Spring Equinox 2016 Part II
My last article focused on cleaning toxic people out of your life. I believe that is a good first step. I have a lot of experience with toxic people! I am an adult child of a toxic parent, and said parent has also crossed the veil. I know that although that toxic relationship is over, the hurt and heartache is not. Some people think you can just “get over it” and “move on with your life” as if nothing happened. While I realize things that happened to us are in the past, and thus will never happen again- I also realize that not everybody can forget these things.
Aside from hurting over past memories, and having flashbacks or PTSD, many adult children who survived a parent who was mentally ill suffer from fears they will become just like those parents. This can affect all of your relationships. You can either find yourself unable to maintain relationships, or find yourself maintaining unhealthy ones. Some people decide not to have kids of their own, out of fear they will be the same sort of parent that their own parent was. Some fear genetically passing mental illness on to a child, as well. Substance abuse is higher for adults who had mentally ill parents, and overthinking “all the bad things that could happen” happens more often when you had a traumatic or abusive childhood.
No matter how many therapy sessions or tranquilizers you take, these things can haunt you for your entire life. I could certainly provide spellwork to ease these sorrows, but I prefer to address what mundane things you can do for yourself as an adult once you have endured this sort of childhood, and what we can do to be supportive of the children or adult children of mentally ill parents. Also, mental illness is not a choice, and our loved ones struggling with mental illness need our support too!
The best man for the job
It is often assumed the most highly trained professionals or social workers our tax dollars pay for are the best people to be supportive of kids dealing with their parents mental illness. While I agree these people are absolutely crucial, most especially in cases of child endangerment, oftentimes, they rely on professional experience and education to guide them. But they have absolutely no idea whatsoever HOW it feels to be the victim.
If you, yourself have been a victim, then empathizing with other victims is second nature for you. You instinctually can tell if something is not right, and you can remember how you felt when you were a child. It can be healing to be a victim’s advocate. To be somebody who reaches out and makes a difference for people who cannot do for themselves. You could not prevent what happened to you, but helping to ensure somebody else’s suffering is eased- or even if somebody is rescued from a situation you could not escape from can do wonders for your own peace of mind. Your participation in somebody else’s rescue or healing cannot change your past, but it might help you to at least feel better that you were able to spot somebody else going through it, and intervene in a positive way.
Those old meanies!!!!!
I have, in my mom’s side of the family, in my work in long term care, and in my religious community, met a lot of people diagnosed with a mental illness who really are mean, hurtful people who do bad things to other people and have absolutely no remorse. Hell, some of them LIKE inflicting suffering! They blame everybody else for their actions. I also know some people diagnosed with a mental illness would NEVER EVER deliberately hurt anybody to save their own life, and who are kind people well-known for all the awesome things they do to make the world a better place. I am also aware that very often, mental illness takes over, and the people suffering from the disease unintentionally cause harm. They really cannot choose to do any different.
Children raised in this environment are often taught that their needs come last. Many children of mentally ill parents become their full time caretakers by their teenaged years, and sometimes find themselves in dangerous situations their parents inability to make good decisions puts them in.
Most people I have encountered who suffer from mental illness really do love and care about their family, and friends, and children, and want to make everybody happy. Their illness just prevents them from making good decisions about what is best sometimes.
Luckily, we are living in a day and age where scientific breakthrough has shown ways to help sufferers of mental illness. I know some people who medication is a godsend for, and others who are helped by counseling. Much attention is paid to doing the things necessary to help people suffering from mental illness live healthy, happy lives. However, sometimes, little attention is paid to the children of mentally ill parents unless their lives are at stake.
It is assumed it is best for mentally ill people to have normal family lives- which translates as keeping children at home with mentally ill parents. This often makes the parents happiest. Unfortunately, this is not always best for the children. I know each case is different. Some people I know were rescued and did not live with their parent’s illness for one day! Others narrowly escaped with their lives!
While times are better than say, fifty years ago, I know from experience that the goal of “keeping a child with the parent” is not always a good one. Fortunately, my brother’s grandparents were granted custody of him when he was in high school. I was not so lucky.
Mom’s family tried to intervene when I was in high school- and of course the State decided it was best for mom to keep me with her! I survived, but my emotional wellbeing did not. By the time I was in my early 20’s, I was a very angry young woman.
