Insanity and other things

Charlie Dark By Charlie Dark, 15th Jan 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

A chapter in the life of my childhood growing up with a schizophrenic mother as my only guardian

Insanity and other things

My mother was insane.
In the spring of 1962, my father along with the help of the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois, had my mother committed to the Chicago State Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she remained for a period of eighteen months after being diagnosed suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. Of course I was too young at the time to remember any of this and it was only in later years after her death that I found a shoe box hidden away in her closet which contained paperwork that pointed to her diagnosis and hospitalization, and then afterwards, my own research which helped to explain in part as to why she was the way she was during that time when I was forced to be under her care.
Now to make things a bit more clear to you, my mother was for the majority of my childhood, the only parental unit related to me by blood as my father had died in the autumn of 1964, from spinal meningitis and life was a whole lot different back then than it is today. No one really got involved, not even family members who suspected something might be amiss or those who knew outright that my mother was insane. There needed to be solid evidence pointing to the fact that I was physically abused or in imminent danger to get me removed and placed into the care of the State and there was none. And so existence for the better part of my childhood was often dark and bizarre. When mother was taking her medication, I was on my own. By this I mean that I made my way through each day with very little adult supervision. I would awaken, dress myself, make sure that I left on time for school, and so forth. When at home, I fixed my own meals, whether it be nothing more than bologna and cheese sandwiches, a can of beefaroni, or a bowl of cerial. At an early age I learned how to clean my own clothes by hand, using bar soap, washing them in the sink or in the tub and then letting them dry by handing them up over the shower rod or back of a chair or radiator. I had few friends and did not socialize much as I was much too busy attempting to keep things running. Mother on the other hand, while under the influence of her medication, spent most of her time in bed, sleeping or just lying there staring up at the ceiling or the walls. She would eat little and only what I was able to make. And on check day, the first and third of each month, she would force herself up out of bed and with myself at her side we would head down to the check cashing place which in those days was called the currency exchange, to cash the checks which came so rent could be paid. We then might have something to eat at the corner restaurant as a monthly treat and then after a visit to the local liquor store for a quart of cheap vodka, and the news stand for her monthly magazine, we would head back to the apartment and that would be that. And although the medication she took did help to deal partially with her insanity, it did not help to rid her of it and made her suffer from a number of side effects which I did not attribute to her medication until I became aware of everything later on in my life; her wanting to sleep all of the time, her constant use of laxatives for constipation, her facial twitching at times. She would often complain of feeling distant. But upon looking back now on it, I preferred her on the medication (chlorpromazine) than not on it at all.
Mother not on her medication? Her paranoia would increase a hundred fold, evident by her relentless desire to check doors and windows to make sure that they were securely closed and locked, fearful that unwanted and undesired persons would gain entry. She would suspect neighbors of listening through the walls, of people following her and the planting of hidden microphones within the apartment. She at times, would even suspect me of working with her enemies to bring about her downfall. It was okay for us to have a radio, but not a television because they were able to look through the screen and spy on us. Although I am unable to recall if mother ever heard voices, I do know that she claimed to have visions. The summer following my father’s death she claimed to look out of our living room window on Lill avenue, and see my father sitting behind the steering wheel of our car, a 1959 Nash Rambler station wagon, wearing his usual tee-shirt with a can of beer in one hand, looking up at her looking down at him. This vision prompted to things, the first being the sale of that car and second, our moving out of that apartment and into another. There were other ‘visions’ which she claimed to have experienced and explained them away by saying that her side of the family was known for their visions and for communicating with the dead. Needless to say as a young lad, this tended to spook me quite a bit. I remember one time, she claimed that she and my aunt and uncle were decended from witches, and on our occasional visits to Oklahoma in the summer months, I can recall the strange and bizarre things which they would do, such as when a storm was approaching, my uncle would take an axe and bury the blade of it into the yard with the handle pointing away from the house, believing that this would keep the storm was damaging it. Mother also received ‘special messages’ through her monthly magazine which dealt with astrology and the movement of the planets and these messages would point out certain scriptures in the Bible which were also in code and would warn her of impending events. There were many sleepless nights for me as she had me sit with her in the living room, every light on in the apartment waiting for these events to happen. And when they did not, she would explain that our being prepared had prevented the evil from taking place, which evil was always what she expected.

