(why the lasting trauma on Adult Children of Mentally Ill Parents is so destructive to human potential and happiness.)
My story…now well into middle age, a lifetime of looking back at the devasting effects and incredible damage of having been raised by a parent in a Crooked House, a house always tittering on the brink of collapse and utter destruction, full of fear, full of sadness, full of confusions, full of neglect, full of cruelty, full of lonliness, completely abandoned by absolutely every adult around you. Complete chaos, destruction and panic.
Not an easy house to grow up in by any means, but we made do, tried to find some humor and tried everything possible to survive the very best we could. We, the children, are the casualties of untold life-threatening battles in an emotional, physical and psychological war that rages around us as we, ourselves try to grow up and find our footing in a normal world and have a normal life.
I know that my mother's illness was not her fault and she had many really wonderful qualites to be sure, but in the end, war is still war and people get hurt.
Finding that footing or center in our selves, our identity and sense of place in the world, to “ be allowed a presence in this life” (to quote Alix) is a right every child should have. To have the right to a future. That right is taken away from us as we are abandoned by other more pressing issues in the family, like the roof blowing off the house and the only sound left is the sound of breaking glass.
We have the right to a ‘presence’ or place in this life that includes happiness, peace of mind, a deep and abiding sense of security, serenity and joy. A life that is anxiety and depression free, free of mental disabilities that affect social human interaction and personal potential. Free from things like major chronic depression, PTSD, addictions, premature onset of physical illness, emotional and psychological aberrations of all sorts and kinds. Free from the self-destructive shame, guilt, isolation and lonliness.
The Crooked House is trying to provide a way for those of us who lived in that house and survived, a place to share our stories, grieve our heartbreak, celebrate our survival, and more importantly - find the tools to help ourselves and others rebuild the crooked houses we‘ve all built inside ourselves to survive. Build a new house...To find some happiness, a little serenity and maybe even a bit of joy, perhaps even becoming the people we are meant to be.
Disabilities as it were for growing up in a crooked house . . .
"Children whose families and homes do not provide consistent safety, comfort, and protection may develop ways of coping that allow them to survive and function day-to-day. . . . As a child grows up and encounters situations and relationships that are safe, these adaptations are no longer helpful, and may in fact be counterproductive and interfere with the capacity to live, love and be loved."
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (www.nctsn.org) defines complex trauma as, "both children's exposure to multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature, and the wide-ranging, long-term impact of this exposure."
I think it's important to see these realities for us to really understand the seriousness and importance of our work at our little CROOKED HOUSE. This project is a huge lynchpin in understanding the ramifications of mental illness on children and why awareness, research and help is so vital.
The heartbreak is it can be prevented with proper behavioral health therapy, medication, meditation, love, early childhood intervention, chakra balance, ice-cream, puppy dogs, rainbows etc. etc. but without appropriate treatment, it pretty much sucks! - The impact on your life reaches to your physical health; emotional responses; dissociation; behavioral map-adaptations; Inefficient cognitive processing; self-concept and future-orientation; and there can be serious long-term health consequences.
It needs to be recognized as a legitimate mental disability under the provisions of the ADA and treatment made available that everyone can afford. I hope to see that day.
So, how do you get by?