Crazy in the Family; Children of the Mentally Ill

Just as there's a wide range of mental illnesses, there are as many children and adult children of a mentally ill parent who have suffered without a voice. It may come as a surprise that many mentally ill people have "normal" lives on the outside; children, jobs, and spouses. However, this comes with a serious cost; the family sacrifices their lives in order to make things easier on the one who is ill.

Like a dirty secret, our society does little to support or acknowledge the kids who grow up in such a home. In the family setting, mental illness is usually ignored or disguised because of embarrassment or fear the children could be taken from the home. In this case the sickness spreads throughout the home placing the heaviest burden on children, always

As a child in this environment, you are never as important as the mentally ill parent- the parent and "protection" of the parent comes first. Mental illnesses have a resounding component of selfishness. Children are born selfish and it's a natural survival trait so what happens when children lose that God-given right and privilege? Fear, guilt, and shame take over the children's thoughts. Fear of things getting worse or losing the parent's love, guilt over having natural selfish feelings and needs of ther own, and shame because your family is different.

As you might guess, it's difficult for the child, once grown, to blend in with the rest of society when they've spent their early years pretending abnormal was normal. They often struggle to find out what's normal because they didn't learn that from their parents. They have a hard time functioning beyond the control a parent may still have on them, even though they are adults. Mental illness is hard to make sense of and adult children are trying to make sense of their chldhood for many years.

The lack of support for people who have a mentally ill parent is astonishing. This isn't something you can discuss in an everyday setting with so much shame surrounding it still. Slim Pickings on who to go to for good help. From experience, I can tell you not many people want to hear my story or want to hear anything beyond the very basics. It makes them "uncomfortable" or they simply don't understand. I couldn't tell my story without being judged.

I have my own story that has led to struggling with what's normal and whom to talk to about what. I don't even remember how I knew not to discuss my dad's "problems" and "quirks" but I definitely knew not to. From my experience, a mentally ill parent can make a child feel as if they were the abnormal one, the one with problems, and the one who needed to change to maintain a balance.

"Never having a childhood", "playing happy family" "it's like a death of a parent, but with no closure", "things aren't always what they seem to be", "always having a secret" are all quotes from adult children who grew up with an ill parent. As an adult, it is still hard for me to see a situation for what it is. The appearance of normal raises a red flag because I don't believe in normal, nor trust it.

Imagine if your parent was a serial killer. This is the life that Melissa Moore grew up with. As a child she unknowingly listened to her dad tell "stories" of how he could kill someone. He was the Happy Face serial killer now serving his sentence in prison. Instinctively, as most children of the mentally ill, she felt ashamed enough to keep everything a secret until her own daughter questioned where her grandpa was, then she knew if she didn't face the truth, she would never recover. She wrote a book entitled, Her statement about the book is "I'm coming out to encourage other people they are not alone".

Making Sense of Mental Illness

There's no coincidence that I chose Psychology as my major in college. There is also a reason why it came naturally for me and I graduated top of my class. I've spent half my life unraveling the oddities of my childhood.

Some of the issues posed to children of mentally ill are an increased likelihood of inheriting a mental disorder, they feel responsible for their parent at an early age, they are more likely to need therapy themselves, and have issues surrounding marital problems and addictions.

The first thing was my father's cross-dressing and gender issues. I thought every father dressed up like a woman from time to time because I saw it on a popular movie when I was a child; "Tootsie" where Dustin Hoffman dresses like a woman. The movie was fun and so was playing that 'game' with my dad. My dad eventually got a sex change as well. His transgender is not a mental illness- I don't want anyone to be confused about that. There is a name for it; Gender Identity Disorder, and even that does little to explain everything.

As I got older there were other symptoms, like being very antisocial, obsessed with shooting animals on our property- deciding which should live or die like it was a game, bargaining and charming people into doing him favors or tricking them somehow so he would always be the superior one, and demanding perfection from me and if I couldn't deliver then mental abuse was sure to ensue.Everything, especially people, are a game to him.

The root of my father's personality and gender disorders is narcissism. A term thrown around synonymously with selfishness too often. Narcissism is far more extreme. According to Wikipedia. "Narcissistic parents demand certain behavior from their children because they are seen as an extension of themselves and they need to be be properly represented". Even if that was the child's only task, it is far too much burden to carry.

Although I believe my dad to be high functioning in all his attributes, the difficulties associated with being an adult child of a mentally ill parent is they will always make YOU out to have the problem. It can drive a person nuts trying to reason with them. I finally get a handle on reality and it slips away, means nothing, in my father's presence. His words are never to be taken at face value, there is always a hidden agenda or insult. The best advice is to let it go and stop trying to fix a deteriorating situation. Mentally ill parents get worse with age and their disorders intensify so the letting go process is almost inevitable if you want a life of your own.

