I am so thrilled at this episode airing during Mental Illness Awareness Week. Long-time friend Patty and I met serendipitously, before we realized just how much madness we shared in common. Both of us grew up with moms who were diagnosed with a mental illness. Both of us tried to do our best as siblings of sisters battling mental illness. And both of us — strong, independent, professionals — battled our own depression demons when caregiving for others, fearing the stigma of mental illness, and trying to keep it all secret and handle it on our own proved too much.
In this episode, we talk about balance and trying to have a “normal” life, even as crazy keeps coming to the door. We talk about always waiting for the other shoe to drop and, sometimes, wishing the worst of some other physical illness on our loved ones, rather than have them continue the never-ending challenges of having a mental illness. We talk about our own tipping points and the fears and shame we struggled with when having to admit that we, too, needed help. Self-care and being selfish are musts for caregivers of crazy.
As Patty says, “The climate as it is these days is very hateful. I just think we can use more kindness. You never know what somebody else is going through. So, I try to keep that in mind when I see things happen, and I also try to keep it in mind when I have my kids out and something happens. I’m just like, let’s just be kind more than anything else. I try to live my life that way.”
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Hi, and welcome to Madness To Magic, and my podcast, I’m with Crazy: A Love Story. I’m your host, Paolina Milana, author of “The S Word”.
This show is for those of us who find ourselves surrounded by madness and wanting to find the magic within. We’re going to come together here as caregivers to those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Maybe it’s someone in the family we’ve been born into. Maybe it’s someone we love. Maybe it’s someone we work with. Maybe, even, it’s ourselves. Whether we’ve been thrust into this caregiver role or taken it on by choice, this podcast is where we’re going to share our stories and learn to realize the magic in all the madness we may have been experiencing. I promise you, it can be done. So let’s get to it.
Paolina: Hi everybody. It’s Paolina again, and I am here with a very dear friend for several, several years back. We kind of connected without even realizing other connections, right? Say hello to Patty Green.
Patty: Well, now the name is Patty Wichner.
Paolina: That’s right. I forgot. You know, I still don’t use my married name. I just don’t. So I just assumed nobody else does. Because the world revolves around me.
Patty: Well, yes.
Paolina: So how about we kind of just start out giving some background of you, of your experience being surrounded by madness and not only from others that you’ve known or been related to, but then we can even get into kind of your own madness if you want.
Patty: A similar story, which is I think why we connected. I’m one of four children, schizophrenic mother, um, one boy, three girls. I always thought that was interesting.
Paolina: I forgot that one.
Patty: I was the fortunate one and the fact that I was the youngest and since my parents had two children and then 18 years later had two more children. My mother, um, had me very late in life. Um, so as much as, yes, I was around and I did participate in to some of her care and I saw a lot of stuff that I really didn’t want to see but did, um, I feel to a certain extent, I was somewhat sheltered because I was young enough and oblivious enough in the beginning obviously. But yes, I saw a lot of things that uh, kids don’t normally see.
Paolina: And, tell me, when did you start to, uh, did that oblivion go away? Well, what was like the, uh, the introduction?
Patty: Um, I think you always kind of know a little something is different and there’s something special about your parent. Um, but the summer that I turned seven and that’s when she had one of her major meltdowns and apparently she had a couple in the past, but that was prior to Dorothy and I. Dorothy is my sister, four years older. Um, but I was turning seven and we did not realize that my father had gotten remarried and apparently he hadn’t informed my mother and apparently, she had found out and that kind of tipped her over the deep end.
Paolina: Okay, wait a minute, were they divorced or…? Cuz then that’s a whole ‘nother podcast on something else.
Patty: So, but, um, they had divorced when I was about four years old I think. Um, so my dad was still looking out for her. We lived in the house, you know, she took care of the house. She took care of us and the usual of parent arrangement that you had back then. Um, but she found out that my father had gotten remarried and kinda tipped her over the deep end.
Paolina: And what was that? What did that deep learning look like?
Patty: Like, um, again, it’s interesting. I’m sure you guys, I heard you and Ross talking on your podcast piecing together what you can remember. And Dorothy and I will go through and we’ve discussed it with my older brother, two of what happened that day. But basically, first thing I remember while she did a lot of, she was destroying some things. Um, my parents had 25th wedding anniversary, so she had smashed all of that and I can’t even remember. I just remember she was in a rage. She was very, very angry. Unfortunately, my sister was old enough because I was turning seven. She was turning 11 that summer. Um, she knew enough to pick up the phone and call my father and so he showed up, which of course kind of exacerbated the system, the whole process, what was going on. Um, so he ended up having to call the police and called the family physician, small town. We had a small country physician and so Dr. Collard showed up. Um, at one point the police took my father out of the situation, out of the house, which was a little disturbing to us at the time. Dorothy says we were sent upstairs for a while. I don’t remember any of that. I just remember the end, um, where my father came back in and they took my mother away and I probably didn’t see her for a good year after that.
