Hello Wednesday -- Will facing it make it better?

I've been talking to my oldest sister, Valerie recently.  She's shed some light on some things and that has been both freeing and painful.

As I said yesterday, we had a very 'normal' upbringing in many ways. But there were some things in our family that were profoundly abnormal.  The one which breaks in on my rememberings first is the fact that my mother has suffered with Paranoid Schizophrenia as well as significant clinical depression.  What that meant to me as a child was that my mother was very unpredictable and not particularly safe at times.

(Me, on the left and my sister Kim when I was four)

When she was not having an episode, my mother was interesting, silly and enjoyed being out and doing things.  She told me stories, took me for walks, read to me and taught me to read.  She was a beauty and enjoyed makeup and hairstyling.  She showed me where birds made their nests and foxes had their holes.  I loved my mama and enjoyed hearing about the world from her perspective.

I especially enjoyed hearing about her life in India.  She told me often of her exploits at the convent school and how she would keep the poor nuns on their toes.  She told me of her popularity with the other students and how she was a sort of ring leader. I was proud of my mother.  She told me of how she'd moved to England as a young woman and learned stenography to become a secretary.  She still wrote in shorthand a lot of the time so we couldn't tell what she'd written.

She occasionally spoke of her sister Grace. Looking back, I believe she was quite broken hearted at Grace's unexplained death.  She also spoke of the times that she'd been locked in cabinets where bandicoots lurked when she was being disciplined. It is those times that I now wonder about.  I wonder what other horrors she experienced.  Whatever they were, she has kept them locked deep inside her mind for all of these years.

Lesser Bandicoot Rat
(Lesser Bandicoot)

But sometimes, her emotions would grab hold of her and she'd lose control.  One such occasion happened when I was about four.  She, myself and my sister Kim were in our bedroom folding laundry.  I believe I was talking when my mom turned and her elbow somehow ended up connecting with my mouth at exactly the moment when I was closing it.  She took it that I was biting her and backhanded me across the chest so hard that it knocked the breath out of me.

I can recall some screaming, but not what she said.  What I remember most clearly is how utterly terrified I was.  I thought I'd die because I couldn't get my breath.  And my mother was soooo angry with me.  I knew I hadn't done anything wrong so it didn't make any sense to me. That feeling of horror is still with me somehow.  I can call it back up and remember it like it just happened.  I think fear is often like that.

That was one time.  There were others.

 (Mama, around 1981)

Valerie recently told me of a time that mama beat the dickens out of my sister Kim with a hair-brush.

The difficultly is that you never knew when she might turn on you.  Discipline was frequently a beating, up and down the back of us with the metal end of the fly swatter.  Or you might have shoes thrown at you.  She used to make my older brother and sister pick out their own switch, clean it off and then sharpen it in order to receive a whipping.  (Luckily, that particular trick went by the wayside by the time I was old enough to find my own switch.)

When I was about six, I remember mama got very angry with a woman who lived a couple streets over.  She was certain that Arnette was trying to steal her Jafra customers, or something like that, and she put me in the car, grabbed a very large carving knife and headed to Arnette's home.  Once again, I was in sheer terror.  I thank God that Arnette was NOT home. I never heard anything about it again.

The thing that strikes me as strange now is that no-one did anything about it.  We just all trundled along as if our lives really were perfectly normal.

I can remember that children, friends, would only come over to my home once.  After that, they never wanted to come over.  My mother would tease them that she'd take them out and hang them by their toes in the trees.  They didn't seem to think that was funny and I couldn't understand why.  I knew my mama wouldn't do that, but they sure didn't.

Mama talked to the TV news anchors.  She'd say 'I know you're watching me!  But I can see you too!'  She'd talk to the planes overhead in the sky, saying 'I see you.  Don't think I don't know.'  She'd talk to God and then answer back for Him.  Everyone was out to get her, everyone around her was crazy.  We all just hated her.  Or at least that is how it looked from behind her eyes.

If only mama's mental illness were the only issue we had.

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Oh my dear goodness! Just reading that had to be traumatic enough for you and your siblings- I just can't imagine that there's *more*! I am SO.SORRY! {{hugs}}

  2. OmG, that sounds horrible, I can't imagine that you had to suffer more, why can something like that happen? Why doesn't anybody care? I'm so sorry for you!

  3. u, you are being so brave to walk back through all of this! continue on and know you are loved! healing awaits you in the end!

  4. That is so awful and I feel your pain. You are in my prayers as you relive this.

  5. Thanks for sharing & being so honest! Although I didnt' get beaten I had many horrific things in my childhood, mostly due to my mom's mental illness. When you are going through it, you feel that you can't tell anyone about it or even acknowledge it because it's so strange. I used to just wish my mom was an alcoholic or something so at least I could explain the odd behavior. Instead I just dealt with it and never told anyone. Even now I can't easily talk about the instances that my little family went through because of her mental state. It's an odd & unexplainable illness that leaves people feel so alone and it pushes people away as well. No one reaches out to you when you are dealing with something like that. Instead, outside family members just turn their back. Very hard for children to understand. Thanks for being so honest.

  6. Ursula, thank you for continuing to share your story with us. Your courage is going to help other people change their lives or maybe even put them in a position where they can finally understand people around them or even understand themselves. I am humbled by your willingness to bare your soul to us.
    Take care

  7. I continue to read and continue to be thankful for your honesty and courage in the telling...

  8. I'am so sorry that you had to go through such horrors. May God give you patience and strength *hugs*

  9. Wow, so sorry you had to experience that. You must have been terrified. Hugs to you.

  10. So very brave of you to share your story, I hope in doing so you gain even more strength.......

  11. I don't know what to say! So sorry you had to deal with all that as a little child.

  12. You are so brave to have shared your story.
    I can only imagine the fear you may have had as a child and the mixed emotions you must have now. Sending hugs your way.

  13. Thank you for pouring our your heart. While I didn't have parents that suffered from a mental illness, I know all too much about verbal and physical abuse. ((hugs)) sweet friend!

  14. Mental illness is such a horror for all involved, especially young children that have no grasp on what is going on. It is indeed an oddity that no-one seemed to back then take much notice of these things that went on in families, as you say you just had to trundle along. Hugs Tx


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