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This is my story I hope it helps those who think they're alone


crysewen@aol.com
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My journey began 7 years ago. There were no warning signs. I am an only child. My mother had been diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia, and schizo-effective disorder, and depression (A different diagnoses by different doctor's). 6 years ago to date my mom walked away the day before Christmas and had gone missing for six months. She had on no shoes or a coat and no form of ID. I filled missing persons reports, posters, search parties but all this to no avail. Then one day I received a call from a doctor stating they were admitted my mom (Thank GOD. I knew my prayers were NOT in vain). She was living on the streets all of that time. My mother simultaneously went on these walking bouts but this by far was the longest. Also, anytime she left either a police station or hospital would call me and inquire about her, asking if she was mentally ill. Anytime my mother was put into a Psychiatric Ward they would let her out right away because to them she was functioning just fine and there was nothing wrong with her. Before my mom's 6 month disappearance, I asked what can I do to get her committed long term and they told me I MUST file for guardianship. While this was by NO means an easy task, it had to be done. Not only did my mom wander she also would not take medication because she felt there was nothing wrong with her. Now my mother was not violent at all but she would space out, chain smoke, not sleep, cry at any given moment, see things I didn't see, think people were after her, etc. I can go on and on. She basically believes things (to date) that are not true. There is a whole lot more to this story but it would take some time to tell. I go through my moments just like a lot of you. What makes it harder is that I have no one but GOD to depend on emotionally. It does and can take an emotional toll on the parties dealing with the situation. That's why it's important to believe in a higher power and/or have a support group. I'm been dealing with my mom's illness for years but it's the farthest thing from a walk in the park. I didn't spend my 20's dating, having fun, and enjoying life. Instead I was the head of household at the age of 22, paying (major) bills, in and out of court, seeking lawyers, in and out of hospitals, etc. I'm not complaining because if I had to do it again I would in a heart beat. For those of you who are on the verge of giving up, my advice to you would be "don't do it." Yes, it can be a burden but if it's a family member, especially a parent, you only get ONE set of parents. Lastly, know that Mental Illness in a whole has been swept under the rug for way too long (and still is.) The people/person whom you least expect may be suffering from it but just too ashamed to admit. The same way that they have all those fund raisers, walks, causes, months, celebrity advocates for cancer, AIDS, MS, etc., is the same way it should be for mental illness. It takes a strong person to go through the phases of mental illness, but it takes an even stronger person to survive it. If anyone may have any questions please feel free to ask.

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Hello crysewen,

I've done the role of the individual in crisis and I've done the role of the caretaker. They are both immensely challenging and very difficult. I do feel that we don't acknowledge the social bonds that are in place sometimes. My own experience threw my family into crisis and when one of my children later underwent a similar experience, it, likewise, produced enormous conflict for everyone who was connected to them. There is often a very desperate thread of love that runs through such experiences that has the power to cause a family to unravel completely or bond closer together.

You noted that you have nothing else but your faith to turn to. I've turned there myself a few times so I understand. Over the years though, I also found peers and found that peers tended to be better equipped to understand than many others. In your case, peers would be other caregivers. Have you been able to find that for yourself? Meantime, I was also wondering -- how is your mother doing now?

~ Namaste

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Hello Spiritual_Emergency,

Let me start off by saying Thank You. Also, my mom..........As of right now she is institutionalized (long term). It's hard seeing her that way but its something I have to do. Thank you for asking. As for a peer group, etc. No I have not been able to find that. It may be because I have trust issues and I only let people get but so close to me. Yes.I understand humans are meant to disappoint, but it seems that a lot of people in the world has an ulterior motive as to why they befriend you. I'm not saying I alienate my self (no not at all), but I just deal with associates on a need to know basis. So in all the only being that I have to turn to is God. My own family don't even call to see how she's doing (not that I expect them to.) But, I'm taking it one day at a time. I have my days where I just can't stop breaking down and then on other days I'm fine. All in all God has always have my best interest at heart and I will forever be grateful.

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Hello once more crysewen,

There is a statement that gets tossed around a fair bit among caregivers that goes like this: You have to take care of you first. It sounds so entirely practical but what I found was that I wasn't going to be well until my loved one was safe and getting better. As a result, I think it's more true to say: You have to take care of them and you, sometimes at the same time.

