Life With A Mentally Ill Parent – A Reader’s Story

We recently posted an article about the effects on a child growing up with a mentally ill parent. Within days, we received numerous emails from users wishing to share their own experiences of their lives with mentally ill parents, and the subsequent effects this has left lingering into their adult hood.

Posted below is the story of one user. She has asked for her name to be withheld.

“I remember a friend of mine showing a group of us that famous Larkin poem which starts “They f… you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to but they do.” We all laughed and shared comments about how much they do “f… you up”. While my friends were going through the trivial things their parents had done to mess them up… “They didn’t get me a bike that Christmas, so I felt left out” and “God, they always grounded me for not cleaning my room”, I sat there laughing along. I did not dare to tell them what exactly my mother had done to “f… me up”.

My mother is mentally ill. My mother has had problems, and has caused me problems for as long as I can remember. I hate the illness. I hate my mother for having an illness.

She was first diagnosed with what they then called “nerves” back in the 1960’s. At the tender age of 17, she was put on Valium and remained a slave to the drug until 40. My earliest recollections of her was as a zombie woman, half starved with anorexic tendencies and spending every day in the doctors office with some new, imaginary illness. She was always cold towards my father and I, refusing to give affection and refusing to do anything that would benefit us (even cooking food).

I remember I must have been about four years old when I first realized how hurtful she could be. I was sitting in the living room and playing with a plastic saucepan set. I asked her to play with me and her reaction was to stand up and walk into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. I had no clue what I had done wrong, and I also never asked her to play a game with me again.

My childhood was mixed with fun, courtesy of my dad’s active interest in doing fun things with me, and pain, feeling like a burden to my mother. In front of her friends she would be overly maternal, but alone I would be ignored. Sometimes she would slip in front of others and show what she was really like. When I was 8, my friend was staying at my house and we were playing with our dolls on my bunk-bed. My mother walked into the room and slapped me for making too much noise. My friend didn’t know how to react as the bed shook from the force of the hit. I remember not crying because I was used to her slaps. My friend made some comment about how she would have cried if her mother did that and I was shocked. I thought that was the way all mothers acted.

Life with my mother always went this way. Daily trips to see her doctor took up all of my school holidays, unless she could palm me off on my aging aunt and uncle. When I got to be about 9, she would keep me out of school for days on end, forcing me to go to the doctors for illnesses she imagined me to have. I realize now that this was basically Munchausen by proxy.

Most of my formative years were spent, by my choice mainly, with other relatives. I grew very close to one aunt, whom I consider to be my mother more than anything. It would be a relief to spend time at her house, even though she was in her 60’s. We would spend hours cooking and she would tell me all about life during the second world war. I still love going to see her and would much rather spend time with her than with anyone else in my family.

I never really had a real relationship with my paternal side of the family. This is mainly because my mother didn’t like them. She would accuse my grandparents of hating me and, as I child, I believed her. It wasn’t until after my grandmother died and I had contact with other family members that I learned my grandparents wanted my father to remove me from my mother and to go and live with them. They saw what was going on, and let my mother know…that was their biggest mistake. The damage of knowing I had loving grandparents that wanted to protect me, but I was denied a relationship with them is irreparable. That’s just one thing I can never forgive my mother for (and trust me, there are a lot more.)

Around my 11th birthday, my mother was taken off Valium and put onto lithium carbonate. It was clear that doctors considered her to be suffering from Bi-polar disorder. The consequences of the change in medication spurred on the worst moments of my life. My mother changed from being the Valium zombie to an erratic monster. She would start fights with my father that were unbearable. Once she had him on the floor and tried to stab him in front of me. I tried to leave the house, but she dragged me back in and locked the doors. After that, she locked herself in the bathroom and shouted about how she was trying to cut her wrists. My father kicked the door in and it hit her in the face (accidentally, I should add). She then called the police and members of my father’s family, stating he was abusing her. All I really remember happening after is the psychiatrist arriving and refusing to take her away. He said she wasn’t a threat to anyone, despite being told the events.

Life continued with her crazy swings for a while after. Her behavior also became more and more bizarre. I remember coming home from school when I was about 12 and finding a note from her, saying she had gone to throw herself on the railway track because I had been a bad girl. She was nowhere to be found in the house. I got hysterical, calling everyone and desperately trying to get my dad home from work (he was in a meeting and had to rush out immediately). I went upstairs and heard her laughing manically in my wardrobe. In her insane mind, she thought it was a funny thing to do.

