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