Oh the joys of motherhood, they light the world with love but for those who bore a mentally ill child, it is a different kind of joy, often a painful joy. The pain stems from the lost potential, the joy comes with the smallest accomplishments of a mentally ill child and always, there is relief when there is a month or two of normalcy.
When I gave birth, I was still considered a teenager, too young to have a baby but too close to my own mother, for her to dissuade or guide me in a wiser direction. How could I have known that my only emotional support, the woman I shared an apartment with, the woman who I loved more than life, my mother, would die only two months after I gave birth to a baby “out of wedlock.”
My daughter’s father was my first and only true love. He was from the other side of the tracks, rich, spoiled, and lived on the golf course in Country Club Oaks. He had been adopted into a glamorous, high society family, when he and his adopted brother were babies. Sadly, societal events constantly kept his parents from parenting and by the age of 17, he was a full blown alcoholic, having access to an empty house full of friends, an open bar and an endless bank account. As much as a young, impressionable girl can love a boy, I did, for years, until I became pregnant and decided, much to my credit, that I did not want to marry a man who drank like a sieve. In 1973 no one knew alcoholism was a disease, it was considered a lack of discipline. My mother was in full agreement that we would raise the baby ourselves and was over the moon, delighted with every baby clothing or furniture purchase.
Two months later, I was being moved back in with my grandparents after the sudden death of my thirty-eight year old mother. I was working 30 miles away in the big city to support my child and by age one, we had moved into a tiny apartment in Houston. My grandparents continued to help on weekends and holidays and by age six, my daughter was such a remarkable child, smart, adorable and kind. She continued to surprise all of us as she grew into a prepubescent young lady, in advanced learning classes and the first few years of elementary and in high school, she excelled in music and was prolific in Cello and sports. Her grades were exceptional and her personality, sweet, quick-witted and charming.
Then it happened. Shortly after her grandfather died, we began to see changes in her disposition. She was only 19. Naturally, we wondered if she was on drugs or was drinking, only to…