Not long after these events her medication was switched again. Although it curbed her more insane behavior, it brought out some very nasty sides of her personality that other medications had masked. She was extremely controlling, manipulative and a compulsive liar. All emotion towards us seemed faked and used to get her own way. She could turn on the tears and feign emotional hurt to get absolutely anything she wanted…those things were generally materialistic wants. Her main passion, as it turned out was hurting as many people as she could, and she genuinely enjoyed doing it.

When I was 17 she took me to see the doctor. I had a chest infection that would not go away. She insisted that she accompany me into the doctor’s room to tell him what was wrong. All I remember is crying in there. I was crying because I felt so sick. She convinced him I was crying because I was depressed, just like her. Hence my own trips to psychologists and psychiatrists stated…all because she wanted me to be mentally ill. It was hard trying to convince them that there was nothing wrong with me as she would always take them aside and make up stories about my activities. Of course, they always believed her over me. That’s the great thing about having a master manipulator and compulsive liar as a parent. Also, she reveled in the fact I was going to see these people. After all, she could play the “poor hard-done-by” act to her friends and get sympathy.

When I finally left home to start university, I thought I would finally have a chance to break away. How wrong I was! She would telephone everyday in tears about some made up hardship and force me to travel 200 miles home every weekend. When she came to visit me, she made sure to tell my friends a bunch of lies about me, insuring they began to ostracize me. Actually, she did this with every single friend I ever had and later even tried it with the man who is now my husband.

One day in my psychology class, we were discussing the diagnostics for being a psychopath. Considering all the characteristics my mother displayed, this is her most apt diagnosis. Out of the 21 common characteristics, my mother displays 17 in her regular behavior. The only ones she is lacking are : criminal versatility, promiscuous sexual behavior, sexually deviant lifestyle and abuse of drugs including alcohol, although she does have a very bad gambling addiction. So, that’s it, my mother is a clinical psychopath.

Over the past few years her problems have become a lot worse in regards to me. She has done things recently that have devastated me and I can no longer have a relationship with her, or with my father, who continues to support her and ignore the problems. For many reasons, I can not go into all the more recent events as there are other people involved.

The long lasting effects of growing up with a mentally ill parent are devastating. I have no friends and no confidence to hold a friendship based relationship. My mother constantly told me that no one ever liked me, so I find trusting the kind motives of people towards me a very hard thing to do. I also have a lot of anger for not being able to have had a “normal life”, and am extremely jealous of people who have great relationships with their parents. I am also scared of being a parent myself. My experience of mothering is very bad and I’m scared I’ll end up the same way.

One good thing that has come out of all of this is that, due to wanting to understand my mother’s behavior, I’ve entered into a career field I love. Clinical psychology is about the only gift my mother ever gave me that meant anything.

I guess Larkin was right. Some parents really do “F… you up”.”

Originally Published In Clinically Psyched on December 2nd, 2008.

Life With A Mentally Ill Parent

One reader recounts growing up with a mentally ill parent. Image: National Acrobat, Flickr

37 Responses to Life With A Mentally Ill Parent – A Reader’s Story

  1. Den GoavakeEvitte December 18, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    First of all congratulation for such a great site. I learned a lot reading article here today. I will make sure i visit this site once a day so i can learn more.

