How to deal with a schizophrenic mother?


#1

My mother is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and Biplolar II.

Growing up with my mother was difficult – I’m sure that the story will be familiar for most of you. She was abusive emotionally, physically and verbally for much of my childhood, and probably contributed a great deal to my depression developing at about age 7-8. I don’t really wish to go into the specifics.

I mention my depression because it is an important factor in how I react to my mother. Essentially I have chronic depression that means that I am sad and feel hopeless about 70 - 90% of the time, with fluctuations between just having a light feeling of sadness to severe depression, suicidal ideation, utter despair etc etc.

I have for the last year been on a study abroad programme, and the space, distance and freedom has done a lot for getting a great deal sorted in my mind. I have been in therapy for about two and a half years but have recently started taking Seroquel to help my depression (as antidepressants caused me to go into a hypomanic state), and through this I have been feeling a great deal better. I have voluntarily gone into the hospital once here when I was genuinely afraid I would try to kill myself. I see my psychiatrist here every two weeks and my therapist weekly. Despite this I find myself with a fulfilling and happy life here, and I am slowly making progress with my second language.

Two years ago my mother walked out on my Dad, my autistic brother and myself without any warning – just upped and left, when both my brother and myself were sitting end-of-year-exams. She had previously left twice for a period of a few weeks taking my brother with her. My father has since found a new fiance, but it was an extremely difficult year with my mother threatening to take my father to court for “rape” (untrue), forcing a sale of the house (thus uprooting my autistic brother who needs stability to function properly in ) and calling the Law society on my father’s practice to attempt to get his law practice shut down. Her delusions all sound “reasonable” at face-value, and only on closer inspection can be seen to be baseless.

My mother has said many extremely hurtful things. She has essentially alienated everyone in her life apart from me and my brother, who is on the point of cutting her off.
She will cut anyone off who mentions her illness (she does thankfully have insight that she is ill), and she does not take her medication nor see her psychiatrist regularly. If we have a reasonably amicable conversation and the topic of mental illness or psychology comes up (which is not unreasonable given this is what I study and am hoping to make a career in) she will get a dangerous glint in her eye and I can immediately feel something is “off” and I have approximately three seconds to change the subject or all hell will break loose. I cannot talk to her about my medication or my own struggles with my mental health, something I hoped would be something we could ‘bond’ over as something in common.

I understand that much of her behavior that is not caused by the delusions comes from her inability to deal with the world. As a child, she would constantly yell at us in order to get us to be quiet and therefore easier to manage. By yelling and hitting she was able to make us docile and therefore within her capability to deal with. The problem is that while this works with children, it does not work with adults, and I believe that living a “real” life can be very difficult. I don’t fault my mother for that, as it is a product of her illness. I do however fault her for not attempting to manage her illness

I can understand my mother to some extent. My psychiatrist seems to think that I have some risk of developing schizoaffective disorder as I have had some visual hallucinations and paranoid thoughts in the past. I can also to some extent understand that when someone is unwell thoughts become terribly warped. When I am extremely depressed I think that everyone hates me and is talking about how shit I am, and that I am scum and not worth living.

However I have much difficulty dealing with my mother. If I get too stressed then it can trigger a depressive episode. I don’t enjoy having abuse heaped on me at unpredictable intervals. I understand that this sounds ‘snobby’ but I grieve that I cannot have an intellectually equal conversation with my mother. I don’t want to talk about this all the time of course but any time I bring up anything that she has difficulty grasping then she will go “strange” and I have the same three-second window to introduce a new topic before she explodes.

I cannot relate to her on an emotional level about the difficulties of mental health. Through trial and error I have found that I can have an amicable, light, superficial relationship but even that is very difficult sometimes. I am walking on eggshells any time I spend time with her, and I must endure snide jabs and inappropriate allusions to my father’s sex life etc.

My difficulty lies essentially in the fact that I have many friends who have some “flavour” of mental health difficulties from anxiety/agoraphobia to gender dysphoria to biploar and schizoaffective disorders. I respect all of them greatly as they continue to take their medication and do everything within their power to keep their illnesses under control.