Just before I moved, I was old enough to understand certain things were not okay, and I had started putting my foot down. By this time, mom’s self-medicating of her mental illness drove her into dangerous parts of town, with a gun in the car, so she could buy narcotics. We could have been killed one night. I moved out that very night after attempts to reason with her resulted in her threatening to “bash my mouth in” . I told her if she hit me, she would never see me again. As I packed my things, she exclaimed, “But I didn’t hit you!” She could never understand that her behavior was not okay.
Immediately, she faked a suicide attempt, having all her sisters who lived in town, her mom, AND our Catholic Priest run to the hospital at 2 A.M. because they were so scared they would lose her.
I had no idea who to talk with, and our Priest was not trained in mental health counseling. I was, thankfully in college and loved to read. I sought out self-help books, and spoke with a counselor.
I got absolutely no support from mom’s family when I needed it most. Some of mom’s family made a choice to chew me out, feeling it defended mom- who they KNEW was severely abusive- because they were parents themselves, and were terrified at the thought of their own children turning against them. “You will understand someday when you are a mother”, I was told. They believed a child should honor their parents- and take care of their parents- even while the parent was jeopardizing their child’s life.
I had no personal rights to be a basket case in some family member’s opinions. I was failing to forgive, and how would I feel if god did not forgive me? I was cussed out and yelled at, and if I saw a family member in public, there was never a “How are you”, there was only a “ Have you gone to see your mother?” I was chastized by church members who recited scripture verses-because they believed mom when she cried and told them I had abandoned her because I did not want to take care of her.
What they did not know is that nobody could take care of my mother until control of the pills was handed to the professionals!
It felt like nobody could accept that my own sanity depended on being away from my perpetrator. They could not accept that my healing was more important than giving mom what she wanted. This response from blood relatives and church members compounded the pain and hurt I felt. I found out that family members were aware of almost everything that had gone on, and they did not care. They expected me to take it regardless. I finally cut off all communication with all of mom’s relatives and did not go back for years.
Luckily, I did meet plenty of other survivors of similar situations. I discovered that while I had previously thought my story was rare- it was not unusual in the least.
The Ugly Facts
According to The National Children’s Alliance, 47 States reported that 3.1 million children received services from some Children’s Services agency in just 2013. It was reported that not quite 80% of the fatalities of children caused by abuse or neglect was perpetrated by the kid’s parent or parents. More can be read at this link.
This just shows that child abuse is very widespread!
Right now, I am learning about schizophrenia- as I have a family member who suffers from it. A book I recommend was written for adult kids of sufferers. Not only is information about the book here, but an interview with the author is included that you can read as well at this link.
Also, I found a really good article about psychosocial outcomes for adult children of mentally ill adults.
I am not saying that all mentally ill parents abuse their kids. Plenty don’t. I am saying that some do, and their kids need support the same way the parents need healing.
Instead of a ritual or spellwork, I will include some suggestions for how to be supportive of children of mentally ill parents- both non-abusive parents as well as abusive ones. Also included is how to be supportive of your ill loved one, and some things to keep in mind. You can always do protective magic or light a candle or pray for people suffering. I don’t think that ever hurts.
Prayer and spellwork creates change- but it is not enough sometimes. In all circumstances, the more you can do physically, the more successful your endeavor to create change will be!
- Accept what is happening and that it is not okay- Sticking up for victims who cannot protect themselves can be scary. The abuser might be your sibling, parent, best friend, or even YOUR child abusing their kids. Taking their side based on concern it would strain relations for YOU if you tell them they are wrong makes you just as guilty of abuse as the abuser. Not only are you encouraging them to continue, but you might even be helping abuse the victim more. Telling the victim to get over it, that things are really not that bad, or the like means you are not only enabling the abuser, but you become an abuser as well. No matter how much you may like or love an abuser, that does not make it okay for them to be abusive.
- Get involved- I will never forget the scene in The Divine Secrets of The Yaya Sisterhood where one of the ladies said “It was the belief that you didn’t interfere with other people’s kids”. Then there is the quote- “It takes a village to raise a child. “ It really does. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Refusal to get treatment absolutely is. Sometimes, people are trying to recover, but they are struggling to afford medications or counseling, or they relapse, it is time to “butt in” and get involved. It is not butting in or interfering at all when you are stepping in to help where help is needed.