Processing Pain

No doubt you have experienced pain with a mentally ill or abusive parent. Whatever you have to do to establish a sense of self beyond their imprint on you, is necessary. Sometimes counseling helps because we can talk about these things that others won't understand or feel comfortable talking to us about. Other times, we have to cut ties for a period of time or indefinitely. We have been programmed to be self-sacrificing for our parent so guilt, along with the pain will be a major factor.

  • Treat yourself kindly as you would an innocent child. You would not likely throw a child into the same situation you dealt with so why do it to yourself? Don't make yourself relive it by dwelling on it.
  • If you get stuck in pain, then you become bitter, angry and hurt. Life always has pain in it and pain is meant for learning and even becoming better person for it. Look at pain as part of life and what you have to learn from it. Don't even get stuck in pain, keep moving on.

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Comments 54 comments

Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 6 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

So many parents (especially many men, but not only men) are just children who never wanted to grow up and never wanted to become really responsible. So they choose to forever stay - kids and often play roles of somebody else (your father changed the gender, my bf`s father became alcholic after getting children, my own father did not know what to do with children, etc)...So many parents are charmers among their friends and colleagues and terrorist inside their own homes. So many parents expect that their own childer act as parents, not vice versa. This is big tragedy of humanity, people should be emotionaly mature before having children (chronological age has obviously nothing to do with it), so suffering of this world would be much less.

Excellent Hub, Izzetl, there will come the day when your wounds will be healed.

joecseko profile image

joecseko 6 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

This is an incredible piece of work! Firstly, based on the personal experiences that you speak of, there are many parallels in our separate lives (yours and mine).

Secondly, the way you address both nature an nurture, and the fact that they are BOTH responsible for how we become who we are is priceless. Add to that, society's role in deepening this crisis for families, that makes this by far one of the best hubs I've read from anyone here.

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

tatjana- thanks for stopping by. You are so right about people being emotionally mature before having chlidren- my parents were in their 30's when i was born so age has nothing to do with it. Yes many mentally ill people are not the typical that we think of like bums or people talking to themselves, but rahter they live a normal life, for the most part, outside of the home and live their sickness inside the home. Thanks for words of encouragement. I think studying psychology was my best outlet- studying the abnormalties in people made me feel more normal.

joe~ Society's role is intersting because so many things have become more acceptable as we 've become a modern society but we haven't come very far in dealing with mental illness- it's still based around shame, secrets, and disguises. Like I said in the hub, society tends to forget about the children and people effected by a mentlly ill family member. THanks Joe for stopping by and for the compliment. It was one of those hubs I hung onto for a while without publishing, unsure if my rambling would make sense so Im glad you got something out of it.

kimh039 profile image

kimh039 6 years ago

Thanks izetti. well said. nice hub. will look for more hubs by you.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I totally understand about keeping secrets, for a long time, even now I find myself on guard all the time, It is even when i am in another town I feel that people know about my ex husband, I feel that a banner is above my head, and I also feel that people look at me and think of him. when i go away on holiday, I feel new. no secrets no lies and no embarrassment, I also studied psychology and passed my exams to be a councelor but feel that it is not the time at the moment. My son was lucky enough in one way that he was surrounded by hundreds of friends who just took it in their stride, and now he seems to be okay, but I still keep an eye on him all the time. your father sounds a little bit like my husband did, in the way that he always tries to be on top of a situation and is totally unsociable. we know live in the same house, for finance reasons, but he has taken over the upstairs and I have converted the downstairs to live in. nell

EstrangedDaughter 6 years ago

My mom suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) among other things, and has been emotionally abusive my entire life. I haven't heard of the book "My Parent's Keeper" before. I'll check that out!

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Hi Estranged daughter~ I am sorry to hear about the abuse you've endured from your mother. I've had to cut ties with dad and talk to him minimally, twice a year. That's proabaly the best book of the ones I listed here, but there is another one that is really good in general about mental illness in everyday people and situations. It's called "People of the Lie" by Gregory Peck. Best of luck to you and I wish I could say something to help you more, but I'm still at a loss on how to deal with people who have NPD. It can be a roller coaster nightmare.

blue 6 years ago

I met my boyfriend in college studying Early Childhood Ed/Elementary Ed. I had all the psychs, general, child, social, abnormal and was fastenated and deeply touched and frustrated with mental illness...specifically Narcissism sp? I mention this because my boyfriend back then in 1982, although I did not understand at the time, had all the signs of early mental disturbance. Had a 28 year reunion, and he was so unbelievably out of his mind to me when he caught me alone. He smiled and was kind when people were around, but he screamed at me and told me I manipulated him because I would not be intimate with him and betray my husband! Then, he completely ignored me and was bursting at the seems with anger that he began to show his true self to others that distrubed them. He has a wife and two young children. I thank my lucky stars that I did not marry him after 4 years of dating! My question: If we as a people are aware, have absolute knowledge that a parent is mentally ill and abusing children, don't we have/should we call child services to try to save these children? By the way: while dating, his father was a drunk, belittling, abusive father as I was involved first hand and it is going down generations!

