Thursday, May 29, 2008

second post that should've been my first post: or why this blog

My boyfriend repeatedly demonstrates how awful I am at remembering to introduce people, mostly because whenever we're in a situation where I should be introducing him, he ends up doing it himself.

And I realized the other night that I didn't really introduce this blog, just started off in media res (or whatever the correct term would be since it wasn't really mid-action so much as mid-years-of-thought-stew).

Why did I start this blog?

Growing up, I knew my mother was different from my friends' moms, from the neighbors, from the other adults I knew. I didn't know why or what it was called; it just was. Whenever I tried to explain it to my friends, it just never seemed to work. My friends made fun of me, and I never seemed able to convey the true extent and seriousness of the situation. I thought it was a word thing, that I lacked the language for it. But later I realized that it is because these are the things we never talk about, because we are ashamed of them. This is why my mother never received treatment until I was in high school, despite having shown symptoms before I was born. This is why, although it is estimated that about 20% of the U.S. adult population is struggling with a mental illness, most of us are hard-pressed to name more than one or two people we know with a mental illness. Growing up as an only child, I didn't know anyone who had a parent like mine. I knew of abusive parents, drunkard parents, and parents who couldn't care less. But I didn't know anyone who had a parent who thought the FBI was listening to our conversations.

After my mother was hospitalized for the first time, I started doing some research. In the current literary trend of memoirs and creative nonfiction, there have been increasing numbers of people writing about mental illness and especially what it means to live mental illness. As the person with the mental illness. Not to say that there are not books out there written by relatives, but there are significantly fewer (or so it seems, this is based on my browsing of libraries and, not a scientific study by any means). There are more and more resources aimed at helping families deal with a family member's mental illness--but very few are for children. Doing searches for resources along the lines of "children of parents with mental illness" usually just turn up resources for parents who have children with a mental illness instead. That's great for them, but kind of the opposite of what I was trying to find.

And blogs. I have not done a whole lot of searching as to blogs on this topic, but thus far my searches have turned up lots of blogs on living with mental illness but not much of anything on living with someone who has a mental illness or what it means to be a relative. (One exception of which I know: Heather and Jon Armstrong are a husband and wife who are both bloggers and have both written about her depression and the impact this has had on their relationship, family, etc. Okay, well Jon has written one post about it that I know of, but Heather has written about mental illness in her case and generally multiple times. These blogs, dooce and blurbomat respectively, generally cover other topics, but enjoyable nonetheless. I actually find dooce really entertaining most of the time. She cracks me up...but this is completely off-topic.)

Again, all of this is good. I am glad that more and more people are being open about their struggles with mental illness and what it means. I am glad that more people are talking about it. But in all this hoopla, the children of mentally ill parents are not forgotten so much as it seems that people don't realize we exist because we are overshadowed. And so many of us aren't open about our experiences for multiple reasons: we are ashamed, we don't know how to, our parents are not open about having a mental illness, no one has ever asked, and so on.

I used to think I was completely alone, and now I realize I am not. Through this blog, I hope that I can help others share experiences, feel less alone, and connect with resources. I did find some resources and do have some books to recommend, but as I just realized that it is 12:27 and I have to get up at 6:30 for work tomorrow, this will come later. In the meantime...

Any books, websites, or other resources you have found helpful?


Anonymous said...

Hi, I saw the comment you made on a Facebook group and came over to check out your blog. I, too, was a caregiver for my mother who had bipolar disorder. She passed away last October, but for over a decade I took care of her. I'm glad to see someone speaking out about mental health and caregiving. It is a difficult road to go down and a very lonely one at that.

I have found that Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon is a good book about depression among other mental afflictions. I am currently reading Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors by Lisa APppignanesi.

Janice said...

Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing. I'll look into those books. I'd like know how the second one is when you finish...