Who Am I: I Am Unbreakable

Hi, my name is Asher, and I’m a…

I don’t know. I’m twenty-two. I work two jobs, one as a driving instructor, the other as a computer technician. I make good money. I dress well. I write well. I look fine. I’m a jokester. Sometimes I’m very quiet. Sometimes I’m the life of the party. But that’s when I’m not home. That’s when I’m wearing my mask. My life isn’t easy. At home I’m…

I thought things had gotten better since last time. I mean, things were never great, but they were livable. But then they weren’t. My mother started abusing my grandmother again, turning her into her slave, making her do things you wouldn’t make the most menial laborer do. My mother forced my grandmother to wipe her ass, and bathe her, bring her whatever she wanted at any time of the day or night. My mother made sure my grandmother didn’t sleep, made sure she couldn’t rest, and all the while degrading her, calling her names, accusing her of every wrong in the universe, laying a mighty fine guilt trip.

And I sat safely in my room, listening, waiting, attentive, making sure my grandmother’s life was never in danger. I couldn’t sleep either. What if she snapped. What if she hurt my grandmother. I was on constant alert. I needed to make sure my mother didn’t escalate to violence against my grandmother, make sure she didn’t act on the countless threats. And there was nothing I could do, you know? My grandmother refused to throw my mother out of the house even though she hated living the way she was. My grandmother was too merciful to see my mother on the street, or in a state mental facility.

My mother stopped taking her meds about a year ago, it turns out, and for the past year, she’s been steadily getting more unstable. The more unstable she gets, the more she starts lashing out at everyone she believes wronged her, and made her life the meaningless pile of shit it is today. The way the mental health system is set up in this country, the only way to get someone committed involuntarily is if they pose a danger to themselves or others. That law is very broad and ill-defined. I could see the danger my mother posed. I could see the damage she was causing my grandmother, but there was not a single thing I could do to prevent the inevitable violence. The law only recognizes physical violence as danger, and threat of violence is not always enough. I could only pray that I could contain it when it occurred, and call the police in time to stop it from escalating.

I got my chance about four months ago, when she got into a fight with her boyfriend. She had taken to walking around the house naked in the weeks leading up to this, and she was naked four months ago when they got into their fight. I heard him hit the ground and scream, so I ran out of my room to see if anyone was hurt. He was running down the hallway toward the door. I stood in the hallway, back to my naked mother, preventing her from chasing her boyfriend. “Get out!” I yelled at him. He didn’t need telling twice. I went back in my room, grabbed the phone, and called the police. They came within two minutes, barely enough time for me to pull on my pants and run to the door to open it for them. My mother was sitting in the kitchen with my grandmother, next to the door. Both were telling me not to open it. Open it I did.

She was taken away, and I thought we’d finally get some peace. I thought the hospital would treat her, make her take her meds. I thought they’d be responsible enough to send her home stable. Heh. She came home and went right back to abusing my grandmother. She never touched her, but I could see my grandmother suffering. I begged my family to do something, and this time they tried, but there was nothing they could do with my grandmother refusing to act against her daughter. Things got worse.

A few days before Rosh Hashana, I was getting ready to leave to work, and I heard my mother yelling more violently than she had been. She was threatening to kill my grandmother. I had to leave for work, but I didn’t want to leave my grandmother alone with my crazed mother, so I called the cops. A horde of them showed up along with EMS, after a fashion. Took them twenty minutes to get there. Apparently threats of death aren’t enough for New York’s finest; they didn’t care because no one had been hurt yet, and she had no weapon yet. EMS came in, checked out my mother, asked my grandmother if she felt she was in danger, and then left. My grandmother had covered for my mother again. I went back in the house to get my laptop, and my mother threatened to kill me if I ever called the police on her again. Apparently she felt powerful because they hadn’t taken her. I knew it was going to be a long holiday.

It was terrible. My mother was as angry and violent as I had ever seen her, shouting at my grandmother, making her do disgusting, degrading things I’d sooner not mention here to preserve my grandmother’s dignity, in addition to the usual slave labor she forced on my grandmother. I wasn’t let off the hook either. The entire night, she stood outside my door shouting, cursing, threatening, and insulting me, loudly enough that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I slept maybe a total of 6 hours over those three days. Rosh Hashana came and went, and I was worried about what to do going forward. I doubted I could go much longer without sleep.

