aurie Lesser is a Psychotherapist and Healer who has a private practice in New York, Los Angeles and Florida. An expert and a maverick in the area of how a mentally ill parent impacts the life of his or her child, she has created and developed a psychodynamic and spiritually oriented process called: ULTIMATE LIVING Therapy: An Evolutionary Journey of Healing, Letting Go and Moving On into the Conscious Creation of Life.

Her Book ADULT CHILDREN OF MADNESS will be published soon, and she is available for individual, group or family therapy sessions as well as speaking engagements world wide.

Contact Laurie at: laurielesser@aol.com
or at her website: childrenofmadness.com
 

ADULT CHILDREN OF MADNESS
A Book of Healing And Upliftment For Adults Who Grew Up in the Chaos of a Mentally Ill Parent

INTRODUCTION

grew up in an ocean of chaos, ebbing and flowing to the beat of my mother’s shocking mood swings, to the crescendo of her rages and her sheer unhappiness – all of which were lit up and inflamed by her drug and alcohol abuse.
     I am an Adult Child of Madness and have written a book called Adult Children of Madness for the millions of people in the world who have had the confusing experience of being raised by a parent with a mental illness.
     My mother says she had a very happy childhood, but I know that unhappiness does not come from happiness: a personality breaks only when its wounds were too disfiguring to ever mend properly.
      In my mother’s case, the drug and alcohol abuse was easy to spot, (and is a very common dual problem for a person with a mental illness) as it took shape on a daily basis -- out loud and in front of whoever was in ear or eyeshot.
      However, it took me nearly forty years of obsessive examination to uncover her underlying problem: her mental illness – an illness that clearly caused her so much pain that she chose to get drunk and/or stoned, out of her mind, as fast and for as long as she could, everyday for years.
      Our house in suburbia was painted light yellow and everything on the outside was in its place – all organized, neat and pretty!
      As it stood day after day in the pineapple light of Los Angeles, nothing about it indicated the heaviness that it harbored inside; all the random and severe cracks in reality stayed within the walls of that house and each of my family members.
      There were two expensive cars in the carport, always clean, and a clear blue swimming pool in the backyard; no reflection, at all, of my mother’s constant fury, which was painted in wide angry strokes across every family thing.
      Scared and concerned, beyond my years and capacity, I watched my mom smash plates and storm into her bedroom in the middle of dinners; I braced myself as she left family outings, suddenly mad beyond reason, leaving the rest of us together, without her, in silence, feeling guilty for reasons we could not figure out, never even speaking about it.
      You have your story I am sure, just as I have mine, for according to the Surgeon General, there are nearly 54 million adults each year in America who are afflicted with mental illness! Thousands more are off the records -- people who may have been diagnosed and treated, and people who have not!
      And out of those, counted or not, thousands, maybe millions, have been or are now parents steaming around in their illness, confusing and bewildering their kids in the most disruptive and disturbing ways, providing little to no consistency in their child’s (children’s) life -- the most vital ingredient in the fuel that fans a child’s development and sense of safety in the world.
      Too busy and involved with his or her own madness, this parent has no idea that their child, or children, get up and go to school each morning scared and scrambled, making it very difficult for them to focus or thrive in any way.
      Children are sensitive and intuitive -- often much more open and aware than adults are. Very early on a Child of Madnessknows that something is wrong with the mentally ill parent and out of love and concern, and/or perhaps feeling that it is their fault, he or she takes on the job of trying to make that parent feel better.
      Never knowing that that is a job that no child can succeed at, this child feels like a failure and that sense of failure is carried along straight into adulthood, into all areas of life.
      In addition, because this child’s reality is never substantiated interpersonal relationships become terribly problematic, intimacy issues arise and persist, and depression is often paramount.
      This Child of Madness, even after becoming an adult, may stay confused about what is really going on around him or her, as living ahead of the moment and developing an eye for the unseen, (anything that may cause an uprising of anger in the unstable parent) has become a way of life. This child (who is now an adult) had/has little to no practice in being in the present moment where the connection to life and reality are found.
      We learned as small children not to disturb our already disturbed parent; we all found our own way. The best way I found was to hide: physically, mentally and psychologically (both internally and externally), first because she needed to be the only one, then to dodge her rages, and then because I thought if I got out of the way she might feel better.
      What I didn’t know it at the time was that when I hid from her, I also had to hide from myself and everyone else.
      For so many years that cost me my life!
      Without knowing it, I thought I was the source of her unhappiness; her constant dissatisfaction was my fault!
      If that was true, than surely I could fix her unhappiness if I tried hard enough?
      Exhausted, not ever having been able to fix a thing, I left my mother’s house as soon as possible, a few days after graduating High School -- bound and determined to be as different from her as different could be.
      I couldn’t get far enough away. Mute, unaware and in denial about the effects my childhood had had on me I took myself by the hand and traveled around the world in search of a different life, seeking out other realities and the meaning of life.
      I went looking for the truth, any truth – all the while projecting a false sense of self-sufficiency and ‘sanity’ to everyone I met, hiding from the places inside of me where I was ‘insane’ -- where my mom and the terrifying memories of my childhood lived.
      I was building strength so I could go back and heal from my childhood, but I did not know it at the time.
      After finishing undergraduate school, a coast and world away from my mom, I found the meaning and truth I was looking for: it began in 1984 when I found my spiritual path and teacher.
      At the moment of my spiritual awakening I finally found a steady and comfortable home inside of myself. It was then that I began to feel the sadness and grief for my mother and her plight; with lots of consolation I slowly began to know that even though my mother’s personality had broken, her soul had not.