For now, your mother is off the street and that is quite the accomplishment. I can well imagine the fear and distress you must have gone through not knowing where she was and if she was okay. There are probably a hundred different things that could be said in terms of taking care of her but for now, she's safe, she's taken care of and now, you need to spend a bit of time taking care of you.

Now that you've found somewhere to share the burden of care, what is happening for you? Do you work or go to school? Are you able to take time out to play, have fun, further your own dreams and goals or do you find that you feel older than your peers and unable to connect with the things that are important to them as a result of your life experiences?

My own family don't even call to see how she's doing (not that I expect them to.)

I'm going to assume there is some reason why the caregiving role fell to you. You say that you don't expect your family to demonstrate any degree of care -- is that because they are incapable of it for some reason or another?

Meantime, you noted that you have some rough days (everyone does) but everyone also usually has some idea of what would help make those days less rough. Can you identify what would help you?

I also found this article that talks about children who have parents who have undergone a form of mental illness. In some ways, these children seem to gain new skills and strengths but there is a necessary trade-off that often requires them setting aside some of their own needs. Coming back into balance would, I think, require that they allow those needs to move back into center and begin addressing them.

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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You're so right. I need to take time for me, but it's hard. The guilt that I feel words alone can't explain. I tend to think that what could I have done different, why didn't I see the signs, why did I choose the denial mechanism? Yes. I've came to the conclusion that its not my fault, but being that I'm an only child its hard to think any other way. I work full time and I go to school full time. I don't see my mom as often as I should because she is about 2 hours away. I don't really have a social life, but that's by choice. I prefer to either pray, meditate on the word, workout, read, go for walks, etc. I'm at a point in my life where I'm engaged by mental stimulation. The whole ordeal has taught me a whole lot. The caregiving role fell on me because I'm the only kid. Besides that out of her three brothers and two sisters, only one of her sisters (my aunt) calls sporadically to see how I'm coping and to see how she is doing. I can also state that when the house went into foreclosure that same sister was there to help, but other than that we don't really communicate. What gets me through the hard days (especially today, just couldn't stop crying) is me praying and reading my bible. I honestly believe my faith and knowing my mom has no one else to advocate for her is what keeps me forging ahead

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That seems to be a stage that everyone goes through -- the stage where they beat themselves up. Yet, the truth is that if you'd known, you'd have done something different. You didn't know and so, you couldn't have done anything differently than what you did. In the end, you learn from it and then, move forward knowing more now than you did then.

I work full time and I go to school full time. I don't see my mom as often as I should because she is about 2 hours away. I don't really have a social life, but that's by choice. I prefer to either pray, meditate on the word, workout, read, go for walks, etc. I'm at a point in my life where I'm engaged by mental stimulation. The whole ordeal has taught me a whole lot.

I suppose the important question would be, is this enough for you right now? Are you okay with doing these things or do you feel that you are missing out on some things?

I don't see my mom as often as I should because she is about 2 hours away.

Can you write her letters? Would that be a way of perhaps maintaining that connection with her and perhaps, assauging some of your guilt because you are investing yourself in your own life?

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It it enough for me? Well as of right now it keeps my schedule jam packed. I know I should be and could be doing more but through my hard work it will all pay off. I know I'm missing out on a WHOLE lot that life has to offer, but I have to work and I have to get educated. My mom does not want to speak to me.If I see her that's one thing but writing or calling her will go on blind eyes and deaf ears. Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to dissect and help me with my issues:)

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I'm going to have to go to sleep very soon crysewen but I thought it might be rude to do so in the middle of the conversation.

A few final thoughts before I go...

When you've gone through a period of turmoil and strife it can be very difficult to invest your faith in the idea that there could come a time when life will not be that way. It can also take time to absorb the full impact of whatever strife you have been through. For that reason, there can be some phases that, of necessity, pass by slowly. Perhaps you're in such a stage of readjustment now.

Meantime, you seem to draw solace and strength from your spiritual/religious pursuits. If there is a group in your town or city that gathers for those purposes, maybe that's something you might enjoy being part of. Much as you've managed to soldier on, there is a part of you that also seems to feel very much alone and lonely. Maybe it's time to let the past be in the past and begin tentatively forging new connections with other people as part of your future.

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