Like in a Fun House..Only not so Fun

When you were a kid, did you ever go into a fun house with all those crazy mirrors? One transformed you from   a petite child of 4'2" into a child the height of an NBA star, yet another made you resemble the figure of the Pillsbury dough boy, and another appeared to give you a perfect hourglass figure.

It was fun, but temporary. When you left the immediate area, you were still the same person as you had been before you entered the fun house and glanced into those mirrors. No matter how silly you felt before the mirrors, you could walk away and return to "normal". Or perhaps, if you were like me, with issues about your body, you enjoyed the few moments of "correction" and were sad to see it end and return to the same old, not-quite-what-you'd-hoped-for "me".

Recently, I came to understand my mother and her mental health issues better when I realized that she suffers from lack of insight. We hear the professionals talk about this all the time. Lack of insight is significantly negatively correlated with the ability to recover and maintain a "healthier" home for those with hoarding disorder. And many of us with hoarding parents, KNOW that our parents don't see themselves, their behaviors, their homes in the way that we, and others, see them.

The public understands this in other disorders. We see the 86-lb. young woman who eats next to nothing although you count each of her ribs and every other bone in her body because she's afraid to get fat. Her insight is very poor. When she stands in front of the mirror, she sees a much larger form that what is actually there. We may not understand completely what her mind is telling us, but we can accept that what she sees in her mind as a reflection is almost hallucinogenic. We accept that.

But I realize that for a long time, much of my mom's life was lived with that same kind of distortion. Through family therapy, I kept hearing my mother tell me with genuineness of heart and spirit that she had tried to create a perfect life for me, a sort of fairy-tale existence. She truly was unable to see or hear her own words and actions, the home she had created, and the lives we were leading in an objective manner.

My mother lived life in front of the fun house mirror. Her mental illness, untreated, created this reality-mind warp which she could not shake off on her own. Her belief for so long was that everyone else had the issues. She was fine, not perfect perhaps, but not royally delusional either.

This is an insight that has been growing on me since I first found out over two years ago that hoarding was a mental illness. That knowledge made it easier to see my mother almost as though she were a diabetic, or a paraplegic. Awareness allows some amount of forgiveness at the beginning, however shallow that pond may be. But it's taken another two years of research, recovery, prayer, anger, grieving, and lots of other things to come to the place where I look at my childhood and the life my mother had been leading with the grace and understanding that I currently have.

I sometimes still get angry when I reflect on the childhood I was robbed of. Don't believe me? Read "You Failed Me" from just two weeks ago! But now I better understand that my mother was chained to the fun house mirror, unaware that her view of the world was so warped.

This knowledge doesn't take away the pain of my childhood, the delusions that were forced upon me, the experiences I was robbed of. However, it's kind of like learning to speak another language. If you don't know Russian, the Russian speaker speaks gibberish. It doesn't matter how kind their words are if you can't understand them. But once you have a basic understanding of the language, you catch positive glimpses of the speaker that you had missed completely before.

And then grace must come in.

I'm not going to lie. Just the knowledge that my mother was chained to this fun house warp does not make it easy to forgive her, or build a new relationship with her. Not at all.

It is grace, the knowledge that I have hurt others without meaning to, especially the ones I love the most, and yet knowing that I have been forgiven and given many chances to make up for my bad behavior, or to have them erased completely. It is that knowledge that I have been given these kinds of gifts that makes me want to give my mother that same gift. I want to see my mother, not only how I've seen her my whole life, but also to catch a glimpse of her view however distorted it was. Within her distortion, there is a really, beautiful and loving woman who didn't know how to see anything but a fun house mirror.

And really, how long could you stay in a fun house for sixty years and not be damaged, and damage others by your lack of reality?

Ceci G


Karin said…
Amen! Beautifully written.
What is frustrating about the lack of insight, also, is sometimes they seem to "get" it. Sometimes it feel like we've finally hit the jackpot, they see the light, things will be different... and they stay in the not-so-funhouse.

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