A little background on me: my mother has bipolar disorder and raised me. She was a single parent and I am her only child. We lived in assisted housing for the mentally ill. We were poor, and well lets just say it was an interesting and unique childhood. 🙂 She was and is a good mom- the best she could be. We struggled with some things, and got a ton of help with other things that we couldn’t do on our own. They say it takes a village to raise a child: well, it took a church and all of the Village of Amityville, and the rest of Long Island to raise me. I was a force to reckon with at times.
If having a disability wasn’t enough, my mom was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. I was in my early teens, maybe 13 or so. We went through that together. Our church provided a ton of support through that time.
A few years later, Mom was in a very serious car accident. She was hit walking across the street in a crosswalk. It left her unable to walk for a while and left some permanent damage on her brain. She suffered from hematoma and the result was scar tissue. This all impacted her memory permanently- thankfully today it’s not too bad. I struggled to find resources and help and at times I went mad. I couldn’t do it on my own. Through our cries of help, we reached out to her case manager at a local organization for the mentally ill and to my church. With help, we got through it. I wish I could have handled things better but it was a learning experience. Maybe with some tips, you can, if you’re ever in my shoes.
There are times today she can’t afford things and struggles. I try to help out in the ways I can, when I can. She always says that family is there when no one else is. I agree but I believe that we cannot just rely on family. We have to network and help each other, whether we’re neighbors, friends or co-workers. We should all make an effort to reach out to one another when we see someone in need. Also, these experiences have taught me the importance of boundaries. There are limits to what we can and should do for another person, even if it’s a family member. This is a point I’ll touch on in another entry.
My father is another story. He has been an on and off alcoholic for most of my life. To his credit, he tries to quit at times but an addiction is an addiction and it’s really hard to overcome it. He has been unable to forgive himself for his mistakes for a long time now and often that subconsciously causes him to make the decisions he makes. Thankfully, I see right through him, although that doesn’t mean his choices don’t hurt me and haven’t hurt our family. He was recently diagnosed with COPD due to alpha 1 antitrypsin disorder, for which I am a carrier. This resulted in ongoing treatment, surgery on a kidney and a rapidly decreasing condition. Beginning in January he started to suffer from a series of strokes. He’s gone downhill. He was taken to the hospital last week (for the fourth time in three months) and was transferred to a great rehabilitation facility last night. Woo hoo!
Now that I’ve shared my immediate familial history, I can start to explain how I got things done, who and what I relied on for help (because we cannot be caregivers on our own) and the practical things I’ve learned through all of these experiences.