Now my mother had been a very beautiful woman, despite the fact that she was insane. Considered to be petite, standing only four feet eleven inches tall and weighing about a hundred pounds, I shall attest to the fact that many men found her to be quite desirable as there seemed to be a regular line-up of men at our door seeking to become her next victim. I say this because my mother used her beauty as a weapon, a tool to get what she wanted. I often wondered how could a person who had been legally certified as insane, be so cunning and beguiling and to have the intelligence to use her ‘assets’ as she did! My mother would call it “taking care of business" and when she felt in a particular way, she would spend hours preparing to “take care of business" by finding the right dress and shoes to wear, by doing up her hair and make-up. In the beginning when I was quite young, she would call upon our neighbor’s daughter to babysit me. But as I got older, and her paranoia of our neighbor’s grew, she would simply tell me not to answer the door, to stay in my room unless absolutely necessary, and then she would exit the apartment to return many hours later. Sometimes she would be alone while other times, she would be with a man and the two would disappear into her bedroom. Most would be gone by the time morning came, having been chased away by mother who would tell them some story or another which would want to make them leave. Afterwards, mother would always have money. Later on, I came to understand that my mother was prostituting herself.
Not all men were disposable to my mother however, some had a long term shelf life. Did they suspect that my mother was insane? Not at first I believe. Some may have been blinded by the amount of alcohol they drank, others by the sex which my mother wielded like a sword going into battle, and perhaps there might have been a select handful who were blinded by love. And did they know that my mother was using them? When my mother believed that one could be of benefit for a time longer than a month, my mother would marry them in a civil ceremony but rarely did any of these marriages last for longer than eighteen months. I suspect that by that time, those men she had married had experienced enough and went their separate ways with divorce proceedings to follow. There was nothing to be gained on either side for the other. No alimony, no community property to be divided, nothing. It made things much easier and the divorces were done pro-bono by those in community law centers who had to take a certain amount of pro-bono cases each year. Mother would simply sign them and mail them back and then move on to the next man on her list. Strangely enough, when mother was in one of her relationships, she acted less insane. Something which puzzled me at times because she was not always on her medication. One thing which I found amusing in regards to her medication is that mother always referred to her medication as her ‘seizure medication’ even though the pills she took had nothing more to do with seizures than they had to do with making her happy, although there did come a point in her life when she did start to experience seizures after a fall one winter’s day when I was eleven.
We had been walking down Broadway avenue just off of Lawrence, heading north. I cannot remember where we were headed, but I do remember than it was a very cold and cloudy day and there was plenty of ice on the street. I remember her slipping and falling in front of the car dealership on Broadway and she hit her head against the icy sidewalk. There was lots of blood and she’d been knocked out cold. From inside the dealership two of the employees emerged and ran to us, one telling the other to get an ambulance, while the other knelt there next to my mother with towels trying to stem the flow of blood from her head, while trying to keep me calm. Mother did come to a minute or so later, somewhat groggy and complaining that her head and hand hurt. Apparently, she had landed on her left hand and had broken the bone in her ring finger. When the ambulance arrived they administered some basic first aid and then took my mother and I to hospital. Stitching up her head and setting her finger and wrapping her whole hand in a cast in the emergency room, the doctor explained that he felt it necessary to keep her overnight for observation. Mother of course, refused and with myself in tow behind her, we walked out of the emergency room and all the way home. And of course, my mother in her state of paranoid schizophrenia, claimed that she had been pushed from behind, not slipped, although no one had been behind us at the time. 'Unseen forces’ my mother claimed were attempting to kill her because she knew too much! Six months later, while stressing over one thing or another, mother had her first grand mal seizure.
Now going back to what I had said moments ago, my mother was prostituting herself. There was no other way for me to describe what she did! When she wasn’t involved in some kind of semi-permanent relationship and she needed something or wanted something and didn’t have the money, she would do up her hair and make up, put on her best dress and high heels and go out, leaving me to fend for myself for the night. Sometimes for two or three nights and she would always return home with her arms loaded down with food and liquor and a purse full of money. Now let me make it clear that I do not believe that my mother always traded sexual favors for money. Sometimes, she would be able to get things simply by making promises that she never intended to keep and would always use me as an excuse to get out of those promises. Sometimes, she would use her insanity to get free from those promises.

