Relationships

TRANSFORMING VICTIMIZATION: TRUE STORIES

TRANSFORMING VICTIMIZATION: TRUE STORY NUMBER 6

"When the bottom falls out of your reality, you then pay attention to yourself, your fears, dreams and needs in a very different manner. You have nothing to lose in letting the smoke screens in your life fall away. As you can learn to look at your life honestly, without excuses and self-imposed, preconceived conditions, you will find the levels of fear and anxiousness diminish. The willingness to re-evaluate the current Ďyou" and the possibilities for a new "you" is what turns limitation into opportunity and destructive, old patterning into viable, healthy new paths of growth."

Meredith Lady Young
Language of the Soul: Applying Universal Principles for Self-Empowerment

 

How does one heal and grow from an unthinkable traumatic experience? It helps each of us when others open their hearts and tell their stories. In this issue and several following, personal stories illustrate how we can move beyond staying a victim and how to use painful events to grow spiritually. Know that the events that wounded us, whether or not they are as severe as those in these stories, can deepen our relationship with our Self and be used for the upliftment of our consciousness. To raise our consciousness out of the consensus reality of victim/victimizer consciousness, takes tremendous courage and vigilance.

Allow these courageous people to impact you and show you the way out of trauma. Their sharing is very personal and each of them hopes to show you that no matter how challenging a life situation, there are ways to grow and heal from the experience.

Some of the best teachers and healers are the wounded healers who have healed themselves. In the following months you will read others. If you are drawn to write your story, send it to me. If you missed previous stories you can read them now:

Story number 1, Overcoming Sexual Assault

Story number 2, Moving Beyond Childhood Abuse

Story number 3, In Memory of Betty Sitzer

Story number 4, A TurningĖPoint in My Journey from Being Born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy
to Leading a Productive and Fulfilling Adult Life

Story number 5, Letting Go: My Life After My Teenage Sonís Suicide

 

Moving Beyond Blaming Myself for My Son's Mental Illness

By Leanne Pollock

I have a 37-year-old son challenged with schizophrenia. Often, I ask myself how this can really be true. Yes, I was in denial for quite a while, not realizing during adolescence that his problems were much deeper than those of most teenagers and young adults. His crash when a girlfriend broke up with him was our first clue he was ill. It took another ten years to really understand how serious his problems were.

I am in a constant process of learning how to accept the reality of our family situation and to stop blaming myself for all his problems. Blaming myself or other family members has been my favorite way to cope. OF COURSE THIS NEVER WORKS! I have learned that it distracted me from facing my own problems, such as living with continual fear, having low self-esteem, and not being able to express feelings well or even know what I am feeling, to name a few of my issues.

Sometimes I do backslide and get too caught up in my sonís illness, returning to old victim thinking. Like right now, as I write this passage, my son is not doing well. He has been hospitalized twice and is struggling once again with his delusions resulting from not taking his medication. He is facing another forced hospitalization. It is very easy for me to feel responsible for his illness, no matter how many opinions of respected professionals I have been reassured by that mental illnesses have genetic or biological causes. It is so easy to let the negative thoughts run through my mind and search the past looking for causes for my sonís mental illness. Then the regrets of unaware times surface.

How do I cope with my sonís mental illness, release negative thinking patterns of self-doubt, shame, and blame, and be able to appreciate my own life, able to feel peace, joy, and happiness? And how do I accept and appreciate what I do have with my son, celebrating his breakthroughs and detaching from his limited potential to have an adult-to-adult, reciprocal relationship with me or anyone else? Lucky for me I have a rich network of friends and family that love and support me and remind me at the low points of what I know deep down; that I love my son and did the best I could as a mother. I forgive myself for unaware choices I made in parenting and know in my heart of hearts that I am not the cause of his mental illness.

Add to this my daily meditations, journal writing, and walking in nature that connect me spiritualy with a deeper ability to accept the situation, see the many wonderful lessons I have learned and continue to learn that would never have happened without my son and his illness. I am amazed sometimes at the compassion and non-judgmentalness I now have towards all others, including myself. Watercolor painting and singing are creative outlets for my self-expression which also keep me on track and help me to continue healing myself.

What are some more of the lessons I have learned from being the mother of an adult child who is mentally ill? I have learned the value of monitoring oneís thoughts and updating oneís beliefs. It would have been impossible to find many moments of peace and happiness without the vigilance of healing my thinking patterns. Another is I am growing in my ability to separate from my son emotionally and not be as codependent as I once was with him. It was easy for me to feel free to live my own life and let go when my son was doing reasonably well; taking his medication, attending support functions at the mental health association, and keeping his job mowing lawns. It is still much harder to separate emotionally when he is not doing well. I do know, however, when the codependence roars itís head, I begin my innerwork again to climb the mountain of healthy support and caring and not taking too much responsibility for him. This then reminds me to lighten up, have fun, and do the positive things to help me feel good.

Maybe the biggest lesson I have learned is forgiveness. One thing I blamed myself the most for was not getting help sooner for my son and my family. Why did I let it slide for ten years before getting involved? When I am in my highest, wise Self, I see that I could not recognize my sonís need for help as an adolescent because I was drowning myself. During those early years, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Facing death and healing my own life dominated for several years thereafter. I learned that my emotional and spiritual health was much worse than my physical health so I spent a lot of time discovering who I was and what I needed to heal. I had little left to give my family. When I look down at my life from a higher perspective, of course, I can forgive myself for not responding to my son or recognizing how serious his problems were.

My early counseling began as a result of the cancer. I began to slowly emerge from the victim stage and to face my fears. As I experienced so many shifts in my awareness and as my self-esteem improved, I became less helpless and clearer about how I could best help my son. There were many issues I had to face with my relationship with my husband, that I choose to not go into here, where I had to stand strong on what I believed. Practicing tough love, for one, does not work with the mentally ill.

Part of the path to getting help for my son was to move from Texas back my hometown in Illinois. My mother died during this time period and left me her house; I see the synchronicity of this to provide a new way to help my son and myself. I brought my son to this small town which had a very successful mental health center. It provided him and still does, with a day care and work environment for the mentally ill in the community. Since I had inherited my parent's home I was able to stay close by and even volunteer at the center. Relatives and friends that I grew up with supported me and my son. There is so much love and support here in my hometown.

I am proud of how I have guided my son to his current path. He is able to live independently and work outdoors mowing lawns, that is, when he is not hospitalized. I take life one day at a time now and remember to focus on my own journey no matter how my son is doing. I enjoy my art, my friendships, and my walks in nature each morning. Yes, there is life after mental illness of oneís adult child.

 

I have known Leanne for many years and have watched her grow and change, as I was her counselor early on during her recovery from cancer. She truly has transformed her life and the life of her family. I find it interesting that her daughter won a Fulbright scholarship and studied abroad in Egypt, her major was Arabic. It seems that as parents, once we give raising our children our best, it benefits us to detach form taking either credit or blame for the path our adult childrenís lives take.

 

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