24 June 2009

Connecting Schizophrenic Dots

I don't talk about my schizophrenic mother too often. There is a fine line between respecting someone with a mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and having your stomach ache from laughing at the scenarios my mother manages to get herself into. For instance, I get a call...

I answered the phone politely, "Hello?"

Recognizing the caller ID I knew it could only be my mom. She used a phone my sister was paying for but she wasn't calling at her normal hour of 9pm, 3am, midnight, fill-in-the-blank with any hour that was ungodly. I was immediately pulled from my surprise by the demanding voice on the other line, "WHO is this?"

My niece does not yet have the best telephone manners, even at 16, but my sister's voice was the one I heard.

"Dev?" I inquired. Maybe it was my sister.

"Who is this?" my niece sounded confused.

"It's your Aunt Bee. Is this Summer?" I quickly added.

"Oh! Hi, Aunt Bee. We didn't know who Grandma was calling all the time. She's been calling EV.RY.ONE," she enunciated every syllable.

I heard her mumble to my sister, "It's Aunt Bee..."

"What's going on? Is your Grandma okay?"

Calls about my mother were usually not good. For the last six months my mother has been living with my sister, and her boyfriend, along with my niece. It's been comforting to know my sister has my mom out of a Board and Care Home and surrounded by family. However, my sister is doing her best, with my mom. Jane is battling her own stuff and my mom's health and well-being is wholly consuming.

As much as I'm used to caring for my own kids, I see my mom in that same way. I always wondered when the switch happened, from daughter to mothering my own mother.

I'd planned from a young age to have my mom close. Her health has not always been compatible with my immediate family nor has our living situation been conducive to an extended stay. She lives in California. We live two states away. Distance also has been an issue but the biggest is my mom's health. My sister took my mom in because my mom was caught cheeking her meds (hiding them in her mouth and not swallowing them) because she was "much better now". This is common for people who live with mood altering prescriptions. My mom, as brilliant as she is, thrives and has an amazing quality of life when she stays medicated. Stays, being the operative word.

Picture this: Your brain firing with each thought through your synaptic paths. Now imagine having 10 times the firings that you should with each thought, your brain going in a million different directions at a time. What's in the now? What reality and what's imaginary?  It's like driving a rocket sled on your daily carpool=Overload. This is the same kind of reaction my mom has on a daily basis. She's amazingly brilliant but with this kind of overload, she feels, thinks, acts in skips and hops. Talking to my mom is usually like playing connect the dots. She says sweetly, "Don't eat cornflakes when I'm gone!".

What does that mean?

It means that back in the 70s my mom had a parrot she absolutely loved. She or a neighbor fed it cornflakes one day and it choked and died. So, in short, my mom was telling me to be safe when she is not around.  

Connecting dots.

I wish I had property with a mother-in-law house behind the main house. I'd want my mom to feel like she had a place of her own, but close enough to us to manage her care and let her see the kids grow up. But until her meds are adjusted and a house is purchased, my kids wouldn't understand when Grandma is yelling at "her mom" in the mirror. My kids don't understand when Grandma is calling TBN prayer line for two days straight, slamming doors around the house, and pouring gallons of bleach down the toilet to "get rid of her bathroom problems".

My mom is also a blurt-er, declaring things that should *never* be said, especially around my kids...for instance, it didn't matter if she saw things this way or if this is how the stories actually went down. There was the time she was attacked in high school, or the affair that happened before I was born between a male family member and another married woman. And yes, the same woman I was supposedly named after. Which was confusing because I was told once that I was named after a character in a Pat Boone movie. That was during my mom's Pat Boone phase. Regardless, my kids just stared wide-eyed at these new revelations. Not good.

Yeah. How do you follow that kind of bombshell? So And So had an abortion in 1989. Can you pass the ketchup?

Today's phone call was beginning to look like my mother was in her true form.

Summer started into a rant about my mom. "Well, Grandma has been calling everyone! She's racked up the #%$# phone bill. My mom is pissed. She can't even talk to you right now."

"What....?" I knew this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Summer laid it out almost sounding amused. "Grandma called the FBI a couple times and told them Obama was going to be assassinated by someone." Her off-handed reply shocked me. I quickly composed myself and tried my best not to bust up laughing.

Apparently, my mom had to shake things up. Suits were coming to her door. The authorities are getting involved. And my sister just wanted a roommate who would pay her rent on time. I guess the $ cell phone bill was not a factor in that equation.

Thanks to my mom, somewhere in government-land, my FBI file just got fatter, now tagged along with the phone calls my mother was making. Big Brother has probably now documented, next to the incidents I'd experienced as a bank teller, the anti-patriotic notes of my possible assassination intentions as a law-abiding, school-going, mother and wife. Yeah, and not to mention further proof of my unpatriotic status as a Libertarian voter and whoops, I had that one speeding ticket back in 1998. I hang my flag out on Fourth of July and Veteran's Day...and once forgot it overnight.

The moral of the story is: Connecting the schizophrenic dots is a serious responsibility no matter how side-splitting funny it is. Especially when Big Brother is watching.
You can quote me on that.

~Bee is all about the red, white, and blue. Really.


Sheena said...

Ahhhh...good times. Poor mom. I know she really believes it, so she must be so worried for the President.

... Paige said...

and now you went and done it. babbling away all your troubles when you know darn well and good that all your peps are gonna be looked at under a fedscope.
Holy crap Bee what are we supposed to do to protect ourselves it's not like we can say it was your mother's fault she was just not taking her meds right I mean that would be like passing the buck. And I so can't do that, pass the buck on accounta I have no bucks. So what am I supposed to do?
Sorry about your mom :-}

sarahgrace said...

Well, now that twitter comment makes sense. I'm glad you explained, and I'm thoroughly impressed by your attitude with this and how well you are handling it. I hate to admit it, but I don't think I'm doing so great with my mother. :)

Heffalump said...

So, should we be worried that by commenting on your blog we might be linked to this federal investigation?

I worry about how we will take care of my parents as they get older. It can be stressing. I think a lot of people wish for that Mother-in-Law apartment or house on their property.

Jaina said...

I don't know whether to be sympathetic or just roll around laughing. I'll settle for waving hi to Big Brother, eh? ;)

Mrs4444 said...

Sounds stressful.

Utah Savage said...

In my manic state I could be your mom. But I have just enough sense of self-preservation that I take my medications like some women pray--reflexively. And sadly for me, I have no other living relative. Perhaps I was foolish to have chosen abortion, thinking at the time, "How could anyone bring a child into this world?" Now I see the future narrowing into complete isolation. It is something to be fought against. But I grow lazy in that effort.

I hope you keep writing. I have often wondered what kind of mother I'd have been. I am only bipolar, but that's trouble enough.

maggie, dammit said...

The sister of my lifelong best friend is schizophrenic, and I've never had it explained so clearly before. I guess I didn't really get her hops and skips and dot-throwing until I read this.

Thank you for that.

ancient one said...

I don't know wheather to laugh or cry... I guess we will all wind up on O's list.. I choose to laugh...LOL

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