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

blue~ I've been in a circumstance of having to call child protective services on a neighbor. There were a couple of instances where the father was negligent and rough with the kids, but I dismissed them, then I did call the cops finally. Couple mohts later the wife and kids moved out so I guess that's good.

What you should report is what happened between you two and how he yelled at you, then report he has 2 children and you know his history with abuse. I can't ignore my moral obligation, but I always try to do it in a way it won't threaten my or my family. Perhaps a police report about his incident with you, but be anonymous or child protection services will always take a call and investigate the best they can. If he and his wife deny anything then there is nothing they can do. Wife is probably afraid of him. Child service may talk to the children depending on age. And of course all this depends on what state you live in. Thanks for the comment.

Anaya M. Baker profile image

Anaya M. Baker 6 years ago from North Carolina

Thank you for your insightful can be so incredibly difficult to watch a loved one go through highs and lows, radical changes in personality, self-destructive behavior etc., yet still have to be the voice of reason, the "parent," the breadwinner, the mediator between the turmoil and chaos of the home and the outside world. So many family members in this situation go through their own depression and anxiety from dealing with all of it, but feel that they cannot ask for help because it is not their role to be the one in need. Glad to see people talking about this - easier when we know we're not alone:)

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Anaya baker~ Families not only don't ask for help but are stuck in a worl with lies all around them they don't know if they actually need help. Often times, mental illness is made to feel like the norm within the family unit.

I wish there was more data on this topic to talk about more, but other than my experiences and a narrow amount of data on this topic, this really should be talked about more, especially with the rising amount of families with someone coming back from war. That experience can often cause mental issues like post traumatic stress disorder

Thanks for the comment Annaya.

LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

This is an excellent Hub. There is a lot of information out there in scholarly journals and the like when Mental Illness was treated, when insurance and the government felt helping people with mental illness was better than locking them in prison. In the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's there was a lot done on depression and the family. All of that has been turned over to Pharmacies who do not profit by people being well. I know lots of people who would gladly take real help, there is just not any to be had

Avamum profile image

Avamum 6 years ago from Canada

I agree with LillyGrillzit - excellent Hub on a topic most overlooked. Mentally ill individuals are so often the center of attention while their loved ones and family members bear the brunt of caring for them and dealing with the fallout. I will look for more of your Hubs, izetti - I hope you find some comfort in knowing that your sharing is helping many others!

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Lillygrillzit~ I know of stats in my area that most of the people in prison are mentally ill. Most of the homeless people as well and of course there are the veterans. Some would benefit from medication and others natural things would do fine, but the issue is most aren't getting good counseling and/or diagnosis. I have a vet friend who saw a phychiatrist once, diagnosed with depression, and given 2 meds. There is a passing in the system- everything must be quicker is the theme. Same with kids who can't sit still- give them meds so the teacher doesn't have any problems. As you say "real help" I couldn' agree more with that.

Avamum~ THanks for your comment and support. I wish there were more awareness and solid solutions.

AmySurviving 6 years ago

Very touched that there are others of us out here in the world... surviving. My Mom is... gosh it would take so long to explain it all. But I have finally cut ties - and I am sitting here feeling sad and guilty... like the bad daughter that couldn't save her once again. But I have a husband of 23 years and a beautiful daughter of my own, who is 3... I don't have one more second to spend on a woman who can never love me back. But it breaks my heart that I will never know the love of a Mom... but I know, for a fact, that my daughter will know this love... and that is my promise to myself for my life. Thanks for having this information out here -- it helped this sad lonely little girl.. now a woman.... feel not so alone tonight.

izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

AmySurviving~ I'm glad to help you and for you to know many others go through this too. Cutting ties is healthy to set example for your daughter now. I'm in that position too and feel that my family now is what matters most. Mentally ill parents take up so much time and energy and it can be too overwhelming. As an adult, we are able to decide maturely what we need to do, but the decision of cutting ties always comes with guilt. Guilt is something ingrained in us to not think about ourselves because a parent is selfish. The guilt fades and the sadness is part of being human, but the pain of enduring an unhealthy relationship can do a lot damage. I hope this helps.

tasha 5 years ago

I thought I was the only one. I spend so many years being totally shattered by what happened in my life. My father has various personality disorders and although my mother knows what is wrong with him, she never told me for fear that I would look down on him or hate him. I now know after years, that she never told because she was scared that I'd throw this information to his face in an argument and cause him to "lose" it once more. I went through hell my entire life. I was physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually harassed by this man, who was also a doctor and who only went to psychiatrists in order to get an "easy" fix. He would lie to most of them, and when they "cought on" with the lies he would stop therapy. What he wanted was to change the nasty way he felt quickly without really addressing his issues. He wanted to be more functional but he never wanted to relinguish his old self. He was looking for "easy rules" to follow and he obviously was against medication as it "made him weak and we would take advantage of him".