I am aware that my view is clouded due to my mother’s relationship with me, but I suppose at the very end of it, I understand that I cannot change her and I must deal with her as she is now.

My questions are, I suppose

  1. How can I, as a young adult of 21 learn to keep my mother’s illness affecting me as little as possible, especially her side jabs and nasty comments? How can I keep her actions from breeding resentment and anger in me? It is still extremely painful.

  2. How can I move past the abuse I received in childhood?

  3. How am I to interact with her, other than in this extremely superficial way? She demands that there be some relationship, and she does try, in her way. I would like a more conventional mother-daughter relationship but I feat that this is impossible

Many thanks for reading this, I thought I would seek advice from others in similar situations.


#2

My mother, my aunt and my sisters are not diagnosed with schizophrenics. Yet my childhood is also filled with trauma, stress, distress, emotional abuse and verbal violence. It persists til today. They are often standout in the crowd and attract a lot of attention.

I think u have heard of this. Probably u and I have three sources of factors going hand in hand, contributing to a high risk of severe mental health disorder. They are Genetics, biological, and environmental factors. Also, there exists considerate effects of a high level of stress, which becomes toxic stress. They contribute to dysfunctioning in attention, emotional regulation (say, self soothing, digesting unpleasant emotions) and executive functioning (eg, decision making and the abilities to set up goal directed behaviors and follow thru). You may refer to the Harvard centre of developing child if u want more information of these kinds.

I believe you will benefit from learning as much as possible on strategies in emotional regulation.

Some people try out psychological therapy and recieve a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Some people find their solution in learning Buddhism and creative writing, forcing themselves to change their world views and thinking patterns.

Some people manage their unpleasant emotions through regular exercising. They say boxing is indeed excellent for venting out your negatives. I think a lot of people choose running and swimming.

Some people widen their life exposure and focus on building up of strengths, working on the positives and took their eyes off the negatives.

Some people expose themselves to a lot of life experience like expressive arts and volunteer service. This allow them to work on their internal models of the world. They get to know new friends who have different stories, different personalities and different styles of thinking. They could manage to learn from the others. People do learn how to be happy. They can gradually train up their brain and change their traits, or to be specific responses in front of different conditions. Traits and response are malleble. You can choose to have a different set of responses.

they also learn to get their attention shift from the negative to the positive. Probably if one day u can take it less serious you re under the negative influence of your mother, you are toward the success of out growing her influence on you.

You will also benefit from a lot of hard core training in pragmatic problem solving skills. This I hope could find a therapist who could coach and model so as to shape up your skills.

I suppose it is enough for now so I would stop here.


#3

I have been brought up by a schizophrenic mother who refused to admit her illness and therefore has received medical aid only a few years before and after I was born. I read your post attentively and I can tell you that I lived the same type of abuse and my mother is unfortunately in a worse state than yours.

I believe you are lucky to have understood so early what is and what is not your mother’s fault in her behaviour, you seem to be living with her in proximity and your own behaviour might be affected by hers if not. I believe that the fact that I can read no resentment in your post, but only lucid , careful analysis os the situation is the best thing that can happen, even though you are understandably hurt by your mother’s irrational and (still ) abusive behaviour.

You are a young adult (at 21 I’d rather say an old teenager, technically, until 25 you still are one, in so much as your personality is not yet finalised) woman and you risk inheriting the behaviour that is making you hurt. I might say that this is what happened to me and that I am making every day now a new battle to understand and eliminate these leftoversfrom my mom’s abuse so that I will not abuse unwillingly my husband and my son. I have to admit that sometimes I do and that, unfortunately, I find in what you are saying about your mom things that my husband has to bear from my part or things he tries to explain to me. My therapist said that such a relationship mother-daughter always ends up in a traumatised and very ill daughter. It is not to say that your depression- almost - schizoaffective disorder is your mom’s fault. But your mom’s proximity, or rather the proximity of her problems is affecting both you and your brother in a very bad way.