  2. Susan Pavon January 16, 2009 at 4:04 am

    I was so relived to read this. My mom acts the same way. I am a 46 year old women. And five years ago I lost my father to a sudden heartattack. I was very close to my father because of the way my mother treated him. She was verbally abusive with him day to day. She claims that as a child she was never happy and depressed. I hear different from her family.
    She has always been very controlling. She has never allowed me to live my own life. Since the death of my father she tells me and my sister that it is our responsiblity to support and take care of her. She has asked us over and over to move in and support her. she cries every day claiming that she cannot continue to live life. She comes up with stories telling me she is afraid of my brother and he will kill her. Growing up she put me down every day. She would tell me my skin was ugly. Or she would just been mean and get me up in the middle of the night to cook for her. She was a heavy drinker at the time. She stopped drinking but take narcotics daily. She goes through 400 narcotics per month. My daughter and all the grandchildren do not want to be around her. She will make them feel bad for things. She tells them things such as they dont love her because they do not call her daily. She has called me at work screaming telling me that I love my boss more then her because I spend more time with her. She claims that she can never live alone because she does not have a penny to her name. My father left a great pension to her and she cannot stop her spending. It is very hard to be with her at any time what so ever. She will cry when she is with me. She will tell me that she hopes I suffer like she does. She wants me to call her 10 times a day and stop afterwork to see her every day. And if I dont she calls screaming and cries. She has sent my sister’s husband to jail for arguing with my sister. My Husband is s police officer and I am afraid to have her around at times because who’s to say she will not try the same thing with us. She called to cops on my sister thinking my sister was stealing from her. Most of her family refuses to be around her or call her. She has lost all friends that she had. We are of Catholic faith and she goes to church telling everyone that she has no money and her kids will not help her. They have started to bring her clothing and food on a regular basis. We as a family attend a catholic church together. But she attends another during the week. She tells me she plans to set up a meeting with the priest at the one we attend in order to tell him what a terrible daughter I am. She tells my sister I am saying terrible things about her, and then will come to me to say that my sister is saying terrible things about me. If she see’s that I am getting along with my siblings she will tell them I have been talking about them. This happens on a day to day basis. She has told me I am a rotten daughter and some day I will be in hell. She has called me terrible names. She has called my place of employment calling me names. She cries to her sister telling her that her children are evil for not taking care of her. She is never happy. She will ask me to take her and buy her things and later that evening start fighting wiht me. She makes her grandchildren buy her things when they are only children and have a few dollars for thereself. I dont know what to do with her. I have tried to get her help. The doctors claim that she is fine. She has been in several accidents because of the drugs. She totaled her vehicle because of it. I am afraid that some day she will kill someone because of it.

    • Ryan Scott February 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      May I ask what her reaction has been when you insist that she has a mental illness? Are things with your mother so tense and erratic that you have not had a chance to have a calm “intervention” with her? What type of doctors have reported that she is okay, and under what basis? Has she had an official psychiatric evaluation?

  3. Ed van Eeden February 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    A gambling addiction can rip personal relations apart. Such a habit is nothing less than an acute mental illness. The compulsive gambler has tasted the sweet of winning and wants to fight off the bitter of losing. In his/hers desperate attempts to win everything back and making it all alright again, the losses pile up. Until shear desperation rests. That’s the sad scheme of things, that keeps repeating itself everywhere gambling occurs.

  4. Donna July 23, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Thank you. This reminded me that it is my mother’s illness, not my fault. Often times I think I’m doing something wrong because I can’t make sense of her behavior. Now, I remember that she is ill. By definition, her behavior doesn’t make sense. I’m going to go get the box of Kleenes now because I’m crying with relief.

  5. TheMicFiend October 4, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I wish I could talk to you. I have also gone through this. I was beaten and I didn’t think it was abuse, as I just learned to accept it. I was hit not because I did something wrong. But, because she was angry. She lied to others about me and told them how I was crazy and tried to have me commited. During my psychological evaluation it was found that there was nothing wrong with me. It makes me angry. My parents also lied about me to others and that made me look terrible. It’s almost as if she took pleasure in watching me fail. Unlike you, I became a run-away. Being homeless was terrible as it got me nothing but pain and sorrow. However, I was able to rise out it, just like you. I can say for people that live in this situation they grow up to do things that are very bad or very good. Im glad that, like me, you made the right choice.


  6. S. Helen November 15, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I understand so much of what has been written. My mother has been out of control my entire life. One of my first memories is being at my grandparents house, asleep, early morning, and my mother comes in the bedroom -frantic- because someone is in the bathroom and she has to go. I was 3 years old and I watched my mother pee on my floor. My father comes in and my mother blames me for peeing on the floor. Then she goes in the bathroom. I look at my father and say, “Daddy I have to go potty. That was mommy who pottied on the floor, not me.” He waited until my mother got out of the bathroom and then led me in – and I pottied in the toilet.

    My mother is the queen of pathological lying, manipulating, distorting, forgetting, and concocting outrageous stories to get what she wants or to paint me as the bad person. I have removed myself from several family get-togethers, but this has only given her free reign -since I am not there to defend myself or to point out the truth. Her behavior has gotten more sly and cunning over the years. She is now a narcotic pill-popper and fakes pain for OxyContin.

    I am now 45 years old and realize my mother is set on destroying me. I have no self esteem from her verbal and emotional abuse which continues to this day. I am preparing to move out of state to finally have a life.