Thankfully, I got a text from my aunt after Rosh hashana. Apparently, my mother had gone over to my uncle’s house, and shattered a window there that morning. My uncle hadn’t called the police because it was Shabbos, but after asking me what to do, he did call. They came and dragged her, literally kicking and screaming, into an ambulance, and off to the psych ward. And my grandmother and I breathed a little easier. Surely this time something would be done. My uncle had been talking to the hospital, and they assured us they had the resources to monitor her once she was released, and help her comply with outpatient treatment. Eventually, they promised, she’d be stable enough to be moved to a supervised living facility. I should have known they were full of shit.

A month later she came home, and this time it barely lasted at all. Two weeks ago Friday, right before Shabbos, she sent my grandmother to ask me to turn the light in her room off. I know my mother doesn’t give a fuck and a quarter about Shabbos, and more to the point, why the hell would I do anything for someone who abused me for so many years, so I just laughed and went about my business preparing. Apparently that was the last straw. She well and truly lost it. It all came out, all at once, the anger, resentment, the jealousy, how she “gave up so much” for me and how ungrateful I was being. How I was a lowlife bastard, a little baby who claimed to be abused, but was really abusing her. And that’s when I knew: She’d read what I’d written about her. I heard her hitting something on my doorframe. “I just took the mezuzah (Small parchment scroll with bible verses, placed on doorposts in Jewish homes; it is meant to serve as a protection) you hold so dear, and burned it in the Shabbos candles.”

Then she started threatening to kill me if I didn’t leave the house immediately. She tried breaking down my door, but I stood against it, shoring it up. She swore she’d kill me if I didn’t leave, and ran around the house yelling words to that effect for the next few hours until my grandmother managed to calm her down. I didn’t leave my room that night until I was sure my mother was sleeping. The next morning, I assumed everything had calmed down. I walked into the kitchen, around 12:30 in the afternoon, to fetch some stuff for my Shabbos meal.

Shabbos for me is now a very lonely affair. I have a hot plate and fridge in my room, so I buy all my food on Friday, and just eat it alone in my room if I’m not invited out for any of the meals. I make Kiddush, and wash, and then eat alone in my bed while reading a book. Sometimes I’ll sing to myself. It used to bother me, being alone on Shabbos, but after 6 years, I’m used to it. It’s what I know. Anyway, I needed some grape juice, so I left my room, and went to get some from the big fridge in the kitchen. My mother was sitting there with my grandmother, and as soon as she saw me, she started again. This time there was no calming her down, much as my grandmother tried.

I went back to my room and started my meal while my mother raged outside. It worried me, but it was always just talk, and I wasn’t going to let it bother me too much. Then I heard her come back to my door, and this time she was threatening to do something to me and my grandmother, leave the house, and leave us to die together. Now I was worried. I heard her pouring something outside my door, and walk away. She’s going to set the house on fire, I thought, and I’m trapped inside. I’m going to have to walk through fire to get out of here. Quickly, I looked around my room for something I could drape over myself as I ran through the flames I was sure were just moments away. I grabbed a flame-retardant blanket and stood by the door.

I touched the doorknob to see if it was hot, but it felt as cool as it always does. Ok, if it’s not fire, then what is it? I had heard something being poured outside my door. “I poured oil outside your door. I hope you slip and fall and break your neck. Maybe you’ll wind up paralyzed like your uncle in some nursing home. I hope you suffer and die.” I could live with that. I went back to my bed. My appetite was gone at this point, but I still had a good book to occupy my mind. My mother wasn’t having any of my not leaving the room and tripping on her trap, so she came back and tried again. I saw a clear liquid sliding across my floor from under my door, and smelled bleach. Shit.

