Who I am today was created by the trauma I survived when I was a child growing up in a chaotic environment. My mother was a schizophrenic with chaotic reactions and violent answers to her delusions. I received the majority of her violent episodes. Actually I am not sure any of my brothers received any violence from her. Perhaps I was the only one she lashed out at. I cannot speak for my brothers. I can however share with you my own personal trauma and things I developed to help me survive the nightmare of having a schizophrenic mother. Things I never knew I did until I entered therapy.
There would be times that months would pass without her chasing me around the house with a fly swatter. There were also times it seemed to happen so often I just wanted to die. I never knew what was coming next. Peace or war?
As a very young girl, grade school age, I didn’t understand what was wrong with my mother. I simply thought she hated me. I thought she was jealous of me for being the only daughter out of five children. I spent years wondering what it was I did to her and why she didn’t love me like my dad loved me so. She did not get a diagnosis of being schizophrenic until I was entering my teenage years.
I have very few pleasant memories of my mother. Our relationship was a very volatile one. I have many beatings I can recall. I can recall the verbal abuse I endured. I can recall the dishonest games she played in hopes that my dad would punish me. There is something that happens to the mind and memory when you live through a trauma I learned from therapy. The severity of cognitive impairment on the brain can depend on how long you endured the trauma and how severe the trauma itself is or was. My therapist said it is a miracle that I did not end up having split personalities.
I have often wondered why I could not recall clearly how old I was with some of the events that happened to me. I learned in therapy that my brain had created memory bubbles that would retain very limited information or memory of the traumatic event. It is or was a survival technique I have and you have as well. Another thing I learned in therapy was that many people who live through trauma have a tough time recalling time of the event, or how long it might have lasted. The brain does this to help protect itself from the trauma. The brain attempts to dissociate. Dissociating is also known as compartmentalization of the memory or memories. This process can cause confusion, anxiety, paranoia, fear, withdrawal, feelings of being disconnected or numb, guilt, shame, shock, denial and feeling hopelessness. Childhood trauma can cause permanent effects on the personality of the person who lives through the trauma. There were many years I had to piece together through therapy to get an understanding as to when it was happening and how long it went on. I have many events still confusing for me that will take more therapy to piece together. I am a masterpiece in the making. I say masterpiece because I survived it all. I may have damage left to repair but I am alive and I am sober.
I would have nightmares many nights. I remember my first thoughts of suicide came to me when I was around eight or nine years old. It was around this time I started putting pen to paper as an attempt to escape all the terrible things happening to me. I started out writing dark stories and dark poetry. I would draw dark figures and draw my nightmares onto paper. The writing started out as a cry for help but when no one heard the cry I decided to start creating my own worlds where the bad things eventually ended for the characters. I dreamed of and created paradise. My writing became a tool for survival.
My dad did not have a nine to five job. My dad worked from home, repairing electronics. He must have known my mom was mentally ill many years before she was diagnosed and is most likely why he worked from home. It was his way to help prevent harm to us. Unfortunately he was gone sometimes for long periods going to the auction house to fix electronics, to make money. This is usually when she would have violent episodes. When my dad was around the physical abuse never happened. Though I remember a few times he walked in while she was in the midst of beating me and he stopped it. I recall sometimes the verbal abuse would happen even with my dad home. He would yell at her and tell her to shut up or knock it off and she would.
My mother was obsessed with demons when she had many schizophrenic episodes. Her mind would tell her that the devil was trying to get me or she would swear I had demons inside of me that she had to get out. Getting those demons out usually involved her chasing me around with switches, thin tree branches from the trees out front, an extension cord, or the metal part of the fly swatter. There was a few times she put me in the tub with very hot water when I was around seven years old. I can recall one time she put ice cold water in the kitchen sink and forced me to hold my hands under it.