  7. MIK December 10, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Since childhood I feared both of my parents. My mother would steal from me. And do much of the same things you’ve said your own Mother did to you. After one of those times when she’d stolen from me, I asked why she answered with, “I did it to teach you not to steal.” I had never stolen a thing in my life. I felt so confused and hurt but never spoke about the matter again. But I still remember the hate in my Mothers eyes as she answered me that day. That is one of the mild examples, like yourself there were many, many more. I can remember how my Mother would give such great parenting skills around neighbors and while they were visiting she would start talking about what a bad child I was. I was to afraid to be a bad child. I feared even speaking back then. Let along being seen or doing anything, big or small that would be considered bad. I might add, that my mother was really bad about gossiping, she would spread lies about neighbors and when confronted, blame the gossip and lies she carried as being spoken by one of her children. (She always held one of us as her comfort zone while the others she would shun) I had very few friends growing up. Those I did have I learned never to bring them around my family because if I did, if my Mother didn’t find cause for those friendships to end, my sister who later moved across the street from us . . . would.

    My Father was a master plotter. He waited until we were at least in our teens, then he would promise help with school or some much needed item, only to later find some cause to withhold his promise or take it from us, half way into the giving. But he never helped pay for those items, he merely gave the impression to others that he helped in order to build jealousy between siblings. Both of my parents did this type of thing. It was the child who paid for those much needed or desired items, only to have the parent take them or force us into giving them up to them.
    Your clippings provided great insight. I not only had two parents like your Mother, I also lived across the street from one of my siblings who she and her husband mirrored my parents. Growing up in my Parents’ home was a nightmare. I never felt safe. Speaking of these issues was something I had stuffed so far down inside me that I nearly died trying to fight them back down inside of me when they wanted to surface. I remember calling my mother when they started to surface and asked her why, she told me that she wished I would die and that hurt me all over again, but helped me remember more than I cared to remember. I guess you could say I suffered from a loss of memory about some of the things that happened to me during my childhood and young teen years.
    Psychopath, is a good description and while it always helps to put a name to something. For me, the main cause is still much deeper than mental illness, for me it has to be much deeper and more invisible than we think. But it sure helps finding answers, even if they only touch the surface.
    Psychopath- Somebody affected with a personality disorder marked by aggressive, violent, antisocial thought and behavior and a lack of remorse or empathy. (Offensive term for somebody who is regarded as highly antisocial, aggressive, and lacking empathy)

  8. Forrest Kercheff February 7, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    First, let me commend your pellucidity on this subject. I am not an expert on this matter, but after reading your article, my understanding has developed substantially. Please tolerate me to catch your rss feed to remain in touch with any upcoming updates. Pleasant job and will offer it on to friends and my blog readers.

  9. Austin Cooper March 11, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Your article is excellently written and certainly gets the message across to its readers about the devastation that a mentally ill parent can inflict on other family members. I thank you for sharing,

  10. Kacie Helms April 20, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I can completely relate to Susan. When I was reading her comment I had to look twice because it paralleled my life so much! My sister moved and hasn’t had contact with any of us and so she is no help with my mum. I just know I am very, very tired. Stay strong and know that you are not alone.

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  12. 1210donna June 13, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Your honesty and bravery in choosing to keep yourself safe from a psychopath is a healthy example to others. It is very hard for society to easily accept a daughter healthily refuses contact with a psychopathic mother. They just can’t imagine living with a mother with psychopathy. They imagine the daughter is unforgiving, judgmental etc, but if they understood true psychopaths have never recovered, no more than an amputee will grow their limb back.

  13. Laurie June 23, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I can understand what everyone else here has written. My mother has schizophrenia. Only in recent years has she gotten treatment for it. I have survived a lot of her senseless abuse, yet always loved her. Now it’s my responsibility to parent myself, and help myself succeed in life.
    I had to be her parent when I was just a child, and endure other upheavals, and abuse.

    I am succeeding, even though it took so much from me. I am determined to give the child in me happiness, growth, and a fulfilling adulthood.
    Thanks for starting the subject here.

  14. cb July 15, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    With very few exception this saves me the time
    of writting it myself.

  15. your friend July 17, 2010 at 2:09 am

    s. helen.
    I know exactly whaat you mean. if i can ever be of any help to youu let me kjnow.

  16. souci July 27, 2010 at 4:11 am

    i know some of these fears so well. isn’t it amazing how many of us there are, and how few resources there are for support?


  17. admin July 27, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you for all of the coments so far.

    Just to let everyone know that we’re in the process of redesigning the site here and are looking to include a groups area. Following Souci’s comment, I think that it will be a good idea to start up a support network on Clinically Psyched for children of mentally ill parents. That way full experiences can be shared and help can be given from people who are out the other end.

