I think, in my opinion, Franz Kafka is the poster child for the relationship between the child with mental illness and the parent. Kafka had, it seems to me, anxiety disorders and I know for a fact that he had Clinical Depression.
When I read Kafka's diaries, sometimes it is like looking into a mirror. I mean that with no disrespect because on many occasions I have referred to Franz Kafka as my "dead boyfriend".
That's why he never calls.
Seriously, I suppose this should be done, because I've gone through similar struggles with my own parents. In one respect, I understand what Kafka says to his father and in his famous "Brief Der Vater" ("Letter to Father"), on certain days of the week, I feel ashamed that sometimes my parents may blame themselves for my condition.
Let me say this once-- aside from chemical imbalances, passed on traits, and shared attitudes-- my condition and my parents have absolutely nothing to do with each other.
Mental illness starts up in little ways-- maybe you don't notice at first or maybe you do-- when you hit 23-25, you're usually exhibiting full-blown symptoms. This is what I read and, from my point of view, it is certainly true. In my senior year of college (I had two senior years LOL) I began to really break down. Of course, various events and attitudes have helped to set me off, but that can't be helped. I have always had Panic Disorder, but when it set it again something else came with it.
As far as "dealing" with mental illness goes, NO ONE has the capacity to cure it. Parents, doctors, and even the mentally ill themselves can do similar things and gestures, but the best result is a suppression of illness-- not a remission. My own doctor gave me pills that gave me involuntary muscle spasms/rigidity/tardive dyskensia for three hours. What does that say?
I do resent, honestly, being told to be positive because I feel like the same treasures that other people find in their lives were not created for me to enjoy. I feel like I live in this fringe of society for various reasons and that my life is not entitled to joy and companionship or anything along those lines. I don't just "feel" that; I believe it.
Cycles in my life have convinced me that I am simply not going to have the things I want; that all I can hope for at best is to bury myself in pages and ink pens and web pages and pretend like being alone and being mentally ill doesn't effect me.
I think symptoms are beginning to pile up in my life. Within the last week and a half ago I completed 32 published articles. Yesterday I sat in front of the computer screen and cried. Today I felt the familiar feeling of not wanting wake up.
But that had nothing to do with my parents.
I do not blame them for my illness and I am proud of the legacy I come from. I resent the "positive attitude" talks and the "self-fulfilling prophecy" talks. I resent the fact that when I am upset, I must be having some sort of specific woman's problem or be having hormonal issues. I resent the fact that people with AIDs or cancer get to live "brave" and "noble" lives, while people with mental illnesses are just insane.
Franz Kafka said something to the effect that he felt like the point in the crack of a cup where the pressure is applied the hardest. I agree. Emily Dickinson never came out of her room. When she began to fall in love with a man whom she had been exchanging letters with, she quit writing. I have fallen in love with men and then said to myself, "It's time to stop now." And I've snapped the necks of plenty of my dreams. T.S. Eliot wrote in "The Wasteland" that he could connect nothing to nothing with his hands. I agree.
When I make comparisons between authors and my condition, sometimes people think I am claiming to be as great as they are. No, I'm not. What I'm saying is that it helps me to know that geniuses had mental illnesses, too. When they wrote, they brought their conditions-- purposely or not-- out into light and into the arena of speculation. If you can't see how I feel, then you could go read one of these authors and figure it out to a small, small degree.
Not only that, but these writers are revered. They didn't go around drooling, with red eyes, and monster claws. But, they did suffer in some way or another.
My doctor is not sharing my diagnosis with me. I specifically asked and he specifically said nothing. So, aside from Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Clinical Depression with Psychotic Features, I am left to choose between two disorders to account for the rest of my diagnosis.
At the mention of those prior disorders, I have no doubt that some people reading now fear me. It's alright, I've been down that road before. I just hope that if you are one of those people, that in your hour or HOURS of need, society will also snicker and laugh softly at you, too.
But, my parents did not create these diagnostic criteria and they did not push me into them. It's like I'm in a locked closet door and they're banging on the other side. It's like we're looking at the same picture, but I am looking at the portrait upside down.
To all parents of children or "adult children" with mental illness: IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
To all the people who have mental illnesses: Find comfort in what you can.
Understand that you cannot understand your child and also understand that your child cannot understand you all the time. Understand? (Ha ha. Get it?-- "Understand..." Well, I'd like to see you do better...)
Anger comes from fear, sadness and regret from realization. Over time these usual feelings of doubt, pain, torture, and anger become real somehow. You begin to feel like your life will never change. You will go on loving the same people without them loving you, you will have the same conflicting desires to be seen and disappear, to yell and shut up, to cry and scream, to fantasize and to realize.
The reason your children don't believe you when you try to help is them is because they don't believe themselves. They no longer believe nor belong in their own dreams, aspirations, and fantasies. The realism of county mental hospitals, rounds of horrifying drugs PROMISED TO HELP, days of isolation of staying in bed, inabilities to find a mate, a purpose or comfort have all been bent down and formed with the weight of realization.
My mom said to me the other day in response to something, "I know what I am."
Well, I know what I am, too.
And I hate it.
That does not mean I hate you. I hate that as parents and children, we no longer understand each other.
It was once common for mental illness theories to center around mothers. That was the fifties. Those theories are now debunked and not accepted by the mainstream of psychiatry treatment practictioners.
For reference, they were called "Refrigerator Mother" theories. They were called that because they centered on a mother who was cold and did not nurture enough in the early stages of a child's development.
In reality, I have more trouble with my father than I do with my mother.
Actually, the term "Refrigerator Mother" simply makes me hungry. Refrigerators are a good thing for me-- think of all the food they have in them. That is a delicious theory.
Now I kind of wish I had a refrigerator for a mother.
But I don't.
No one does anymore , because no one did to begin with.