Adult Children of Mentally ill Parents

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Adult Children of Mentally ill Parents
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A book about my experiences

Hi everyone,

My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in her early twenties and my father was an alcoholic. I was born during one of my mother’s many stays in a mental hospital, and she was in and out of hospitals throughout my childhood. When I was very young, I ended up in a foster home for a year because my father had to work and my mother was sick again and couldn’t take care of me. I think all the chaos and worry my father went through because of my mother’s illness made his drinking worse, but even when things were relatively stable, he still spent the majority of the time he wasn’t at work drunk. He hated his job and regretted the choices he had made in life so drinking was his escape. When my mother quit taking her meds and went off the rails, he would scream at her and push her around in his frustration. My mother quit taking her meds for the last time when I was 26; she walked out of her house in the middle of winter without shoes or a coat and froze to death beside a river outside of town. My father died a few months later.

I decided to write an autobiographical novel because I wanted to find out more about the part of me that is a product of my past, so in writing a novel with characters and a storyline, I was able to step outside myself and face the good and not so good parts of myself. I learned many things carrying out this DIY therapy, but one realization made the biggest impact on me. Because of my acute embarrassment at having parents whose problems were known by everyone in my hometown, I had (and still struggle with) very low self-esteem that I try to hide with anger and aloofness. I spent most of my youth worrying about what people thought of me and trying to please them, as opposed to trying to figure out how to live a fulfilling life. I think if I had one piece of advice for children in a similar situation, it would be to make sure you take care of yourself emotionally. It’s so easy to focus on the overwhelming task of bringing yourself up and taking care of your parents in these situations, which seem like the most important things at the time, but having a direction is equally important and sleepwalking aimlessly through life sucks.

When I was going through all this it was the seventies to early nineties and pre-internet – I know it’s very difficult to imagine a world without the web! Without all the support websites and forums that exist today, I felt like I was the only person in the world in my situation. Ok, there must have been people with one parent with a problem (I wasn’t aware of any) but both parents? Anyway, there obviously were, but at the time, I felt very alone.

I really want to share my experiences with people who are coping or have coped in the past with alcoholic or mentally ill parents, which is why I’m posting on this forum. I’ve set up a website to let people know about my efforts to get the book published and make it available as an e-book on Kindle and a few other places. Please take a look and pass the link along to anyone you think might be interested. The book should be available on Kindle and a few other e-book sites by Fall or possibly Winter this year.

Sherri McLain