I will have to tell you that unfortunately you will have at some point to cut her off too.

You are not to blame for her illness so you are not responsible for her, nor do you have to take care of her , and the energy spent to bear the mean actions of a woman who refuses to take care of her illness is energy that might be essential to your mere survival (you are depressive, right?) Even if she is your mom, she has to earn her place next to you if she loves you. Until she asks for medical help, takes her meds and admits that her behaviour is the result of her illness and not of your dad’s sexual life, practice, or other - you should not let her talk to you.

You will have to learn that not punishing her attitude towards you by cutting her off is simply enabling her to go on like this and harm herself and everybody else. You and your brother should be firm and conditionalize your love towards her: "mom, get some help for your SZ and then we can talk with you. You are exhausting us, we have our own conditions to take care of and we are serious about it, the fact that you do not take yours seriously is not tolerable anymore. " Screams and pain will ensue, but if you keep your ground she will simply take her meds. :smiley:

Love,

Zupa


#4

As for the abuse in childhood, this is what you are doing by getting your life productive and straightened up, you are in therapy etc. No advice there as you seem to be doing very well already. :smiley:


#5

For the third point, you will not have a conventional mother-daughter relationship, there is no such a thing, only in movies, glossy pictures and commercials. You have this mother and she has this daughter, and you will have to make do with reality, both of you, or just deny it endlessly. :wink:


#6

pls read this book its excellent its called toxic parents in it it states how to deal with the abuser now and how to set boundries etc it really helped me.


#7

I think Zupa pretty much said it all. I’m pretty sure my father had some form of sz or psychosis. Paranoia over the neighbors talking about him. extreme religious idealization or being an alcoholic or a combination of the two and physical and emotional abuse were a normal part of my childhood. I think you are doing an amazing job of putting everything into perspective. I think I understood at a very young age that I couldn’t expect more from my father. He hurt me a lot but I didn’t blame him. Unfortunately I blamed my mother instead. Now I don’t blame anyone. I certainly understand wanting a better relationship with your mom. I think you are doing what you can. Maybe in the end just accepting that she is giving what she can. I didn’t realize that about my mom until after she passed.


#8

Goggles:

Thank your for your very helpful suggestions! They coalesce ideas that I had floating around, and provide some direction on what I can do to help myself!

Zupa: Thank you very very much – it is especially useful to hear advice from people who have been in the same situation. I deeply appreciate your insight. It is difficult to hear that I may have to cut her off (temporarily) but it is something to think on I think. I am currently thinking about moving out of my father’s house very soon after I arrive back in my home country, and I think that when I am able to have a bit of emotional distance then it will be a bit easier to assert myself a little better.

Dandydinmont: Thankyou, I have downloaded it and will be reading it over the holiday period!

BarbieBF: Thank you, in the end we all just have to do the best we can with what we have.


#9

Hei, I don"t know if you still follow this thread, but I have news for you: taking after your insightful and caring way to thinkof your mother, I re-thought my mom"s illness too. I sent her on fb a message telling her what I thought of her disorder and the way it might be a inherited family trait (my kid brother seems to develop a manic-depressive behaviour too) to which she did not directly reply, but it seems, taking after her ensuing fb posts, that she has sought help ,not psychiatric help, only a psychologist but hey, any help is better than none. Recently, on her birthday, I posted a picture of her grandson and she had a moment of motherly and grandmotherly normality which she rapidly deleted. She accepted however, my birthday wishes so I believe I am on a good stand after all of that.

So, thank you for making me re-think my mom"s implication in my own illness and helping me communicate, as little as it is possible right now, the fact that I am no longer blaming her for it. My mom has cancer and she will probably die soon. I have no idea how bad it is, as my family has tried to hide her illness from me until three months ago when my husband has forced them to acknowledge it, but…you know, it could have been too late to tell her all of that if it weren"t for your post. I still protect myself from my mother, as she is the same self-centered, sick person she was, but at least now she knows that I still love her for all she could have been if only she took her meds.

Thank you again for posting this.

