mom would have too, but they protected her. Since they took the blame for everything she did, he never knew and therefore loved her the most.

When momma was eight, her daddy tried to pick her up from school. Grandma worked two jobs and was out of the home a lot. Grandma was smart (not smart enough to leave, but smart). She had told the school not to let anyone pick the children up but her. He went home and shot himself that day. He wanted to take my mom with him, but didn't. The abuse my mom witnessed and the suicide of her father shaped her.

Now I couldn't comprehend this information. I was probably ten years old, but slowly over the years, I put more and more together. It took me years after my mother's own murder to understand that she was also mentally ill. More on that another day.

Grandma's farmhouse years after we all left. 


Here's one of the Aunt's house...
Here is one of the trailer we lived in down the path...

1 comment:

Tudu said...

Two of my children have been dx'd with Schizophrenia and 1 has all the same symptoms except the hallucinations. They are 12, 11, and 9.