My father was very functional on the outside. He was quite successful and when he was "losing" it with people or got involved in arguments, he always had a brilliant excuse. He would manipulate others and come up with all sorts of "valid reasons" as to why he misbehaved. He pretended he loved us all, he kissed us affectionately in front of others, he would play open-minded and kind and then soon as the "strangers" would leave, he would kick me or punch me. As a result, we were kept away from people or the extended family. My father could only keep up appearances for a very short time and so he didn't want to be around people. So I had no support and nobody to turn to.

What is my biggest problem is alocating responsibility. I was abused and Im on therapy. I know the abuse happened. I know it is unfair and true. But to me sometimes it feels like he got away with it. Because he was so "mentally ill". Even though he did have SOME sense of what is socially acceptable and kept on pretending to be normal on the outside, he clearly did not believe that he respect, kindness and freedom was our rights. I suppose that is what a Narcissist is all about. The only change in his behavior I ever saw is when he realised that he got too old and too sick and that he run the risk of being abandoned by everybody around him. That is when he turned "pious" and "religious" and "kind". He is still abusive of course. Just covert-aggression and he really trully believes that we have "fallen" for the trick and that all is well!!! He simply does not believe that his tricks arent working.

I place most responsibility on my mother. She was a doctor herself. She had money. And at some point, irrespective of fear her maternal instict should have kicked in. But it didn't. In fact she also became an abuser to alleviate her desperation and later on indifferent not "meddling" with the abuse nor questioning my father in order not to set him off.

Now I am left to pick up the pieces. And boy is it hard work. It pains me to this day to realise that my parents were more concerned with their status, fame and what other people might say, than getting help and giving their children a decent future and life.

Darla A. 5 years ago

Thank You for this article. It is really a help to know that there are others out there like me. I have to cut ties with my mother. I don't want to be hurt anymore. This article gave me permissiion to do that. Thank You.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Darla~ so glad you found this useful. I have another article about cutting family ties and it garners 100's of comments from those in similar situations, but related to mental illness in the family- and I've come to realize there are many out there with these concerns. Even though it's emotional, it is logical to decide it's not worth the cost of being hurt anymore. I know exactly how you feel. Good luck and you're welcome.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

tasha~ glad you found this site. It's too bad your mom never told you all about your dad's ills, it would have assisted you in understanding him better. But that's all part of walking on egg shells when someone in the family has an illness. It really does become all about them.

I agree it sounds like your dad did take the easy way out. My dad did as well. Manipulation is their self-defense and almost an instinct. They will throw you under the bus before admitting anything.

People with mental illness get away with a lot. Society decided long ago to treat them with compassion, but this let a lot of abusers get away with things and society not to really 'deal' with the issue. It's one thing to be compassionate and another to be apathetic.

You sound very grounded despite your situation, and intelligent about the whole situation. You're not buying into it and that's half the battle- people get sucked in so easily. You're heading in the right direction and it takes therapy. It's really about maintenance. You have to work at it like an achoholic every day or every month or whenever it gets uprooted and raw again. I'm writing something on forgiveness which is interesting because people don't like ot do it for exactly what you are describing- letting him get away with it. But that's really not the case- get yourself healthy so you can deal with it. Forgiveness doesn't end what he did or excuse it, it's just part of the process that helps you get on with life and end the unhealthy connection between you, your mom and dad.Good luck, I hope you continue therapy and don't continue their legacy- be different than them.

ItStillGoesOn 5 years ago

Great to find this site! Never read anything that understands and explains my feelings towards my mother and my childhood. At 37 she still has very serious negative impact on my and my brother and sisters lives. Does anyone know of any organisations (in the UK) that offer support and advice to the children of mentally ill parents? All the information I can find is is for the patient themselves or for relatives/friends who care for them. I (we) have had to cut contact with our mother to attempt to get on with our own lives and none of the organisations I have found seem appropriate. Many thanks.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

ItStillGoesOn~ thanks for stopping by. There are not a lot of support groups even here in the United States. That's what provoked me to write this because of such unawareness for the effects of mentally ill people. I really hope you are able to find something, perhaps start you own support group. This is a very common but often not addressed problem.

Dave 5 years ago

I am writing this , after my family accused me of stealing my nephews toy leappad . Simply because i had mentioned once that i think all this texting and ipad obsession is getting crazy. Mind you i am 29 and have my own buisness house and car. This is also my birthday weekend. I thought i was going to meet them for breakfest and because i was there the day previous they said it must have been me. My father said i should come clean before they make a police report. i really need an opinion because in my mind this is a horrifying situation. It is really maiking me take a pause because i have to be logical and make a decision, If they actually are beleiving this i probably need to take a long break from them. i keep saying i didn't touch his damn toy and they say its my fault and somethings up. I am not exaggerating even slightly

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Dave~ if you didn't steal it, then not much more you can do than tell them you didn't. Kids can lose things and kids are more likely to lie than adults.