I quickly grabbed a bundle of white laundry out of the hamper, mopped up the bleach, and slid the whole mess up against the bottom of my door. It needed washing anyway, right? Besides, on its own, bleach isn’t flammable. Unless mixed with ammonia. And then I heard something else being poured against my door. As any child who has ever done a chore knows, you never mix ammonia and bleach. Ever. The fumes are toxic when mixed, and the solution is highly flammable. I grabbed my blanket again and stood by the door, touching the doorknob every few seconds. “I’M GOING TO LEAVE NOW AND WHEN I GET BACK YOU’LL BOTH ME DEAD. I’LL CALL THE POLICE AND TELL THEM I DID IT. I DON’T CARE; I HATE YOU; I JUST WANT YOU BOTH DEAD.” And I heard the front door close.

I stayed in my room until I was sure she was gone, then went out to check on my grandmother. Of course, I slipped on the oil and went down, scraping my elbow forearm on the floor. I felt my arm start to burn and looked down. The skin had been ripped off, and the ammonia and bleach mix were beginning to burn the flesh underneath. I got up and ran to the sink, furiously washing the wound. After it stopped hurting that much, I checked on my grandmother. She wasn’t hurt, just shaken, scared, and hopeless. She didn’t know what to do any more than I did. I went back to my room and took the opportunity to sleep. With the way things were going, I wasn’t sure I’d get another chance very soon.

I elected not to call the cops this time because it was Shabbos, I wanted things to quiet down, and I wasn’t sure they’d take her. I didn’t want another false alarm riling her up. I prayed for quiet. The next few days were mercifully tolerable. She still threatened me when she saw me, but she wasn’t acting on it, which was a step up. That lasted until Thursday night.

Thursday night, she sent my grandmother to ask me for the iron and ironing board. My grandmother is not a particularly loud person, and I had been sleeping, so I didn’t hear her request until my mother started threatening to kick in my door if I didn’t give her the iron and ironing board. Well, I’ll be damned if I give in to someone threatening me like that, so I stood up against the door, ready to brace it when she inevitably tried kicking it in. She started attacking it fiercely, more violently than she had before. That door has taken many beatings from her before, and I guess this time it just couldn’t hold up. After about two minutes of her kicking it, the door finally splintered, buckled, and came off its hinges. I had barely enough time to throw some pants on, and grab my belt as a weapon in case she attacked me.

I stood in the doorway, blocking her entrance, holding up my belt as a warning. I wouldn’t attack her without provocation; it would ruin my case when I called the cops. She sent my grandmother in to get the iron and ironing board, and loathe as I was to let her have it, I wasn’t about to stop my grandmother. She has enough people forcing her to do things she doesn’t want to without adding me to the mix. Iron in hand, my mother stood there, facing me. I looked at her face for the first time in six years, and what I saw was a pathetic little toddler, stamping her feet because she wasn’t getting her way.

“You’ve taken everything from me. You stole this iron, you stole my last dollar, broke my computer, and my tv, I gave everything up for you, EVERYTHING!” Looking at her face while she delivered this diatribe, it was all I could do not to laugh. This pathetic creature was the cause for all our suffering. This little shit was what caused our family so much grief for so many years. “You ARE a bastard! I don’t care what anyone says! You’re a bastard!” I’ve never understood why that’s my failing and not hers. I’m not the one who spread her legs for someone other than her husband. “You don’t know what I’ve been through because of you; you don’t know how much I’ve suffered. You don’t know what it is to be abused. I was really abused. I was raped. You have no idea. You couldn’t handle the truth. You don’t know how good you have it; I’m only telling you this because I love you.”

I knew she’d been raped when she was 16. She’d told me so when I was 13. I knew she’d had a hard life. She and my grandfather hadn’t always seen eye to eye, to say the least, and being from the old country, as he was, he believed in not sparing the rod. My mother married at 17 to a husband she barely knew, a violent man who hit her, mistreated her, and no doubt raped her himself. She claims she’s been mistreated at the psych ward she’s been sent to for the past twenty years. It was an odd moment hearing her opening up about what had been done to her. I took a second to see how I felt about it. Not a single shred of sympathy at all. The way I see it, someone who themselves suffered should know better than to do it to someone else. I’ve suffered at her hand, and if it taught me anything, it was how careful I must be not to hurt someone else unless I have very good reason to.

