Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Really Depressing Post Preceding Giveaway

***Please, after reading this post and before posting anything negative or angry, be very aware that there is nothing you can say to me that I have not already said myself, and please be also aware that this situation has been discussed among a group of very respected professionals who have all reached the same conclusion***

This has nothing to do with knitting. But next week there will be a LOT on here about knitting when I begin the VERY EXCITING blog give-away to celebrate the "birth" of Teach Yourself VISUALLY Circular Knitting. For today I am doing a bit of rather depressing baring of my soul. I haven't been able to come in here and chat about anything for a very long time comfortably, and I am hoping that by just saying all of this I can get unstuck here and in a few others areas as well. This post will also explain why I am not traveling further than 3-4 hours from home for the time being - I declined Sock Summit so I could stay closer to home. I was very, very sad about it, but did not want to end up needing to cancel classes at the last minute due to complications at home. And many more complications are pending.

I have been skirting around an issue here and on Facebook and anywhere else I "hang out" online. I occasionally come close to saying the truth and then I back off. My close friends know what's going on, but I haven't really been sure of how to handle or talk about what's going on in my life. There is a lot of stigma associated with that's happening here. I've thought about it a lot and I have come to a conclusion. It's not the things we speak that hurt us in the end, it is the things we do not speak that wound us. So I am going to speak about a topic that is painful and humiliating to some extent and certainly depressing. But it's important that I speak, for myself and for anyone else out there who is in my shoes. This doesn't make me brave. It doesn't make me smart. It makes me someone who's got a story they need to tell. There is a horse on my dining room table and I am tired of not talking about it publicly.

I am the adult child of a mentally ill parent. To the best of my knowledge my mother has struggled with varying degrees of mental illness since she was a small child under a variety of diagnoses. This means that for all of my life, as long as I can remember, as far back as I can think, my life has not been what one could call "normal". I shall spare you the details.

When your mother is "not well" (which is the kind way to say "seriously crazy-pants" or "nuts, really") you learn a different way of being. Some kids who grow up with an "unwell" parent grow up broken themselves. Others grow up well, and more or less normal, but maybe a bit resentful. This would be me. People who know me are aware of my sarcasm. Sarcasm is a defense mechanism. I developed a bit of an odd, some might say warped, sense of humor. You may have noted that above with the politically incorrect comments using words like "crazy-pants" and "nuts". But if anyone is allowed to use those words aside from a mentally ill individual themselves, its their kids.

For the past few months my mother has been experiencing an acceleration in mental health symptoms. The reasons are not of import. She has been medicated with antidepressants since the mid 1980's. She has had endless therapy. She has been in and out of a series of treatment centers, clinics, and hospitals as an outpatient and as an inpatient. She also has a host of medical conditions, ranging from diabetes to a couple of blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, a seizure disorder, high blood pressure, glaucoma, neuropathy... there's more, but I lose track. I have learned from listening and watching that when you are "just" mentally ill, there are days when it feels impossible to breathe. Nothing feels right, everything feels wrong. You don't fit in your own skin. Now imagine that in addition to feeling out of place in your own mind you have a host of complicated and uncomfortable medical conditions that require a host of medications, tests, injections, doctor visits and so on. That's where my mother is.

She has been seen and evaluated by a variety of individuals, from psychiatrists and social workers to medical doctors, nurses, her sisters, and the staff at the assisted living facility where she lives. She has been deemed "competent", which means she does not pose a direct threat to herself or others, and she is legally able to make her own decisions regarding her health care.

My mother has decided to stop taking all medications for her varying physical and mental conditions, including insulin. It is very likely, if she continues on this course, that her life will end fairly soon. Today is her 68th birthday. She has made a choice and we - her family, friends and care providers - have no alternative but to abide by her decision. It is not a decision I can relate to, but it is not my decision to make. I have done all that I can. Others have done all they can. The choice is hers, and she has made it.

When your parent is dying against their will of cancer or some other horrible disease, there's an understanding among us as people. We don't mind saying, out loud "My mother is on her 6th round of chemo and she's decided it's time to be done." We don't say that when a person is suffering mentally. I am not sure why we don't, why we can't say "My mother has been struggling with mental illness for more than 60 years and she has decided it is time to be done." Why do we insist a person keep trying if it's mental, but if it's physical we let them stop? I guess that's for medical ethicists to decide, and since I am not one, what do I know?

So if I ignore an email, or seem in a rush to get out of a classroom at the end of the day, or if I decline to appear or teach at your venue please understand that this is a very difficult time around here. This too shall pass - although I am afraid the outcome will not be a pleasant one. Please don't feel sorry for me, but understand why I may at times appear distracted, distressed, or unhappy.

Now, although this has been quite depressing, please bear with me. Next week will bring the joy of giving away a lot of yarn and books here on the blog. My life moves forward - modified certainly, (see my crying in my tea over the whole not making it to Portland in July thing? That's a modification made to accommodate the situation. But I still live on!) but forward.