If your family is regularly like this and don't trust you then chances are there are some issues with them, which only you can decide if you can tolerate or not. Many people take breaks form their family. Talk to them and let them know your frustrations and ask them how they'd feel if they found out the leappad wasn't stolen by you. Is it worth it to accuse you?

fetty profile image

fetty 5 years ago from South Jersey

Beautifully written with strong healthy advice about moving past the pain. I am sure, though , that the time frame is different for each person who has survived living with a family member who is mentally ill. I have just written a piece now that my parents have died and because of your article, I will publish it. I am so glad you have received so many positive responses from fellow hubbers. I wish you much success in your professional life. You have written a timeless piece. Thank you!

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

fetty~ thank you for your wonderful comment. I appreciate your honesty and will make my way over to your hub on your parents.

meg 5 years ago

I have dealt with mentally ill parents, and extended family on one side, in what has been a very isolating, depressing path. It is so nice to see there are others who also have experience with severe mentally ill family, even if the form is much different. I have struggled w sex abuse and mental illness myself as well, and fund that even though there are times (more often than not) I have to distance myself from some family due to my inability to tolerate their illness, it is so helpful to remember that they learned it from their experiences and while I don't tolerate their negative behavior, I can still find reason to love them as people and find compassion for them-even if it is from a distance for now.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

meg~ I know exactly where you're coming from on not excusing behavior but just loving and accpeting the person as a human being, out of compassion. The distance is so important or else I'd go crazy of I were around them often. Your comment and mentality is very mature and I'm sure you've worked hard to get to that point. THanks for stopping by.

krista 4 years ago

It is honestly sad to say that articles like this are such a relief, but after processing, dealing with and letting go of the past, we are left with ourselves, having to relearn, form identities, and deal with the fact that it is not nearly over. this has been the most difficult part for me. i had spent the majority of my life being victimized in such a chaotic environment that it left very little time for self reflection. Once free from that environment, i began building new relationships and very quickly came to realize just how many important and meaningful life skills i did not posess. I also had an extremely altered perception of reality, love and truth. it has taken many years, coutless epiphanies, and much endured pain and anguish letting go of all of the broken pieces of my foundation. it was very disheartening to realize that many difficult lessons learned seemed very simple and common sense in hind sight. It led me to feel unintelligent, and unworthy for a very long time, but i never gave up. the gift has been in seeing all of the beautiful growth and change that has come to pass and being excited for more. I wrote more that i expected to, but it is so inspiring to hear from people in these situations who have prevailed. thank you

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Krista~ glad you found some relief in this article and the comments. Mental illness haunts many families and most don't acknowledge it or deal with it so it goes on to effect the family members and thats too bad. You certainly are not unintelligent or unworthy- when this happens to a family member, we, especially as kids,internalize it, thinking somehow it's us that has a problem. Good to know you've gotten past that.

Confused77 profile image

Confused77 4 years ago from Wisconsin, United States

My dad was schizophrenic bipolor and I'm trying so hard to accept and understand the way he was. I went through a lot of mental/verbal/emotional abuse and watched my mother get the same. He always held us up on a pedastool and when we couldn't live up to his he made us well aware of it. I always felt like I was never good enough for him and I never once felt like he loved me the way I wanted him to. He was a cross-dresser which I learned to accept over time. He left a huge scar that I am trying to deal with and failing miserably. I recently just started seeing how badly this effects my relationships, especially with men. I'm always so afraid that I can't be good enough for them and they'll find someone who can. So why put myself in that situation? I've got major insecurities and self-doubt. He had multiple personality disorder and that was the worst one because I never knew what to expect. One minute he would act like the father that I needed so badly and in a split second he was screaming at me telling me how worthless I was, just like my mother. He put my mom down a lot for the 2 times she attempted suicide and my little brother was the only one that got physically abused only a few times. I will never forget the time that he accused me of doing something I didn't and stood in my room yelling at me and cursing at me, I was crying so hard I couldn't look at him, and that made it worse. He demanded I look at him. After I turned 18 I told him he wasn't my dad and I never wanted to talk to him again. I thought maybe if I left I could start healing and forget about it. Shortly after, he passed away from a heart attack. And now every single day of my life I deal with the fact that I feel as thought my dad didn't love me and that he died thinking I didn't love him. I'm so glad I found this article because you are right, the children of parents that have mental illnesses are hidden and not helped very often. I always think that I have a problem and it always comes back to not feeling good enough or loved by my father. I never realized how much it impacts my life and who I am today. I wish so badly I could overcome this but I haven't found anyone who understands what it was like or the reason I feel these things. I don't know why I'm saying all of this...I just feel comfortable in an area of people who've had similar situations. I'm just so desperate for someone who gets it...I just don't know how to deal with this.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Confused~ if you read up on the illness itself, it will free you from taking everything so personally. This helped me. Once your dad became ill you lost your dad- it wasn't your dad who didn't love you or was speaking to you or abusing you and your brother, it was the illness.