Love,

Zupa


#10

Zupa:

I am so glad to hear that your mother has sought some sort of help – it is not ideal of course, but as my friend says to me, half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf at all.
I am also glad to hear that there has been some improvements in your relationship – I think that even the smallest positive changes should be celebrated!

I think that you would have talked to your mother at some point regardless of whether I posted or not but thank you for your kind words (:

It may be taking a liberty, but I think that I still detect some bitterness in your words " I still love her for all she could have been if only she took her meds". I hope that with time you are able to move past this, and stop hurting because of the past.

– Winter


#11

Thank you. As for the bitterness, no. It"s just plain and simple mercy. She has done a lot of harm to herself and she has lost a lot of opportunities to be a happy , fulfilled woman by avoiding therapy. And I really loved it when I was little, she was still or partially on meds and she was glowing with intelligence and drive. I miss that. Nobitterness, I promise! :smile:


#12

Hi Winter,

How’s everything? You are in my thoughts.

goggles


#13

Hi, don’t know if you’re still reading

Things are better. For lack of a better word I ‘came out’ to my mother about my own mental difficulties and was very firm with her that I didn’t want negative talk about my father. There’s been a few snide comments, but it’s better.

However, I will be returning home shortly, and face-to-face communication is somewhat different than semi-weekly emails. I think I need to remember what I’ve learned this year – I am an individual and she is an individual and we are not responsible for each other.

~Winter


#14

Yes I’m still around. It’s good to know that you’re coomunicating your concerns to mom directly. It’s great that you find confident in your way. I wish you could establish a lot of support as you return home, and keep on going!


#15

I think Zupa is right. My Mom has been my #1 when battling my illnesses, but we still don’t have a conventional relationship. Even if your mom was all better and in a sympathetic/you can do it/whatever it takes to make you better frame of mind it still doesn’t make for the kind of relationship that you see in movies or read in books. There will always be things that you can’t/don’t want to share with her and there will always be things that she can’t/doesn’t want to share with you.
You are both human. Sz, depressed, ADD, you name it. With or without you are both human. My Mom and I are both human. There is no glossy fairy book family relationship, but that doesn’t mean that meaningful ones aren’t out there.
I have no experience, but Zupa sounds right about everything. You can’t let her keep hurting you or your brother. I hesitate to say this because I don’t know your Mom, but maybe if you do give her that ultimatum (get stable or I won’t talk to you) she will come around.


#16

This is sad and I can relate on so many levels. I grew up in a family and home where my mother had no diagnosis. It seems she was well aware of her illness and perfectly capable of hiding it from everyone else. Her most destructive behavior included. This is why I will tell you that after 30 + years of therapy and continuous struggle to avoid life threatening situations from a psychologically adept schizophrenic, there is no healthy way to maintain a relationship with one. Once they have made up their mind you are a threat and have caused them harm they will continue to come up with more and more creative ways to end your life simply laughing and waiting in the wings until you either die or figure it out.
I wish I had been able to know and accept the truth of her illness and build a support system much earlier in life rather than just be sad I did not have a normal relationship with my mother.
Things do not get better, they only become more adept at getting away with things as people fall into their manipulative and destructive hands.
Good luck, please find your life independence and separate yourself as much as you can now while you are young and can build a future based on healthy relationships.


