Having a Parent with a Mental Illness

Having a Parent with a Mental Illness

I had the best parents growing up who cared for me deeply. Dad was working graveyards a lot and it was not very often that I would completely fall asleep until I got my goodnight kiss from him. Mom was always making things fun, play dough, construction paper and encouraging my creative side. There were unexplained incidences that took place during my childhood and I bet that many of you can relate. Late one night I had my friend Tracy sleeping over and we were woken up by my grandparents and father speaking quite loudly, saying things like 'Bridget Bridget!" "She is not even responding!" "What is wrong with her?  It is like talking to a wall!"  Now I realize my mother was catatonic.  As the sirens of the ambulance pulled up, I heard the attendants come in the house and it was not too long before my mother was screaming bloody murder. I now find it strange that two full grown men would need to put a straight jacket on my 110 pd mother, but they felt the need to anyway. I guess that is something I have always wondered about. At the time I did not know what was happening except my mother was screaming and an ambulance was taking her away. Tracy and I cried softly trying not to make any noise. I always wished someone would have come into my room that night and explained to me what had taken place. I was around 7 years old and I knew enough that something was wrong with my mother. There was no explanation the next day except to say 'your mother is in the hospital'. For what? A broken leg? A heart attack? If the two former things had taken place, there is not doubt that I would have been told what was truly going on. We shelter our children from the realities of having a parent with a mental illness, but in reality they never are never truly shielded from it.  There will be an impact so it is deciding what kind of impact that is going to be.  They are confused when they hear of strange conversations about hospitals and medications and how the ill parent has something 'wrong' with them.  If a child is not provided a truthful explanation of events past, then the immediate reaction is to recoil in shame. The point is to be honest with your kids. Tell them what is going on and assure them it is nothing to be ashamed, but can become part of a support team for the loved one.  I was never afforded the privilege of visiting my mother in the hospital and because of the stigma that pervaded my childhood experience I became afraid of psych wards and became ashamed of my mother, and was uncomfortable having her around my peers. I know I was a kid but it still brings tears to my eyes to think of how this cast a shadow over my childhood in manyrespects but at least I am here for her now.


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