Folie à Deux

Photo Credit: Double--M via Compfight cc

Caveat: Please understand that delusional thought processes are SYMPTOMS of mental illness. I feel compassion, even as I feel pain and anger as someone negatively affected by parental delusional thoughts. I, too, have experienced delusional thoughts and bizarre impulses. I’m heir to familial mental illness. I get it.

I write this, I submit this for online publication, with great trepidation. Will I hurt those I love? Probably. Is it worth it to tell the truth, to let people know what it is like to live under the shadow of unacknowledged, untreated mental illness? I pray that the good outweighs the pain. I pray for understanding and compassion.

This is my story, my perspective, my understanding.

Folie à Deux

Taboo content
Folly of two
Folly, delusion, shared by my parents
I’ve protected them
Partly out of respect
Partly out of fear of the repercussions
Partly, for my sister who is protective of their privacy
We grew up under the shadow of a bizarre distorted thought process
Symptomatic of mental illness
Originated by our mother
Backed up by our father
In front of us, since we were young, our mother would attack our father
Claiming that both his mother and his sister wanted to have sex with him
My sister and I would look across the table
For our reality check
No, our grandmother and our aunt did not want to have sex with our father
Our mother was crazy
Yes, I am heir to her illness
Anyway, after our mother would verbally abuse our father
In front of us, her daughters
With unfounded disgusting incestuous claims
She would storm off to her bedroom
Leaving our father with us
Then he, our father, made us apologize to our mother
We would ask why we hadn’t done anything
Mom had been abusive to HIM
We just witnessed it
We did nothing wrong
He would respond that
She just didn’t feel appreciated
She needed our attention
He would throw us under the bus
Use us as his buffer
Not only NOT protect us, but use us
My father would join my mother in her belief system
That thought process, that dynamic
Put a wedge between our aunt and us
Between our paternal grandparents and us
My sister and I didn’t even go to our paternal grandparents’ funerals
For fear of how our mother would react
She would have considered it a betrayal
I’ve had to tread carefully over the years
As I’ve befriended my paternal extended family over Facebook
My aunt, my godmother, my namesake
She and I have spoken a few times over the years about this dynamic
I reassured her that neither my sister nor I believed any of it
We knew it was sick
I know my mother is sick and my father has joined her
I once saw a home-movie of my mother
She danced in circles around the rest of her family
I saw myself in her
Twirling rapidly around others as they simply stood still
Shit, I thought. I am my mother.
But with one major difference
I got help

 

Kitt O'Malley

If you check out Kitt O'Malley on LinkedIn, you'll see that she has worked as a legal assistant, psychotherapist, and commercial real estate professional before reinventing herself as a mental health advocate. As a mental health advocate, wife and mother, she neglects housework as she blogs at kittomalley.com about living with bipolar disorder, parenting an adolescent migraineur with social anxiety, and being caregiver of aging parents - one with alcohol-related dementia and the other with vascular dementia secondary to stroke. She's overwhelmed, to say the least.

8 thoughts on “Folie à Deux

  1. elisabethkhanelisabethkhan Reply

    This is a very courageous poem. We all grow up with some kind of baggage (and your burden is a heavy one) from our birth families. You expressed what most of us conceal all our lives, sharing only the happy pictures and suffering in silence, or worse, acting out the same patterns over and over.

  2. Renee DeMontRenee DeMont Reply

    Kitty, You are brave, in the most important kind of way. The good will most definitely outweigh the bad. We need to know we are not alone. We need to know others get our pain. We need to be able to express our concern and support but if we don’t know, they we never can. Let us know…keep writing. For all our sakes. Hugs, my friend. <3

  3. doriowendoriowen Reply

    Dearest Kitt,
    It’s so great to hear you say your truths out loud. Oh yes, the good does outweigh the pain. The fact that you figured out this complicated family dynamic while protecting your sister speaks volumes. And further, to reach out to these relatives to make amends demonstrates your sense of compassion and desire to make a wrong world right again…which I’m certain you will do. You have always been so supportive of my stories…it feels so good to be on the other side and say, fabulous, Kitt, just a fabulous piece! Love–D.

    1. Kitt O'MalleyKitt O'Malley Reply

      Not so sure I protected my sister. We protected each other. She protected herself. Although she’s three years my junior, to this day I learn from her. She’s better at setting personal boundaries than I. Of course, we have different innate personalities and different birth order, which makes a huge difference.

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