At the beginning of this week, Terezin – a woman who had been horrifically abused by a mother diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis – read my poem Suicide Infanticide and was understandably enraged. My poem described a fleeting and deeply disturbing psychotic thought I had postpartum. Her comment deeply troubled me and made me question my adequacy as a mother. I responded to her comment, later removed the entire comment thread, and finally late Thursday afternoon as I revised this post, restored the comments.
Early drafts of this post included an edited version of her comment in which I removed her references to parenticide-suicide for she directed them at me and my child. But this post is about Compassion, and my poem was about Suicide Infanticide after all, so why shouldn’t I welcome Terezin to express her pain, rage, and indignation in her words.
Compassion requires me to listen to and understand Terezin’s point of view, take my ego out of the equation, and not see her words as an attack on me as an individual – but on me as someone who represents her abusive homicidal mother and a mental health advocacy movement which she believes does not represent or protect the children of mentally ill parents.
In her own words, Terezin‘s response to my disturbing poem and her outrage with mental health advocacy in which the effects of parental mental illness on children are not taken into consideration and children are not protected:
I am the adult daughter of a mother who was diagnosed with “manic depressive psychosis” in the 1960s. My mother survived several suicide attempts and I survived the attempts she made on my life.
I wonder, Kitt, if you will be able to understand when the day comes and your child will wish you had died. When the chronicity of your health illness will reach saturation point and you will be forced to face your contribution to the emerging symptoms of trauma in your off-spring?
None of your sharing is courageous; it is all one-sided. Where are the voices of the adolescent and adult children with their authentic unvarnished lived experiences?
The grandiose narcissism of so-called advocates and activists for ‘mental illness’, such as yourself, continues to slap a coat of white primer over the devastation that is visited upon the least calloused and most vulnerable family members.
I really understand how an adult child develops a desire to kill their mentally ill parent and, in some circumstances, completes murder-suicide.
You are not even touching the real taboos.
Terezin no doubt lives with tremendous psychological pain. The life she describes is horrific. Not all children of mentally ill parents live horrific lives, but parental mental illness is a real life stressor on children and can have lasting negative health consequences.
One reason I wrote Suicide Infanticide and Bad Mom – aside from the poems forcing themselves out of me to voice disturbing thoughts I had kept secret – is that I wanted to address exactly these issues. There are real consequences to mental illness when it is not adequately treated or when it does not respond to treatment. I own the effects that I have on those I love.
Those of us who live with mental illness owe it to our children to maintain our own mental health. We owe it to our children to not act out our symptoms. We owe it to our children to not burden them with our illness. We owe it to our children to be the best parents we can be, to be what Donald Winnicott coined a “good enough parent”.
Child Welfare Resources
- Prevent Child Abuse America
- Healthy Families America
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- Child Welfare Related Organizations
- Healthy Families America
- Mental Health America ~ Parenting
- Parenting with a Mental Illness: Positive Parenting and Child Resilience
Join us by using the hashtag #1000speak and linking your posts below.