No movie review, I just needed an excuse to post a pic of a pretty man.
A favorite blogger asked me how I can write so lovingly about a troubled mother/daughter relationship.
Earlier today, I read about Sharon Osborne’s mental breakdown, as addressed on her show, The Talk.
Many spoke of her courage, candor, and how it might help to remove stigma from mental health issues, particularly depression. There was discussion of how we have progressed in treatment, meds, group therapy, public sensitivity and awareness.
My mother was a mostly untreated manic depressive. My father’s history included a decades-long severe depression in his own family, an illness which was poorly treated, with tragic results.
The skepticism was real and palpable. There was little or no respect for any kind of psychiatric intervention.
My mother’s breakdown happened in the 1950’s, drugs were primitive and dangerous, ECT was considered a risk, but they tried it as a last resort.
It didn’t work for her, and she returned to us in a zombie-like state.
She stopped taking her meds.
For a few years following, 3 young children were subjected to physical and emotional abuse, psychological abandonment, well hidden from our father. He was preoccupied with working 2 jobs to keep the family afloat.
The sudden death of our grandmother, our guardian and caretaker, sent him into a personal and financial crisis. My mother lost her job, half of their income, and was forced into the role of “mom” she had avoided for years.
It was not a pretty scene.
There would be healing, much of which came from the birth of the next child, a much wanted son.
It took me many years to recover from a very wounded relationship with her. When we came of age, we all managed to distance ourselves. But the damage came early, went deep.
Ultimately, I came to forgive her for all of it. It was not her fault. She had an illness that was never properly addressed, let alone healed.
There was an absence of malice.
She did not set out to hurt her children. It was just a sad, tragic by-product of a lifelong mental disorder.
That doesn’t excuse some very violent, negative behavior patterns. It doesn’t heal that early scar tissue. It just allowed us all, in our own way, to come to a type of understanding that helped us move forward in life.
For me, and for how my personal choices would evolve, it was not just valuable, not just important, it was life-saving.
Absence of Malice is a 1981 movie starring Paul Newman and Sally Field, the title is a legal reference that deals with journalistic ethics. It is a great movie, highly recommended, but aside from the title, is pretty much irrelevant to this post.