When Mental Illness takes your Mother

In the front hall of my tar-paper house where I lived when I was five years old we made a small altar and placed a picture of St. Theresa the Little Flower with a small vase of fresh-cut flowers.  It was such a joy to kneel on the floor in front of the little altar and pray….

Over the years there were many times that misguided advice was given to me in the way of trying to steer me clear of any influence my mother might have had in my life.  There is probably some label which would fit her type of mental illness.  Certainly during the seven-year period when she was a full-time in-patient at the provincial psychiatric hospital there were few times I was brought to visit her.  Even those visits would have been discouraged.

Children are perceptive and the others knew I was in a state of loss.   They would walk by my house where I sat on the front step waiting for one of my much older brothers or sister to come home to open the front door to my house as I had forgotten my key.  It was not an unusual thing for me to see them whispering to one another and looking in my direction.

Before my mother was admitted to her seven-year term at the hospital, she had bought me a number of children’s books about St. Theresa the Little Flower.  One time I tricked my older sister.  Even though I was only 3 ½ years old, I knew the words in the books by heart and when exactly to turn from one page to the other.  When my sister and a friend wandered into the bedroom my sister and I shared, I casually sat on the edge of my home-made feather mattress and read in a loud and clear voice turning from one page to the next….

When I was 12 years old my mother was at home for a time.  She used to go over to our parish church and say the Stations of the Cross and other prayers on Wednesday evenings.  In the beginning when she asked me to attend, I would go from Station to Station not really knowing what she was doing.  So I finally asked her.  There was no hesitation on her part to explain each Station and tell me the prayers she said as we went along.  After we would kneel down and say the Rosary.

During my mother’s years of treatment, there were a lot of procedures she endured and losses she experienced.  With respect to the losses, all that needs to be said is that she lost her place in raising her five children.

There is time spent in some people’s lives trying to somehow progress.  There are promotions at work.  There is always something new to buy.  There is the prestige of the accomplishments of their children.  All sorts of things.  That is for some people.

With respect to the ways of the world, I faced my own struggles with my mental health.  There was a lot of help given to me.  I was able to raise my family and work.  Now I have been married for almost 40 years.  There were hardships for my husband  and I and we were apart for two years at one point during our marriage.  During that time we were divorced and we later re-married.

I would say that through it all, the truth my mother gave me in leading me to God through prayer and meditation on the Passion of Christ as well as the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and, later as I learned them, Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, is what has defined my life and who I am.  It is really who we all are.

In the front hall of my tar-paper house where I lived when I was five years old we made a small altar and placed a picture of St. Theresa the Little Flower with a small vase of fresh-cut flowers.  It was such a joy to kneel on the floor in front of the little altar and pray…

 

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