Freedom By Death: A Caretaker Imprisoned By Mental Illness

One Woman's Story of Caring For Multiple Family Members With Mental Health Issues On the outside, she appears to have her stuff together. She's been married 24-years, with her husband for nearly 27-years, she has a good job and 4-kids. She has a nice home, and a stay-at-home…

Freedom By Death: A Caretaker Imprisoned By Mental Illness
Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

She Looks Like She’s Got It All Together

On the outside, she appears to have her stuff together. She’s been married 24-years, with her husband for nearly 27-years, she has a good job and 4-kids. She has a nice home, and a stay-at-home husband that helps with the kids and makes dinner (man food dinner that is).

She keeps you at arms length. She looks strong. She’s really nice, and super patient. You can’t see what she’s really dealing with in her life.

That stay-at-home-husband is not really a stay at home husband at all. He’s a 50-year old, won’t get a job husband. He’s a stay-at-home and play video games all day husband. He’s the husband that told her when they first got married that he gets depressed sometimes and can’t function, not even to pay bills. He’s the can’t fix anything, won’t clean anything, screams at the top of his voice at the kids all the time husband.

But he looks normal, right?

He’s the husband that may have “possibly” gotten so angry and out of control, maybe just maybe he abused a kid or two when attempting to discipline them, so he’s no longer allowed to do so. He stays up all night, sleeps most of the day and let’s not talk about all of the porn he watches.

Her hubby wrecked the family’s van and no is being sued by the victim of the car accident for a 6-figure sum. He acts like it’s not a big deal. He’s a real hum-dinger.

He’s the husband who is the college dropout, and always blaming others for his shortcomings. He’s the husband that can’t function. He has nothing to talk about at special events except his video game, Mine Craft. He’s the husband that couldn’t keep a job because there is always something wrong with everyone there, and he won’t take any meds.

He’s basically become a 5th kid to his wife. This husband is not able to help her do anything to include change a tire, and he’s really a person who should have never had any children. Ever.

His wife is in denial, and she keeps trying to fix a broken person.

It’s a coo coo’s nest on the inside of this home.

It’s taxing her soul.

She’s miserable. She’s embarrased. She’s trapped. She made a huge mistake marrying him, let alone having children with him. It’s like being in a relationship all alone.

About Those Four Beautiful Kids.

They have issues. Lots of issues. The wife is in denial about her children too.

See, these four beautiful kids have the same genetic make up of the stay-at-home dad. They all are always anxious, about everything. At least one child is manic and has a borderline personality disorder along with an eating disorder. Her mother knows something is wrong, but she won’t take her to the doctor to have her treated. This daughter is intelligent and creative, but has self-esteem issues.

This particular child can be rude, disrespectful, and manipulative when wants something. She positions herself to be the favorite, is unnecessarily needy which has caused a divide. Her daughter is only 15 years old, and starting to spiral downward.

The mood swings are getting to be much, and she’s finding ways to not eat. She hides a lot from her mom, and her mom appears to be not engaged as a mom of a teenage girl should be.

Mom is overworked and overwhelmed.

Another one of the woman’s children has either Asperger Syndrome or is on the Autism spectrum. The woman won’t take her child to have an official diagnosis. This child has no friends, and isolates herself in her bedroom where she is perfectly fine. She’s 20, in college, and she’s very smart. She dislikes being touched. She has restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests, and impairments that prevent her from doing simplest of things.

She’s high functioning intellectually, but can’t cook, is afraid to drive, and prefers to ride the bus to college. She chants and rocks back and forth in her room until she goes to bed. It’s not clear whether she’s going to be able to ever live alone. She’s very rude to her mother, and she hates doing anything for her because she is so mean to her mother.

The mother just acts as if there is nothing wrong. She tried once to get help for this child, but no one ever called her back. The state of mental health these days.

The youngest child is a son. He’s super scary and anxious a lot for no reason. He doesn’t sleep well and usually wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about things of the next day. He’s only 11. He’s very nice and mannerable, and people love him. He’s very charismatic. She’s holding her breathe waiting to see what happens with his mental health state with age. She believes he may suffer from some type of anxiety his father has eventually.