This seemed like as good a time as any to pick up the phone, right in front of her face, and dial 9-1-1. The cops came a few minutes later, and took her away to the psych ward. Finally, I thought, another little breather. Two hours later, my grandmother got a call. It was my mother from the hospital: they were discharging her. Four hours later she was home, and she was pissed. I had no door, just a sheet, flapping gently in my empty doorframe. Thankfully my mother was done with me that night, and was content with just yelling at me from her room while forcing to grandmother to pick up where my mother had left off with the ironing. I was so tired I somehow managed to fall asleep anyway.

The next morning, this past Friday morning, I was awoken by my mother screaming in my doorway. She had torn off the sheet, and was trashing whatever was in reach from the doorway. I’d made sure to sleep fully clothed because I expected that sort of thing. I jumped out of bed and ran over to the door to protect my stuff. I grabbed the sheet back from her and put it up again. She tore it down. I grabbed it back and put it back up. She tore it down. And on it went for ten minutes until she got the message: That sheet was mine. She ran and got my grandmother.

“HE STOLE MY SHEET! THAT’S MY SHEET FROM MY BED FROM WHEN I WAS MARRIED AND HE STOLE IT!” I bought that,” my grandmother replied levelly. “BUT YOU GAVE IT TO ME. “He needs it,” my grandmother pointed out, “you tore off his door.” “WELL, HE DESERVES IT. HE STOLE MY IRON, HE STOLE MY SHEETS, HE STEALS EVERYTHING FROM ME. POOR ABUSED BABY. YOU SAY YOU WERE ABUSED. YOU WEREN’T ABUSED, YOU LITTLE BABY. MAYBE I SHOULD PULL OFF YOUR PANTS AND SUCK YOUR DICK, AND THEN YOU’LL REALLY BE ABUSED. YOU CAN MASTURBATE IN FRONT OF ME! YOU’RE NOT ABUSED, YOU HAVE IT GREAT!”

And for the first time in all this, I was really scared. I had no more options. I’d called the police and they had brought her back. I couldn’t live like this. I couldn’t. Could I? Who could? And then like an angel from heaven, sent over 4G LTE, my aunt messaged me. After realizing that she was getting nowhere with me and the stuff I’d supposedly stolen, my mother called my aunt, demanding she return a sweater my mother had given her a few months back. “GIVE ME BACK MY SWEATER, LEAH, OR I SWEAR I’LL COME DOWN THERE AND KILL YOU.” My aunt, bless her heart, who has in the past been my mother’s champion regardless of how unstable or violent she’s gotten, had the good sense to call the police to report the threat. They were there five minutes later, and took her away, as she ranted on about the sweater and the iron and all the other supposed crimes we’d all committed against her. This time it stuck. She’s there now, and we’re all figuring out what to do next.

So what does this make me? Victim? Survivor? Honestly I’m not sure. I’ve been meaning to write a book about my experiences, but honestly, I don’t feel I can until this is behind me. I don’t feel I can say I survived if I’m still trying to survive. I can’t say I’m past it when I’m still getting panic attacks every time the front door opens, because she might be back before I have a new door. But I’m not a victim, am I. I’m fighting back when I can. I’m standing up for myself. I’m not that little kid anymore who sat there and took it. This time I’m doing what I can to protect myself and my grandmother. So what does that make me, somewhere in between?

Hi, my name is Asher. I’m twenty-two years old, and my story is still being written. I have my share of scars, I have my wounds, I have my cracks. I still have my battles to fight, and sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. Sometimes I can stand tall in the face of everything, and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I bend, sometimes I sway. I don’t know yet if I’m victim or survivor.

But this I do know: What I am is Unbreakable.

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44 thoughts on “Who Am I: I Am Unbreakable

  1. Chantal says:

    this broke my heart reading it. Mental illness is so devastating. I am so sorry for all the horror you have had to endure. Keep talking and sharing. It sounds like you have what it takes to heal. A special place in shamayin is reserved for you for all u have sacrificed especially for your grandmother! Wishing you many blessings!

  2. josh says:

    You have no idea how you’ve effected my life with your sharing. I’m going through tough tones (to say the least) and this article voices me the answer I an looking for. Thank you.