    If you would be interested in this, please feel free to send me a message or leave a comment in here. While I might not publish the comments (if there are 30+ which say “great idea”), I will read them all.

    Thank you all and take care.

  18. Helen August 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    My Mother is confusing..She has bipolor disorder. She hates hurting me but seems to want me to feel her pain in the same way she does. She resents the good relationship I have with my husband and the good job have. She changes constantly..sometimes she’s loving then other times she can only talk about her pain and can be very cruel. I have lots of good childhood memories but also lots of bad ones too. She would scream and shout at me most mornings before school, she told my boyfriend how pathetic I was, she told my grandparents and their friends that I took drugs (I didnt) She used to call me up at Uni and cry about how depressed she was all the time.
    I constantly worry for her and feel terribly guilty that I don’t give the support I should,

  19. clinicallypsych September 14, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    We have established a group area within Clinically Psyched dedicated to children of mentally ill parents. It is our hope that readers in similar situations will join up and find the support they need. Here is a link to the group:
    Please feel free to join up. We really want to push this group to be a top support group for children of mentally ill parents.
    Thank you!

  20. B TEEKAN October 3, 2010 at 4:56 am

    What an important topic to share and thank you for making it known. I too, have a mentally ill parent. It never occurred to me just how sick she was until her own father died, being my grandfather. People often told me, why I didnt just leave home, but the fact is, you cant just do that. Whether you live with mentally ill parents or not, It still affects you because its your family and part of who you are as a person. I too, am in my forties now. I never married but I think everything happens for a reason. If we stay with a parent who is ill, then its meant to be that way, to teach us something. I think everything that happens to a person whether we like it or not, is in our path from when we are born. The only thing we can change is how we re act towards it. I think its puting extra pressure on a person, to suggest if they did this or that, things could have been better, but the fact is, we are put in a position for a reason and because in the end we are the strongest people to put up with what comes around, even if it affects us at the time.
    I am one of four children. My sisters married young, but it didnt mean they were without probelms. Personally, I think I learnt the biggest lessons and I am glad because its changed me and made me a better human being. This article has also changed me for the better. It has made me see things differently. Tears have rolled down my eyes with this story, but I am sure who ever wrote it, would have to be one of the most gutsy, intelligent, respectful and beautiful people on our universe. A person that through pain became a teacher and has shown all of us that we are not alone and that we can mend in time. Dear reader, clinical psychology is not the only gift your mother gave you. She gave you a brain with the most powerful thoughts one can ever have. An education that no amount of money can ever pay for. You, the writer and those who also suffer similar fates, need to be congratulated for sharing your stories. you have shown a middle aged woman, that there is hope and that she is not alone. You have helped more people than you will ever know and for that I say, thank you.Good on you and thanks for sharing the story.

  21. Rosendo Choate October 5, 2010 at 5:29 am

    amazing stuff thanx

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  23. Ms Towers November 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    One time I was looking for a Mother’s Day card. I saw one that said, “You’ve been like a mother to me…” I laughed. LIKE a mother, sort of, but not really. Not so much.

    I have been a pretty decent mother myself. I finally found and married a normal person–that helps. I do think that having a crazy parent or two makes you prone to be crazy, genetics notwithstanding. It takes awhile to get yourself right.

  24. Stephen Powell January 1, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I grew up with an violent psychotic alcoholic father. I had to join the Army at age 17 to get away from him. I have suffered depression with psychotic features for the last ten years, Im 51 now, I fared much better in my youth when I was to dumb to realize what had happened to me as a child. It has left with numb emotions and a great deal of anger towards my father whos still alive and acts like nothing happend. Nice to know theres a place to visit and share thoughts with others with similar backgrounds.

  25. TINA January 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    THANK YOU ♥ ♥ ♥

  26. Anna March 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    My mother was severely mentally ill and as a child I thought all mothers were that way. I was made ill from 5 to 15 and dragged to numerous doctors for “treatment”. My dad was a damaged man. I was also told that my paternal grandparents hated me. I always felt love from them, but could never be honest with them about my mother.

    I thought that college was my ticket out. I was not allowed to leave home to attend, but managed to finish my degree in Psychology. When I heard the cluster B personality disorders described, I immediately recognized my mother. The worst and best day in college was when I heard my own childhood described in the description of Munchausen by Proxy. I would have fallen out of my chair, but I was unable to move or speak.