And if there is anyone out there in a similar situation who feels very alone - you are not alone. Not by a long shot. Everyone's just too embarrassed to speak up. Lucky for you I have no such scruples! :)

***Edited to add - I have an amazing group of friends, a nearly perfect father, the best husband on earth, and a some really supportive colleagues. You know who you are.***

37 comments:

booksNyarn said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you during this trying time. To have such bookends of happy/sad going on at the same time has got to be difficult. I do know you have an awesome family and circle of friends, and those of us on the interweb fringes care too!

*HUGS*

Amy said...

I think you are so brave, both for respecting your mom's wishes, and for being so honest with what you want to put on your plate during this time.

sandir said...

Yes, this will pass, but it's going to suck in the meantime. Sending lots of love, hugs and non-judgmental support.

llamalady said...

Hugs, Melissa! This is not an easy thing to go through. There is mental illness in my family, as well (guess we all have someone don't we?) and I have some idea how difficult it all is. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

justthreadtwiddling said...

As someone who has major health issues and chronic depression I fully understand your position. As a daughter of 2 parents who had mental and physical issues, I send hugs. You will be missed here in Portland (my home, so I don't have to travel)at Sock Summit but we all do what we have to do. Fortunately my mental problems are nowhere as severe as my parents.
And yes, we throw in some snark, resentment and sarcasm, sometimes. I find it necessary to my sanity.
I will be celebrating my 59th birthday at Sock Summit (the organizers refuse to rename it my birthday bash) and I will send good wishes to your mother, you and the rest of your family.

Ida said...

You are very brave. You've done all you can and likely more.

Kirsten said...

(hugs!) And you're not alone, either. I think you made the right choice. I couldn't travel across the country, live in a hotel, and teach a big class with that kind of stuff going on at home.

It's not easy to have a parent with mental health problems. Those wounds from childhood never seem to heal right. And you find yourself torn between love and anger whenever you talk to them, or about them. Especially with lifelong mental illness, it can be hard to tell where the disease ends and the person begins. You'll find yourself often wondering "why couldn't they just be normal?" and "could I ever be normal with a childhood like that?"

But, if you look close enough, what's normal is to have issues, have problems, have family members that inspire complicated emotions. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's what human life is made of.

And, by the way, I also totally support what I believe is your mother's right to do what she wishes with her life. How can you say you're fighting a disease if not fighting isn't an option? I think we should all be allowed to live and die with dignity according to our wishes.

NH Knitting Mama said...

I am moved by your honesty and soul-bearing post. Thank you for sharing... hugs...

Ruby said...

Melissa, my thoughts are with you. Admirable that you brave your soul on your blog. Mental illness is as debilitating as any physical condition, often more so.

You are a remarkable person. Hang in there.

Ruby (took a class with you at the Woolie Ewe/Plano TX)

laruse said...

God bless you and your family, and especially your mother. Thank you for sharing and you and yours will be in my prayers.

Bonnie said...

I'm so glad you were able to write about this, but sorry you're in the situation. You sound like you're handling everything well, even if perhaps you don't always feel that you are. Thanks again for sharing. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Mya said...

Huge hugs to you and your family. Mental illness impacts a lot of lives and can be really tough to deal with. I certainly appreciate your honesty in discussing your family matters and I wish the best for you during this tough time. You will certainly be missed at SS11!

JoVE said...

Witnessing. And sending virtual whiskey (which can be non-alcoholic if that's how you roll) for strength in this difficult time.

And thanks for sharing. Your question about the difference between this and someone with cancer making a similar decision is a good one even if no one has any answers.

Debbie said...

I am glad you felt comfortable enough to bare your soul and hopefully it will give you the inner peace we all need. I wish I could say/do more other than you and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

DataGoddess said...

I wondered if something like this wasn't what prompted your post, and reply to my comment, on FB this morning.

As someone who has dealt with depression most of my life (we can trace it back to grade school) I sympathize with your mom, but I also have a lot of sympathy and respect for you in hanging in there for her. Even if she's made choices you don't agree with, you're still there, and that does mean a lot.

I hope that things don't get more difficult for you, or for her. Remember through all of this you're allowed to be angry, to grieve, and most importantly do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your mental health.

*hugs* offered.

Toni

Moonie said...

Thank you very much for sharing with us. I can't relate 100%, being the one in my family who HAS the mental illness, but I have seen what my behaviour and choices have done to those around me. It is not easy to love someone who is ill, and I thank you, and all those like you, who stick through it all. Thank you. And thank you for being there to support your mom, regardless of the situation. She is a lucky woman to have you.
(Hey, even the capcha agrees with me: the word to verify is "impress"!)

Anonymous said...

thoughts and prayers coming your way, just wanted to say thank you for being open about mental illness, it is indeed an illness and should never have been hidden ans stigmatized. There is nothing to be ashamed of with mental illness and the more aware people are, the more the world will see this, hugs!!!

Sharripie said...