  3. Elana says:

    You are incredibly brave and strong. It takes a really long time to feel like a survivor. For a long while it sounds like a joke when you are still suffering, but you are surviving, and I pray that you find a way to truly survive and thrive. Know that you are not alone and you do not have to survive on your own. There is support and there are people who care.

  4. Lauren says:

    This article brought me to tears. You are incredibly brave and strong and I wish more then anything that there was anything I could do to help you. Ill be praying for you and your grandmother.

  5. Luna says:

    Asher, you are an incredible writer. Please continue telling your story to the world. Your strength is incredibly admirable. Hashem should give you and your grandma a peaceful home and state of mind. Stay strong.

  6. T says:

    thank you young boy, brother. you have so much kavod. Hashem bless you to keep believing in yourself enough to establish solid boundaries from the inside, with yourself and on the outside with others. may you keep padding your tests with bravo and o lay be surrounded by kind, good, giving people who will shelter you help you love you till you’re solid. Hashem ברוך אתה. אמן אחי.

  7. Sasha says:

    Wow, I wish you could just take your grandmother and leave, but it sounds like your grandmother is in denial or is willing to put up with it, and you are suffering to protect her…Kol Hakavod… But remember that your first priority is to protect yourself. If you can’t sleep and are having panic attacks and are getting your skin burned with chemicals, maybe it’s time just to admit that your grandmother needs to make her own decisions as an adult. Report your mother to social services as a senior abuser and leave… All the best.

  8. Jonathan says:

    You mentioned at least two acts of attempted murder, you should report those.

    Also, start recording things, recorded evidence is gold.

  9. Elliot says:

    I really suggest that you move out, maybe go live with your aunt, I know it might be difficult but you must do it for you sake. One thing you must realize is that mother is sick, she has a problem but there’s nothing you can do it about her problem. Even all else fails and you really can’t move out, talk to your grandma when your mom isn’t home, and tell that you want your mother to get help and that you don’t feel safe at home. Explain her that it is in the best interest of everyone including your mother. I really wish you all the best. Good luck.

  10. SHLOMIT says:

    I know all too well about mental illness in family members. I know you’re exhausted but if you have anything left there are some possible solutions:
    The next time Mom gets crazy enough to be put on a psych hold take advantage by doing the following:
    Get more involved in her treatment. the more you say you just want to help her and are concerned about her safety and everyone else’s the more effort they’ll put into helping you find a more permanent solution. Another benefit is when they are discussing her discharge you will be included in that meeting and that’s when you’ll bring up the following:
    1. She cannot be trusted to take her medication.
    2. She is guilty of ELDER ABUSE. It is a crime and you are a witness. The elderly very rarely speak up about it so you witnessing it works in your favor.
    3. If she’s having your grandmother do all these daily living skills for her then it is very obvious she cannot/will not do the basic things necessary for herself to be part of society.
    4. She has tried multiple times to harm you (showing them this article will ensure you don’t leave anything out)
    After you point all of this out to them state very clearly YOU ARE UNWILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HER IF SHE COMES HOME. You will get a RESTRAINING ORDER against her to keep yourself and your grandmother safe. Don’t be afraid to mention their liability in all this and that you will not hesitate to initiate a law suit. If they don’t have a place to release her to that they can be sure she’ll be safe THEY CANNOT RELEASE HER. If you feel you are not getting anywhere ask for the supervisor, even the supervisors supervisor. Plain and simple.
    Your best bet is to push for assisted living, which is a place where she’ll be monitored, be given medication, have a room to stay in. She’ll also be seen by a medical doctor, psychiatrist and social worker regularly. I highly recommend Belle Harbor Manor in far rockaway, I’m pretty sure they have beds available now. The social worker at the hospital is responsible for making all these arrangements.
    Gather yourself and be prepared for a fight, not even against her anymore but against the hospital and the system. As long as you repeatedly state in the words written exactly what you will and will not allow to happen you will get a result tthat’s worth every ounce of energy you put in. Stay strong and feel free to ask me any questions you have. Good luck!