    I am married to the best man alive with two children of my own. I am a good mother and my kids are well adjusted. Being the child of an abuser will not make you an abuser. Don’t be afraid to have children, they are a joy. Do be sure that your scars are healed enough to love them. I still have have bad days, but I am so grateful for my life now. Looking back I am amazed that I survived my childhood. There must be a purpose for me. Right now my goal is to raise two children in a house with love who have no idea what abuse is. Live your best life today and leave the past where it belongs. Be a survivor and know that some days are easier than others.

  27. Amanda March 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I am watching a child who is going through similar to your pasts. She is living alone with a mentally ill mother and that little girl is not allowed to do anything with her grandparents who she love very much. Her mother threatens her always and she is not allowed to tell anyone what she is going through. The mother blames the child for everything in public and makes her a liar if she ever opens her mouth. I am really heart broken and feel completely helpless because police/dcf is only looking for physical abuse. Any help?

  28. clinicallypsych March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Amanda,
    I’m really sorry to hear about the problems this little girl is having with her mother. Unfortunately, this sort of treatment is a common thread for children with a mentally ill parent, as you will see above. My heart really goes out to her. I, and a lot of our other posters here, do know exactly what she must be going through.
    This little girl is very lucky to have someone like you in her life. You are really looking out for her and I completely understand your concerns and frustrations. You just need to keep telling this little one that none of this is her fault (a lot of people never get told that, and a lot of us still believe that the behaviour of the parent was somehow because of us).
    I do understand that the police and dcf can’t really get involved. Their hands are tied, and it is very sad.
    I’m not a doctor or legal professional, so I can’t give specific advice as to what you should do in this case. However, my door (or email) is always open.
    Again, we do have a support group here for children of mentally ill parents. We would like this to become a really beneficial community, so if you (this goes for all posters) would like to join, please do so. We’d love to have you there.
    Take care and I wish you, and the little one all the best.

  29. Trisha April 9, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Where do I begin; I am 27 years old, married and I have a 3 year old daughter. We live with my mother because my father passed away and we did not want her to be alone in the house. We gave up a house that we had a contract on, loaned money to mom for my dad’s autopsy and burial deed, a bed that she does not sleep in which was a gift. She wants my husband out of the house so she decides to have arguments about increasing the rent and raising my daughter. In the morning when my mother leaves for work, she goes around the house, checking everything, gives my daughter a kiss on the forehead, covers her multiple times to make sure she is warm even when there are covers on her than she slams the front door. At night she will not come home until late when my daughter is already asleep, she deliberately does things to try and wake her up so she is the last to tuck her in. This past week, she stormed out of the house because my daughter accidently broke a figurine; she tells my daughter, “grandma is going to leave, it’s not your fault nobody watches you, grandma is leaving” this causes my daughter to scream and cry because she does not want my mother to leave. My mom does not like it that I have a relationship with my in-laws; this pass Halloween, we were going to go trick or treating with my mom and she threw a fit stating that, “she was a bad grandma and how my husband’s parents were better.” My daughter was crying and screaming because my mother pushed her out the door. Christmas this past year, my mother had a fit that my daughter wanted to open gifts before eating breakfast, after coming home from an 11 hour shift my mother knew what to say to push my buttons. My daughter’s mental well being is important to me and living at home with my mother is making me insane and causing marital problems with my husband. My Aunt on my father’s side has cut ties with her and I am at that point because I am concerned about how this is affecting my daughter long term.

  30. clinicallypsych April 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Trisha,

    Thank you for posting your story here. I am really sorry to hear about the situation your whole family is in. It is terrible as it seems as though your daughter is not only caught in the middle of all this, but is also the brunt of the abusive behaviour your mother is exhibiting. From my own experience, it does seem that adults do tend to take a lot of their emotions out on the kids, mainly because they are too young to fight back and are easier to keep in line than other adults are. Also, from my experience with a family member, the adults can seem to revel in upsetting the youngster. For me, looking back on it, it all seemed to be a very nasty little control game which, until broken, carries on (for years and years after a child’s left home even).

    I’m not really in a position to give medical or specific psychological advice about this, but as one mother to another (and someone who has been through it all), I will say this. If you can, get the child out of the situation. It really isn’t healthy for her and it will cause a lot of problems for her along the line. I know your mother is important to you, that goes without saying. However, your child has to be more important. Her health and well being should always take priority over someone who is old enough to take care of herself. I’m not saying to cut all ties with your mother, but you do have to get the child out of her home if she is this irrational. You say you have a good relationship with your in-laws. Maybe you could ask to stay with them for a while.

    I would like to talk more to you about this. Please do feel free to join up and leave me a personal message in here.