- Don’t be afraid- Do not be afraid of upsetting your mentally ill loved one by preventing them from causing harm. If your ill loved one is insulted or indignant that you would “come between” them and their kids, and they do not feel what they are doing is wrong- when clearly, everybody can see it is- oftentimes, all hell breaks loose and you are in for World War III. That’s okay. Be assured the more they rage and attack, the more material the law has against them if it comes down to it.
- Be ready to take action- You might have to physically remove animals or another human being from their home. You may have to file police charges against them. You may have to testify in a court of law against your loved one. They may hate you forever for this- and other loved ones may take sides against you. I promise that is every bit worth it to be a victim’s advocate, and to stop the pain.
- Stick to your guns- Retaliation is not uncommon when you have been the one to stop an abuser. Do not allow whatever they threaten you with or do against you to get you to relent. Can you imagine how much worse it is for the victim than it is for you to be trapped by this person?
- Listen and validate- The #1 misconception is that you must CONDEMN your loved one for whatever hardship they have created. You absolutely do not have to. But you can admit it was hurtful to the people who suffered. Validation is the #1 thing some victims need most. That what happened to them was not okay and they are right to hurt. You may be the one hurting. Listen to yourself. Be considerate of your needs. If you need to skip a visit when your ill loved one is being especially excruciating- skip the visit, and tell them you will absolutely come when the behavior stops.
- Accept that intentions and results may be entirely different- Another famous quote from The Divine Secrets of The Yaya Sisterhood is “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Accept that maybe the mentally ill loved one did not mean any harm- but somehow harm was still done. Some things are not okay, even if the person cannot help it. But if they cannot help it, expecting them to choose differently makes no sense. They may mean well, but their actions don’t cause things to go well. Even though you might not hold it against them, it is still okay to keep your loved one from causing harm.
- Explain without attacking – Obviously, the goal is to maintain happy relationships- not to assign guilt. Compassionately explaining to the mentally ill loved one how a certain behavior causes pain, and what could be done instead might help foster positive change. Yelling and scolding will make them feel misunderstoo. They will shut down and be defensive. However, there comes a time when it really does not matter if the loved one gets defensive if you point out what needs to change- most especially if their behavior is causing bad problems, and they are capable of choosing different. Yup, it’s their fault! In this event, attacking still does not help. Still explain your point calmly.
- Accept when you can’t help- Some people literally refuse to be helped. I am reminded of another quote, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Adults, most especially don’t like being told what to do. Your hands might be tied because of some circumstance. I mean, you cannot hold a gun to somebody’s head and force them to stop a behavior. You may have to wait until your loved one hits rock bottom before you can step in. Sometimes, we are not qualified to help a loved one and a professional is. The turning point in my relationship with my mom was the day I called a crisis hotline, absolutely hysterical. I felt so guilty and ashamed for failing to take good care of my mother, I told the operator! The operator listened compassionately, and then told me I was not the one to take care of my mother. She told me mom needed professional caretaking 24/7 and trying to do so by myself was preventing mom from getting the help she really needed. Now, of course, when I took the operators advice, that caused issues as well- but it was every bit worth it. Without me, mom’s family had to step in. They told her she HAD to get either in-home care or go to a facility. She verbally attacked some of them, saying they owed it to her to take care of her- and they simply said they could not do it. Mom was then forced to get proper in-home care until she could no longer stay home, and was transferred- against her will, of course- to a very good assisted living facility. Despite her years of fighting it, she absolutely loved the place, and so did we!
- Accept that maybe you can’t be around your loved one for a time- And that perhaps other people can’t either. Our loved ones endure the things we endure right along with us. There are times when we are each other’s strength, and times when we are broken by our loved ones and have to step away. We are only able to endure what we are capable of. Do not shame somebody for being unable to endure a loved one’s mental illness.
- Do not allow your mentally ill loved one access to certain things- If your mentally ill loved one steals money, don’t let them have access to your money. They can’t steal it if it is inaccessible to them. If your mentally ill loved one is legally allowed to drive, but their road rage terrifies you- do not get in the car with them when they are driving and do not allow them to drive your car. You might not be able to prevent them from causing a wreck, but that does not mean you have to be involved.
