Over and over and over again while my siblings and I struggled to get help for our mom, we were chastised for letting her go unhelped. It was the damndest thing.
People usually offered the admonishment gently, but one neighbor put it more bluntly when I ran into her at a garage sale. “It’s a shame you kids aren’t doing more for your mom!” she told me, scowling.
“You have no idea what we are or aren’t doing for her,” I replied curtly before walking away. My youngest sister, recalling this exchange a few days ago, said she was surprised I didn’t punch this neighbor in the face. I was, too.
She had no idea. But then again, it wasn’t so long before that I, too, had been clueless.
March 19, 2004
Last night was a night of missing.
I missed my mom most of all. I wanted to call her just to talk, to hear her voice, the one that used to make me laugh and feel all the things the world could be: wounded and beautiful, kind and angry, soft and harsh all at once. This was a voice that taught me wisdom, to really look at the world and try seeing it for what it is. I wished so much I could pick up the phone and call, but… even if I did, she probably wouldn’t answer. If she did answer, the voice would not have been the same that could have such soothing power when I was sick or hurting in younger days. Instead it’s a frantic, manic voice, bringing words that bear no relation to anything I’ve just said. She doesn’t listen, doesn’t know how, just speaks of conspiracies against her. I also told her how I felt, told her I can’t communicate with her till she seeks treatment, and I guess I have to be firm even on those nights where I want nothing more than my big, strong mommy to hold me and make the world be okay. Read more…
My mom once told me that she’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She said she disagreed and would say no more: not who’d diagnosed it, not when, not how. It was information I was utterly unable to act upon, apart from to refer to her illness as schizophrenia.
I later discovered she’d shared different diagnoses with my younger sister. I couldn’t call her illness schizophrenia with much confidence, and took to referencing her “mental illness” more generally.
I still sometimes say she had schizophrenia, but the truth is, I don’t know. As it’s hard to get water from a rock, it was also hard getting clarity from Mom.
August 6, 2003
It’s after noon already & I’m the only one who’s left the house today – & then only to take out the trash. Nick actually just woke up, which means the day is set to really begin, the fun parts that involve finding Mom & talking with her about commitment. My heart feels like it is literally breaking with the weight of my mom’s terror & the knowledge we cannot know right now whether she will ever be sane again. Right now all we have is hope, & I don’t know how well founded it is. I pray it is. I pray for the best for Mom & know, no matter what, we will figure out how to deal with whatever comes, always with the love & help of awesome friends. I will learn to overcome this fear, the kind that hits hardest at night but is always present in some gnawing form.
(Breathe. Just breathe.)
August 6, 2003
Scant hours after talking to Lane County Mental Health and filling out the pre-commitment paperwork which will at least lead them to establish basic contact with my mom, my mom managed to find our house. So much for a safe haven. She worked the main street name from someone, then proceeded to go up and down the streets in search of Nick’s truck. She found it and now here she is, talking about how her neighbors have tapped her lines and handing off her safe deposit box keys in case one of them “takes her out” for “talking too much.” She’s resting comfortably on Rache’s couch and I just want her to leave right now, because I don’t know what to do with her, this woman who was once my mom. I am so scared by this whole situation, but all I can do is keep on plodding through – others have done it before, and we’ll do it together now…
Oh, and now she’s asking – subtly – if she can stay with us. Oh, God, what are we supposed to do? This is so tense.
I wish she could just accept the medication she’s been prescribed over the years and try to find some peace, make it so we could be around her without fear… but that’s seldom the path the mentally ill take. I so want to say something, but if we do, we’re stuck here with her, no telling what she might do.
August 8, 2003
Yesterday was a tough day. Rache, Nick and I were probably more nervous than we’ve ever been in our entire lives. We’ve all dealt with pre-test nerves, with performance nerves, with all the kinds of nervous moments you encounter in the course of life, but this was something new. What are you supposed to say to someone in this situation, especially your mom? “Yeah, we really don’t think you’re quite right…” She was running around the house trying to find things to hand us, sure her neighbors were going to take her out at any moment, before we got her to sit on the porch. Nick said we needed to talk, but then fell silent. Read more…
I was born of two abusers.
From my father I learned what I didn’t want to be.
From my mother I learned parts of who I wanted to be–not the shrieking, paranoid ones, but the hopeful, loving ones that reflected her belief tomorrow could be something altogether brighter than today.
My car has no hubcaps.
One of my then coworkers was concerned when the fell off. “That’s terrible!” he opined.
“Terrible? Really?” I asked. “I’d save that word for a cancer diagnosis or car wreck.”
I called my mechanic. “Do hubcaps provide any structural support?” I asked. Read more…
I will be worthy of that cape.
I ended my post “Becoming a superhero” with these words.
How could I earn that cape? Not by battling super villains or saving entire countries from natural catastrophes, but by my attention and engagement with my kids.
I’ve remembered that cape here and there, and gone through periods of donning the cape and losing it deep within the wreckage of my perpetually untidy house. (It’s okay; Thunder Thighs had a perpetually dirty house, too, but she saved the world for four kids all the same.)
These things seem to come in cycles as life’s balances shift. I’m comforted remembering no one can be a superhero all the time. Even Superman needs the downtime of being inconspicuous Clark Kent, as Batman needs to occasionally intersperse weaponed battles with the usually more mundane ones of Bruce Wayne’s day to day life.
Yesterday, I sat down at the kid table with my sixteen-month-old son while my husband and older son slept. Littler J and I ate together slowly.
I burped. Littler J laughed uproariously, so I burped again. Read more…
I used to hate it when people called me “Debbie.” One of my very first blogs featured an image demonstrating this.
It was generally important to me that people take me Very Seriously. No one took my single-mom-of-four mother Very Seriously, a frustrating situation I didn’t want for my own life. “Debbie” wasn’t a remotely serious-sounding name. Deborah, on the other hand, was a name synonymous with wisdom. Read more…
My five-year-old, Li’l D, tried skateboarding for the very first time yesterday.
I enjoy being able to get myself from one place to another by skateboard, an enjoyment I think my son will share. Eventually, after all the falling.
I wasn’t thinking about that when I offered to help Li’l D. I decided to stop glaring at a neighbor kid doing skateboard tricks in front of my house for destroying rare (relative) silence and make some noise of my own.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” I grumbled to myself. To Li’l D, I called, “C’mon, kiddo! If you want to learn to skateboard, now’s the time.”
“Really?!” Each of the thousand or so times he’s asked before, I’ve told him he can learn when he’s eight.
He readied himself faster than he’s ever readied himself. We went outside just in time to see the neighbor kid retreat into his home.
I could call it! I told myself. Looking at Li’l D’s excitement, I realized that would be a great way to break my son’s trust.
I spent a few minutes trying to show him foot positions and help him find his balance. This was hard since Li’l D already knows everything, but I persevered. I was pretty stoked to see him trying something that didn’t come naturally.
(I was surprised when he got back on his bike the first time he fell. He wanted to throw in the towel, but I explained that he’s getting better even by falling. I was motivational enough to get him going, and now he’s a pro. He’s not usually so patient.)
After a few minutes, I shadowed him as he pushed himself slowly along the sidewalk in front of the neighbor kid’s house. The board slipped from under him. He stumbled onto the lawn.
I was in the middle of encouraging him when I glanced up on the neighbor’s porch.
What I saw sent jolts rippling through my brain. Read more…