Probably the hardest thing about admitting to myself that I have a problem (Hello, Al-Anon training!), is not that it’s “a” problem, but that it’s “this” problem. I wish it could be something simpler like “porn addiction” or that disease that makes you pull out your hair (I keep thinking trichamoniasis, which is NOT that disease, but a lovely STD. Forgive me for not researching further), because then it would not be my worst nightmare come true. It would be something simpler, at least for me to handle.

When you grow up surrounded by mental illness, there are a few things that happen to your development.

One, you associate all of the “bad things” that happen to your parent with something unrelated, a bit of magical thinking if I may (and I always may), i.e. Mom is sick because the house is dirty. Of course, this carried over into my adulthood, and maybe I’m not the most fastidious housekeeper on the planet, but my house is usually fairly clean, even on bad days.

Later on it occurs to your childish brain that maybe, just maybe, the reason for her illness is because YOU did something wrong. Kids, apparently have a knack for guilt rivaled only by the Catholic Church. This, too, carries over to your adulthood, and you find yourself blaming YOU for any little thing that has gone awry i.e. it’s obvious (to you) that it’s YOUR fault that the dog crapped on the carpet because you’re such a bad pet owner (and not the more logical “the dog crapped on the carpet because he is an asshole”).

I was once told that this is the way children of alcoholics feel as well, so let’s just give your Aunt Becky a double whammy here: my parents are BOTH alcoholics, too!

And lastly (this is a brief list here), children who have a mentally ill parent become absolutely phobic about turning into this parent (in this case, my mother). Admittedly, no one wants to turn into their mother, because ew! but I can assure you that it’s that much worse when your parent is completely unbalanced and unstable.

WHO would want THAT to be their aspiration?

(Please God, let me turn into someone who alternately screams or cries or looks comatose at a mere change in the breeze. Let me be unable to get out of bed for weeks at a time, and let my kids raise themselves until I can get my medication regime right. Please, please, please, please?)

Not so much fun, right?

So let me assure you that I do mental health checks daily (if not hourly) to make sure that I am not Going Off The Wheels On A Crazy Train, and to check whether or not my reactions to situations (pleasant or unpleasant) are normal enough. Dave informs me that this is one of my better features, as it leaves me pretty stable most of the time. I rarely fly off the handle at minor infractions (real or imagined), I approach (most) fights as logically as I can, and because I am prone to think and rethink issues, I’m fairly level.

Shit, I just wish it wasn’t this problem, y’all. Really, I do.

(is it weird to want to bargain with God to give me an STD instead of PPD? Don’t answer that.)

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

13 Responses to The Ornaments Look Pretty, But They’re Pulling Down The Branches Of The Tree

  • Ashley says:

    I am offended Bex. The Trich-a-Nasty is never a laughing matter. And I know exactly how you feel with the Mom-fear…but you are not your mother and this does not mean that you are becoming her. Hang in there :)

  • Karen Halls says:

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    Karen Halls

  • Pauline says:

    Hang in there. As a child of an unbalanced Mom, I totally get what you’re feeling. You’re not her. Just look at the way you are dealing with this situation. Even in the midst of it you are level headed and rational. And the hair pulling thing-tricotylamania. That’s my fav. disease in the DSM. :)

  • Leslee says:

    Trichotillomania. That’s the hair pulling thing. Seems my little brother has a very mild form of that. He pulls his eyelashes out when he gets stressed.

    My mom never stayed in bed or anything and I think that’s simply due to the fact that she couldn’t. My step-father is an alcoholic and she was the only income coming in for quite some time. She’s pretty severely depressed, but she seems to manifest that into disappearing at work. I rarely saw my mom when I was growing up.

  • KT says:

    Sounds like we have the same mom. Maybe we were sisters once upon a time. Hang in there. My mom stayed in bed for weeks at a time, and I do not. My mom did not clean up the dog crap on the carpet, and I do. My mom “forgot” to pick me up at school. My mom, like yours, was happy, mad and comotose at random and unpredictable times. You are not your mom. I am not my mom. It’s hard not to be scared you’ll turn into them, though, isn’t it. You’ll feel better, I promise. I did.

