Folie à Deux

I Am My Mother

Mom and Dad 60s Hazel Filter 672 x 672

Caveat: Please understand that delusional thought processes are SYMPTOMS of mental illness. I feel compassion, even as I feel pain and anger as someone negatively affected by parental delusional thoughts. I, too, have experienced delusional thoughts and bizarre impulses. I’m heir to familial mental illness. I get it.

With great trepidation I wrote the original version of this piece for publication with the Feminine Collective. Will I hurt those I love? Probably. Is it worth it to tell the truth, to let people know what it is like to live under the shadow of unacknowledged, untreated mental illness? I pray that the good outweighs the pain. I pray for understanding and compassion.

Mental illness when untreated and unacknowledged can cause great pain to extended family members. Out of respect for my relatives, this version has been changed. The actual content of my mother’s bizarre delusions is masked, remains a secret here, on my site at least, to protect those she attacked.


This is my story, my perspective, my understanding.

Folie à Deux

Taboo content
Folly of two
Folly, delusion, shared by my parents
I’ve protected them
Partly out of respect
Partly out of fear of the repercussions
Partly, for my sister who is protective of their privacy
We grew up under the shadow of a bizarre distorted thought process
Symptomatic of mental illness
Originated by our mother
Backed up by our father
In front of us, since we were young, our mother would attack our father
Making bizarre disgusting sexual claims with no basis in reality
My sister and I would look across the table
For our reality check
No. Where did she get these bizarre ideas?
There was no evidence for them
They made absolutely no sense
Our mother was crazy
Yes, I am heir to her illness
Anyway, after our mother would verbally abuse our father
In front of us, her daughters
With unfounded claims of disgusting, bizarre and unfounded sexual content
Content from her mind, her thought process, with no basis in fact
She would storm off to her bedroom
Leaving our father with us
Then he, our father, made us apologize to our mother
We would ask why we hadn’t done anything
Mom had been abusive to HIM
(Only later, through therapy, did I realize that it was also abusive to US, for we, as children and later as teens should never have been privy to such bizarre sexual delusions)
We just witnessed our mother’s attack
We did nothing wrong
He would respond that
She just didn’t feel appreciated
She needed our attention
He would throw us under the bus
Use us as his buffer
Not only NOT protect us, but use us
My father would join my mother in her belief system
That thought process, that dynamic
Put a wedge between the outside world and us
Between our extended family and us
My sister and I didn’t even go to our paternal grandparents’ funerals
For fear of how our mother would react
She would have considered it a betrayal
I’ve had to tread carefully over the years
As I’ve befriended my paternal extended family over Facebook
My aunt, my godmother, my namesake
She and I have spoken a few times over the years about this dynamic
I reassured her that neither my sister nor I believed any of it
We knew it was sick
I know my mother is sick and my father has joined her
I once saw a home-movie of my mother
She danced in circles around the rest of her family
I saw myself in her
Twirling rapidly around others as they simply stood still
Shit, I thought. I am my mother.
But with one major difference
I got help

Edited 8/11/16. Original version published at: http://femininecollective.com/folie-a-deux/

Father’s Day Bits and Pieces

Fathers Day MTB

We plan to do some mountain biking today. When my husband and son do steep downhill runs (downhill mountain biking), I just have enough time to drop them off at the top of a mountain and pick them up at the bottom. Hopefully today, if we ride (they went on a very long ride Friday which our son is still recovering from), I can ride, too.

***

On the Way to Father’s Day with My Dad

Audio Transcript

I’m on my way to my parents’ memory care to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad. Yesterday when my mother learned that I was going to be celebrating Father’s Day with my dad and not be taking her to her communication recovery group in Newport Beach, she became very distraught, cried, and tried to leave the facility. So, I got a phone call asking if they could hire somebody to take her to the course. It freed me up to meet with my father for Father’s Day.

Granted, I’m not able to take my kid to and from school on Fridays when I go and spend Fridays with my parents. So, whenever I go and spend Fridays with my parents during the week, it interferes with my parenting. Luckily, today my husband’s home and he’s taking my son to school. My son goes to school too far to ride his bike.

So, I’m anxious because I’ll be seeing my mother before she leaves, and I don’t know how she’s going to react. I’m just anxious because whenever I see them, they expect me to get them out of there (their locked memory care community). And, I can just only take so much of it emotionally. It’s very trying.

So, it interferes with my ability to do my passion, which is writing, blogging, which I haven’t been doing as much. And, yes, I know people, some people, are a little concern that I’m doing this while driving. But, it’s a long drive. It’s like a 20 minute, half hour drive. We’re in neighboring cities, but Mission Viejo is a long city. And, then, it takes a while to get from their memory care facility to the Newport Beach communications recovery group.

I just don’t want to keep taking my mom. I want to start backing out of being a caregiver. I still basically am. But, I want to start putting up more boundaries and protecting myself, which I had to do before all this. I had to protect myself. I have to protect my time.

I have to make sure I have enough energy to take care of myself and my son. First and foremost. I have nobody else, beside my husband. Yes, my son is an adolescent, but he doesn’t drive, and it’s just not safe for him to ride his bike to and from school because of super busy streets. The speed limit is like 50 mph. He doesn’t feel comfortable riding on these streets. He feels comfortable on mountain trails, but not on these streets.

***

Mental Illness and Violent Acts

My response to Marisa Lancione’s excellent post: Can we stop blaming mass shootings on mental illness?

Honestly, some mass shootings are perpetrated by people with untreated mental illness. I’ve had to stop myself from doing violent things. I’ve had completely horrifying thoughts and impulses, which I’ve had to tell myself not to act on, had to harness all my self control to not do. At the time, in fact, I was amazed that more violent acts don’t occur.

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My response to Henrietta M. Ross’ post: We’re All Serial Killers Now

Brilliant. Just responded to another article that I have fought murderous (and postpartum incestuous and cannibal) thoughts and impulses. At the time, I was amazed that more murders don’t occur (and more infants not eaten).

Meaning and Mental Illness

I wrote this post for Lisa Bortolotti’s project Imperfect Cognitions: Blog on delusional beliefs, distorted memories, confabulatory explanations, and implicit biases.

The blog was founded by Lisa Bortolotti in May 2013, after receiving the happy news that she had been awarded an AHRC Fellowship for a project entitled “The Epistemic Innocence of Imperfect Cognitions“. The core idea of the project was to see whether a variety of cognitions (beliefs primarily, but also memories, narratives and explanations) could enhance knowledge even when they were inaccurate or ill-grounded.

Source: Blog History

Meaning and Mental Illness

Monday, 28 December 2015

For our series of first-person accounts, Kitt O’Malley, blogger and mental health advocate, writes about her experience of altered states and what these mean to her.

When I was twenty-one upon returning from my grandfather’s memorial mass at which I gave the eulogy, I first experienced a series of altered mental states which I chose to interpret as God calling me to the ordained ministry. I questioned that sense of call due to my intellectual skepticism, my agnosticism, and the fact that I had a history of mental illness, namely major depression and dysthymia. God did not speak to me in my altered mental states. I heard no voices and saw no visions. The altered states I entered were sometimes ecstatic and sometimes tempting and dark. My interpretation of my experiences was influenced by my familiarity with the works of Alan Watts and D.T. Suzuki on Zen Buddhism, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and Roman Catholic mystic saints.

As I received no definitive instructions, I didn’t know exactly what God called me to do, but I chose to identify with mystic saints and believed that God called me to seminary training. I did not pursue a seminary education at that time. Later when I was thirty, after being prescribed antidepressants, I experienced a week-long psychotic state in which simultaneous thoughts raced through my mind in binary (zeroes and ones), about chaos theory, and about Roman Catholic mystic saints. Even after the psychotic break, my diagnosis remained dysthymic, with the episode believed to be a reaction to antidepressant medication.

Again, I believed God called me to seminary, but I had to address my mental health before I could follow through on my sense of God’s call. At the age of thirty-nine I once again started to experience euphoric sensations and the belief that God was calling me. At that point, I was a mother and wanted to be stable and grounded for my active toddler son more than I wanted to be a mystic. As a mother, the practical trumped the mystical. I sought help for bipolar disorder from a psychiatrist. My diagnosis changed from dysthymia to bipolar type II and my medication changed accordingly with mood stabilizers and sometimes an antipsychotic added to the mix. Finally, after a psychiatric hospitalization at forty-one, I applied to and attended, but did not complete, seminary.

My belief that I am both a mystic and have a mental illness remains. I believe that God has a purpose for me and that I am fulfilling that purpose in blogging about living with bipolar disorder and in my volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At the same time, I am skeptical of my own belief and realize that such a belief can be dangerous and can lead to destructive behavior.

In spite of my skepticism, I decided to embrace my own experiences as meaningful. I straddle both biological and meaning-based understandings of both my mental illness and my experience of divine calling. I believe both perspectives could be true. For me, what is key is that the meaning I glean from my experiences is positive in its effects.

Words Fly

Words Fly - WORDS is jumbled. FLY is jumbled and on a diagonal rise. Background is wispy clouds.

I remember when I couldn’t hold the letters of a word together long enough to make sense of them. They flew off in all directions or got all jumbled up. I simply could not read no matter how hard I tried. Even if I forced myself to concentrate, to focus, to glue one letter to the next until I could put them together to form a word and then to make sense of that one word, it’s meaning was lost before I got on to the next. The letters would not hold together to form words, the words would not hold together to form sentences. Their meaning was completely lost on me. That is the brain FUCKED UP royally. No doubt about it.