Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Mantra: The Shadows of Other People

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: You can't fix people, but you can love them.
I don't know how to explain what it's like to lose a parent while they're still living. To have them in fractions. To never be able to piece them together and make them whole.

I don't know how to handle being the child of that parent. I don't know the right words to say, things to do, actions to take. How do you fix someone who refuses to admit they're broken? How do you help someone who refuses to accept it?

You don't- this is what I'm learning. You can't, and you never will be able to.

For at least my entire life, my mom has had mental, maybe also emotional, problems. It has caused our relationship in it's entirety to be strained and distant and somewhat odd at times. It has led to screaming matches of "I hate you" that she doesn't even remember. Words so often repeated between us in anger that they became the only words my parakeets knew how to say: I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

It has led to long, pathetic, teary eyed pleading that fell on deaf ears. It has led to arguments that never really ended. And time, so much time, that has been lost.

It's taken me a long time to realize that she'll never understand where I'm coming from. She lacks the self awareness needed to help instigate change. Nothing I say or do or try will wake her up to herself. Embarrassment, I am certain, also plays a key role in this. As she's now approaching her seventies, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that she will never live the life of a normal person.

"Normal" is something I don't throw around loosely.

Normal is not the mom from Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch or even Roseanne. The normal I speak of is much simpler: A mom who isn't captive to her own mind.

My mom is broken. I don't use that word angrily or cruelly or loosely, either. I use it because her mind has made her a prisoner in her own life and she refuses to take action to repair herself. Physically, she's fine. As a person, she is kind and thoughtful and compassionate. She has faults just like any human being, but she won't seek out assistance, which is why she remains broken. The list of things she thinks and does and struggles with is too long and too sensitive to go into. It wouldn't be easy to explain anyway- no person's journey through life can be summed up in a few small sentences. I would have to write pages upon pages of words just to try and start at the beginning of it all.

I am also broken, in different ways. However, I am working - continuously - to repair myself where I find cracks and chips and dents. Where my mom cannot be a mom, I must find ways to accept this. Where I cannot find what I need, I must find other means. There is no handbook. There is no carefully mapped out instruction manual on how to be the person on the other side of this. Much of my own struggle, I admit, is that I'm selfish. I long for a more traditional mother/daughter relationship. Just tonight, though, I finally admitted to myself I would never have that. I will never see my mother help herself, which means we will never have the chance at a normal life together. The walls of denial she has built to keep her safe from reality are far too tall to ever climb over.

How do you fix someone who refuses to admit they're broken?

You don't.

You love them. You learn to leave them to their glass castle fantasies. You point out the good in their lives so they too can see it, and you never stop hoping that one day they'll find the way out of the maze within their minds.

You remain open and honest and as someone who they can come to in their dark moments.

You learn that you are not alone in what may seem like a very lonely situation.

You learn that it is not - in any way, shape, or form - easy for either person in this scenario. Both people suffer, both people struggle, differently. While the person with the mental illness has their own demons to battle, you - the parent, child, friend, spouse - must learn your own lessons: where you can help, where you can't, and where you must create boundaries to save your own sanity.

You also learn to live: through, around, and without. You learn to handle things the best you can and you learn to forgive yourself when you can't. You learn to give yourself what they do not have the capability to give. You learn to live just outside the boundaries of "normal."

Let me be very clear about something: By no means am I trying to beat her up or embarrass her in any way. She has been the best mom she could be, in her own way. In fact, though it took me time to realize this, many of my better attributes are because of this unique relationship of ours. My strength and determination and fortitude. My kindness and perseverance. I am capable of these things because of her. I know that, I do, and I appreciate her for it.

I hesitated writing this. It is deeply personal, very sensitive, and obviously incredibly delicate.

It is also important.

Mental illness, no matter what form someone has, or how small or large it affects them, is serious. It impacts the lives of everyone it touches. It envelopes everyone in its shadows, one way or another.

There are people that will never admit they need help. They will continue on, never once giving themselves a fighting chance to get better. Unfortunately, my mom is one of those people.

I did not write this for her. I wrote this today for the rest of us.

Remain hopeful. The strength you need to get through this - regardless of which side of this you're on - will help you in every aspect of your life. Understand that you have nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed by. What you do have is a chance to change your life for the better.

For those of you like my mom, I want you to know this: There's someone in this world who's counting on you, who needs you, who loves you. They are waiting for you to blossom into the person they know you can become. The person that exists underneath the blanket of shadows. Don't you dare give up. Fight and fight and fight until there is so much light in your life that you have no choice but to bloom.

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