  11. Molly says:

    Asher
    I think you are- scratch that, I know you are so brave for sharing your absolutely heart-wrenchingly painful story. It took more strength and courage than you even realize you have to take your experiences, piece them into words and share them with the world. For that I will forever applaud you.
    I have read many, many blogs and articles. Never, not once have I ever written back.
    This will be my very first time.
    Your story really hurt me and really pained me.
    I cried.
    I can’t even begin to imagine what hell you have been going through- all these years. The struggles and unimaginable challenges you’ve been delt with. It’s so unfair you’ve had to deal with this, alone, for so so long.
    No one- no one should E V E R suffer alone!
    I know it’s a clique but I’m here to tell you that you are far from alone and the stand you took is one foot closer to a path you will begin to love and appreciate- the path to freedom. I cannot tell you what you should and should not do in your situation because it’s obvious how trapped you are. Torn between your destructive and mentally-ill mother and a weak grandmother.
    I don’t think it’s fair that you should take on the burdens of living and dealing with this nightmare you’ve been stuck in for so long. I think it’s fair time you walk out. You have a good job. Seriously, move out.
    Why am I saying that? I could tell you oh call this person and that and this organization…but I’ll be lying to you because the honest truth is- and I’ll be super frank with you: It’s All BULLSHIT.
    The police, the hospitals, the rabbanim, the ‘organizations’ they are as good as a dead cat when it comes to a situation like this- totally useless. I’m extremely religious and I have no isses with my frumkeit or my strong believes in Hashem and the Torah- so this is not a forum to bash them; it’s to be realistic that there is NO ONE out there to help you- NO ONE but YOU! I’ve learned it the hard way- but it’s the ONLY way. And I FIRMLY believe that after you do take this big step and begin your new happy and healthy new life- you will succeed and you will begin to make a real change in the issue that face a lot of families and children unfortunately.
    You’re old enough and smart enough to know now that this is the ONLY solution- the longer you stick this out the bigger affect it will have on your physical, mental and emotional health.
    This cycle, this cycle of abuse HAS to end. The only way it stops is if YOU end it. Move out!!! I beg you- whatever happens to them is NOT your problem, YOU are a human being, you are so young with a bright future ahead of you- don’t squander all your changes because you feel obligated or feel like you can’t do it- because I think you can! Even if god forbid something should happen once you start over- you will always know you did E V E R Y T H I N G possible a person can do.
    Asher, I beg of you. Start your new life. Make a plan. Stick to it. Move out. See a therapist, get healthy- for yourself- and start your new and free life! Get out of that hell hole. Your future is so bright- do it. Now.

  12. Asher I can’t imagine how you, your grandmother and yes your mother live with this terrible illness. Shlomit suggested some very useful strategies. Please excuse my suggestion if you have already tried to get help. Is there not a jewish social service organisation that can help? It sounds like your grandmother needs a social worker from an aged care service, to assess her needs and advocate on her behalf. Is there not a mental health service in the same organisation for your mother? Who prescribes your mother’s medication? Hopefully she sees a psychiatrist, Could he/she arrange for more help? Perhaps if your grandmother had a social worker involved she/she could advocate on her behalf. A beginning for your grandmother could be going to a recreational activity for respite, or getting a carer to care for your mother for a few hours, to take her out for walks, coffee, or attend a day program. Perhaps a mental health worker can work towards your mother moving to the facility like Shlomit suggested? Asher what help are you getting? I really hope you can access some help or that someone can help you access help. You sound like an incredible young man. How sad that your mother is too sick to understand what a wonderful son you are.

  13. Someone sent this to me warning me it was “graphic” and I finished it wondering: “What was graphic?” My mother and your mother have way too much in common for our own good.

    I ran away at 17 to my maternal grandmother’s house after experiencing the same type of abuse. My grandmother protected me for a while until she felt guilty. By 21, I was on my own and kidnapping my siblings away from my mother. My grandmother (yes, that one) testified in my mother’s favor in court.

    Cut to nearly 10+ years later, my grandmother won’t even talk to my mother because she says “she’s afraid of her.” No one ever wanted to call the cops on my mother and most of the adults in my family are scared of her.

    All I can say is it gets better. I only know this because it did for me. I got away. I got my sisters away. It wasn’t and isn’t easy. Very few people can understand what you’re going through. It hit me so hard in the chest when you wrote:

    “Not a single shred of sympathy at all. The way I see it, someone who themselves suffered should know better than to do it to someone else. I’ve suffered at her hand, and if it taught me anything, it was how careful I must be not to hurt someone else unless I have very good reason to.”

