Tag Archives: mental illness

Fill in the blanks


When I came into my office today, I found a sheet of paper with a very basic drawing of a woman in my in-box. It was just an outline really, but with a short cropped hair-do and big ol’ blunt bangs. I figured this was Miss Patricia’s doing (the previous day I came in to be greeted by half a dozen squeezy bananas that she  stuck in and around my door).  If the first words out of my mouth are “what the fuck?” chances are, Miss Patricia has something to do with it.

Once I opened my email, I found Patricia’s proclamation that our area was going to have a drawing contest in honor of Mother’s Day. We were invited, nay,  required, to do some kind of representation of our mother. It could be realistic or symbolic. It could be drawn, or collage, or made out of macaroni noodles. It didn’t matter. It only mattered that you played along, lest you incur the wrath of Miss Patricia.

Some people immediately took to the task, and the results were uh, interesting.  Either I work in a place where everyone’s mother is a big ol’ glamor girl, (or a drag queen) or people are engaged in wishful thinking.  Miss Patricia pressed me all day about what I was going to do for my drawing.  “I dunno, a big ol’ puddle of tears, or perhaps I’ll put her behind prison bars.”  “Oooooooooooo, I’m tellin’ your mama what you said!”  Miss Patricia chided me.  “What?  You said we could be symbolic.  My mother was a depressive agoraphobic.  She gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘stay at home mom'” Conveniently, Miss Patricia had a client waiting, so the conversation ended there.

I want to play along and do a drawing, but I’m at a loss.  My mother has been dead for 28 years now. I was 22 when she died. I don’t have bad memories of my mother, nor do I have particular good ones.  Truth is I never missed her all that much because we were never particular close.   Is that a horrible thing to say?  But, it’s not like I’m angry at her.  She was mentally ill, and back in those days there was still a lot of stigma around mental illness.  So, she stayed trapped in our shitty little house in a marriage that was completely devoid of affection.  It does make me sad that she had to live like that.  She was a smart lady.  But something happened – I have no idea what – and after I was born, fear and depression overtook her life.

My brother and I turned out OK though so she must have done something right – I just can’t remember what it was.  My best guess is that both my parents knew they could offer me very little, so they gave me a lot of freedom to get my parenting from other families, or from my teachers.  And for that I am grateful.  They also gave me a lot of independence from a young age, and trusted me enough that I wouldn’t get into too much trouble.  They also fostered my love of animals, and I don’t think they ever said “no” when I brought home my newest injured or lost creature.  They were good and decent people, but were far too wrapped up in their drinking and depression to be emotionally available parents.

Even though it is going to be challenging, I’m going to play along and do some kind of representation of my mother.  Who knows?  Maybe something will get dredged loose in my psyche and some nice warm and fuzzy mommy memories will reveal themselves.  Yeah, that would be nice.