She’s sick…

Something has been bothering me for a while now, and it has come up quite a few times in the last week or so.

Whenever some people talk about my mother, they feel the need to mention “she’s sick” or “she’s mentally ill.” Well, first of all, do we really know that for sure? Has she been diagnosed? No. She hasn’t. I’m not saying that she isn’t, I just don’t see the point in jumping to that assumption, as if it was supposed to be comforting to me or something. My roommate mentioned it the other night when I was having my breakdown. “Your mother is sick, you know that right?” So what? So what if she’s sick? Is that supposed to mean something? I don’t get it.

My therapist also brought up the likelihood of my parents being mentally ill. Again…so what? Is that supposed to negate all of the shit they put me through, my mother especially? Regardless of mental illness, my mother knew right from wrong. She knew what she did wasn’t right. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have tried so hard to hide it. She wouldn’t have lied about it. You don’t cover up something unless you know you’ve done wrong. So what difference does being mentally ill make? I’m mentally ill. I’d like to think I would never physically, sexually, or emotionally abuse another human being, especially an innocent child. My illness doesn’t change that.

Being sick or mentally ill is not an excuse for what my family did. Yet every time someone says something like that, it seems that they are trying to find an excuse for what happened to me. There is no excuse. There is no reason. There is no logic. There is no explanation.

If I turned around and did some horrible shit to my parents, I bet I wouldn’t be hearing “she’s sick” or “she’s mentally ill.” But that’s okay, because I wouldn’t be acting out because of any illness.  I’d be acting on the pure hatred and evil that lives inside me. And I’ll readily admit that. My illness doesn’t control me. Her illness (if one exists) didn’t control her. She made those choices on her own.

11 thoughts on “She’s sick…

  1. It’s interesting you write about this. I remember seeing a discussion on TV many years ago about whether mental illness should be a reason to find people “not guilty” of their crimes. I forget who the woman was who spoke, though I remember she was a writer. She had experienced severe mental illness herself, and she argued passionately that people with mental illness should still be held responsible for their actions. If they can’t control what they are doing, it is up to them to get help or go to the hospital (of course, this only holds if people actually have access to health care). I had never heard such a point of view before but I still remember it, probably 30 years later. I agree that your mothers’ mental illness does not in any way excuse her abuse of you. Perhaps people are trying to explain it, believing that no one who is not mentally ill would do such things to a child. But I actually don’t believe that. I think there are many mentally healthy people who abuse children and justify it to themselves in one way or another.

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  2. I agree totally. Having a mental illness, or any psychological problem does not include being cruel. That is a choice. Saying someone is sick because they are cruel or commit crimes of cruelty gives mental a bad name and bad wrap. Just so not true.

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    1. Well I take offense to that line of thinking. I have suffered from deep depressions and a life of anxiety. I do not expect others to assume that because of my challenges I am criminally inclined. People often say off the cuff remarks like that without thinking, or because they have not experienced it personally or with someone close. You know what they say about opinions, everybody has one.


  3. I thought about this later, actually a lot during in the day. Your roommate and therapist, those that care about you and are close to you, just want you to know it’s not about you. Maybe they aren’t using the right words, but that’s the part to try to take in with warmth. They care about you and want you distinguish that what your mother did was all about her and not you. That’s so hard. Because children take it all in on themselves. But their saying that, though not accurate or true, is coming from a place of caring about you.
    That too is hard to accept from others, sometimes for me, the hardest thing to accept, true caring.
    When someone says another is ‘sick’, sometimes it’s with compassion, and other times, like how your roommate and therapist use it, it’s more in disgust. I could say your Mom is a sick-o for her choices too, but they are choices. Sick ones, but she chose it. She could have vented her stuff on a tree. I did. Banging and screaming at it. What she needed to vent was her stuff, her past, not you. She should not have had a child. But she did, a very beautiful one in all ways. You work through this and you open those deep wells of compassion inside you where others in need will visit.

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    1. It’s very painful to be treated so badly, so unfairly,- abused. And once you learn, believe and love all that is within you in spite of her horrible treatment, you may very well forgive her. That might not include a relationship with her, but a heart within you that is in peace.

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    2. I do agree with this, that not everyone who says “she was sick” is making excuses. In fact, sometimes people are saying “that was a sick and terrible thing to do,” condemning the act(s) and telling you they care. And as Patricia says, your mom made the choice to deal with her sickness in the way she did, which was never your fault.


  4. I have gotten that too. My mother sexually and physically abused me, and emotionally and verbally abused me as well. Her mental status has nothing to do with it. She was not incapable of telling right from wrong. She perpetrated crimes, evil and abuse, because she wanted to, not because she was psychotic. She wasn’t psychotic and I don’t care what may or may not actually have been her mental issues then or at any time in her life. No one but a therapist who is seeing her as a client can accurately make an assessment or a diagnosis..

    Actually no one tells me that anymore, but they used to when I was in the beginning of my healing work and it was like a punch to my stomach. Let’s excuse the crazy woman for all her shit. No thank you. I started yelling back at people who would say that to me and it didn’t take long for the universe to figure out I wasn’t interested in listening to that kind of lame shit anymore.

    I wouldn’t ever and have never sexually abused a child. Nothing could have made me. I deserve to be treated as though my mother is held to the same standard. In some ways I think others are so uncomfortable with how it feels to face a survivor of abuse, especially one with a mother perpetrator, with all their pain and instead they want to lessen it somehow. Labeling her doesn’t do anything for me except make me and my pain feel diminished and my reality invalidated. I just don’t think they see that. But I wish that they did.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.


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