As far back as I can remember I was afraid of my mother. For a long time I hated her for these things I had endured. Growing up thinking that your mother hates you can make you a very angry, messed up child, teen and even an adult. I thought she hated me because I would see her treat my brothers so differently. She would cook potatoes, pancakes, whatever they asked for. She would refuse to get up with me to help me get ready for school. My dad would be taking my brothers to high school and I would be left home while mom slept to get myself ready at age five. I usually went to school with nothing to eat, my clothes mismatched, sometimes dirty, and probably inside out if my aunt or dad didn’t help me fix them.
From the very beginning of my school life I avoided forming friendships. I had already endured enough abuse that I felt ashamed, embarrassed and scared. I would not have friends come over to my house until my middle school era and even then I can count on one hand how many came over.
Not only was I living a life of sexual abuse from others, physical abuse and verbal abuse from my mother, but we lived in a very poor household that was not clean. My dad always had the house full of televisions and electronics and my mom was a hoarder.
I did develop one friendship where I could share my secrets to a safe person outside my home. That friendship was Andrew. I was able to share everything with him. That friendship lasted his whole life. I went back home to bury him July of this year. It was one of the saddest things I have done. I will forever be heartbroken that he is gone. I think having him growing up helped me to survive.
The sexual abuse and the abuse from the schizophrenic episodes my mother and having an abusive man in my life at age 18 has shaped me into this very guarded, skeptical, damaged woman today. This is what I am going to discuss tonight. A clear repercussion of being abused for almost half of a lifetime starting at a very young age.
I form very few strong connections with people. If I deem them trustworthy I allow them in to a point but always keep myself detached from them. I learned that this is a survival mechanism I formed growing up. Even now at age 36 I am constantly preparing myself for things to fall apart especially if things are going well in the relationships.
Growing up with such trauma in my life has rewired my thinking. When I start to have a successful relationship emotionally I am preparing for the sky to fall at any moment. This pattern formed when I was a little girl for a way to protect myself from trauma, and hurt. I detached myself from the people around me and the traumatic events happening. It helped me survive, and it helped me be numb from it all. Though this was a very good survival tool growing up, this detachment pattern as a grown woman has become a huge challenge to overcome. I am still working on noticing the steps I start to take in detachment from my family, and my friends. There are times the detachment is so quick and easy. The quick and easy detachment is easy to understand. If someone hurts me badly they do not get do-overs. I cut them out of my life instantly without looking back. I have done this with friends, and even blood relatives with no regret.
Sometimes I do not realize I am disconnecting. It can start very subtly until I have put myself at a safe distance to completely remove the person from my reach and my life. In these instances sometimes I can bounce back towards those whose surround me and attach myself emotionally. The trouble staying attached to those around me comes from fear and paranoia that they are going to hurt me, break my trust, or cause me trauma. I always feel like I have to guard myself from harm coming my way. This pattern was created in me through years of traumatic events I had to live through. I am making slow progress to stay attached longer or detach myself for shorter periods before I go back into the relationships in my life but it is a trying effort.
I am a very complicated and confusing person when you are in my inner circle. The person this is hardest on is my husband. There are many times throughout our relationship that I have completely disconnected from him because of hurt he has caused. Over the years the hurt built up and became a whole lot of harm done to me emotionally that I ended up so disconnected from him that I wanted to divorce him. I truly thought at some point in our relationship that it was over. I did not think I could come back. I still have struggles in staying connected to him. I still have trust issues with him. We are a work in progress.
If you are close to me, you are in my inner circle, and I can be a very confusing relationship for you while you are in this circle. I can push you away without any reasons apparent to you. You will notice I am shutting you out but will most likely have no idea why I have pushed you away, or distanced myself. I am more likely to notice I am doing this today with having years of therapy under my belt now but there was a time I was completely oblivious to my actions. The lack of understanding my disconnect from people and what I was doing has cost me many relationships over the years.