In a way your dad died when he became ill...long before he actually died. In the end it wouldn't have mattered if you made your peace with him before he died- he was mentally ill. I mentioned in this hub and so true is that we grieve our parents' death before they die. It's like we've lost them to the illness.

Counseling also helped me- I went to cheap or free places like my school or local church. You need to not feel alone in this. Also in relationships everybody has their insecurities- if you look at others who have them it doesn't seem so unique that you come into a relationship with your own past and insecurities. We all have them.

And yes...I get it. I am glad you felt comfortable enough to share.

My dad always said I was stupid...he was an eccentric genius and for the longest time I felt bad for not being as smart or measuring up to him, but what I realized is I was smarter than him in common sense at least and people and interpersonal intelligence- he was just book smart. My dad never thought I could graduate college and I did- that was about the time I realized all those evil words he said to me as a kid were not true because I proved him wrong on at least one account. You must do the same...find the inconsistencies or untruths about what your dad told you. Now I feel sorry for him more than I do myself.

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 4 years ago

I wish to tell you that I found this hub to be very honest and it touched my heart! I grew up in such a dysfunctional family that to me the nightime soap DALLAS was my *normal*. So if this gives you any inclination. I was misdiagnosed 10x from the age of 7. Two yrs ago I found out I have PTSD and anxiety disorder. I give those two labels and my life over to God. Afterall, he is the reason I am alive today. I respect you for bringing this out in the open. May God Bless you. I will add you to my prayer circle of people who I call friend. take care..

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Thank you so much Jo. And may God bless you too. This topic often gets hidden nin the shadows but i am truly gla you appreciate it.

cherylvanhoorn profile image

cherylvanhoorn 4 years ago from Sydney

Thanks for that, I find it very illuminating and something that has weighed on my mind for a long time. I am the parent with the mental illness. I have dissociative Identity Dissorder or what used to be known as Multiple Personality disorder.

For years my children have worn the brunt of this with a great deal of angst on my part as with D.I.D you do have a degree of insight and do understand what it is that is impacting on the family. However you also have the situation where I am not always concious of the behaviors within my system and they frequently highjack the plane. We are currently going through a stage where they have struck out for some independence and they have gone forth and created their own cyber identities and have ordered things with out my knowledge.

I am often in the position of things having been done and actions I have taken or even people that I apparently know very well that I have no memory of at all all. It is confusing for me so I can only imagine how challenging it is for my children. One of my kids recently came to me and told me that he has a relationship with several of my alters. (I have fourteen, thirteen girls and one guy, the oldest being 16) So when they strike for freedom they can be as destructive as a child.

Coupled with this is the inherent self destruction of the disorder. The girls (and guy) have actively at one time or another tried to seriously harm or kill me from time to time not understanding the concept that if they kill me they will kill themselves as well. I am covered in scars from this, my children even more so.

One particularly bad night I had barricaded myself in my bedroom and there was an active plan for self termination. The thing that pulled me up and got me down to hospital was my eldest son doing laps outside my room in attempts to ensure that I was okay. I had left a note with this that I don't remember. After I went to hospital, he found the note. This is a never ending shame I feel due to the fact that it is a burden that no child should have to bear. Not at all. It was a turning point and it helped me to start getting a hold on things. I still struggle but the self destruction is no where near as bad as it was and I am getting better and the boys in there way are dealing.

I have made a real point of making sure that therapy has always been there for them, having a point of contact that will help them to cope with what is happening with me. I allow banter as a way for them to deal with it.

They call me crazy in an affectionate term. My husband and my mother in law do not approve. My response to this is that they are the ones that have had to wear the brunt of this over a long period of time and I do not want the issue to be a big tabboo that they will never be able to approach. I want them to come and talk to me about it and if by calling me crazy it helps them to detox and demythosize the disease and there for cope in a better way then that will only be of benefit for them.

I can only speak of myself but I flagellate myself over my illness and what it has done to my children and I never, but never take it for granted that they will just have to cope with it. I have always tried as hard as I can to wear the deal on this, whether I am sick or not it is my behavior and I have to without pause accept responsibility for the collateral damage that it does to them and to my husband. There is no way I can escape this.

My eldest son has problems. I am not sure what the cause is, we have been doing the rounds of pass the pacell on this and no one can give us a clear definition of his issues except there is something wrong. I can help but worry that whatever it is is my fault. I cannot escape the fact that my behaviors, my illness has caused problems.

