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My experiences with my parents

Old 06-03-2011, 06:04 AM
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My experiences with my parents

Hi everyone,

My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in her early twenties and my father was an alcoholic. I was born during one of my motherís many stays in a mental hospital, and she was in and out of hospitals throughout my childhood. When I was very young, I ended up in a foster home for a year because my father had to work and my mother was sick again and couldnít take care of me. I think all the chaos and worry my father went through because of my motherís illness made his drinking worse, but even when things were relatively stable, he still spent the majority of the time he wasnít at work drunk. He hated his job and regretted the choices he had made in life so drinking was his escape. When my mother quit taking her meds and went off the rails, he would scream at her and push her around in his frustration. My mother quit taking her meds for the last time when I was 26; she walked out of her house in the middle of winter without shoes or a coat and froze to death beside a river outside of town. My father died a few months later.

I decided to write an autobiographical novel because I wanted to find out more about the part of me that is a product of my past, so in writing a novel with characters and a storyline, I was able to step outside myself and face the good and not so good parts of myself. I learned many things carrying out this DIY therapy, but one realization made the biggest impact on me. Because of my acute embarrassment at having parents whose problems were known by everyone in my hometown, I had (and still struggle with) very low self-esteem that I try to hide with anger and aloofness. I spent most of my youth worrying about what people thought of me and trying to please them, as opposed to trying to figure out how to live a fulfilling life. I think if I had one piece of advice for children in a similar situation, it would be to make sure you take care of yourself emotionally. Itís so easy to focus on the overwhelming task of bringing yourself up and taking care of your parents in these situations, which seem like the most important things at the time, but having a direction is equally important and sleepwalking aimlessly through life sucks.

When I was going through all this it was the seventies to early nineties and pre-internet Ė I know itís very difficult to imagine a world without the web! Without all the support websites and forums that exist today, I felt like I was the only person in the world in my situation. Ok, there must have been people with one parent with a problem (I wasnít aware of any) but both parents? Anyway, there obviously were, but at the time, I felt very alone.

I really want to share my experiences with people who are coping or have coped in the past with alcoholic or mentally ill parents, which is why Iím posting on this forum. Would anyone here be interested in reading it?

Sherri McLain
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barb dwyer (06-03-2011)
Old 06-03-2011, 08:07 AM
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Welcome to the forum, Sherri!

It sounds like you are actively working on learning more about yourself and the effects your childhood had on you. That's awesome.

The strength of this forum is the feeling that we are no longer alone, and in the collective ES&H (Experience, Strength, and Hope) of the community.

The more everyone shares of their own experiences, the greater the strength of the community.

Originally Posted by SherriMcLain View Post
I spent most of my youth worrying about what people thought of me and trying to please them, as opposed to trying to figure out how to live a fulfilling life. I think if I had one piece of advice for children in a similar situation, it would be to make sure you take care of yourself emotionally.
I can absolutely relate to this. While my parents were not addicts, nor were they diagnosed with any mental diseases, they had a lot of strange coping mechanisms that don't really work in the real world, and left me unprepared to stand up for myself since the best way to survive at home was to agree with whatever my mother decided rather than making decisions for myself. The fact that my father always sided with my mother, even when everyone knew she was wrong, only made things worse (We always tried to protect him, rather than him protecting us).
It left me feeling like I wasn't smart enough to succeed by myself, because I wasn't perfect. (I remember her screaming at me for getting a 98% on a 50-word vocabulary test, because I got one word wrong.)
It is something I am still working on.

Originally Posted by SherriMcLain View Post
I really want to share my experiences with people who are coping or have coped in the past with alcoholic or mentally ill parents, which is why I’m posting on this forum. Would anyone here be interested in reading it?
Sounds like it's something you're also still working on. You're trying to gain our approval starting with your very first post, testing the waters to check if its emotionally safe.

It is emotionally safe here.

We all know the feelings you've been through, even though the specifics may differ.
Anything you can add will certainly help those here, and I am sure that you can learn some things about yourself from everyone as well.
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wicked (06-03-2011)
Old 06-03-2011, 10:40 AM
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Yes, please! I was just thinking yesterday that there's this complete disconnect between our lives and the media. How about a docu-drama? I mean, we have 'Keeping up with the Kardashians' at the same time as 'Hangover II'.... maybe it's time for a more complete picture.

I had a friend in the mid-70's who was taken away from her mentally ill, probably addicted parents. I asked her about it when we were about 12 (she'd gone into foster care when we were about 7 or 8). She said that she didn't miss them, that she was so glad at the time, when the cops came and picked her up.

- Sylvie
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