    When people ask me to feel sympathy for my mother and her mental illness, I start to make a list of the things she did, of the things she said. Of the times she tried to kill me, of how she tried to kill me, of how she threatened to cut my sisters into little pieces and leave them in the fridge if I said she was abusing us. So, just know that you are NOT alone.

    You can be a victim and a survivor. You can be both.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. That does sound a lot like what I’m going though. I’ve had it out my ears with people telling me I should sympathise just because she’s bipolar. I have enough friends with various conditions to know that not everything can be chalked up to the disease. Part of it is the person. Mania doesn’t manifest the same way in everyone. Of course, there are general symptoms, but the actual details depend on what makes that person tick. And what makes her tick is abusing people because she feels powerless.

  14. In my experience, it is very hard to lock up someone with mental illness permanently. It took me 3+ years to get custody of my sister even after a court psychiatrist said my mother was basically a sociopath who could not tell right from wrong. The system works against the victims and protects those who are abusers. The only thing I learned is that you should record things. Apparently, while I was being verbally, emotionally and physically abused, I should have owned a video camera. ::profound eye roll here:: Because that was about the farthest thing from my mind when it was all happening. The only thing on my mind was how do I survive this?

    • I’ve actually started recording. I have some pretty damning stuff. I also have mountains of police reports. Mountains. The tough thing is getting my grandmother to cooperate in testifying against my mother.

  15. Ahuva says:

    Beautifully written, I really feel for what you are going through. My mother also suffers from a severe mental disorder. It is so difficult to deal with, I commend you for realizing that this is the illness not the person. I recently joined NAMI – national alliance on mental illness and have been attending their family to family class. It has been such a great resource for information and support. I would encourage you to check out what they have in your area http://www.nami.org . Also, look into getting an emergency petition through the court or police station. They will let you speak your case and based on what you are writing they will give it to you. My mother was not violent but we were granted a petition because she was wandering around at night in a bit of a dangerous area and wasnt eating, having major paranoia and delusions etc. Once you have an emergency petition its good for up to 30 days I believe and if you call the ambulance or police or take her to a hospital she will automatically get admitted against her will. Its a really terrible disease and the mental healthcare system is majorly lacking. But try to utilize whatever resources there are out there. And always remember to take care of yourself and set proper boundaries. May god grant you the strength to get through this!

    • About it being about the disease and not the person. People have been telling me this, and this is what I’ve been answering. I’ll just copy the response I’ve been using below.

      Thank you. In response to what you said, I don’t know you or your story, but let me share some more of mine and give you a little perspective on the way I see it. I don’t mean to judge your family, just explain my position based on my experience.

      I have this friend whom I love very dearly. She’s the family I with I had. Were what each other has now. Funny enough, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year. Funny how life works. I still love her with all my heart, but sometimes it’s hard, especially when it acts up. She gets snappier, her temper gets shorter, and I find myself holding my tongue more around her, and tiptoeing around her.

      But you know what the difference is? After a while she sees that it’s hurting me, and she gets help. She does what she has to to even out because she knows she’s hurting me. And she does it because she truly loves me. Not because I have utility to her, not because she can say she has someone, but because she truly loves me. She takes responsibility and does what she has to. Yes she’s hurt me, but never intentionally, and she has always apologised and made up for it sincerely.

      Not So with my mother. She abused me for years and never once accepted responsibility. She excused herself for her actions by quoting torah at me. Ish imo v’aviv tirau. Chosech shivto soneh b’no. And when I fought back because she was trying to kill me, makeh av v’imo mos yumas. She has never shown me love. She has never tried to make right what she’s done. And she has never taken responsibility for her disease and the damage it causes. That’s the difference. That’s what I can’t forgive.

  16. Ahuva says:

    I am sorry if my saying that hit on a raw nerve for you. I am just speaking from my experience. Also, there are all kinds of mental disorders that manifest themselves in different ways. If I went through what you went through I would probably feel the same way you do. No judgement here. I hope the rest of my comment was helpful.