Paolina: Wow. So took her away to an actual facility.
Patty: To a facility. I, we were in Massachusetts and I believe it was someplace in Vermont or New Hampshire.
Paolina: So, and when was the first time you even were told here’s what happened to mom or went to go see her?
Patty: To my recollection, nobody ever told us no. Or at least in tell me. I mean again, they could have told me, but I have no recollection. It was just, she’s gone and now this is your new house, this is your stepmother, this is the new situation and your four stepsisters
Paolina: Surprise. Welcome to the family.
Patty: It was quite, uh, an upside down. And of course they weren’t expecting us. You know, we all lived in the same town, but they didn’t expect us to move in. Um, so none of that was expected. But yeah, suddenly the custodial arrangement was now my father. And it remained that way after that. Um, and then about a year later, finally, she was well enough that we could go visit her.
Paolina: Wow. And what was that first kind of visit? Like, so now you’re, what, eight or so?
Patty: Oh, I don’t even remember. Um, but yeah, seven or eight, something like that. But it was very calm. It was a beautiful place that she was at. It was out in the country. She seemed very happy. She seemed to relax. She was a little teary eyed because I, you know, she knew what had happened and she knew that she had lost us in the way of custody and things like that. Um, I think she always felt guilty that she couldn’t overcome her illness to take care of us, but I mean, she was, you know, like you have talked before, you know, sometimes the medications work, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they wear off. So, but at that point things were pretty decent and she was probably there for good few years. Um, before she came back to, uh, live back in my hometown again.
Paolina: And did people know about it or just, you know, like, was it common knowledge? Oh, petty greens mom, we went off the deep end and they put her away kind of thing. Or was it kept secret?
Patty: I think only a few people knew the depth of what was going on. I think a lot of people just saw it as, um, you know, she was angry at my dad for remarrying, I’m sure on the outside to a certain extent. It was just seen as, you know, a spiteful ex-wife. Um, but as to how many people actually knew, I’m not quite sure. You know, again, small town, a lot of people know. I’m sure there was a lot of rumors of what was going on, but, um, there was a few people cause she had a counselor in town, uh, I can’t think of her name, Mrs. Hawkins. And she would, um, visit with mom and we would visit together and we’re going to family counseling and stuff like that. Um, so obviously there were some people that had an idea of what was going on, but I would guess the majority of the people didn’t really know the depth of what was going on.
Paolina: And I am curious, so you said for a lot it might just look like, you know, angry, bitter divorcee, right. Versus that there is a serious kind of mental illness here. Well what was she diagnosed with something or like how do you know that it wasn’t just somebody who was pissed off and you know, versus..?
Patty: She had hallucinations, she had paranoia.
Paolina: Um, and she was definitely at that point, like diagnosed like even before they put her in or that was that the first encounter?
Patty: Being my age, I don’t really remember. I do know, um, before I was even born she had had ECT, electric shock. Um, she had had some other forms of therapy and things like that.
Paolina: Wait, when did you learn about that?
Patty: Like quite a bit later. No, I don’t even know about that. I mean obviously I was an adult at that point.
Paolina: Um, isn’t it weird how so sorry, but like this is almost comforting to me because in my mind I’m like, timeframe seems to get lost its logic or its continuity. Do you know what I mean?
Patty: It’s not a linear thing. No, it’s not a linear thing. And I don’t think unless you’ve been in it that people understand that. Yeah. I mean I think you had a better viewpoint, um, better as in, uh, a clear viewpoint cause you were older. Um, mine kind of gets melded, but like I said, sometimes we just get together as siblings and try to piece together what happened. Um, my brother tells me at one point he knew something was very wrong because I guess Dorothy and I were very little and I think mom and dad had separated and he got a call – now he was a pilot in the air force and he was stationed in California at the time and she had called him up in the middle of the night and said, you need to come here and fly your helicopter here. And um, he, number one, he didn’t fly helicopters, but that she, not that she would know that, but um, it’s so, you know, he, and through the process, what she had done was taken the car and she had driven in our back field and gotten it stuck in the mud. So she wanted him to come and take the helicopter and free her car because she didn’t want to tell my dad what she had done. Um, but apparently we, as far as we can tell and piece together, you know, she left us in the house. I mean, not that it was a big deal. I mean, we had an acre of land. It wasn’t like she was far away. Um, and she decided to go drive the car into the back field. It’s where we had hay and stuff like that. Wow. So, um, so he got that call and that’s when he turned around and called my father and said, Oh, I think you need to go check on mom. Wow. So, so stuff like that had been going on for some time, but, and we didn’t know, you know, I didn’t know about her hallucinations until I was older. Um, cause there’s four of us and we would occasionally have, um, Dan has an additional sibling. Hm. There was a fifth sibling. We don’t really, really know.
