All in the Family
Acceptance: Step One to a Better Life
There is magic everywhere; on the floors, on the sheets, in the walls. She tries to cut it out but it never really goes away. Spells are put on her by the same people who are always stealing her clothes and dishes. It’s the women her husband is always cheating with. They are the ones putting the evil in her home. She knows he is cheating because he never takes her out and they don’t have sex regularly. I know this because she tells me, because she thinks I am her friend, but I am not. I am her daughter.
My mom has paranoid personality disorder. I finally got her to see a psychiatrist a few years ago but she only went three times. Aside from her mandated stay at the hospital resulting from her calling the cops on my dad for killing her brother who had just passed away in Italy, she has never seen anyone for treatment. As the officers escorted her to the ambulance, I could feel my mind fracture my heart. They kept her for two days, releasing her after discovering I was a mental health counselor. She still blames every pain she gets in her aging body on the drugs they gave her then.
My mom says she is fine. She doesn’t see her illness. That’s common for people with her disorder. Living life with mom has been both an adventure and a lesson in patience. She is one of eight children, most of whom had mental illness. Sadly, none of them actually sought help except for her brother, John, who was schizophrenic and briefly hospitalized when he became catatonic. My mom’s illness has progressively gotten worse. She has ripped the molding off most of the walls in her home. She burns incense every single day, twice a day, to the point where a neighbor once thought our house was on fire. She reads the bible daily, religion being a theme in her paranoia.
I often tell myself I should be glad the only thing I got hit with was depression. My mental health resume is as follows: When I was 14, I was afraid to brush my teeth at night with the door open fearing my father would stab me from behind. When I was 16, I sat on my bed holding his gun, with the bullets spread out like a path to peace before me. When I was 22, I tested my veins with the blade of a knife and washed out the thoughts with vodka. When I was 29, I celebrated with a bottle of pills and some liquor. I was persistent, if not successful. I was also very lucky because I never wanted to die. I was just tired, exhausted from how hard breathing had become. I was tired of being tired.
I have been battling depression most of my life, though I didn’t always know it. I never went to a therapist until I was 22. She was the first of many I would see through the years. She tried putting me on meds but I stopped taking them, deciding I could do better on my own. I never liked the idea of needing something. I had issues with commitment. I can’t remember the number of jobs I’ve held and quit, or the number of therapists I’ve seen. I soon discovered drinking would make me feel better in the moment. So partying became my new antidepressant and blackouts were just a side effect.
I met my husband when I was on this self-prescribed treatment plan. I hid my amount of binge drinking by pre-drinking. He was smart, hard-working, and despite having met at a club, not into partying as I was. He was handsome and he made me laugh. So nine months after meeting this man, who made me want to walk away from the ledge, I married him.
I wish I could say that was the end of my battle, some magical happily ever after cure all, but it wasn’t it. It took years of on and off again binge drinking and getting on and off meds before I managed to understand this was not something I could just get over, or cure. This was something I needed to make peace with and accept. I needed to accept that medication was going to be part of my routine, and that this did not mean I was weak or crazy, it meant I had an illness. It took me years to realize that just like my mother, I had been unraveling in my own way through my own denial. With the support of a man who refused to let me drag him into the depths of my despair and also refused to abandon me there, I started to climb out of the abyss and find myself again, maybe for the very first time.