Tuesday, November 28, 2017

That's Just Mom

Mental illness is difficult to understand.
I understand that I am who I have always been. I understand that as I get older, my physical body changes and sometimes that affects my ability to deal with the mental illness. I understand that circumstances don't help.

Mental illness takes its toll.
In general, I am more highly sensitive to changes around me. It could be noise levels. It could be other peoples' reactions to me in any given situation. It could be an abrupt change in my schedule or even someone trying to surprise me. Sometimes it just happens and there's no warning. 

Not even the people who love me (and there are few enough of those) can bring me out of my own head as I struggle to deal with the overwhelming the feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, sadness, heartache and emotional pain that come when I feel as if nothing ever works right for me. I don't think it's their fault.

Mental illness is deceiving.

"You don't look sick." "That's just mom." "Why can't you just let it go?" "Drama queen." "You can learn how to deal with things." That last statement implies I have some control over the darkness. I don't.

Mental illness does not mean I'm stupid.
High-functioning. Genius. Explosion in a paint box. I've been called all these things. But intelligence and common sense don't seem to mesh well inside the bubble of my mental illness. I can't seem to pull the trigger that brings all the knowledge together with all the experience and shoots out a normal person. 

I've heard it described as being inside a glass tube where you can see the normality but you can't break through to touch it.

Mental illness is physically debilitating.
Not once in awhile. Not even once a week. It's every day. It's in the morning when I force myself to get ready for work, and then force myself to actually go, then force myself to do the work, then force myself to deal with the drive home and then force myself to eat and force myself to stay awake until it's time for bed. 

It's the weekend when I have nothing to do, no schedule to keep to that forces me to deal with the outside world. I do my laundry because I know I need clean underpants. I eat, sometimes. I take lots of naps. I go to church because that's where I need to be.

Mental illness sometimes keeps me from God.
I go to church because I know I need to be there, and I bring my grandchildren because that's when I get to spend time with them and they get to be in a place where they learn about a God who loves them. I know He loves me, too, it's just that even when I'm there, even when I know the Holy Spirit is poured out, even when the pastor preaches straight at me, I just can't seem to get past whatever it is that keeps me from experiencing what everyone else seems to get automatically. 

It's like I'm the only one who doesn't get it. It's like that for everything.

Mental illness keeps me alone.
I live inside my head and that scares the hell out of me, because no matter what I do, or say or think or feel, it'll never be good enough. Not for me, not for God, not for my kids, not for anyone. Inside or outside my head, there is always chaos. 

Even when I know the truth, know that there is an Almighty God who is love, and who loves me and made me who I am, the mental illness is a barrier, a sinkhole, a mire of self-recrimination that keeps me inside and doesn't let me go.

It is a darkness that is always there.

Mental illness is a legacy.
My mother is dying. She turned 90 this year but has been in and out of the hospital for a month, two brain surgeries and my sister has brought her home to die because there's nothing more to be done.

All I could do was go say goodbye to a woman who has never been happy. Unfortunately, I think I only saw a reflection of myself in 30 years time. We have always known that the mental illness is hereditary. 

I hope and pray that my children don't end up suffering through everything I have. I hope I did a better job as a mother, no matter the mistakes I made. I pray every day for my children who have rejected God. Personally, I can't not believe in Him. 

I have mourned my mother all my life. I don't know if I'll grieve when she's gone because she'll finally be free. 

Mental illness is what it is.
I started off by saying I accept that this is who I am. What I want my words to do is help other people get a sense of it. It probably won't work. It probably shouldn't matter as much as I think it does. The reality is that wherever I go, whatever I do, it is there and it is me. 

If you know me, you'll try to understand. If you love me, you'll try to be patient. If you need me, I can only give you as much as I can. It is what it is.