This may sound like overstating the obvious, but you don’t grow out of mental illness. For years, decades, I hung on to that hope by my fingernails, waiting for my daughter to “grow up.” She did grow up, but she never grew out of it. I’m not sure exactly what her diagnosis is because I’m not a doctor. Maybe she is manic-depressive. But sometimes she is beyond that and into completely delusional. I don’t know what that is called in med-speak.
My grandmother used to say, “oh she’s just moody. She talks before she thinks. She has a vivid imagination,” yada yada. I believed her because I wanted to believe her. But the years passed, and I compared my experiences with her with those of other women with daughters.
Sure there is always the classic mother/daughter melodrama. There is the rebellion and teen angst. However, over the years I had to face up the fact that my story, which I kept pretty much to myself, was far worse than any I heard from others with “normal” children. Looking back, my daughter was not just a difficult child, there was something wrong.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked at her or listened on the phone and thought “my God, who are you?” Other times I picture her as a gaily colored balloon, floating off in the sky and wish that I could reach out, grab the string and reel her in, protect her, save her.
I’ve listened to her narratives for hours wondering where on earth was this coming from. She will tell me about how sad she is that she was raised in an orphanage. Huh? As her mother, I think I would have noticed that. It took me a while to realize that she was telling me about her “childhood” as if I was a someone who didn’t know her and wasn’t there. “My mother did this, my mother said that….”
The next day she’ll tell me that I was mean to her all her childhood, that she had to forage for food and so on. Perhaps she had just finished reading Charles Dickens or something? Who knows. Some of it is so off the wall and bizarre that it could almost be funny, except it’s not.
It rips my heart out with a rusty spoon. Occasionally she claims she’s seeing a therapist. But, she’s said that so many times before. I pretty much take anything said with a lot of salt. I have no idea if she is on medication. It’s difficult to get a straight answer.
So what do you do when your grown child is mentally ill? I can’t force her to seek help. According to her she doesn’t need help. What she needs is for me not to exist. Quite a conundrum. She’s chock full of rage, the majority of it directed at me.
I have been locked in the dark night of the soul so many times that I should be awarded an honorary PhD with a major in insomnia and a minor in circular thinking. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? What did I not do before, what can I do now? Somehow, if I just try hard enough, pray enough, sacrifice enough, I will fix this.”
Well I can’t fix this. What I can do is yank myself up by the collar and say “Hey! You did not cause this. She is ill. These are the cards she got in the grand and glorious celestial poker game and that is that. She will get help or she won’t, it’s up to her.” It still hurts though.