Anita: Moving Forward
A month ago, Nina started receiving mental health case management and weekly nurse visits and Anita is working on getting her approved for disability benefits. Both daughters, now in their own condo purchased by Anita and Luke, are receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. These resources reduce the burden for Anita and Luke.
Although Luke’s job responsibilities mean he is gone about 50% of the time, Anita explained that he is very supportive.
It’s hard on my husband and me. His traveling has been hard. . . It is what it is. He’s gone. He makes a lot of money and that helps support us. We can put her in treatment (uninsured) for a week and not be affected by that. What he does, really, really helps a lot.
For a brief time period, Luke took family leave from work to stay with his daughters at the condo. During this time, Nina made angry threats to her parents, demanding money, and saying things to deliberately hurt them. The stress affected Luke’s health, resulting in symptoms of dizziness, fatigue, and loss of concentration. Anita cried with worry about him. She is plagued by self-doubt when she hears that parents are blamed for mental illness.
I don’t know what it’s like to have biological children and have a mental illness come in. I think it’s more genetic, honestly. I’m kind of sick of this feeling of shame on the part of the mother, the parent.
A year ago, Anita’s therapist asked her, “How are you doing now that the hope phase is over?”
I went home thinking, there’s a phase like hope? I don’t think she meant to say that. But I made this sculpture of a girl holding an axe with an egg on a tree stump, and it’s called F___ Hope. It was painful to think that I was being like tricked by hope. Here, have some hope. That will help you get through this. Sprinkle on hope for you. That was rough.
When asked about how she thinks about hope now, Anita responded,
I don’t know. I just kind of go one day at a time. There’s hope in that. I’m thinking maybe tomorrow will be different. Day after day. It’s so hard not to think ahead, it really is. How long is Nina going to be in psychosis? She’s not doing the right medications. Right now, she takes them a few at a time or a lot at a time. She’s 21 and we can’t do anything. What does this look like for Luke and me? We had dreams of our kids being independent.
Anita wants to support her children in accomplishing their dreams but realizes they will not likely take on any challenging projects or endeavors. Anita contemplated, “We’re still helping them to support their dreams in a way. But it looks different. It’s a different picture.”
There are many hard things in Anita’s life because she has two daughters who live with mental illness. The lack of care or concern from her family members distresses her the most. Of her four siblings, no one comes to visit her daughters when they are hospitalized. No one asks how they are doing or how Anita is doing. She lamented, “If she had cancer, people would care.”
Although Anita's journey has been rough and chaotic, she has grown, beoming educated about mental illness and more compassionate with people at work and in her guardian ad litem work. She realizes that no one chooses mental illness. She has learned to accept her own anxiety and now in her 50s is “probably more me than I’ve ever been in my life.”
Anita has learned to “compartmentalize” to avoid getting “wiped out.” For other parents of young adult children living with a mental illness, she recommends, “Take care of yourself, physically, emotionally, socially. Learn boundaries. Teflon. I have to think of Teflon. Let things slide off. I’m not good at it but I try.”
She found the book by Xavier Amador, titled I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help, to be a helpful guide for avoiding “triggering” Nina in their conversations. She has learned to listen and accept, making conversation with Nina possible. Anita demonstrates incredible courage in taking on a rough journey to support her daughters. She accepts the reality of tough challenges and uses all her gifts to stay grounded and search for answers for what will help her daughters reach well-being and stability.