It must have been very difficult for you to post your thoughts today, and I'm glad you have a way to get this off your chest and out into the ether. It sounds like you're on your way to finding some peace and I hope that peace will meet you halfway. I'm also glad you're surrounded by good people (and that cute pup!). Love & peace to you.

ccr in MA said...

I'm just here to say I'm sorry that this is the situation, and send a hug your way.

Jen said...

I am one of those who grew up with an unwell parent who wound up broken but I am repairing myself.

My Mom was severally depressed and probably had some sort of schizophrenia type of disorder, based on her thinking. Now she has early onset dementia and has had it for 10 years. She is 62.

I totally can relate to what you are going through.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine feeling anything other than respect for you and how you have handled your life. I know you were not fishing for such a comment. Hugs to you and your family. We all learn from strong people talking about the basic elements of their challenging lives.

Carole
South Dakota

Lisa said...

Thank you for, for everything. Thank you for your post, for your openness and frank observations. For showing your mom the respect and love she needs and deserves despite all else. For supporting her decisions. For treating her like the adult she is. Not every cancer story is that which you wrote about, many are of the "he/she's been through 4 what's a few more", or more likely "He/she/mom/dad needs to do this for me" variety, totally disregarding the feelings, wants, desires of the one actually going through treatment. Their intentions are honest, just misguided. With what you wrote, you are an example for others in similar very difficult situations.Thank you again! Lots of hugs, thoughts and prayers for you and your family.
I, too, won't be going to Sock Summit. You're not alone on many levels.
Congrats on your new book!!

Sally M said...

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights. You rock.

Keep doing what you need to do for yourself. I am holding you in light and love.

Anonymous said...

{{{Melissa}}} May your courage carry you through . . .and when it fails you, look to those dearest to you, because they're ready to carry you.

2monkeys_mom said...

My mother in law had early-onset alzheimer's disease, and before that was "difficult" (which you can read as mostly-undiagnosed mental illness). The ideas and challenges that you write are or have been dealt with by many, talked about by few. The only thing I can think to wish you both is "godspeed".

Angela said...

Thinking of you. I live in a similar boat, but not quite as severe at this time. It has been in prior times. Thank you for being so willing to speak out. One day mental illness will be as acceptable to others as physical illness.

GerryART said...

HUGS,
Gerry

debra said...

Bless you and your Mom. I'm glad you have a strong support system.

Milissa said...

This post resonated strongly with me because my mom is suffering from the dual illnesses of Alzheimers and ALS. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

billicummings said...

Melissa I admire your bravery. My mom is bi-polar and I have a hard time saying this out loud even to myself. Why? I don't know. I love her and don't want anyone to think of her negatively, I guess. Maybe I'm afraid someone will think, " Oh, that's what you have, just like your mother." I don't have the answers but it's good to hear others are on my side. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Melissa: My heart just broke for you when I read your post. I too lived through a parent's illness - my mother was alcoholic, and smoked 2 packs a day, and ate a high-fat diet. She was constantly under emotional distress, taking the rest of the family with her. Not until I was diagnosed with depression myself did I understand she likely had severe depression, and was using the alcohol to self medicate.
Despite the doctors warnings, she continued the excesses, didn't take meds, and we lost her at age 63. I'm still heart broken, even though it's already been 17 years since she's been gone.
Like the other posters here, I send you my thoughts and prayers, and virtual hugs, without judgement, without prejudice.
Don't forget your self care - even if you can only find 10 minutes to do something you love to do for yourself that is really life-affirming. For me, that was knitting...as long as I have stitches on the needle, life goes on.
Take care,
Love, Jacqueline

Cathy said...

My prayers are with you. I am looking forward to your new book! Don't forget to take care of you.

Judy said...

Thanks for writing that post, which was probably very, very hard to write. I'm sorry for what you're going through. The choices that family members make impact everyone in the family. Here's hoping that your Mom decides to start taking her meds again, so that she can live out the rest of her days in a healthier way.

Take care of yourself during this tough time.

Leslie said...

I hadn't checked your blog in a bit, Melissa, and don't think I ever commented before, but had to reach across and give you a cyber hug. As a chronically depressed person raised in a more-than-slightly-dysfunctional home environment I can sympathize and know that nothing we say can change your situation.

I always tell myself that it's not put on my plate if I can't handle it and I surprise myself sometimes. You will too -- you'll get through and find your depth of understanding, tolerance, patience and love has only increased. The tears won't felt you smaller, they'll only let you grow.

ChelleC said...

You are amazingly courageous. Hugs to you and my thoughts and prayers are going out to you during this trying time. Thanks for speaking up about something that many people keep hidden.

Judy said...

I can relate to your pain more than I care to admit. The best thing I can do is pray for you and your family and the situation you find yourselves in. I can fully understand your need to stay close to home . Virtual hugs and comfort is being sent your way.

mjknits said...

Sounds to me like you have a really good perspective on this very stressful and difficult situation. Your honesty and willingness to openly talk about this will hopefully help. My prayers are for you and your family to find the love and support you need to get through it.