  • Juli says:

    I don’t really have Mom-issues, despite the galloping mental illness on her side of the family. But I can relate to this post for kind of an opposite reason. My father was just a mean, boorish, unpleasant dickhead. He was also amazingly creative and very artistically inclined. My mom couldn’t draw a stick figure if you held a gun to her head. But – I was always on Mom’s side and my father and I mutually disowned one another with no regrets when I was 17. Do you know how long it took me to face up to being an artist, knowing those abilities and impulses came from HIM??

  • niobe says:

    It really is sad how many of us seem to have had spectacularly awful childhoods, complete with spectacularly awful parents.

  • Melissa C says:

    Hang in there Becky!!! PPD may look and feel like THE CRAZY, but at some point you get to actully be cured… not just some holding pattern of well-balanced meds.

    Added bonus??? This one you actually CAN blame on the kids!

    We are not our parents!

  • Kristen says:

    Thinking of you Becky.
    PPD scared the crap out of my dh because his mother was very mentally ill when he was a child. When we got married he was 20 years old and 4 months later he had a baby and a wife he could see was going off he deep end. He freaked and shut down. He had to protect himself from going through that all over again. I scared the shit out of him.
    14 years later we are still working out the kinks. I too do the daily mental health checks and managed to get through my last 3 babies (including the stillbirth)without falling back under. I am not so lucky this time. This time it is hitting me while pregnant (I always have a bit of depression when preggo, but nothing like this) We spent a few hours early this morning as I cried and told him how scared I was, how I wanted to disappear. He held me and prayed with me and promised that he wouldn’t let me disappear, that he wouldn’t let go this time. I actually felt a bit better. Well enough to make it through today. I can get by on that. But I guess I am off to the doctor this time, I don’t want to go any further down this path.
    I think it is amazing that you are so self aware and I know that you will do what you have to to make yourself well. You have a different illness than your mother, one with a beginning and an end, one where you can deal with it and get well and get on with being the terrific mom that you are. I will be thinking of you often.

  • honeywine says:

    Just hold on for a little while longer. The medications of today are improved, and you will probably be surprised by how quickly you can turn this around. You might even feel better more quickly than if you had that Clap you long for.

    I am prone to depression and have had some pretty severe (and unfortunately some untreated) bouts. I can relate to the feeling of being out of control and knowing it but not being able to fix it yourself. It’s scary to let other people know you can’t take care of everything especially when you have spent your entire life trying to hold it all together when everyone around you was falling apart. You can always lean on us. If you ever need someone to talk to, I’d be happy to extend my phone number. You say the word!

  • Hey … could be worse…you could be depressed AND have an STD.

    Like me.

    Just kidding. It’s a cold sore. Sheesh. On my mouth.

    Really.

    Hang tough chicky. You are not alone in this battle. Even on the days it feels like it.

  • Jenn says:

    I too always associated my mom’s depression with not having a clean house (among other things, like me not being good enough) and now I overcompensate for that here at mine. Sometimes you say things and it is like you are pulling them directly from my brain.
    (I comment as I read and hadn’t yet seen the “blaming me” paragraph when I wrote the above comment. I guess that’s a universal thing too.)
    I’m sure you know that PPD is nothing to be ashamed of and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be anything like your mom. Just the fact that you are so self-aware makes you very unlike your mom. You are also getting help for yourself right away, which (I’m guessing) also makes you unlike your mother. *hugs* to you, you’re in my thoughts!

  • tryingin2007 says:

    I’ve had major bouts of depression throughout my life. it does indeed suck. but like pp said, medications have come a loooong way. it took some trial and error but I was able to find decent meds that brought me much needed relief – I felt “normal.” now that I’m newly pg, I stopped taking my antidepressants. I struggle with this daily because now is when I really need them! I feel your pain and I know that eventually, I promise, you will feel better.

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