Without fail, each month one of my site’s top search phrases is “when your mother is crazy,” or “how to deal with a crazy mom,” or something similar. (Even more popular is “does strawberry flavor come from beaver butt,” but that’s a whole other story.) It seems like there are a lot of people struggling in their relationship with a mother who has a mental illness, just like I did at one time. I’m writing this post (and stuffing it full of love) for them. For you.
A few things about this topic that I know to be true:
- First and foremost: You are not alone.
- Your mom may not realize she has a mental illness or is behaving irrationally
- It’s difficult to get a person with a mental illness diagnosed. In most states and provinces, they don’t have to get checked out unless they’re deemed a physical threat to themselves or others, and getting to that stage usually requires police intervention.
- Whether your mom gets diagnosed or not, it’s a good idea for you to find a professional to talk to. Start with a family doctor or school counselor. You don’t have to share everything that’s going on if you don’t want to, just that you need a referral for a counselor. If you’re worried about money, look for a resource that is free or low cost. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a good group for support resources, and they have local chapters, too. Some organizations can offer referrals for low-fee therapy, like NW Alliance for Psychoanalytic Study and Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.
- You may never get an answer to “what’s wrong with my mom?” and it’s not always black and white anyway. So, that leaves an open question hanging in the air, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living your life and planning your future.
- Your mother is doing the best that she can, given her circumstances.
- Even with a mental illness, your mother is an adult, and is responsible for herself. You’re not responsible for her or her actions.
- Don’t let the stigma of mental illness prevent you from getting help. Also, it’s not uncommon for a child of a mentally ill parent to experience a mental illness. For example, I suffered from depression; it started when I still lived with my mother (who has psychosis). I’ve had years of therapy. Besides helping me heal from the illness, it helped me grow as a person in a zillion different ways. I consider therapy an investment in yourself.
- You deserve self-care. If you have a bad day at home with your mom, take care of yourself. Go for a run. Make a painting. Watch a movie. Hug your pet.
- Your mother loves you, so hold on to that. It may seem the farthest thing from the truth sometimes—or a lot of the time. But her love for you is there, deep in her heart, hidden by “the crazy.” This I know for sure.
Here’s a list of additional resources I created a few years ago, so, possibly a bit outdated, but hopefully still helpful. And for a more narrative perspective on growing up with a mentally ill mother, this essay by Jeri Walker is a gem. ♥
Photos courtesy of Unsplash