Paolina: Um, a real human or ah,
Patty: A hallucination. Um, the interesting thing was sometimes he was born between my brother and sister, which is interesting because there’s 13 months between them. Um, sometimes he was born after my sister Judy. Um, but every once in a while she’d ask us how Daniel was doing and the name would change. But usually it was Daniel and it was a male. So whoever it was, we have no idea what could have triggered that. We don’t know if there was something in her past that something. But yeah, she had some, some interesting things. And even later in life when the medication was working, um, she would say stuff like, she’d be talking about something and she’d go off on a tangent and she’d have this story that we knew wasn’t true, and you just kinda let her go. And then she come back to us and she goes, you just know I’m crazy. Right? Oh. And she’d have a little laugh and we’d have a little laugh. So she was very self-aware of what was going on. That was when her meds were good. And that’s when you know that she was in a good place, as you all know, if they have a tendency to overmedicate because they have all these symptoms. Um, so her good place was usually when she was a little silly, had some little imaginations, um, a little bit of paranoia, but then she was still mom. Right.
Paolina: And they didn’t take, they didn’t make her catotonic right. Yeah. Which noon she goes. Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes, to be honest, you prayed for them to be catatonic, like where it was just, could you just shut it down a little while and turn it off?
Patty: I never got to see other than that one instance. I never saw a lot of this stuff that you had the pleasure of.
Paolina: Well, you know what’s nice is that you and your siblings actually kind of occasionally sat down or sit down to, to reminisce, not reminisce. That’s a terrible word for this, but you know what I mean, just to kind of go over and he said the share it right. More about your father though. Did was he just kinda like, I really don’t want to talk about it or did he ever sit with you?
Patty: I think he was from the, if I had sat and talked to him, which unfortunately, you know, I lost my dad when I was 20, there so many questions that I would have asked him that I can’t now. Um, but he was of an era that he was stoic. That’s just who he was. You know, this is life and this is how you power through it and this is how you deal with it. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that it would have been a good thing to really sit down and say, this is what’s going on, so
Paolina: Well leave him for himself. I mean, I mean he has this other family. Right, so to speak. He’s bringing you guys in, right? He’s dealing with Cray Cray. And yet did he even tell the new wife that there was this issue with the old, like there’s so many things that were, that he had to deal with it. Oh, so she was aware.
Patty: Yeah. Well, and I will say that, um, there are not fond memories of that particular stepmother. Oh, so it’s not even like there was a better situation? No, no. I think she married him too because she wanted stability. She was a widow. She wants stability. She wanted a father figure in the house for her to four daughters and the whole bit. Um, she was not expecting to have two more girls put into her household. So that marriage last three years. Oh wow. So yeah, it was in, the girls were, I didn’t care for my father.
Paolina: Um, which must have been hard for you guys to even watch, I’m assuming.
Patty: Well, I mean they weren’t overt about it. The older two, pretty much just ignore the whole situation. The third one, um, apparently again, oblivion little girl, um, picked on my sister terribly. And the fourth one was my sister’s age cause they’re all older than us and the youngest was my sister’s age and she was nice. She was the nice one of the bunch. Um, but yeah, it was, they were not intending for us to move in. It put their house into an upheaval. Um, so it only lasted three years. And that was that.