    Again, I’m addressing this as a mother and someone who has grown up with a mentally ill parent.

  31. Ryan Sco February 2, 2012 at 2:24 am

    I would like to thank every one for sharing their own experiences. Knowing that others deal with this problem is comforting , only in the sense that it defeats one of the horrible traits that my ill mother planted inside of me; which is-my life of isolation. At age 21, I am well aware of the numerous developmental impairments that are caused in children, by their mentally ill parent(s). It is startling to know that there is limited access to support groups for children who have endured this mental TRAUMA. Every member of this thread is supporting a much needed cause , and that is by delivering aid to victims by providing an outlet and confirming that they are not alone. Much respect to all of you. I discovered this site as I began researching the subject, as means to find statistics backing up my essay. I did not expect to find such personal relief while doing so. I hope that I can continue to use this site to possibly give and receive advice on dealing with the wrath of a mentally ill loved one. The only positive derivation from my mothers’ ill ways is that I have learned to use my isolated presence to master my analogical skills. I have also developed a very considerate and open mind that I would like to use to help others. Before I can do that effectively , I need to overcome the existing issues with my mother and myself. I have severe social anxiety, due to my child-found comfort in loneliness. The same issues that initially caused my anxiety(my mother and family) have become the exact stressors that contribute to the worsening of my condition. And this is years later. Because I have learned that my unhealthy childhood is the origin of most of my negative ways, when I see the current and poor behaviors of my other family members who were also affected by mother , I worry to an extreme about what their final outcomes will be. And,I also worry about my mother , as well.I worry that she and I will die with unfinished business, and all of my family the same. These common anxious spells conflict me with depression,and guilt. These conflicts add to my worry, when I frighten myself with the possibility that I will become like her, and let MY mental health rule and certainly ruin my life and the others’ whom I love so deeply. I know that so many people continue to suffer from their childhood experiences, and I am thankful that many of them have come together on this site.I am just in need of some advice to decrease this toxic level of anxiety that is preventing me from doing what I want to the most. And that is , to help my other family members, and maybe one day my mother.

  32. Marie February 23, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I am relieved to hear of the experiences of other people. Both my parents were mentally ill. My mother was schizophrenic and so her father. She was very loving to me, but as child it hurt me to watch her staying on bed for weeks, not wanting to eat and fragmenting until needing to be hospitalized. My father was emotional unavailable and strict, he sheltered himself working or going to church. Later I learned that he tried to suicide when he was a teenager and that my mother tried to kill my brothers when I was 4 years. I grew up to be socially anxious. When I was 16 I meet my husband. He is 7 years older than me but at that time I saw him as someone who gave me love. He was physically violent to me at first and because he stopped doing it I thought things were better, it wasn’t. I gave up my self-respect to avoid verbal and psychological abuse. We are now separated and have one girl of 9 years. I don’t want her to see me crying. I want a stable future for her. My mother died of breast cancer 3 years ago, something I never thought it would happen after all she suffered in her life. I rather call my father than to be near him, and one of my brothers barely talks to him.

  33. RCB May 3, 2012 at 1:10 am

    I totally empathize with all the above distressed children of mentally ill parents as even if I might’ve experienced just the tip of the iceberg,,,,,,believe me it was enough to shake me off my senses and will remain etched in my memory forever…..Well, my encounter with mentally ill person started way back in 2005 at the age of 30,after my marriage. I was told that she ‘s quite strict and moody person….dint take long after marriage that it wasnt so…My plight began when my spouse and sis-in-law used to start for office and i was left alone at home with her (i wasnt working for about 4-5 months then) …it started with her talking to herself in the washroom which used to continue atleast for a couple of hours…words that i were almost routine and frequent ..referring to a somebody with the dramatical name of “lady macbeth” followed by swearing in filthy language to some political figure she knewyears back ..content were of sexual nature ..not at all pleasant to ears …at times she wanted to “Break somebody’s teeth to pieces” (im translating the bangladeshi language to english) for ur understanding.. My hubby has some mild hemophilc disorder that causes trauma even in the least injury like twisting one’s knee or overwriting in the hand…the moment she saw any such sign she used to imagine that some of his frends had beaten him up and caused the same. I dint have the right to even enter the kitchen area to even make a cup of tea..only when designated times she’ll coook could we eat…used to be very suspicious even if i handed over a glass of water to my one line ,,u could say that a mother in law had taken teh form of a monster in law. all dreams of mine as a newly married bride died out within a fortnight of my marriage..hubby wasnt that settled money wise i was forced to go throughthe painful experience of hearing her out..days went for me without breakfast .al;l she could prepare was flour filled noodle ..which even caused a lifetime disorder in me ,.,,, thyroid. initially till about the next 6 months of my marriage i turned into a distant shadow of the original me in fear hunger….then i started gaining wt like anything..but there was no option….i had to suffer …then slowly and steadily i took the reins of my life in my hands….it took about 35 months of suffering off and on .,.. to finally shift the entire family to a different city in india ..where i atleast had some support system in the form of relatives and family members..and slowly convinced my hubby to separate from its been about 3 years that shes’ staying in a one bhk rented flat about 5 minutes from our flat ..and peace has come back to my world… i’ve regained much of the forgotten me and have made it a rule that im bent upon “never ever to enter the hell i was in “

