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08 June 2009 @ 04:10 pm
Crazy moms and the kids who still love them  
In response to the letter to Cary Tennis in Salon, entitled My mother is crazy -- what can I do? I posted the following at Salon:

The Personal is Political

This situation highlights some societal issues that I feel obligated to point out. Other letter writers have addressed many of the practical issues already.

As Salon articles have previously made clear, our society has chosen to err on the side of freedom and independence and make it very hard to get psychiatric help for even obviously, severely mentally ill people. This was a reaction to previous laws that were too lax and enabled abuse by families and professionals. Currently, family members living with a severely mentally ill person can be in real danger but unless they can present proof to a court they may very well not be able to do anything about it.

Our laws need an overhaul. At the very least, someone who has demonstrated obvious symptoms of being out of touch with reality ought to be hospitalized until they are lucid, no longer paranoid, and can make informed decisions about further care. A court review after 30 days (or suitable time) can insure that they are not being railroaded or abused, with follow up monitoring if they are not yet stable. Anyone who cares about this issue can and should write to their representatives at state and federal levels.

I understand that many if not all psych meds have debilitating side effects. (Who wants to drool? Anyone?) We desperately need better meds and/or treatments. I hope in time we will.

Mentally ill parents, especially primary caregivers who are usually mothers, have little or no support if they become unable to provide adequate care for their children. There is also deep shame for them if they admit this! Again, we have failed as a society to address this issue.

My heart goes out to the letter writer and her siblings. I lived with a deeply depressed and suicidal single mom from age 13 to age 16, when I fled home to join the Hare Krishna movement. Locally no foster homes were available for me, only an institution known as the "county home" which was kind of like being sent to juvie without having committed any crime. The temple was a far better option. My extended family actually told me, at age 13, that I should take care of my mother and that if I asked to be placed outside the home I would be responsible if she committed suicide!

It should also be easier for teens with mentally ill or unsuitable parents to be emancipated. Often that is one of the best options for them.

Sometimes, all that may be needed is extra help at home by a team of professionals, including a social worker, housekeeper, or others. That could be more cost effective for counties than providing foster care and might help keep semi-functional families together.

I agree with those who say check in with the brother before taking any action and see what he feels is best for him. Sometimes social service interventions aren't all that much better and could leave him cut off from his social support system. I wouldn't have gotten through my teen years without my friends!

To sjohntucson: please don't beat yourself up. No one issues a guide book for dealing with a crazy parent! The professionals were the ones responsible for over-medicating your mother, if indeed that was the problem. (The deterioration could have been organic in nature and no one's fault.) We are taught to respect doctors' authority. This is yet another problem in our society. We need to start viewing doctors and other health professionals as consultants and question their advice rather than just passively take it in. Please have some compassion for yourself, having been put in such a painfully difficult situation. You may still find healing from this painful past.

In solidarity with all the other children of mentally ill parents (Hi Allie!) (And hey, if the ACAs have books and groups, where's ours?)
batchfilebatchfile on June 8th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
incredibly well spoken!

where are our books and groups?

i remember very vividly, how at the age of 12 i was told by my grandmother all about my mother's problems and how i should just overlook her irrational outbursts and hatreds of people. that was the moment i became my mother's caretaker in many emotional ways.
Tapatitapati on June 10th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
And that is so backwards! We're supposed to be taken care of, not the other way around. Not on a long term basis. It's one thing to help your parent through a short physical illness like the flu. It's another to take on the long term responsibility of monitoring the level of danger an irrational parent may be in at any given time and deal with all the fallout from their mental state.

There is no acceptable way for an afflicted parent who realizes it to call for help with their kids and not be shamed, worried about getting them back, and so on.

There's gotta be another way...

One of the last letters in response to this column did in fact mention an existing group for children with mentally ill parents. Maybe this is an issue that's beginning to surface more.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on June 9th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
We're currently in the process of finding assisted living for Thomas.
Tapatitapati on June 10th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
I'm sure that will be a positive thing for him, ultimately. He's a smart kid. :)
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on June 10th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
He'll be here today. And I hate it for him - my mom and I are going to "swap out" until we can find him somewhere. I HATE THIS.
(Anonymous) on June 9th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Well done, Tapati
As always, you've expressed your informed opinion thoughtfully and compassionately. The system sure does need a change! I want to live to see the day when we eliminate drug company profit as a factor in making mental health care decisions, and when we devote our resources towards supporting human survival and health instead of war. That said, there are a few useful resources in the system. As you said, the key is to take an active stance, and try not to let professionals make the decisions for you.

Making more options available to teens, like emancipation, is a great idea.

Tapatitapati on June 10th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Well done, Tapati
Thank you!

I'd like a more wholistic system. Why can't we get massage as well as therapy? Nutritional counseling as well as meds? So many things could be added or created that would really help.
Mari Adkinsmariadkins on June 10th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Well done, Tapati
I'd be happy if I could just get into my fricking county health department. If i need something, I hate to say it, but I fudge and give my mom's address and use her health department. I can't use ours because - they're either not taking new patients, i don't qualify for any of their help, or some other weird bizarre issue.
(Deleted comment)
Tapatitapati on June 13th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
Hi Daisy--I don't think there's any qualifying characteristic at NLQ...we have all types, some who've been there, some who haven't, some like me who were "there" in other lifestyles that held similarities, some who are still "there" to one degree or another...it's a wild and diverse bunch but it leads us to some interesting discussions!

I wasn't the one who linked to you, because I hadn't ever discovered your blog(s) before, but I'm glad I saw the link and followed it.

I don't know if you saw it, but the bulk of my online bio material regarding my first marriage in the Hare Krishna movement is here:


When I read about the surfing lifestyle I was reminded of my first husband's scheme that we build and live on a catamaran. We'd just eat fruit off the beaches a la the Beachcomber's Handbook. I asked about feminine hygiene products and he said, "Oh you spoiled American women, just use sea sponges, they're natural and you can wash them out." (I gather his first wife asked the same kind of questions.)

Anyway, you should join up! It sounds to me like you'll fit right in! :)
Tapatitapati on June 13th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
PS adding you as a friend so you can see my friends' locked posts here. :)
Tapatitapati on June 13th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
PPS...my memory is going, forgot that I also linked to you in facebook. It's so easy to do with their little widget. :)