Paolina: And when your mom kinda came back, what did that mean? Like came back, what, like to actually live with the family again or,
Patty: Nope. Um, when she came back, dad was separated and divorced from the stepmother. Um, we were how old? 10 or 11, and, uh, so she, I don’t remember where she lived, but she had different places in town that were for, you know, cause again, she had me later in life cause if she was living in like elder communities, I guess not senior, but elder, um, she got a job actually helping out as a caretaker for people with developmental disabilities, with downs syndrome. And she felt very proud of that. She actually got her license. She had never driven, um, she was very proud of herself. She got her license. So she really did get her life back in order. Um, and then she was that, you know, the roles were reversed. She had us for weekends. Um, we didn’t always spend the night, but we would always have every other weekend with her. Occasionally we’d go out. I remember she used to take me bowling all the time. So that was our thing. Um, and things like that. And similarly in the way she got into a good situation. But again, things would be good for a couple of years. The meds would wear off and she would have to go back and have things went. So that probably went on until I was about 15, and then she had another break. Um, and that was, um, she was in a psycho ward and I say that very honestly. It was a horrible, horrible place. And I was 15 and I still remember how disgusting and miserable it was. Just a big open ward with half walls and just rows and rows of bed. And I couldn’t believe that she was in there because she could speak to us and have conversations, but she said, I don’t want to leave here. And I mean, there was crazy people walking around half closed, sometimes screaming, yelling, um, walking around in diapers and everything else. And she obviously didn’t really need to be there, but for whatever reason she decided that’s where she wanted to be. And I don’t know if she was trying to punish herself. I mean, she definitely was off her meds and, and not taking care of herself. She couldn’t live independently anymore, but that was not the situation for her.
Paolina: How did she end up in that place?
Patty: I don’t even remember what precipitated that one cause I think I was, I think my dad probably had to do something. My brother was old enough and at least he was back in Massachusetts. Um, so something I’m sure between my brother and my dad got her into or she was still being watched out for by social services. So that could have been what happened.
Paolina: And that was just like the only open spot or probably at the time. Wow. So, and here you are, fifth, no older than 15. Right. Going through, going through the initial kind of up, she’s okay, but Oh, she’s broken. Oh she’s okay. Oh, she’s broken. And then finally it completely breaks. Right. That period is so, I mean you’ve got two little kids and I know they’re not that age right now, but that teenage period is so critical. Right. To development. What in the world were you thinking throughout that entire time? Like either of the situation going on or how it, how, what it meant for you in your own gene pool?
Patty: I don’t think I ever thought of it in my gene pool until later, but, um, and I was such a space cadet and I think
Paolina: You made up for it now. You’re not such a space cadet.
Patty: I have my moments. I still, um, I think that was kind of my layer of protection and I don’t really thought about it too deeply other than the fact that I knew I was different. I mean, how many people have your father as your custodial parent and your mother picking up for weekends and things like that. I knew I was different that way. I knew there was something different. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I didn’t want to delve too deep because if he did you find out more things that you don’t want to know. And I think when you’re in your adolescence, it’s all about you anyway. Right. So I was able to do that. So when I was 15, I think I was fairly angry to find out that we had to suddenly deal with us and I, I mean we did. I mean, we went and did it and we dealt with it. And um, my brother thought it would be good. I mean, well he thought it would be good for all of us to visit her. As a parent, looking back, I don’t know if I would have made that same decision.
Paolina: But have you asked him why he thought it would be good?
Patty: No, no, no. But he just thought it was pretty important cause I think he was thinking for her welfare for her. So for her to see you guys, cause I think he had probably already tried to talk her out of that place cause she was like, no, I’m gonna stay here.
Paolina: Oh, okay. So hold on. So I misunderstood. Thought you guys kind of put her there or your father or whatever. Right. Or social services. Yeah. Put her there. And then she was like, Nope, this is where I belong. But you’re saying this was her choice?
Patty: Well I think social services put her there and then she decided that’s what she just said was for her to be. Oh wow. Yeah. And it was a miserable, horrible, disgusting place. It really, really was.
Paolina: Did you, did you visit her more than that first time or was it like channel two times what? Cause I remember clearly I remember clearly the good places where you’re like, Hey, I could even stay in a room here. You know what I mean? And then I remember the bulk of them where I was like, Oh my God. Like Oh my God. And you. For me it was, it was such a shock to the system. I don’t even like it. There are parts for him just like just, just tunnel vision of yourself through the hall and, but for you, your experience, especially going back the second time where, where you know what you’re going to encounter. Do you remember the feelings?
Patty: I just wanting to get her out of there so badly and I dunno how we convinced her to leave or if we, you know, forced her to leave. I’m not sure. But I don’t think she was there for too long.
Paolina: That’s pretty interesting because for you at that point you were still in the mode of, mom, I want to get you out of there. There’s a better place. There’s a, you know what I mean? Let me take care of you kind of thing. Even though you were 15 for me at at a certain point it was keep her. You know what I mean? I don’t want her back at all. Right. So, so did yours ever get to the point where you were like, I am done with this?
Patty: Like, well I think we were fortunate in that my dad had custody.
