Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Talk about Mental!

Is anyone in your family mentally ill? Supposedly we had an aunt back 2 generations ago. But, my mother is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur. She was diagnosed when I was two years old. No one really knows why. I can't wait to get to heaven and ask the Big Guy about it. I wonder things like...Why couldn't she be healed? What purpose did her life serve? Why would You let her go through life like that? The main question though...Why couldn't she act like a normal mom? I really wanted a normal mom. Someone I could talk to about being a girl, how to act around boys, and falling in love. That was a fantasy for me while other kids might have fantasized over (okay I tried, but I have no clue what a normal kid fantasized about.)

I know there are questions that come up every day with family members that are mentally ill. Dealing with them day in and day out makes you want to give up. Sometimes, I have to take a break from her. Oh yeah, I should probably mention that I'm her guardian. THAT was a three year long battle! Something for another blogtime.

On a good day, my mother thinks there are only a few of me. On a bad day, she thinks there are 17 of me, if she recognizes me at all. I learned to wear light colored clothing. What? Light colors are less evil to her. If I wear dark colors, she thinks I'm the evil one of the 17 of me. Yeah, keep that straight.

Then there's the sexual, religious (having nothing to do with faith), and racist things she thinks, sees, and hears. I want to cringe under the table at any given restaurant on any given day when she gets started on those things. She watches everyone like a hawk (that was before she went blind from denying her diabetes) to see who is planning to "hit" her.

A "hit" is giving her something she doesn't want-like diabetes or back pain. She's sure that someone did something to her that can be taken away again. Uh huh, like diabetes.

Three years too late. The judge finally awarded me full guardianship-too late to save my mother's eyesight from...diabetes and lack of treatment. The County Attorney had to fight their own office. You guessed it-the state awarded my mother public counsel to fight for her right to freedom. Never mind that they were allowing her to go blind in the process. It took several (lost count) trips to the local short term mental unit and then two transfers for long term stay at the state hospital.

Now, six years into caring for my mother, I have her in a nursing home that helps me manage her very difficult care. She's at least not living on the streets of Denver anymore. Did you know a huge percentage of homeless folks are mentally ill? Did you know that many of their families had to give up? Many of those families don't even know their loved one is still alive. And before you go getting all upset, our country grants the right to freedom. Many of the mentally ill living on the streets choose to be there rather than in treatment. In their minds, it's a form of freedom.

How can I say that? Only because of the experience I've had saving my mother from the streets. It isn't easy. She didn't want to come with me. But I had a choice to make. I could either find a way to help her or find her somewhere dead in an alley. Her blood sugar was way over 500 when I finally convinced her to see a doctor. In fact, the doc wondered why she hadn't gone into a coma. She'd been told five years before that she was diabetic. She determined someone had "hit" her and needed to take it away. Therefore in her mind, it wasn't real.

So how do you deal with a mentally ill family member? For me it is through a strong faith and a great support network that the Lord has built for me and my mom. I'll talk about this topic more if you'd like. It's not an easy one for anyone. There are many facets and no real black and white answers. Just don't give up. Take a day off, heck, take a few days off if you need them-I do. But don't give up. I believe some of the reasons for the illness might just be about the growth of those around them.

I keep myself going with this unusual thought. I believe that I am allowing my mother to die with dignity. I'm not saying she will die any time soon. I'm just saying it won't be on the streets puffed from diabetes and yellow from jaundice (she had that when I found her too because her kidneys and liver were beginning to fail.) When she does go to heaven, I picture her as a little girl with dark pigtails flying behind her as she runs to get a hug from Jesus. I picture her with a perfect mind and body joyously laughing into eternity. I see her full of clarity, energy, and happiness. And I can't wait to one day meet her there to have that chat I always wanted.

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