      And that turned out to be the bridge from which I could work everything out. It gave me faith in a bigger understanding and the support I needed to face the places in me where my mother had wounded, haunted and confused me.
      I was ready to go back and do the work I had to do to come out of hiding -- to separate from my mother so I could discover my own Self and create my own life.
      Only then was I able to discover who I was apart from her.
      With all the conflicting feelings I had toward my mother – crippling sympathy and anger, love, hate, over-identification and repulsion – what drove me the most was that I wanted to understand! I wanted to know what made her the way she was. I wanted to be free of her unrest, her dissatisfaction, her madness and whatever it was that made her push against the world so violently and so alone, as she always had.
      But to become free I had to dive back into my childhood – naked, submerging my entire self. I needed help to wade slowly back through the incidents: the disappointments, hurts, pain, into the deepest waters of my terror.
      Flailing, gasping for air, drowning for moments, I kept resurfacing until I finally found my way out onto a new shore. And that is where I found compassion and all things necessary to understand and forgive.
      With a long sigh of relief I was finally able to let go of my unquenchable desire to make her, or my childhood, different than it was.
      I stopped looking for another family; I stopped fantasizing about how perfect other families were.
      My mom did the best she could. She got married, had her first child when she was eighteen, and went mad!
      By going back and looking underneath the rocks of my childhood memories, by uprooting all the ill rooted shrubs, I learned about myself, I learned to let go and was more and more able, through this process, to live in each present moment, where I found the experience and the kind of life that I desired.
      But I also had to go underneath the rocks and shrubs of my mother’s life. I had to stand in her life long enough to feel (not only think) how and what she might have been feeling, what she may have experienced, what had happened to her -- even if she didn’t want to know about it herself!
      When I had a real sense of the fear she experienced in her life, I finally understood.
      And when I understood I was inspired personally and professionally.
      As a Psychotherapist this has led me to create and develop a therapeutic process called, Ultimate Living Therapy: An Evolutionary Journey of Healing, Letting Go and Moving On into the Conscious Creation of Life.
      Ultimate Living is a therapy designed specifically for all Adult Children of madness who want to heal from their stormy, unstable beginnings.
      Along with my spiritual teacher, I found the help I needed through a great psychologist; a man with a presence of mind and emotion who lent his hand to me, unconditionally, tracking my healing process with reliable, steady and consistent foresight, making my world secure for long enough that I finally felt safe enough to do the work I needed to do to heal.
      Waiting patiently on the side of my emotional pool, he pushed forward and backed off accordingly, encouraging me to dive back in again and again and again.
      As he assured me that the answers were going to be found in connection, not disconnection. I realized that running away wasn’t the answer, because in the end, whatever we run from swells up out of control until it makes itself known and seen – very often in the most unreasonable, confusing and painful ways.
      I finally found my answers by staying in one place, externally and internally, long enough to listen entirely to the things that had been whispering, humiliating and taunting me all alone.
      When I stopped running and stopped living in the kind of internal chaos a girl with a disturbed mother (and chaotic childhood) thrives on, only then was I able to see that I was, in fact, stuck behind a wall with my mother.
      After I found the strength to pound down that wall I was finally able to step away from her. Then I realized that I am my mother’s daughter, and that was okay; I realized that she is in me, but is not me! When I accepted that, I was able to accept her just as she was, and is. And only then was I also able to accept myself, just as I am – with my own madness and all!
      I realized I didn’t have to be alone to have a different life than hers! I learned how to create my own life, true to my own heart’s desires.
      Now (more and more often) I go and see my mom because I want to, not just because I have to. I am able and willing to be with her and see her face in all its beauty and horror without feeling destroyed or overwhelmed with too many conflicting feelings at all once.
      I am finally be with her objectively, to eat with her, to witness her insecurities – her limits, her strengths, her huge heart and childish emotions – without anger or repulsion and without profound sadness, crippling sympathy or self hatred.
      Now when I hear her voice in my voice, I see my own beauty and horror and feel love and great compassion for both of those things, and for her (and for myself) without pity and without my heart breaking.
      And I know, not always, but I know that I would not be who I am -- I would not have longed for self-awareness, meaning, and a higher sense of truth – (I would not have my own crazy eccentricities) if my mom had not had been my mom!
      Because her madness wounded my psyche and heart so deeply, the pain so disturbing, I sought out all the best and most comprehensive ways to heal and become whole.
      She has also been my inspiration in many ways, but most certainly professionally. Over the last several years as a Psychotherapist I have worked with many people who also grew up under the influence of a mentally ill parent. In the book, Adult Children of madness, I have written their stories, one by one or in the form of composites. (Of course the names have been changed and permission has been given.) I have also shared relevant parts of own my story, all of which may be similar to your story!
     

      In Adult Children of madness you will find an array of ways the experience of growing up with a mentally ill parent may have impacted your life; you will also find a way to heal and create now, in real time, the life you most desire! Read every single page! Don’t put it off! Don’t live another moment without living a life that your heart desires.
      With a great deal of love, respect and compassion -- having cleared the way, I would like to walk you through your journey of Ultimate Healing, to the most fulfilling life you will ever have!
      I would like to offer you my hand and any help you may need in achieving that!

Laurie Lesser



 
     
   

 
       
   
Copyright © 2007 International Family magazine. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited.