Whenever I expose some ugly weakness in myself I suffer from the guilt of having it for a really long time, sometimes even years. I’m serious. Those who know me well know this to be true. I will apologize for missteps everytime I see them, I bring them up at every opportunity. I seem to like to remind folks just how ugly I am. So my last blog entry is going to make me pay. How dare I write such a horrible account of a person and their home just because they are different than I am! Who gave me that right?
I’m reading a book right now called “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson. I was looking for some comic relief in my life and this sounded like worth a shot. Turns out this is a book about mental illness, depression and anxiety. I’m finding it very relatable, though I haven’t had all the same experiences. Who else but a mentally unstable person would turn her back on everything she cherished in life to embark on a journey, alone, with no clear vision and no way of sustaining this way of life? Most people who turn their backs on the hamster wheel of life have a plan, a partner and a means to make it happen, or at least one of them. What was I thinking? I’m still looking heavenward for help and direction. In the meantime, I will blah, blah, blog away.
I have lived with mentally ill people all my life, beginning with my mother, who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic when I was in my early teens. But, believe me, my siblings and I were very much aware of her condition long before that, even if we didn’t have the words for it. Our lives were in such sharp contrast to those of our schoolmates it was difficult to ignore. I say “schoolmates” because rarely were we permitted to have friends. We were very isolated growing up. The few times I had a friend over to play I ended up regretting it, and so did they. I can recall bringing a classmate over one day after school when I was ten. We had lunch (this was in Zambia so we didn’t go to school in the afternoon) and then my mother ordered us to take a nap, during which time we had to lay down and not make a sound. After an hour or so of that, I was then told to clean out my guinea-pig’s cage. Once that was accomplished I had to peel the potatoes for dinner. I recall sitting on the stool by the garbage, peeling away, tears rolling down my cheeks as my friend sat nearby, waiting patiently for the nightmare to end. I may not have known how to say “humiliation” but I knew what it felt like. And I wonder why I am so darned awkward and independent, even when I don’t have the means of being so. I tell you, look back, there is an origin to our weirdnesses. (I don’t care if that’s not a word, it is now!) One of my father’s favourite sayings was and still is, “never a borrower nor a lender be”. Another reason why I have the hardest time accepting help or any kindness. I’m getting better at it though, as I continue to run out of resources.
My mother didn’t intentionally treat her children like slaves and try to ruin any joy in their lives. She was born and raised in Germany and lived through the war as a young girl. Her father managed to send her to Scotland after the war, in an attempt to spare her from the atrocities committed by the occupying Russian troops on the people of Eastern Germany. She rarely spoke of those times, indeed she was traumatized and never recovered. She lived in her own private hell. And my father pretended that everything was just fine, his own Victorian upbringing coming into play. Stiff upper lip and all of that. But my father is a sad and lonely man. I don’t hold it against him.
And I am not innocent of crimes against my own children. They have their own stories to tell. I definitely had a distorted idea of parenting which I attribute to my own childhood and also my time spent in a religious group who took “spare the rod and spoil the child ” to a whole new level. If I wasn’t willing to “discipline” my children, there was someone who would. But that is another story. Suffice to say that when God pulled me out of there I went so far the other way my younger children basically raised themselves, and not just because I had developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Remembering how I abused and allowed others to abuse my children still brings tears to my eyes and always will. They know I’m sorry, I have told them.
So, while I am reading “Furiously Happy”, I am wondering if every one of us is mentally ill in some shape or form? Is that what makes us who we are; our fears, our idiosyncrasies, our disorders? And are the ones who appear
normal stable the ones who are victorious? I don’t really believe the latter statement only because I know how broken I am and yet I am not defeated. I truly believe that we all bear enduring scars from our pasts. What we differ in is our ability to cope, hide and/or overcome. Watching my mother and my husband live with mental illness, and having to deal with it myself, I have had the privilege of observing external and internal coping mechanisms, or lack thereof. This brings me to how supremely grateful I am to have my faith, not faith in a church or organization, but in God alone, who I believe cradles me in the palms of His hands, no matter how small, insignificant or lonely I feel. He’s got my back.