Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 16th 2017 Contents A28 life
guardian.co.tt Wednesday, August 16, 2017
This woman with whom I once shared a close
relationship, one more matured and a mother of
one son, reached out to me. She had been living
with depression and managing well. Then a time
came when she was severely affected by issues of
lethargy and continuous fatigue, loss of interest
in everything,including food and friends,decline
in personal hygiene, persistent tears, relentless
irritability, and severe mood fluctuations.
As she finished her recounting of her secreted de-
bility, I realised---only when I heard my deep exhale---I
wasn't breathing. Nothing in our relationship ever be-
trayed her diagnosis. In fact, she was once the greatest
thread of support in a period when I felt fragmented
and trapped by my own mind and moods.
And nothing prepared me for her son's reaction.
He had been always extremely supportive, kind and
humble, loving and caring, until he had to treat with
his mother's worsening illness.
They had shared over three decades in the same
home and seeing his mother declining, a fragment of
herself, seriously affected him. Now, where love and
kindness should have been evident, disgust, derision
and disappointment were his reactions.
In disbelief, I listened to some of the vitriol in her
accounting of the things he would say to her. It shook
me up a bit but I recovered sufficiently to offer her
the support I knew she needed.
My disbelief though, had only to do with the close-
ness and dedication I knew between the two for many
years and not because I cannot imagine that that could
happen. I have experienced many adverse reactions
personally and have counselled both parents with ill
children and children with ill parents struggling to find
"a way" with each other. I have my own heartbreak
stories on both sides, too.
Sometimes, worse than the impact of stigma and
its engendered prejudices, is the fact that many of our
loved ones cannot be bothered to invest sufficiently
in understanding the issues affecting people living
with mental illnesses.
In her instance, the now grown man, who once
rode high with her, felt her isolation and her irrita-
bility were excuses for her "life failure" (that's how he
summed up her very progressive life once she became
"Failure?" I blurted out, without restraint--- some-
thing I rarely do if I am lending support.
Still, I understood the dynamic, the inability of a
child to reconcile with a parent being ill and waylaid by
an ailment he could not see---it could all be made up,
to his mind it could just be her "folding up" because
When something's not
quite right with my parent
of the weight of her past. Unfortunately, it could be
anything the child perceives it to be!
I am always thinking that in T&T we have to con-
sider support for children of parents living/thriving
with mental illnesses. It is still very much a hands-off
situation because of people's fear and ignorance. I
know. No one intervened when I was considered a
, abusive mother.
Everyone felt more comfortable holding counsel
with others (gossiped) rather than offering assistance.
And, while there is more consciousness now than
the 90s, I do not get the sense that the barometer
has moved much.
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (4th ed.)
says, "Mental disorders is conceptualised as a clinically
significant behavioural or psychological syndrome or
pattern that occurs in an individual and that is asso-
ciated with present distress (eg, a painful symptom)
or disability (ie, impairment in one or more important
areas of functioning) or with a significantly increased
risk of suffering death, pain, disability or an important
loss of freedom."
Recounting this definition in a 2013 study titled:
Promotion of mental health in children of parents with
a mental disorder, Verrocchio, et al say, "We
must consider that a majority of people with
mental disorders are or will be parents and that
it is necessary to give due consideration to the
protection of their children.
"Children who receive proper care, protec-
tion, emotional warmth, stimulations, guid-
ance and support, develop their autonomy and a
proper sense of self; they learn to recognise their
own emotional states, to establish satisfactory
relations and to deal with life events," they say.
• Continues on Page A29
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