Monday, June 16, 2014

Mental Illness - A Mother's Worst Nightmare

We hear much about bipolar disorder in the news these days. It is just one mental disease among many, but it seems the time we hear most about it is when some terrible crime has taken place. I know there are millions of families broken apart by mental illness. When one member of the family is ill, it has a profound effect on the rest of the family. In other words, mental illness is a family disease. (Most of these brain disorders have been around for a long time, but now they have new names. For example, Bipolar Disorder used to be called "Manic Depression".)

When I was growing up, my best friend's mother was mentally ill. She did very strange things before she was committed to a mental institution. For example, she would stay up all night washing the walls, ceilings, floors, dishes and clothes in pure bleach. (I learned never to drink out of any of those glasses!) My friend and her siblings all suffered, but learned to think of it as normal.

Now, many years later, my friend accepts many things as normal that I never would, like having her grown children and their children living with her. My friend is in her sixties, and still, she is playing "Mommy", just as she did in her family of origin where she was the oldest. Her mother was diagnosed as manic-depressive, along with a myriad of other mental problems. Obviously, she also had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Such is usually the case with the mentally ill. They rarely have one problem, but several. Anxiety, OCD, suicidal tendencies, and many other disorders usually accompany bipolar disorder.

I have other friends (and a couple of relatives) who also deal with bi-polar disorder in their grown children. It has torn these families apart, or at least altered what used to be normal. Daughters and sons swing from quiet, sometimes loving people into bizarre vitriol and hatred against their parents, threatening to hurt or kill them, and all without any warning. Or they go to a dark bedroom for days on end, too debilitated by hopelessness to even eat. To say it makes life tense for these families would be an understatement! One relative just breaks my heart every time we talk. She has talked to numerous "experts", but still can make no sense of her daughter's unpredictable vitriol. What makes it so hard for her is that this daughter is extremely intelligent, talented, and extraordinarily beautiful (she is a model). This is often the case with the bipolar.

As we study history, we find out many of the most talented musicians, poets, writers, and artists were either bipolar or schizophrenic. They fluctuated from angry, suicidal depression to the polar opposite of feeling omnipotent. It was usually during the manic state that creativity flowed, either constructively or destructively. Often drug abuse caused their conditions to worsen. And many of them self-injured and/or committed suicide.

Remember Vincent van Gogh (the artist) and the infamous ear-cutting episode? He put the lobe of his left ear into an envelope and gave to a brothel wench named Rachel with these words: "Guard this object carefully." After he tried to drink a quart of turpentine in his studio, he was sent to the asylum at Saint-Remy on May 7, 1889. The doctors began to treat him with hydrotherapy for acute mania and epilepsy. A precise diagnosis of Van Gogh's illness is still unavailable, despite hundreds of conjectures. But mental illness was prevalent in his family.

Herschel Walker won a Heisman Trophy for the University of Georgia in 1982. He was third on ESPN's list of the greatest college football players ever, unveiled this year. But according to ESPN and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Herschel Walker will reveal that he has multiple personality disorder in a book scheduled for an August release by Simon & Schuster. It is called "Breaking Free" and will cover Walker's life with the disorder.

Mentally ill people operate at different levels of functionality. Some, high functioning, still live seemingly normal lives, at least in public. This is most likely when they are consistent with medications; however, not wanting to lose the "highs", many bipolars either refuse, or quit taking the meds that would balance their moods. Other mentally ill people must be confined to institutions.

I once watched a person with bipolar disorder declare, arms outstretched, "God is standing before you today!" It takes a terrible toll on families, especially mothers, because it is the mother who is usually most affected by her baby's behavior.

There are those who believe all brain disorders are nothing more than demon possession. These same people think epilepsy is also demon possession. They based their opinion on Matthew 17:14-16, 18

14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." ( a: Literally moonstruck) 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

I do hope reading about brain disorders will give you a different perspective on what seems to be a fearful or confusing subject. While parents must protect themselves, they must still exhibit love while trying to maintain equilibrium. Often, the mentally ill child will not accept the love; however, it is imperative that parents do not take this personally. Studying the subject of whatever disorder your child has will enable you to understand more and pray with understanding.

I have a friend, Charlene Collins, who is a retired nurse. She also has a mentally ill grown daughter, and she has written much about it. She has given me permission to refer to some of her articles in these pages. So if you are being affected by OCD, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Dissociative Disorder, Epilepsy, or any other mental disease in your family, read on.

People who have mental illnesses are not crazy . They have a brain disorder. People with mental disorders don't just have one thing wrong with them; they have

What is Dissociative Identity Disorder? The illness is what is commonly called "multiple personality disorder" (MPD). This is a psychological disorder characterized by having one or more alter personalities...

The Suicidal Mind [As a child, my own mother couldn't study in school because she never knew if her mother had succeeded at suicide that day.]

If you have an overwhelming drive to wash your hands, or to wipe off surfaces after someone touches them, spend several minutes adjusting a picture on the wall, or continually fixing the fringe of a throw rug, chances are you have a condition known as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Understanding People Who Self-Injure

(Thank you, Charlene.)

2008 April Lorier

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