My sister came home for the holidays from her tour in the military. She’s been in for 23 years and counting. I made the trek home to spend time with my children and grandchildren. I taught my sons long ago to spend the holidays where they feel at peace and the least amount of stress. Now that they are older and have experienced life, my sons want nothing more than to capture the creature comforts of their pasts with a side of momma’s cooking.
We all find pleasure in these things. We enjoy being around one another. Being with my children and grandchildren is important these days. Life is good, but at times being with my maternal family is strained.
There are pieces of my life that are filled with trauma, family, pain, and unrest that I hadn’t dealt with. It’s a constant source of stress, especially when I come home and my sister insists on pulling the scab off of old childhood wounds I’m trying to live with every time we meet. We can’t talk without about anything without her bringing up or circling back to my mother. She feels my mother is alone and has no one. I feel her now results from how she’s treated others in the past.
My sister believes we all should just forget about everything she’s done to us individually and collectively to become a “Leave it to Beaver” family. That’s never happening because I’m not interested in remaking my childhood. After all the things my mother has done to me and my children and trauma caused by her actions years later, I can’t deal with her.
My sister witnessed a lot of my abuse and trauma. Because in so many ways she similar to my mother in how they treat people and the utter disregard for their feelings, I find it difficult most times to even tolerate my only sister, but I do because she was a victim too. Apparently still brainwashed. She doesn’t respect my trauma.
When people don’t respect your trauma, it’s a problem. My mother doesn’t respect my trauma. My sister helps her be disrespectful to me. They both rob me of my peace, and I ain’t having any of it!
The source of my trauma and my sister’s undying advocacy on my mother’s behalf is my mother’s mental illness. She’s a “functionally” schizophrenic with bipolar disorder and she’s also delusional. I have tried to have her committed at least twice (a story forthcoming) as her disease and behavior got worse (i.e. threatening visiting relatives with her gun) while my sister was away overseas. Mental health providers just gave her pills, diagnosis and tossed her back out onto the streets. As long as I’ve known my mother she has been unwell in her upstairs parts. There have been several constants about her.
She’s always a victim.
She’s always wronged by someone or something. Even when she’s the aggressor.
She has always had multiple personalities. Her public self is the one that makes her appear lucid and normal. Her evil, vindictive, manipulative self is the one that tormented us as children and now as adults, and her violent self is the one that comes out at anytime when she’s backed into a corner, or for no good reason.
She is never wrong. No matter what she does to you, it’s never her fault. She also remembers nothing.
My Mother’s Parenting
I have ample reason to be standoffish with my mother (read the story below). She was extremely physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive during my childhood. During my adulthood she was financially abusive and manipulative. Her family knew she was crazy (yes I said CRAZY, it’s my life, my story, and my feelings told through non-political filters), yet they did nothing to help her or us. They left us to fend for ourselves. The men she’d be dating would find out how crazy she was eventually left her. Most were nice enough to leave without harming us. Others, not so much. So not only have I endured her abuse, I have to reconcile there were sane adults in our lives who did nothing.
I don’t know why people mind their own business with child abuse and the mentally ill, but have no business telling us adults how much of a fuck-up we are as adults. Sometimes I hate people for being so selfish, so short-sighted, so evil, so neglectful, and so righteous when it serves them. Sorry, not sorry.
My mother treated me almost as bad as you’d treat a slave I’d say. I guess that’s how she was treated. If you have a rough childhood, I don’t know why it’s so hard to break the cycle of family violence. Being born to a parent with mental illness is the bad gift that keeps on giving bad gifts. There was no nurturing or love, very little kindness, and parenting came with a notice that when you turned 18 years old, her part of parenting was over as soon as your diploma was in hand. She provided no support for any of us when we became legal adults according to the law.
That’s why my sister went into the military. It’s why my brother joined too. My mother put his clothes outside of the house for going out on his high school graduation night with friends. He slept in his car and couch surfed until he saved up enough money from his job at Lizard’s Thicket to get an apartment. Life was too hard at 18 years old to work, go to college, and maintain a place so he joined the Air Force. My sister followed his footsteps after trying to make it through college without financial support from my mother or tax returns to complete her FAFSA. I was long gone in foster care by the time these events occurred. Tossed away because I was the defiant one. I called crazy, crazy. I also told on crazy. It was how I escaped my abuser.
My mother was an evil woman. Plenty of people will say it was her mental illness and she couldn’t help it, but I don’t buy it. Too many people give people with mental illnesses, even undiagnosed ones, a get out of jail free card for the abuses and deeply distressing or disturbing experiences they inflict on others, with no regard for their victims. She could turn her crazy on and off like a light switch which let me know early on she had performative sanity. A sanity that should could control when she wanted to avoid punishment for her abuse and neglect.
Her mental illnesses caused trauma intentionally. She knew what she was doing was wrong.