  34. Luksta May 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I have read through everyone’s comment I understand 100% where each person is coming from as I can relate to this as my father is mentally disabled and my mother is not well. This has effected my life differently since childhood I am 24 years old. I feel as if I’m the parent I had to muture earlier never had too much time with friends. Im constantly thinking bout my parents even when I was in school I found it hard to concentrate.. I remember always running home as soon as school has finish.

  35. Jessica August 2, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I am 25. I feel alone all the time. I thought I was pretty well adjuasted up until a few years ago. My mother suffers from schizophenea and severe depression. For the first 14 years of my life I lived alone with her. Constanlt enduring beatings from here and various people she would leave me with. I’m 25 and I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad and angry in my life. She hasn’t hurt me physically in over 5 years, but the mental damage that has been done, i fear, has left me too far gone. I can’t hold any relationships. I want to tell my boyfriend about what has happened to me in my life, but I’m afraid. I have never told anyone the full story of what was done to me. I’ve tryied to tell my father, but he doesn’t believe in mental illness and for the most part thinks I have exagerated most of the things that were done. I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel so sad inside. Everytime I try to say something about what has happened I get told that I am overreacting or lying. My mother wants to divorce my step father. I moved away from home about a year ago because I couldn’t deal with living at home and being the only one to react to her. I really just did not want to hate my mother. But what hurts is I do. I hate my father for leaving me with her knowing what she did to me, I hate the way she accused me of things that I never did and would tell me I was a whore when I was 11. I feel like I’m searching for some closure but I wont find it. I hate myself more than anything. I hate the way I look and who I am. I hate that I’m so angry all the time when all I really want is to be loved. I hate always feeling guilty about being upset and apologizing to others when they have crossed me. I know I’m not perfect at all. I’ve made many mistakes, I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m afraid that I’m giving up and I’m just going to let myself go. How do I gain confidence? How do I undo years of pain? I know it’s not possible but I need to eleviate some of this heaviness. I hate myself for hating the person I should love, the most.

    • clinicallypsych September 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Jessica. It sounds like you’re really going through the mill right now trying to deal with your past and present situation. I know you said you feel alone, but you are not. I think if you read these posts, you’ll see that we have been in the same place as you are and we can listen to you. Some of us have been there and out the other side…some are still going through it all. You are not alone. I’m certainly here if you want to talk to someone.

      I’m so sorry to hear about all you have gone through. Unless people are directly affected by living the way we have, the can’t understand. When you said your dad thinks you’ve exaggerated the situation, do you mean your step dad who was with you while all this went on? My dad’s the same way. It’s a form of protection, failing to admit the truth and own experiences. Often, the other parent doesn’t understand what it’s like for a developing person to go through the problems of having a mentally ill other parent. Just because they can ‘turn off’ more to it, or underplay the severity of the situation, a child can’t and it affects us worse. We have no sense of what’s normal because we were raised ‘abnormally’. People often forget that.

      Please try not to hate yourself for things you mum said to you, and certainly not for things you have not done. That’s a really vicious cycle that will move into other relationships. Trust me there. There’s a lot of manipulative and terrible people out there who, while they might seem like friends at first, spot your vulnerability and pull the same trick. That happens to me with certain people…it’s all because it’s too easy for me to accept the blame for others wrong doings, based upon the fact that I was raised that way. People take so much advantage of that.

      Sometimes it’s best to cut ties, if even for a while. You need to heal and you are the most important person now. It’s hard, but I would suggest seeing a therapist, just to talk all of the problems out with someone who will listen to you.

      If you want to talk directly to me, shoot me a message in my inbox.

      Take care of yourself.

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