THE UGLY FACES OF MENTAL ILLNESS ARE MANY FROM DEMENTIA TO HOARDING.
Mental illness has many faces and impacts around 54 million americans each year. It is estimated that 20% of all families deal with some sort of mental illness. It was not recognizable in my own mother until after I noticed her hoarding all kinds of items usually from 2nd hand stores. It began with crockpots mostly and spread to cheap toys and yard tools...although, I should have taken a clue when I was in the car with her and my brother and sister and she was driving over cape Horn in the Columbia River Gorge with her eyes closed and screaming at the top of her lungs. Or when during an argument with my dad she would hurt herself by pouring boiling water over herself to make a point or get sympathy. We were too young to note that her and my sister's pattern was almost an exact replica of the relationship her mom had with my mom's sister even down to the name "Karen" whom my sister was named after.
As a guardian for my sister my mother had complete control over my sister's life and began to use her allergies and slight Autism to separate the two of them from society. As they spiraled downward into a cataclysm of co-dependency, my mom being the trigger for Karan's supposed allergy attacks at the slightest hint or breath of a word from my mom, the sickness progressed until no one was allowed inside the house because Karan might "have an allergy attack" she was known to have allergic reactions to people she didn't like including me at times if I crossed her.
As the ugly face of dementia and hoarding mixed with social reclusiveness began to rear its head the true impact still was to be unknown to me as my brother and I tried to help and did yard work to help mom in the house she owned. Even though I talked her into buying two new toilets 12 years ago and had my own plumbing business she wouldn't let me in the house to install them and so lived with a toilet that she had to pour water into the bowl from a bucket to make it flush.
One person who did work his way into her life "Junior" got into her good graces and was able to get her to give him 70,000 over 14 months in 2010 to 2012 to do odd jobs around her house. She had always kept the money safe and in cd's. She was always frugal and never ever got a real vacation and just let him bilk her out of all of it. Unfortunately her naivete was rewarded by a complete and total loss of everything she had saved to the point that when she couldn't pay him for that leaking faucet he had installed he helped her open a line of credit for $5000 so he could get paid $5,000 to fix the faucet. Thank God the law got him before I did.
From this point forward, the State of Washington became involved and my brother and I tried to work with her to clean up her house explaining how it would be if she didn't let us help her. We took 12 truckloads of sellable junk and had a garage sale to get her money to pay taxes on her home. We cleaned and distracted her so the other one could slip past her with some prized possession of hers like an old aluminum dog watering bowl (her dog had long since died and the beat up old bowl was intended for the scrapper) she could not let go of it even against all logic and reasoning, "mom, are you going to use it today?" "Well, no," she would answer. "How about tomorrow?" I asked. No...cant I just keep it?" she would say.
We spent countless hours there and you couldn't even tell. We noticed that some lights weren't working and went about replacing them and the light switch in my sister's room that wasn't working only to come back days later to find the new light switch smashed with a hammer. "What happened to the switch?" We asked. "Karan didn't like it." she said. It wasn't smooth like the other one.
THIS MENTAL ILLNESS is ugly in all its forms and seeing it is like seeing a demon straight in the face.
My mothers sickness grew worse as she didn't eat because some item she needed like canned meat might cause a reaction in Karan so my mother slowly was dying and ended up in the hospital 4 months ago getting 5 pints of blood. The poor thing ended up back in the hospital on Feb 18, 2013 after she fell in her house and broke her hip. Unfortunately, unknown to her as the State guardians of her finances and my sister's guardian finally made it inside the house they determined together not against mine and my brother's position that they could not return to that living arrangement. My mother just could not work with my brother and I against the powerful and sick dynamic she had built around my sister. My mother's whole raison d'etre is Karan to her ultimate downfall as now the state is taking Karan and placing her in an institution and mom doesn't know this yet either. Yesterday 2, 19, 2013 was the successful surgery, today she thinks Karan is at home under our watchful care and tomorrow or the next day mom will be hit between the eyes with the fact that she can't ever go home again and may not see her daughter again (anytime soon anyway).
I know that many families have similar stories. I share this not for sympathy but to show how screwed up we all really are in our own ways. I hoard food. I see symptoms of her in me. I encourage you next time you see a weird co-dependent relationship or a sick or handicapped person to treat them with respect and love as they are human, have feelings, desires, dreams and a life that you know nothing about. Seeing my sister in the Emergency room last night on the gurney as she scratched and had her problems and knowing that she would never go back home again, and also knowing what I knew was heart breaking for me. I still see her in my mind sitting there as I tried to talk to her. What do you say to your sister who "is allergic to you at a moments notice" to manipulate her environment and my mother for some amount of control in her own life. What do you say when you learn about the abuse "perceived or real" by doctors and dentists and others in society who treated them as second class citizens because of their "differentness".
I have learned "there but for the grace of God go I".