My youngest son has an autoimmune disease. I also have auto immune diseases and again I blame myself for passing these on. It is so hard, and it is not productive but is difficult to stop.

I have to go forward from now, and be there for them and do the things that I need to do in order to be able to give as much to my kids as I can.

At the end of the day I have to put one step in front of the other, make sure that the kids are aware of the fact that none of this is their fault and that they are doing the best they can with a seriously screwed mother.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Cheryl~ I cant thank you enough for sharing your experience and perspective. What hardship you must go through as I can tell you love your children. You are mom and those kids are going to inherantly love you no matter what so your best bet is to educate them and they will come to believe you that it is not their fault or to take things too personally. Educate them about your illness and always have them have a place or person to go to when or if they feel like they cant go to you- I strongly believe people with a mental illness need to have some sort of support network if not for them, then for their kids. Families with mental illness tend to isolate themselves and thats also not healthy. I am sorry for your autoimmune illnes0 I have rheumatoid arthritis and since I was phsycally very healthy prior to it I belive many of these illnesses are psychologically driven

cherylvanhoorn profile image

cherylvanhoorn 4 years ago from Sydney

Thank you. I have always tried to make sure that they have a therapist or a social worker lined up working with them to help them deal with it. They have been working with a social worker now for the last four years and it has made a huge difference. I also try very hard to make certain that they understand that IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT, they have done nothing wrong and I encourage them to come to me to talk about it and educate them about it as well. It does make a difference as I have always been terrified that I would not be able to give them the stability that they needed.

When I got really sick it was a surprise. I also developed Fribomyalgia and Mixed Connective Tissue dissorder (well I always had it but it just flared as I got older) which has caused a great deal of difficulty with mobility.

I have been lucky that I have a great husband and we live with my mother in law who has been of great assistance with the boys as well.

I am so greatful for you not judging as this has been a part of me that I have felt that I have sinned in many ways and I bear a great deal of guilt over it. I knew I had the mental illness before I had the children it just got worse ten years ago and at times I feel that I should not have had them as it was not fair to them.

However they are the most important part of my life and I can't imagine life without them.

Thank you.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

You are very conscious of your children's needs..and very aware of what is going on with them so I know truly you are a good mom in not-so-ideal circumstances.

i also know about judgment in dealing with my own illness, rheumatoid arthritis. When I had my daughter I did not have the illness but I recently had a baby so many people judged my reasons for having a kid while having an illness. Also I know about limited abilities with kids. i feel like I let my kids down all the time. My kids are young and active and I used to be but not now. Kids need love most and you and I both have that for our kids.

i am so glad you have support. I do know a grandma whose daughter has DID and lives with her with her 3 children. my daughter goes to dance class with one of her kids. the living arrangement works good for them. i talk with the grandma all the time and i know the struggles with DID but she pulls through to help her daughter and her grandchildren.

You keep doing the best you can and I'm glad you opened up on here for others to read and learn from.

Cheryl Van Hoorn 4 years ago

Thank you so much for not being jugdemental and understanding. It is not easy having any illness and not easy dealing with that then having children on top of that. My two are amazing with it but I still can't help feeling that I have damaged them in some way.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

cheryl~ I think good parents always wonder if we're doing right by our kids- we always worry, but like I said love means a lot to them. And we can do that much!

RB 4 years ago

I too am a child of a parent with a mental disease. My mother has Schizophrenia. This mental disease made my life a living hell growing up. I am now 34, and my mother(60) has just now been admitted in a nursing home this year 2012 by recommendation of her doctor, hospital and local authorities. Sigh..... I don't know how to feel. But I am often times left with thoughts of guilt because I didn't allow her to come and stay with me in my home( again)... Sooooo grateful for this article. It brings warmth to my heart reading through the stories( that may sound weird) but what I mean is, others like myself exist. It makes me feel not so alone about my situation.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Schizophrenia and Bi-polar are those illnesses that get worse with if they aren't bad enough. My husband's first daughter was with a woman with bi-polar. We fought for custody for years but the state she is in favor mothers- even if she's been in and out of mental hospitals. His daughter is only 14- spends summers with us and she wants to be with her mom most of the time, but I feel it is out of guilt as you've stated. Your mom would be a full time job and the average person doesn't have the ability to care for a schizophrenic let alone the danger factor. I hope the best for you and it is best for your mom. visit her often and assure her care is optimal.

