I always knew. I always knew there was something a little off with my mother. She had a learning disability and never went to college (that’s why we lived with my grandparents). Growing up I didn’t know what was wrong with my mom; I only knew that she was different. I would notice these odd things with her that only seemed to get worse as I got older. Eating breakfast I would hear her in the other room talking to herself. I would hear her screaming in the shower. I would see her staring off blankly into space. She would open my mail, invade my privacy, and others. Every time I looked over my shoulder, she would be staring at me. We were never close; we never had your loving mother daughter relationship. I guess this steamed from me knowing that something was off… I did not trust her (and I never will).
Fast forwarding through most of elementary school and middle school; it was the summer of 2012. Things had gone from bad to worse. My grandparents have a vacation home in Estes Park, Colorado. We had gone every summer for two months. This summer my mom was going to stay home (alone) to work and my grandparents, my best friend, and me were going to road trip to the lovely home in the mountains. The weeks leading up to the trip, my mom would have these episodes. She wasn’t sleeping and her lip was swollen from biting it so much. I did not want to go on the trip. My grandparents reassured me that everything would be okay. My mom busted into my room four nights before we were scheduled to leave. It was three in the morning and she just stood there staring out the window. I was scared. I was terrified. It felt like hours had past when my mom finally responded to me crying out to her asking for an explanation. She told me that all she wanted was to keep me safe from the people outside. But the thing was, no one was outside. I told my mom that we needed to shower, get dressed, and go out to breakfast… just the two of us. To my surprise she said okay. While we were eating I told my mom that I wanted to understand what was going on. This was the first time I had heard my mother (or anyone for that matter) tell me what I knew to be true: my mom had hallucinations. I was scared not only for me but my mom as well. I couldn’t understand it. My mom went on to say that there were five voices in her head. They told her what to say when and what to do when. She had no control over anything… not her words or her actions. She said I couldn’t do anything to help. She also told me she would be fine and to go on my trip with my grandparents and best friend. I believed she would be okay and went on the trip that was supposed to last six weeks.
Day two of driving to Colorado I got a phone call from my mom. It still haunts me. She said, “Whatever happens, know that I love you.” I panicked. I did not know what was happening. She hung up after saying nothing was wrong. My grandparents told me not to worry and to forget it had happened. I did until day number eight of being gone. My mom called and asked if I was in Colorado with my grandparents. I told her I was but my mom did not believe me. I told my grandparents that I needed to go home. I practically begged them. They agreed and flew me and my best friend (Katie) home the next morning… they stayed in Colorado.
Katie has been my best friend since birth. My mom and her mom knew each other from work. Katie’s mom was waiting for us and told me that my mother was crazy. Katie’s mom dropped me off at home and took Katie home. I didn’t know what to expect. I walked into the house that I knew so well to find holes in the wall, picture frames broken, etc. My first thought was not about the damages; it was about knowing my mom went crazy and had been alone with no one to snap her out of it. The guilt rushed in and all I could think about was finding my mother. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I told my mom to get help. My biggest concern was the children at the day care she works at. My mother is so loving and would never do something to intentionally hurt them, but she told me the voices followed her to work and talked to her through the phone lines, the radios, the old broken intercom, etc. She refused. We were home alone the rest of that summer.
One night, my mother came running into my room accusing me of stealing condoms. The accusation was false and irrational. I was upset that my mother thought that of me. My mother ran out of the room and I followed her. She had stopped in the hallway and was yelling at the attic. She turned and told me her voices lived in the attic and she needed to talk to them. The look in her eyes was scary… but the look was also crying for help and I did not know how to help. I ran to my room and called Katie and my grandparents. My grandparents did not answer. Katie did. I told her I was on my way (I had a car). I packed a quick bag and took a break for the front door. My mother heard me leaving and ran after me. I told her that I did not feel safe and needed to leave for a moment. My mom went normal for a second and told me that she loved me and I should stay. That moment left just as quickly as it came. I was scared; she wouldn’t let me leave. She challenged me… she said, “Try and go down the stairs. She what happens.” I did just that, but when I got close to her she pushed my hard and I tumbled down the stairs. When I got to the bottom I got up and ran as fast as I could to my car without looking back. I went straight to Katie’s house and called my grandparents… they did not believe me (and still don’t). I was hurt and alone. I stayed at Katie’s house for two weeks.
I went back home at the end of those two weeks. I only stayed there for six months before I left for good. I have no contact with my mother now. But I feel awful. I am my mom’s only child and I know she loves me more than life itself. The thing is, her voices don’t love me… they want to kill me.
I have moved far away now. I get phone calls and voicemails from my mom every day. I never answer. She tells me that she has a bedroom waiting for me and that she knows I am going to move in. She is compulsive and persistent. I am away and I am free of my mother, but I am not free of my experiences. I have problems with sharing. I want to be alone all the time because I am afraid of other people. Last week I hit my breaking point with a friend’s boyfriend. He said that “crazy people did not deserve to eat food, to be on Earth, or to live.” He called them lunatics. I yelled at him! I said that these people he referred to just need help. They need someone who has the capacity to care and love for them.
People don’t understand that struggles these people go through. I want to help. I care so much. There were so many people who didn’t help me and didn’t care about me. I still have nightmares, have trouble sleeping, and PTSD. I don’t know why it is really hitting me now. (I do know that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the FFD agricultural program. I would likely have killed myself.) I am stuck under a neck and a hard place. I can’t do anything but share my story. I want to give people hope. I am lucky to have made it out. I play the guitar and hang out at the barn for stress relief. I love my goat and chickens. I desire to help children in similar situations. I am glad for my experience; it taught me to be both sympathetic and empathetic. I want to get to know people. My perspective on mental illness is a unique one. I think that people like my mother do things because they do not have a choice or the opportunity. They have no control. I can make a difference and YOU CAN TOO! Share your story with others; relate to others… be vulnerable and amazing things will come of it.
- Annie Stickland