This house is a special place, full of special people with exceptional circumstances.

The last child is a girl. Thus far, she is the only one who isn’t exhibiting signs of mental illness. She’s 12. Her mom is holding her breathe, wishing, and praying that this child doesn’t begin to manifest any resemblance of a mental health disorder. She doesn’t know if she can take anymore.

Mom’s keeping hope alive, as she drowns. Surrounded by people with broken minds, in need of help.

But There’s More.

This woman’s adoptive mother. She’s recently become her mother’s legal guardian. Her mother has been declared mentally incapacitated by a state supreme court.

Her mother is mentally ill. She schizophrenic. She’s in her late 80’s years old and has lived on her own out of state until last year. She was a school teacher, highly educated, and a member of a family with a long history of mental health disorders. All of the woman’s siblings except one have a mental health issues. The family’s history has been kept a secret, even from the children.

There was apparently some trauma. A rape maybe.

Her mother kept her mental illness a secret all of her life, but her daughter knew something wasn’t quite right growing up. Eventually, the police began calling her about her mother, telling her they found her mom wandering in the middle of the night. She would go to the bank sometimes in the middle of the night trying to withdraw large sums of money.

The woman’s neighbors were afraid of her. One day, a community police officer called the woman’s daughter to tell her that her mother had been calling the police to report a woman stealing her money. She also was leaving her gas stove on in the home instead of using her heat, and stopped bathing and eating.

Her Meals on Wheels were simply piled up on the stove and in the fridge. The community police noted they also escorted her mother to the bank where the officer learned she had a substantial amount of money. She needed a guardian before harm came to her.

The officer also told her “the voices” were telling woman’s mother not to eat and not to bathe. She was frail and not eating properly.

The woman’s daughter had to go through the mental hygiene and guardianship courts to have her treated because she refused all outpatient care recommended by clinicians during previous hospitalizations. Eventually, she was placed by the courts in a short-term setting to stabilize last year.

She’s still not stable, and it’s been 1 year and 1 month.

For the past year, this woman’s daughter has struggled to care for the mentally ill people in her own home, while caring for her mother outside of the home in a different state. Without cooperation from the court system.

When the woman is told she needs to get help and treatment for her children, she just sighs.

She acts as if it’s an insult to get her children treatment. She’s a perfectionist, and it seems she’s unwilling to admit she has a home that’s more like a mental ward. She loves her children, but she can’t possibly care for all of the mental illness in her realm alone.

She’s trying to hold it together, but it’s getting hard. The older each of these mentally ill people become, the more challenging it becomes to care for them and herself. This woman is exhausted. She’s fragile, and she’s tired. Her husband, her mother, and three of her four children are all ill.

She’s angry.

She feels like her husband’s family knew he was not quite right. He went straight from his parents’ home into hers. She missed all the signs (verbal and physical) because she was young, dumb, naive, and in love. Now her life is caring for people who will never be able to care for her.

Love never hurt so bad. Literally.

This woman is also angry. She’s angry because she wants to say she regrets having these children, but she can’t. She continued to have children with a man who never had the capacity to care for her, their children or himself. She has to accept some of the blame, and that’s very hard to do.

She’s trapped, physically and mentally. She’s never going to escape. She doesn’t know how she’s going to make it. I’m not sure if she will make it either.

This woman never thought her life would end up this way. She did everything right. She went to college, got married waited later in life to have kids, traveled the world, had a good job/career, and tried to be a good person.

Now sadly, she’s taking inventory of her life, assessing the current and future ruin due the rampant mental illness running through her family line.

She’s just turning 50. She retires in a few months. She’s getting ready to spend the rest of her days caring for mentally-ill family members. The only escape for her is death.

She is the one who lives inside of the Coo-Coo’s nest. It’s hidden away from the world. In plain sight.

This is a true story, meant to highlight the complexities of caretakers living with multiple family members with mental illnesses. The story is told from her perspective, with permission.

Thank you for reading.