Posted in Stories, Writing

Mental Illness-A Family Affair-Beta Readers Needed

I’ve talked about Mental Illness several times on my blog.  It has a terrible stigma attached to it that is still very strong.  I have suffered from severe depression, in the past so I have first-hand knowledge of it.  There are of course all kinds of mental illness.  Depression is just a drop in the bucket.

The reason I bring this up is that I’ve had family members that had Mental illnesses.  This is something that I’ve toyed with writing about for years.  I hesitate for several reasons.  Some personal, some not.

They say that when it comes to writing, write what scares you.  This scares me.

I’ve got a little bit of a start on this effort.  This is in a Very Raw state.  Please keep that in mind.  It is nowhere Near polished enough.

I need your feedback, please! 

Please take a look at the piece I’ve written below (it’s a 2-minute read) and give me any constructive feedback you would like.  Mostly, I want to know if this is something you would read?  Does it make you want to see what happens next?  Am I wasting my time?  If you want to leave your comments below, that would be great.  If you would rather respond to me directly, you can contact me by email at  Your help and input are greatly appreciated!  

Mom kept screaming at Grandpa.  Grandma and Grandpa had Mom flanked in the front bench seat.  I was in the back seat, wide-eyed and scared.

Mom was in a frenzy.  She was thrashing and fighting with my Grandparents to let her out of the car.  Grandpa did his best to drive and defend himself one-handed.  Grandma kept trying to comfort and soothe my mother.

Mom was having a psychotic episode.  She was completely delusional.  She wanted to drive.  My Grandpa wasn’t going fast enough in her opinion, so she kept trying to take the wheel from him.  When Mom wasn’t fighting with Grandpa, she was wrestling with Grandma trying to open the passenger side door to escape.

Mom thought “they” were coming to get her.  I have no idea who “they” were.  But Mom was completely terrified of them.

Earlier on this trip, Grandpa had bought us all hamburgers for dinner.  This was a real treat for me.  Eating out only happened on special occasions.  I had no idea how special this day would turn out to be.

After a little more wrestling in the front seat, Mom seemed to have run out of energy.  She sat quietly between my grandparents.  She was looking down at her lap and appeared to almost fall asleep.

Suddenly, I was being thrashed back and forth as my grandfather wrestled the steering wheel and slammed on the brakes.  Me and everything I had in my lap went flying forward.  My dinner and I both ended up in a heap in the back floorboard of the car. This was long before buckling your seatbelt was an automatic thing.

My mother, in an attempt to escape, pulled the lid off of her strawberry milkshake and threw it at the windshield in front of her.  It made an instant milky pink screen that was impossible for my grandfather to see through.  Grandpa had no choice but to stop the car.

I don’t remember all the details of this trip.  I was about 5 years old at the time.  I mostly remember being scared.  I didn’t understand why my mother was so upset.  That scared me.

The purpose of this trip was to take my mother to a State Mental Hospital where she would be admitted to a psychiatric ward.  This was the first time I remember my mother being hospitalized for having what was termed as a “Nervous Breakdown”.

2 members of my family have Mental Illness.  My mother and my baby brother Roy seemed to have suffered from the same afflictions.

Discussing mental illness just didn’t happen when I was a kid.  When Mom got “sick”, it was just something that happened.  Just a part of life.  I would visit my mother in hospitals off and my entire life.

The diagnosing and treatment of mental illness is light years beyond what it was back when I was a kid.  I had no idea what was wrong with my mom.  When she got sick, she went to the hospital.  The hospital was where the doctors made her well enough to come back home.  End of story.  I knew no different.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I realized that what was going on with my mother was more than just an occasional illness, like the flu.

Back then, my mother was diagnosed as having a Manic Depressive Disorder.  I had no idea what this meant.  The episodes that would lead to the next hospital admission was usually referred to as a Nervous Breakdown.

What my mother actually suffered from was Bi-Polar Disorder and Schizophrenia.  Roy had the same thing but he also had a learning disorder and he stuttered.

Roy was 3 years younger than me.  We were very close growing up.  Since Roy had a learning disorder, he didn’t learn to read until he was in his teens.  He was what people would call “slow”.

I don’t think Roy’s mental illnesses developed until he was in his late teens, possibly his early twenties.  As a little boy, Roy was sweet and gullible.  The kids picked on him and called him a retard, mostly because of his stutter.   I defended Roy fiercely.  I battled more than one bully that would dare taunt him.  When it came to my friends, I knew what a big-hearted boy Roy was and never hesitated to introduce him.  Roy was bright, happy and sweet.

I have 2 older brothers, Bruce and David, in addition to my little brother.  There was enough of an age difference that they didn’t want me or Roy tagging along after them.  Roy and I became playmates.  This developed a close bond between us over the years.  I loved my little brother and would have done anything for him.

Because of the instability of my mother’s mental health, my life has been very diverse.  I’ve lived all over the United States in various modes of domiciles.  This is a story of that life.  A life with a mentally ill parent and sibling.

Copyright (C) 2018 Penny Wilson


Penny Wilson is a freelance writer who writes in several genres. She has written articles for WOW Women on Writing. Her poetry has been published in online journals, such as Ariel Chart, Spill Words Press and the Poppy Road Review. Penny is a member of the Austin Poetry Society. Her poetry has been featured in the publication America's Emerging Poets 2018 & 2019 by Z Publishing, Poets Quarterly and Dual Coast Magazine published by Prolific Press. You can find more of her writings on her blog at and follow her on Twitter @pennywilson123.

9 thoughts on “Mental Illness-A Family Affair-Beta Readers Needed

  1. I believe a person can write about mental illnesses in first hand experience, as way of healing and awareness, or second hand experience for the same reasons and both as a way to battle stigma.
    People with mental illnesses, specially schizo-type illnesses are pushed aside from society, because they can’t open up to others without being a target of prejudice. People with these illnesses are most probably the target of rejection and marginalization.


  2. Being a retired nurse I still find medical issues interesting. I was never very strong on mental health, but I have a few characters with their share of them. When I was little I had a neighbor named Billy. He was older than us and sat on his porch watching us play. He mother told us he had been in an auto accident and could not play with us. He could only tell you about how he hurt his head using about three sentences. That was all he ever said – those same 3 sentences. He was always so happy to see us that we’d stop by a couple times a week just to make him smile. I’ve often wondered how he would have done today’s therapy.


  3. I definitely felt drawn in! And I can relate. I have a mentally ill relative living in my home right now. It has been the longest two years of my life. She has schizo-affective disorder, which is like a combination of bipolar and schizophrenia. It is so scary and so frustrating at the same time.

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      1. I can imagine! I grew up in an alcoholic home and that was scary enough. I use my writing as a form of therapy. I think if you feel a tug to write about your experiences growing up around mental illness, not only will you help others understand, but you may very well help yourself heal even more. I think it’s incredibly brave that you’ve even considered it. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

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  4. I am totally involved from the start. To hurtle us into this domestic drama is far better than trying tio explain mental illness. For those who haven’t experienced it we don’t really understand what a psychotic episode or nervous breakdown actually is. A friend told me it was quite normal for her family holidays to involve her mother being carted off to hospital in an ambulance – because of another suicide attempt – this is when you realise not all families are like your own!


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