If you find me distancing myself from you and you are in my inner circle the best advice I can give you is respect my space and give me time. I always return to my inner circle unless the act against me is so devious I cannot move past the action against me. If it is something I cannot move past the disconnect will most likely be swift and permanent. I distance myself from my inner circle often to evaluate my relationships often. I am constantly asking if my inner circle is trustworthy and I will think over moments shared with each relationship and judge them on it. I have serious trust issues as I have talked about before. Every relationship I have had has either hurt me physically, emotionally, or verbally except for my friend Andrew, and my dad.
I learned in therapy that the loyalty I seem to possess came from my dad. I think he stayed with my mom, even with her being seriously mentally ill, out of loyalty perhaps to his kids. I never viewed his loyalty as being loyal for love. My trauma made me a cynic about loyal love. I believe my relationship with Andrew helped me have a more positive outlook about friendship. Therefore allowing myself to hold friendship to a higher standard and place over love. In other words I view friendship as forever, and love, or men as something that comes and goes, easily replaced.
My loyalty to my husband most of our relationship has been out of friendship. He has always been my friend first. This is how I eventually allow myself to love deeply. Our friendship eventually evolved into deep love. The things he did over the years that hurt me eventually numbed that love for him and when I became completely disconnected from him my loyalty to him became loyalty to my children. In other words if we had not had our beautiful daughters I would have walked away and never looked back. We have children so my loyalty to them pushed me into therapy with my husband. This of course was formed inside me from my view of my dad sticking it out with my very ill mother.
I learned in therapy this is my pattern over time when dealing with being hurt by those close to me. The pattern my husband and I have lived through is all about my past trauma. It has been a tough, long ride on a roller coaster. I still have work to do and so does he. Perhaps this will be something we have to work at the rest of our lives. The goal is to not return to the point of me being completely disconnected from him.
Another thing I do is constantly look for outs in relationships. I seem to constantly look for the reasons to cut and run from them. In some cases I seem to use other people as an out. This over time has created an insecurity in my husband. This pattern I have from past trauma now has built in him the idea that he is easily replaced. Of course he is easily replaced on the surface with my warped sense of what love is supposed to be, what it is and isn’t. My insecurity dealing with love makes it a constant battle to try not to repeat these offenses against him.
On the surface it seems he is easily replaced but deep within me I know he isn’t. I know deep within me I love him with my whole self and that alone makes me terrified of the hold he could have on me or has had on me in the past. It makes me vulnerable and another thing I cannot deal with properly is vulnerability. This is something that is born out of the trauma I lived with for half of my life as well.
I respond negatively towards jealousy, attempt to control me, lying to me, cheating me, being too needy, having lack of acceptance for me, and if you are too judgmental against others who are different I will start locking myself away from you.
These are the things I need in all my relationships. I need you to remember you cannot keep me to yourself, or be possessive. I need you to understand I do what I want because I am a free person and love my individuality. I need you to be honest with me about everything so I can trust you. I need you to accept who I am even the dark and twisty things about me. I also need you to respect others and differences in them. I need you to show me you are an honorable, pleasant person, who can be trusted with the darkest secrets I may have to share with you. You do this and I will love you like no other friend can. If you can’t do these things all I ask is that you do not approach me or attempt to hold onto me as a friend. Save time and hurt and just move on. I have high standards set for my inner circle and if you can’t meet them you will not get in. I was made this way by scar tissue from living half of my life in trauma.
The scar tissue reminds me I have survived some very dark times. Therapy reminds me that not every relationship is hurtful. I remind myself to trust myself above all else. I can only attempt to be a better person and attempt to have healthier relationships in my life. I cannot go against the things I believe in. Meet my standards or meet the freezer.
So my older brother called me the other night, the only one that calls me, and tells me that mom is in the hospital again. I wasn’t shocked. My first concern was to find out whether or not it was the usual reason or if it was her heart. It was for the usual reasons so I was relieved. Listen to me, “I was relieved.” It has become so normal that it doesn’t even phase me that she is once again in the hospital in the mental ward.
Living with a schizophrenic mom has taken a toll on my entire family. I live over four states away and there isn’t a thing I can do for her or her illness. I’ve tried in the past believe me. I’ve tried so hard in the past that it broke my family apart for a time when my oldest daughter was around two years old. I even went to live with mom in hopes coming back home would improve the situation. It didn’t. It seemed to have escalated it now that I look back. She is good at getting attention. All schizophrenics are. It is apart of their illness. Most of the family has tried to help her in some way but no one has been successful on helping her stay on track. She always ends up back at square one.
I have often wondered if she was really sick or just pretending simply to get pity. Growing up with it and not understanding it makes you view it in that way. She wasn’t a good mom I can’t sit here and praise her. I can however sit here as a grown woman and start to understand a little as to why she didn’t do some of the things she needed to do. Now some things she refused to do there are no excuses for. Like getting me ready for school as a little girl. There is no excuse for that in my opinion. Even in my worst day of a fibromyalgia attack I get up and make sure my daughter is ready for school the proper way. That is a mother’s job.
Mom probably decided to pull this episode due to the holiday coming up. Good ole’ Thanksgiving. It was my dad’s favorite holiday. She does this every year. Last year it was Christmas she went into the hospital. She either takes too many of her pills, or she’ll stop taking them all together. We haven’t had a problem with her overdosing in a long time. She now just stops taking her meds.
She was in the hospital about three months ago too though. She was staying with T whom I wish she would have nothing to do with and my cousin R, who is my aunt Eve’s son, attempted to run her off I heard and long behold she ended up in the hospital shortly after going over to the house I use to call home. I believe that is what set her in motion on that particular episode.
I’ve talked to counselors. I’ve asked for help from everywhere and there seems to be none that is worth the taking. The best I get is there are far worse people off then her who live on their own or who are homeless. I believe this illness has deadened my family and what it was meant to be. I believe it has been the sole component that has so easily allowed the barriers to be put up between my brothers and I. It silences our communication even though we need it so badly. We don’t know what to say or what to do to help our mom or ourselves in this continuing battle of schizophrenia.
When dad was around he was the caretaker. He was the one who handled her. He handled her well so we thought. We thought he handled her well because we didn’t have to “deal” with her or the illness first hand like he did. What a life he must have lived dealing with his wife having the illness and trying to raise five kids and having no money along the way. God bless him for being a great man and dad.
Throughout the years my mom has lost a lot of her family. Some have disowned her because of her actions that she has kept repeating. Some have disowned her because of her choice of being with T who is a shit bag. I can’t candy coat it here. I have no love for the guy and I never have. I tolerated him because he was married to my aunt Eve and while she was living I put up with him for her. After she died I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to have anything to do with him ever again. Well, so I thought! Long behold my mom decides to be “best friends” with him. I think there is more then friendship going on myself, and many others do so too.
I am angry that she did this once again. She pulled another selfish act. She wasn’t thinking how it would affect my nephew or my youngest brother and his family who expected to cook dinner with mom. He was looking forward to having that this year. Another holiday for him that will have an absent void in it. How can I be angry with him after all he’s lived with on his own since dad has died? I don’t know…whom should I be angry at?
Should I be angry that he couldn’t fix her? I couldn’t even fix her! Should I be angry at my oldest brother because he couldn’t fix her? I couldn’t even fix her! Why am I angry at all? Schizophrenia has destroyed my family. I only talk to one of my brothers on a regular basis out of four. There is something wrong with that. I’ve tried to reach out to each of the others. It has done no good. There is so much resentment for things said and done in the past that the wall just doesn’t seem to be coming down anytime soon.
We all have done everything you can think of to try to fix our mom and in the process of doing that we’ve hurt each other and never looked back. We all stepped in at different times to try different approaches in attempts to make her life better and along the way we’ve stepped on each other in one way or another.
So, I will call my mom tomorrow in the hospital to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what conversation we’ll have except to ask why again? Like I have so many times before…
Times like these I wish my dad were here more then any other time.
Until next time, be safe…and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!