Melanie: Growing Up in a Challenging Environment
Her father’s symptoms and younger brother Paul’s behavior stressed the family. Paul got arrested for stealing a car, acted out, and spent his time with “bad company.”
I guess I was kind of mad at my younger brother for always having issues and stressing my parents. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t understand it and neither did my parents. There weren’t the services that we have today to understand that kind of behavior. I felt very bad. I was a very a quiet, submissive child. I felt that was the way I could survive. I am being treated for depression and anxiety right now. But I think that is the only way I survived is by being the quiet, good kid, not causing problems. Just kind of forgoing that. My older brother, he was also a good kid.
Melanie observed that her youngest brother, Ben, probably had the best mental health because he was able to be a normal kid. The older children had to take on more responsibility with Paul who required their parents’ attention.
Her mother was “on the sidelines” with her own anxieties and worries. Her mother didn’t drive; Melanie’s oldest brother helped with driving and getting groceries when symptoms kept her father, Gordon, from functioning in his usual family role. Although Melanie thought her mother viewed her own world as falling apart, she was surprised at how well her mother adjusted after Gordon’s death. Her mother continued to live on her own in the family home, until she had several falls and needed additional care. She explained that she never understood what motivated her mother.
Her own emotions were inside her and I see her as kind of a troubled person. She had her own issues and she had a troubled childhood with an alcoholic parent. I’ve always had a big question mark about her because I never understood her. . .My mother probably could have used a social worker to help hold her hand a little bit. This struck me that the family had to do it themselves. They had to find the resources. She had to ask relatives to take her down to the hospital to visit my dad. Luckily, she had a good support system of relatives—brothers and sisters that lived near and could take her. . .My mother would probably say it was just a cross she had to bear. She was very much into the Lord sends this to me. I’ve got to put up with it and bear it and had almost a poor me—you’re a victim.
Melanie explained that she is trying to understand her mother from more of a compassionate viewpoint and acknowledged that it “was not easy to be in her shoes.” She believes her mother may have experienced anxiety and depression, and later in life, her mother started taking an antianxiety medication.