    • It’s OK, it’s all part of a healthy discussion. I think it varies on the person. The manifestation is based on who the person underneath is as well. And yes, there is usually some hurt that’s caused entirely by the disease, but in my experience and the experience of others I’ve spoken to, the disease is not always entirely to blame.

      I did not feel your comments were judgmental, and I do appreciate differing points of view. An echo chamber of people parroting back to me what I’d like to hear doesn’t help anybody, so thank you for the comments. I mean that sincerely.

  17. DD says:

    I think you have every right and possibly a responsibility to yourself to leave that house. You mention being 22 years old, holding two jobs and making “good money.” Take your self and if she’d come, your grandmother, out of that house and let your mother try to live without you. It is not cruel to be negligent with an ill person if they show no concern for your wellbeing or even your life. I understand why a young adult like yourself would feel torn about the possibility of leaving your grandmother alone with your mother in such a house, but if you had your own place, she’d have a refuge even when the authorities do not come to take your mother away. You can get a restraining order against your mom and then your house would be a relatively safe haven from her episodes of wrath.
    My mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and she lives independently. She is only verbally abusive and so I have less justification for letting her try it alone than you do, but I have made that decision for a toddler-care reason–logical consequences are a cornerstone of raising a 2 year old, and the logical consequences for a full-grown 2 year old repeatedly biting the hand that feeds them is they get to forage in the fridge for themselves. That is not cruel, just good sense. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment any more than your grandmother, even though you seem to have less sympathy for yourself than you do for her. Words can sting too even if you feel hardened against them. They get to you and change your perspective.
    I took and taught the NAMI class and found it lovely and fictional in a way because it promises that there are new drugs out there that can fix what ails our mothers, really improving their lives and ours, but in truth they just made my mother unable to do math and very dependent in every way with a lost, despondent look. She asked for help, for clarification. She was gentle and totally not herself. She shopped around for a doctor who’d let her off her drugs and now she can handle her finances very well, has paranoid delusions and is always having a conversation with someone invisible. She feels in control and strong and sends me away, since I am part of many different conspiracies against her. In short, she is satisfied with her reality and wants no part of mine, and I am ready to accept that even though I know she will starve herself eventually and has no human contact to check up on her physical or mental health without me.
    NAMI is a wonderful support network for people whose ‘loved ones’ believe that they are ill and that their doctors and family members might not be evil to the core, but for us, the chances of that happening may be slim to none. It’s still good to talk to people who understand some of what we have gone through. I have a feeling that they could help you get some respite care for your mom or help in some legal way to get your grandmother some protection.
    Your independence may be the most important thing to pursue, for both yourself and your grandmother, and maybe even for your mother somehow, if you ask me.
    I love your writing and am very grateful that you have this blog. Thank you for your candor and your insights. I wish you the best of luck also.
    Your loyal reader.

  18. lizzi serling says:

    Ah, rereading now I see that you obviously live in NY… Well if you ever make it out to EY or want me to help you get meals in chul, please don’t spend Shabbos at home…

  19. Mr. F says:

    This also highlights the horrible lack of adequate long-term mental health services here in the US. Public funding for psychiatric institutions has been cut drastically over the last 50 years. Part of that has to do with potential ethical and legal issues of forcibly committing someone, but at the same time the state would take care of those who could not take care of themselves and/or presented a threat to those around them. It’s not like such a thing doesn’t exist today but there are significant hurdles. There are numerous stories of people who show up to the ER time and time again for major psychotic episodes (with or without threats of violence) and they get discharged back home with no other place to send them. I think that this ongoing crisis with Asher’s mother is another story of how broken the system is.

    Asher, you’re a soldier for living with this awful situation with your mother. I hope that you and your grandmother get a way out of this mess and that your mother receives the proper care she needs.

  20. Simon says:

    Why don’t you record these events and show them to the police and to the doctors the next time she’s admitted. Sounds like she talks her way out while you’re at home.

  21. jacob says:

    I have lived with an abusive mother and my father died at 48 due to stress I also have stress and panic attacks etc. But now that I believe in god I have realized that I need to respect her. Not for her sake but simply because God told me to. Something to think about ….

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