Jay 4 years ago

My father was an un-medictaed schizophrenic who held my mother and I hostage violently (at gunpoint occasionally) for a handful of years. He robbed a few banks for the money to keep us alive. He was eventually shot by the police and then hung himself shortly thereafter while staying in a state prison mental facility. My mother was raised in a large Italian family with deep mafia ties (the Bruno Mafia family) She was neglected, abused and left to figure life out for herself in too many ways. Countless failed relationships with severe alcoholics and drug addicts later? We both took a much needed break from each other. We've been through quite a bit together. Needless to say my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood was bizarre in many ways. The astronomically poor neighborhood we were raised in (the housing projects) didn't help the situation any. Confusion is an understatement. At 40 years old I'm still picking up some of the pieces. But do feel that I have a wonderful grasp on the situation at this point. This only after 17 years of consistently "working on it". All of this made me a stronger, wiser and far more loving and empathetic human being. A sincere person that I am actually proud of! I still posses some social phobias but nothing that a quick outing wont cure. In other word after about the first 10 minutes of feeling uncomfortable it's easy to loosen up and enjoy myself with others. The only words of wisdom I can offer are: Be sure to do your work every single day! As time goes on you will see the benefits, guaranteed. Remember, Quitting is not an option ...

Best of luck to all of you! and Stay Strong.

izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Thank you for sharing Jay. You have definitely been a victim of mental illness in your family. But seems you are rising above that and you will always be working on it. When people like us have grown up in an altered reality, it takes time to find a new normal and we;'re constantly adjusting it.

Smrts 3 years ago

My mom and dad are very short tempered, I dont know if they are really ill or they are normal. Since i was born, all i have seen is them fighting over small issues, my dad used to beat my mum and abuse her alot, when i grew up, I used to save my mum and my dad used to beat me up. It still happens, I am in my final year of high school, they expect me to study hard, however i can hardly concentrate, I have nightmares at night about my father killing me and my mom. I am getting really frustrated because my mom isn't better, she takes all her anger our on me, she shouts at me and abuses me. I cry alot and think of ways of studying without thinking about them. its not working, I really need help, they are driving me crazy and i am lost. My dad drinks and smokes alot, if he isn't drinking he shouts on us. My mum can be normal sometimes but then again she regains her form where she abuses me like hell.

izettl profile image

izettl 3 years ago from The Great Northwest Author


I would hope there are other adults you can confide in and possibly get yourself or them some support and help. Otherwise, I would work hard to get yourself out of your house after graduation. Is there a local library or friend's house you can study at?

smrts 3 years ago about to get done with my last year of high school, after that i will be shifting to my uni

izettl profile image

izettl 3 years ago from The Great Northwest Author


I really wish the best for you. Looking back on my senior year...almost 20 yrs ago- yikes! My mom was the crazy one- she was going through major menopause and she was bat crazy. I moved out 1 month after graduation and didn't talk to her for 2 yrs. I worked my butt off working, going to college just to never have to live with my parents again.

gsidley profile image

gsidley 3 years ago from Lancashire, England

An interesting hub about an often neglected topic.

Our parents have a major impact on the sort of person we become. Although it undoubtedly can be traumatic living with a person with major mental health problems (such as psychosis ), I believe the issue is a much broader one and that parents without these mental disorders frequently screw up there children e.g. parents who: drink too much, abuse drugs, are cold/unemotional, are overly possessive, have anger control problems, are highly critical etc - all of these presentations (and more) are commonly place in the absence of so-called mental illness.

You have a very interesting (and huge) range of hubs. I've become your latest follower.

izettl profile image

izettl 3 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Thanks gsidley,

I think you have a great point about other issues within parents regarding raising children.

Anonymous 3 years ago

I am considering breaking ties with my parent who has a severe and untreated mental illness and who severely abused me emotionally and neglected me physically. I'm like you - escaping to college in order to not have to be with that parent. They will not stop their abuse, no matter how many boundaries I set or how many times I try to reconcile with them. I can't speak with that person or think about that person without feeling sick. Yet, I feel so guilty and part of me doesn't want to honor my own boundary of cutting off contact....I get "urges" to call them for affirmation that I know never existed.

izettl profile image

izettl 3 years ago from The Great Northwest Author


I think the guilt in your situation is part of the abuse. My dad had a hold of me like that, sometimes still does, but distance is great for sticking with boundaries. Follow a plan and stick to it. Only call once every few months or not at all if that's what you choose, but stick to it...make that promise to yourself. I didn't talk to my dad for over a year at one point and I got healthy on my own. Then when I did get back into contact, I was better equipped with seeing the sickness and abuse and could ignore it because I now had my own self esteem and time away.

abidareacode profile image

abidareacode 2 years ago from Areacode , Kerala, India

Mentally ill parents are really a threat especially to adult girl child. The behaviour of a mental patient is unpredictable and so should be always careful as the threat is always around us.But as parents we cannot let them go alone. We have to give our constant care to them which may regain their mental health upto some extent.

Matty2014 profile image

Matty2014 2 years ago

Thanks for talking about how does it feels like to be the children of mentally ill parent. my mum used to have depression, and I always had to cope with her by my own. It is hard, I can never talk to anyone about it, I never meet anyone who really understand me, and I always have to deal with my own emotion, because I can't find anyone would care about it.

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