#17

I was never really bought up in a stable home per say. I don’t remember a lot of my childhood. I remember the screaming matches between my Grandmother and Mum. I remember my mother being taken away to “hospital” when I was 7 but I honestly can’t remember a time where I ever felt my mothers love or care. Every action that my mother has taken up to this point has been with a selfish intent. I am spoiled. I admit that much. I think it was some kind of apology I suppose. A ‘sorry I can’t accept the fact that I’m ill and not insult and harm you’ kind of thing-hush money of sorts. I am 14. I shouldn’t have to live on edge, worrying if my mother is going to have another manic break. I shouldn’t flinch overtime my mother or grandmother so much as raises her voice at me or not. But it happens and i do. I am no saint. I know that I have egged my mother on in some points. She screams, so I scream. She says that she wants me to drop dead and that she hates me, so I tell her the same. The only time I feel truly happy these days is at school but even then I am on edge.
“What if she comes and picks me up early from school again because she thinks that I have been kidnapped?”
“What if she rages into school and yells at me infront of everybody?”
“What if she rings up the school again?”
Every time my name is called to go to the office I have a panic attack thinking that she’s had/having another manic break. I tried talking to my Grandmother and Great-Aunt about my fears and worries but they still treat me like a child. They don’t understand that I have had to mature a lot quicker than a lot of other kid my age and I definitely feel the generation gap. I turned to my friends once but my Grandmother found out and yelled at me. I quote “Its none of their business, you don’t talk to friends about such matters.” Then who can I talk to? My Grandmother? Every word I say she has to critique. My Great -Aunt? She reports everything I do or say back to my Grandmother. I definitely can’t talk to my mother thats for sure. I know its selfish for me to think this way, especially since my Grandmother and mother have had to deal with it a lot longer than I have. But I’m 14. Im supposed to be self absorbed and selfish at this age aren’t i? I just want to go to school and get away from the mess that is my house life honestly. Cant i do that?


#18

Is there some other family members (besides grandmother and great aunt) that would let you live with them?


#19

If it’s any comfort, know that others students at your school also likely have “problem parents”–alcoholism, abiuse, even mental illness. Even if you don’t know about it or they don’t talk about it.

At 14, it’s hard to feel different from your peers. I understand that. Just know that it’s not a reflection on you. It’s your mom’s problem behavior. Don’t be embarrassed by it.

I would encourage you to talk to your school’s counselor or guidance councellor. Or even a trusted teacher. They may be able to set limits on your mom’s visits or phone calls to your school. School is hard enough; don’t go through this alone. Be brave and find someone to confide in. And don’t tell your grandma or great aunt😊


#20

Naya, I was also raised by a sz mother. She’d call or go to my school, my friends, their parents-- and tell them all about how I was being watched or possessed or in danger. She’d tell them about her visions.

She believed she had to tell three people every day about her visions so she’d go door to door and eventually someone would politely ask her to wait outside a moment. Then they’d call the police who would give my mother a ride home.

In one of her journals she’d written that the Virgin Mary had stopped her in Target and informed her that if she wasn’t elected president in the up coming election she was supposed to ax murder her family.

I’m telling you all this so you fully know that I get where you’re coming from.

Do whatever you need to do to stay strong and sane. Don’t let your strength come from drinking or drugs… that’s a false strength that will only leave you weaker than you started.

If you need to talk to your friends, talk to your friends. If you need to talk to school counselors, do that. You’re well within your right to not tell your family that you’re reaching out. If the women in your family discover that you’ve been discussing your life with outsiders and object, that’s okay. They’re allowed to feel what they feel and you’re 14yo so there’s not much you can do about their behavior. Obviously yelling back won’t help your cause. Reasoning with them doesn’t seem to help your cause either. Maybe the best you can do when they’re yelling is to remind yourself that their yelling about THEIR FEELINGS about your actions. You can listen and say that you understand what they’re saying. You can say that you appreciate what they’re telling you they need (which is apparently your silence) and that you hope someday they’ll appreciate what you’re telling them you need (a way to feel less isolated and helpless and a way to keep your own mind healthy). Make no mistake… this will not win them to your side. Your goal is to keep your own composure because every time you lose your composure you’re training your synapses to respond that way. That has the negative side effect of adding to your feeling of helplessness. A hopeful added bonus to your composure would be that over time, your words might plant a seed in your women-folk’s heads that will eventually grow into understanding. But it might not. That’s okay. Its about you. Do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy and strong while not allowing yourself to be drawn into fights you can’t possibly win.

You’ll get through this. I promise. It sucks and it’s wicked hard but literally keep your head up and keep moving forward. You don’t have to have all the answers and solutions right now. Remind yourself that it’s enough to keep yourself strong and healthy today. Tomorrows will take care of themselves as long as you keep taking care of your todays.