Mother was an alcoholic and her drink of choice when she could get it, was always vodka. Normally though, she would drink whatever she could get her hands on from those men who flocked about. On those occasions when she would make herself up and hit the town, she would go to one of the neighborhood bars and sit there in her tight fitting dress and high heels and it wouldn’t take long for someone to offer to buy her a drink. One drink would turn into two, then three then a bottle would be bought and she and her new friend with the bottle would go to wherever it was they went to and drink some more before passing out from the booze. When at home and without the company of a man, she would drink vodka. Vodka and mother’s medication did not mix too well, the combination of the two making her pass out too quickly before she had the opportunity to enjoy the booze, so she wouldn’t drink until she was off her medication. Being insane did not make her unable to reason away solutions to problems, only to look at those problems and form a means of solving them in a different light that a sane person would do. When mother stopped taking her medication it was because of two main reasons. The first being that she did not like the way they made her feel. That was always the number one reason. The second reason for her stopping her medication was because she anticipated drinking and getting drunk and usually when that seemed to be the case, there was a bottle of vodka somewhere in the house.
Now earlier, I made mention that I preferred mother on her medication than not on her medication and I will state that over and over again. On her medication, there was some balance in normality. But too, I preferred my mother to be in a state of alcoholic bliss than to be on the medication. Perhaps that sounds odd, I know but it is one of the many facts of my life at the time. So here is my explanation:
When mother was not on her medication or on a drinking binge, she was insane. My escape from this was being able to go to school and then to lock myself away in my room when I could in order to avoid the brunt of this insanity. When mother was on her medication, I had a bit more freedom from that insanity but as payment for that freedom, I became less free from the tasks of taking care of her as well as myself; Making sure that she ate, that she took time to bathe and to change clothes for she would lay in bed with her magazines and her Bible and allow the world to pass on by while she dealt silently with whatever demons haunted her as she went through her depressive state and her lethargic state of being. But when she drank and she had reached that stage where she was drunk but not overly so, she seemed to me more alive than at any other time, more lucid. And she would sit and she would seem normal and would tell stories and spin tales that for her, seemed real and almost sounded real. But too, she would talk about the demons which haunted her. Still, in those times before I left home for good, when I could make it happen, I would make sure that a quart of vodka was sitting there on the table in the kitchen for her to see. Mother never asked questions of how a boy not yet eighteen could get such a thing and I never told her. That’s just the way things were!

The Zodiac and the Bible is what my mother believed to be her means of receiving messages from beyond, although she would never say exactly who or what was sending her these messages. Once a month, she would go to the news stand in our neighborhood and buy the latest issue of “Zodiac Monthly” then return home and with her King James Bible, de-cypher the coded messages which only she could de-cypher which would give her warnings of things to come fueling her delusions and her paranoia.
I cannot explain how my mother managed in her mental state of mind; I cannot understand how she was able to hide her insanity from so many people and I often wonder if they knew but turned a blind eye towards it. I wonder if they just didn’t give a damn one way or another.


Childhood Memories, Dysfunctional Family, Insanity, Paranormal

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author avatar Charlie Dark
56 year old guy whose decided to tell the messed up tale of his life growing up with a legally insane mother and just plain weirdness

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author avatar ginaguo
17th Jan 2016 (#)

Oh, I am so moved by this blog. I don't feel it is a horrible thing to live with a legally insane mother. Maybe the so-called sane people are just the real "insane"!
So your mother needn't hide her insanity from so many people who only want to sex

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