- Reach out- I know from experience how isolating it can feel to have a mentally ill family member. I looked around at my peers and saw the stability in their homes, and it seemed like I was the only one with a sick parent. I was wrong. Reaching out, reading, and talking with other people who were either mentally ill and doing all they could to live good lives, or survive the mental illness of a loved one helped me to understand that mom and I were not abnormal. We were not wrong. We were okay. Reaching out is the #1 thing that saved me.
- Mental illness is not shameful, and not a choice- I always say nobody ever wakes up one day and says to themselves, “You know, I have a good life. I am in good health. I love my job, and my loved ones. But you know what? I think I want to give all that up and be miserable. Yeah, I want to see what that is like! “ Mental illness is just like any other form of illness. It happens. Sometimes, we can fix it, and sometimes, we can’t. There is nasty discrimination against mentally ill people. I have never understood that. It’s not like we get mad and shame people who have asthma or a broken bone. So why shame people struggling with another disease they did not choose?
- Learn- If you , or if somebody you love struggles with mental illness- lifelong education is best. New advances in medicine and counseling are announced all the time. There is always a chance something can make life better and easier.
- Forgiveness of other people is not crucial-forgiveness of yourself is mandatory- The worst thing you can do is tell somebody who was a victim of abuse is to hurry up and forgive their perpetrator already. Many religious people believe a god/ess forgives, so people have to as well. BUT- those adherents conveniently forget the myths point that gods only forgive if the person is sorry, and the behavior has stopped. Few gods/esses will put up with bullshit! And even if in a religious story a god or goddess forgave somebody who was not sorry, I still don’t expect anybody else to. So why use religion as a basis to say human beings should? And I have to say, even if somebody is sorry and has changed, you still don’t have to forgive them if you don’t feel ready to. And you NEVER have to. You are not holding yourself back from some enlightenment or a place in paradise if you don’t forgive. Also, even if you DO forgive and move on from events- that does not mean that you have to welcome the person who hurt you back into your life. Ever. There will be a lot of people trying to push you into forgiveness and forgetting- and they won’t care if your perpetrator starts hurting you again. Do what is best for you, no matter what others say. For those who are aware of what their illness causes them to do- I really don’t have sympathy for abusers- so if you really are an abuser- piss off if you haven’t already been repelled by this article- but if you are a non-abusive person trying your best- you have to forgive yourself. If you don’t, you will not consider yourself worthy of getting better. Then you cannot treat your loved ones better. Forgiving the fact you are imperfect and make mistakes i9s not optional- it is mandatory.
- Know that we are all in this together- If you have been abused- you don’t have to be stuck with your abuser forever. But if you are ill, your loved ones depend on you to do all you can to feel good and be well. They WANT you around. They stay with you in bad times, and look forward to the good times.
- Giving up is not an option- If you suffer from mental illness- guess what? You are one of millions who does. The human body is so complex, that unlimited things can go wrong! Sometimes, your mental illness lies to you and convinces you that all hope is gone. But there are so many others struggling with the same things you are. Each sufferer is different, but so many suffer with the very things you do. Help and understanding is out there.
- Resources are out there- Your hometown has specific resources. Two I am listing here are Nationwide, and you can contact them.
- Mental Health America
This site has searches for affiliates by zip code and or City and State. Your local health department or area of family Services can point you where you need to go. Also, a quick non emergency call to your local police to request for the number for your crisis center will hook you up with the type operator who got the ball rolling for help for my mother. Police are getting a bad rap right now- because the bad job the lousy ones do makes all of them look bad. Truthfully, police work does not pay THAT well, and many of the folks in the force are just decent people.
- For the loved ones of mentally ill people- your local hospital or mental health facility often has free support groups. You can make a few calls and see what your hometown has to offer.
Also, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has support. Here is their link.
Now, if you LIKE NAMI on Facebook, a slew of other pages appears that you can follow. The Facebook link is provided on their Internet Page.
There is a plethora of resources out there because mental health is so important. Together, we can make a difference!
- May you be healed- May your gods and guides reach into you and pull out all your sorrows. If you need medical care, may you be brought to the best care there is and may you be able to afford it. If no cure exists, may it come about very soon. May you be surrounded by family and friends who are part of your healing, and when the time comes, may you be part of theirs! So mote it be!