This Mother’s Day, Linda Schoonover is thankful that in recent years her mother has been free of most hallucinations and delusions. Almost 95, her mother fell ill to paranoid schizophrenia when she was 22, after she had moved to Boston on a college scholarship.
According to Schoonover, in 1942, when her mother initially became ill, there doctors knew little about mental illness. “The only research on mental illness that came out of World War II were from psychiatrists who were part of the Hitler regime with orders to kill those suffering from mental and physical disabilities.”
Former family judge and author, Schoonover has been her mother’s caretaker for over forty years. Schoonover said the typical symptoms of her mother’s serious mental illness are almost gone, replaced by another illness—short and long term memory loss. “She is a remarkable person. I am so glad to be part of her life. She has taught me so much about inner strength, being content with what you have, and compassion.”
“She has always been a very smart, compassionate person, but in the last five years, as her memory gets shorter, she has forgotten many of the delusions about people and issues that bothered her in the past. She is more content, less fearful, and enjoys every day whatever her circumstances,” Schoonover said.
“She is almost 95, going on 55. She is a ball of energy and hates being bored.” According to Schoonover, it has been hard to find a Medicaid facility that can keep her mother busy enough. “Medicaid facilities fall short in areas of activities and nursing care for residents.” At the last assistant living facility she lived in, her mother worked every day in their front office practicing her shorthand and making sure guests signed in properly. “She wants to be productive even now,” Schoonover said.
“Mental illness is still unfortunately pretty much a family secret. People don’t want to talk about it. It is a stigma that still looms large in the United States. If you have a mental illness, you are cast out as a worthy contributing member of society. Any qualities that you have and any past achievements are discarded when preceded by the label of “mentally ill.”
“The stigma follows you like the cloud that followed “Pig-Pen” in the Peanuts cartoon. If you are fortunate not to have mental illness yourself, but your parent does, people may try to tag you as mentally ill as well. On top of fighting off the disparate treatment, it is usually the adult child that carries the responsibility of caring for their mentally ill parent.
Some children, however, who have been abused, abandoned or neglected during their childhood may be unable to care for their parents. I think that is why so many mentally ill adults are homeless. “There are no government programs available to pay for the care of the mentally ill and they end up on the streets.”
Schoonover said mental illness is not going away. Just like any other issue, the longer we ignore it, the bigger the problem becomes. We pay more attention to abandoned animals than we do to those who have a mental illness.”
Her mother, who stands at less than four feet ten inches tall, is originally from Brooks, Maine. According to Schoonover, her mother’s twelve siblings were all very successful people. “They were all smart and caring. Like Eben Elwell, my mother’s older brother who was Maine’s state treasurer in the sixties. They worked to make a difference in their community and their country.”
Schoonover says she hopes to change the way our world views mental illness through books about her life. An Illusion of Normal has ranked number one in Amazon’s categories of Religion and Spirituality- Faith, Family, and Women and has ranked in the top fifty of women memoirs for months. Schoonover’s memoir, subtitled A True Story of a Child’s Survival in a Home Tormented by Mental Illness, is a penetrating and honest story of how a few seeds of faith not only sustained her with the strength and resilience to endure reoccurring childhood trauma and abuse, but gave her the drive to thrive.
To learn more about Linda Schoonover or Rocky Road Publishing, please contact:
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