Now my mom is old and wants us to move on from our trauma because she’s lonely. Loneliness happens when you treat people like shit. It’s a little blind spot many functionally mentally ill people forget. You will get sicker because there is no cure for mental illness, and if your mental illness causes you to harm or injure others physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, or mentally, one day, you will find yourself old and alone.
My sister and brother have moved on, apparently. I’m still salty, and that’s my prerogative. Nobody gets to determine when I get over all the shit that done to me but me, and if I never get over it, that’s their problem to deal with, not mines. Trauma doesn’t come with a stopwatch, nor does it come with a plan forgiveness.
Mental Illness Should Not Be a Pass Or Crutch
Mental illness shouldn’t mean we give people with it who harm us a get out of jail free card. They need to know how they harmed us, sometimes irreparably. The old lines “I did the best I could” or “I did the best I knew how to at the time” doesn’t cut it. These are cop outs most times and a way for people with mental illness to act terribly without repercussions. No one deserves to be born into such evil and dysfunction. If you’re screwing up adult relationships, it’s high likely you will screw up your offspring’s life. I’m just saying.
Some people should never have children.
If you do the crime of creating trauma in any living thing, you need to understand you must do the time for it. I know too many people who inflicted trauma on others they claim they love but have never apologized for it. Look no further than the White House to the Trauma Master-In-Chief. While Donald Trump is the most explicit and overt example of someone with a mental illness not treating living things and human beings well, there are millions of people around the globe living with mental illnesses getting green lights to harm/injure us every single day.
Mental illness is not a doctor’s excuse to be cruel to others, especially when people refuse treatment for decades like my mother did. We need to stop ignoring the victims of mental illness and treat them the same way we treat cancer survivors and victims of sexual crimes/child sexual abuse. The trauma rarely goes away. Dismissing victims of mental illness is one reason we have so many people walking among us doing harm to others.
For example, we’ll have so much compassion for Kate Spade who committed suicide in part because of her mental illness, but what about victims of her abuse, volatility, and manipulation like her husband, her daughter, siblings or her employees. Where is the concern for their trauma?
The same lack of concern applies for Bryce Gowdy, the oldest of three young brothers who were homeless and living with a mother who was not dealing with her mental illness. Bryce’s mother wasn’t getting the mental health help she needed and the children apparently did not receive enough family and community support. The burden of caring for his mother and his siblings fell upon him. He was just 17 years old when he killed himself because he was tired of living.
What about his trauma from being raised by a mentally unstable parent and not getting the support of the likely sane parent who didn’t desire to deal with the mentally ill mother any longer? What about the trauma of his siblings now dealing with a mentally ill mother and a sibling who committed suicide?
Look away, ignore, forget, repeat. That’s what most of us well!
My mother caused similar trauma to me and my siblings. We were left to pick up the pieces all by ourselves, which is why I don’t care about anyone’s forgiveness platitudes. It’s the reason I don’t care about my sister’s wishes or my mother’s loneliness.
My trauma will come before anyone else’s desires. It’s how I maintain my peace.
I’m agnostic now, but when I was practicing Christianity, my favorite scriptures were about peace. Matthew 10:13 (NIV) says, “If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.” My mother’s home does not represent peace, so my peace cannot rest there. Her house stopped being my home a long time ago. It was never really a place of peace. My peace is all I have that I can control and I stopped allowing people to tamper with it when I realized how priceless peace was.
My mother doesn’t represent peace. She represents years of strife, abuse, neglect, and mental illness. As she’s aged, her disease has only gotten worse. It makes it impossible to have a decent relationship with her. Not only that, she’s unrepentant. My mother doesn’t remember all she’s done to me, or so she says, therefore she doesn’t feel the need to apologize. One of the worst things a human being can do to another is to not acknowledge the trauma and injuries caused by their behavior or their words. It adds insult to injury and causes further trauma.
I can’t relinquish my peace because she wants to move on as if nothing ever happened without acknowledging the things she did. I’m more precious than that.
There is no peace where there is unresolved trauma, and for many adults, parents living with mental illnesses and personality disorders have no interest in addressing how they ruined our lives. To the inflictors of trauma, you can never escape what you’ve done. You may get away with it for a little while, maybe even a long one. But at some point, you will deal with the consequences of those sins you inflicted and ignored. We underestimate the devastating impact of functionally mentally ill people.
It’s the prerogative and right of any mentally ill parent to ignore the injuries they caused, but they don’t have the right to ask the injured to move on from their traumas just because the perp did. That’s inconsiderate. It’s rude. It’s more insanity on top of the crazy. The same applies to my mother. My peace outweighs her loneliness every single day with no regrets.
She did the crime, so she must do her time.
The trauma caused by her is like a life sentence in prison I must deal with for the rest of my life. She must live with the results of it. Mental illness is not a doctor’s excuse to continue to abuse me or anyone else. Victims must be restored before we can be made whole. A justice needs to take place before healing can begin. That’s where peace begins.
Where there is no justice or peace, there is no rest, and I cannot rest in my mother’s presence.
If you enjoyed this thought, you may enjoy these thoughts about my family as well: