Cake
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    • Wow, that's impressive of your dad to not give up. For most schizophrenics, they become alienated from their families.

      Sometimes schizophrenics are truly brilliant. Mom retained a public library card when we were on the streets and we went to the library almost every day. The librarians were wonderful and chatted mom up about what she was reading and how she liked yesterday's books.

      The astonishing thing is she would get 7 books at a time (the limit), one for me. I'd typically pick something like the biography of Wild Bill Hickok and it would take me 3 days to read it. She would read her 6 books in a day or two. I would say "Mom, how is that possible? No one can do that." And I'd open a book and ask her about some stuff I could see in it. She could answer correctly. I never figured that out.

      At Stanford, they had a speed-reading class based on Evelyn Wood and I took it because I wanted to be like mom. I failed at it and Stanford discontinued the course, saying it reduced comprehension.

      Mom claimed to have memorized the complete works of Shakespeare. I was never able to verify that because I hate Shakespeare. However, when I tried to read Hamlet, I recognized what I read from the things she'd recite as we walked.

      If you want a fantastic read on how brilliant they can be, Simon Winchester's book The Professor and the Madman is riveting.

    • I have the audio version of the Winchester book and it is indeed fascinating.

      Mom and dad met in nursing school. Becoming a nurse was the fulfillment of her life-long dream. Dad eventually went on to Dental school in Atlanta, and after graduating was invited to join the faculty where he taught for a couple of years. After several years in private practice and a short stint in the army, he went back to grad school and we moved to southern California where he became one of the founders of his church's dental school. Teaching was his Calling, and he loved mentoring students. It was there that mom's "breakdown" occurred. She became irrational, convinced that my older sister was a "dope fiend" and was hiding drugs in the house among other things. Dad would often be out till two or three am searching for her in the nearby orange groves where she'd be hiding from her demons. Eventually she was 'committed' to the university hospital, where the psychiatrists recommended electro shock therapy. Mom vehemently disagreed, but dad reluctantly gave consent. That treatment was successful in that she was able to return home and function in a more normal manner, but she disliked California and longed to return to North Carolina where she felt less threatened. Dad ultimately gave in and we moved back east where he returned to private practice.

      Mom never forgave dad for consenting to her shock therapy. After his passing she said that if he truly loved her he'd have taken them himself before subjecting her to that treatment. But from my perspective that therapy saved her life. Only after her passing (at 97) did I learn from her younger sister the rest of the story. I had only known that my maternal grandmother had died in early middle age while mom was away in nursing school. I'd heard mom say "the Doctors killed my mother" but she never elaborated and I assumed it was her paranoia talking. But my aunt told of returning home from high school one afternoon to find that her mother had painted the walls of her bedroom with the contents of the slop jar (they lived on a farm and had no indoor plumbing). When my aunt objected, her mother siezed a butcher knife and chased her out of the house. My grandfather, a poor farmer in the middle of the great depression, had no option but to have her committed to the state mental hospital where she was treated with insulin shock therapy (as graphically portrayed in the movie "A Beautiful Mind"). After many weeks she was discharged, but the psychosis eventually returned and she was recommitted. The chief psychiatrist happened to be on vacation, and a less experienced physician apparently got the insulin dose wrong and she died during treatment. Perhaps that's why mom, who always extolled the joys of Nursing, had a lifelong distrust of doctors.

    • Oh, no... That sounds so much like my mom. I think I heard from my sister that she had shock therapy when she was in Sayre, and apparently it helped for awhile. Maybe that's how she got out. She would not see a doctor, even when she broke her ankle.

      I went to see A Beautiful Mind with Toni and I've only been so emotional in a movie once — Million Dollar Baby. For both movies I had a 3-day hangover. Btw, Sean Penn plays the Madman in the upcoming movie version and he's unrecognizable.

    • A Beautiful Mind made me sick for days. There are drugs available now that would have made mom's life, and the lives of her family members, much less stressful. But distrust of doctors and fundamentalist religious beliefs led her to refuse all drugs. In her last two years she came to trust her caregiver and accepted the "vitamins" that wonderful lady provided. And anxiety and paranoia faded. We enjoyed the most relaxed and rational conversations of our lives.

    • Paul Johnston

      Mom left dad and moved in with her parents. 

      I am curious as to why your mother left your dad and if this was ever revealed to you? Was it primarily due to the on set of her mental illness and that placed just too much stress on your family? You mentioned that later on in life you bonded with your father with the help of his wife. I am wondering why you may have been fearful of your father? (excluding the example you gave of his dislocating your shoulder by swing you around). Was it mainly the fact that you spent most of your time with your mother and infrequently saw your father?

      Somewhere in the past, maybe an interview or an article, I was aware of your being sometimes homeless as a child. However, your story above is more complete and takes great courage to tell. As you relate, your hardships and trials were many. However, most importantly as you point out, there were crucial supportive people at the right times and places in your life that allowed you to overcome a very difficult childhood! The follow through on this is it may be possible that each one of us could play a supportive role in someone's life that ultimately make all the difference in the world as to the outcome of their life.

    You've been invited!