Paolina: Yeah. But you were 20 and your dad’s gone then. Right. So, so in those five years your dad’s still taking care of stuff and you’re still like, I want mom back. Right. Is that a fair
Patty: Oh, I didn’t want her back. Oh, I didn’t want her in there. Uh, okay. I never really wanted her back as a parent cause I knew she couldn’t do it. Okay. On many different levels. I knew she wasn’t able, I was perfectly fine with my father and her being that, um, parent on the outside. I just wanted that situation back to a certain extent. And we were fortunate she ended up getting into a residential program. Two towns over a couple towns over so we could still go visit her and do things like that. And that worked out for her. But no, I, we knew she wasn’t capable of doing what needed to be done as a parent.
Paolina: Okay. Okay. Well, okay, well that makes me glad for a second. I thought you were a Saint or something, but I should’ve realized who I was talking to. So I know you better than that.
Patty: Why do you think I came to Chicago?
Paolina: Right. Okay. And here we go. Why do you think I came to Chicago? Why did you come to Chicago?
Patty: Oh, well, of course, at the time I was in love and I thought this was going to be the answer. Um, but uh, part of it was when it didn’t turn out to be the answer, it was kind of a challenge for me to stick around and stay. Um, and it seemed like each time that I would go and look to move home, I would get a good job offer. And so I would just stick around just a little longer, just a little longer. And that’s just kind of, and it just got harder and harder to make that jump back.
Paolina: But do you think it was partly because if you did go back you would be closer to crazy? Uh, and it did it.
Patty: Yeah. No simple way to put that. Yeah. I mean it did make it a lot easier to deal with. Um, by the time I came out here, she, she had, uh, we were in the process. I think we had moved her into the nursing home by that point. Her, um, medical issues had gotten to a certain point. Her arthritis was bad. She had developed diabetes. Um, she had a little, a bit of hypertension. So there were some medical issues that in the residential place there, like I think she needs this extra level. My brother was very, very resistant. Um, and I think it was, yeah, maybe I was out here already, but it was about that time that she had shifted that, I shifted out here that she was shifting from residential into an a nursing home, which is where she spent the remainder of her years just not only for the mental illness, but she just had other issues that right. The residential places were not comfortable dealing with.
Paolina: Yeah. Yeah. Understood. And, and you being the youngest, like there were others who might be, uh, more equipped or more life experience to be able to handle some of that stuff.
Patty: I tried to be the cause of course my brother didn’t like to deal with the personal items, so I tried to insert myself at least as a distance. I would take care of her underclothes and you know, things like that and clothes and stuff like that. No, obviously my two sisters would help out with that kind of stuff. Um, but I did, you know, obviously still feel guilty cause I, my brother got the brunt of it. Obviously my dad was gone and, and so my brother got the brunt of it.
Paolina: And guilt, you know, guilt and shame and all that kind of crap. Right. What, what did you feel guilty for? What I mean, I’m curious because I think we all own
Patty: Because, you know, honestly looking back, who would have ever taken two small girls and left them alone with this woman who you knew had issues, but in the early seventies that’s what you did, number one. And number two, I, you know, I never had a conversation about it, but my thought was my father was like, if I take her away, take these girls away, that’s gonna be the end of her. Oh. So I think to a certain extent, he was trying to look out for her, this is just what you did in the 70s. They stay with the mom. And also if he took in the same thing when my dad got remarried, I mean that put her over the edge. If, if he had taken us away right at the beginning, probably would’ve put her over the edge at that point. You know?
Paolina: Yeah. Did you feel guilty because you were like trying to live your own life and that’s not allowed yet cause you know it’s not allowed, right. I mean we’re kidding if anyone’s, yes.
Patty: No I did feel guilty.I felt guilty. My brother got the brunt of it and he got the most of it cause part of me was just also very angry. It’s like you’re in your, you know, cause he is much older. You’re in your forties you’ve lived your life, you’ve had your life. I’m going to be tied down, I’m sorry to say in my twenties to this parent. And I just didn’t, I was very angry about it and I don’t know as if I ever verbalized that to them, but I was just like, I just want to have somewhat of a normal life and normal life.
Paolina: Yeah. How, how were you, so, so let’s talk about how did you, how did you balance, was trying to have a normal life. What did that look like and how was it impacted by not normal trying to continuously knock at your door?
Patty: I think she, because she was in a separate situation and not living with us, it made it a lot easier in that respect. But I also, I remembered spending one summer of home from college that I was not far from cause I went two hours, um, an hour and a half away to go to school. And I spent that summer, um, kind of doing the role reversal yet again where I would go and visit her every Tuesday and we would go and do something on Tuesday and then like every other week. And I tried to find a way to, to spend some time with her and it was really good time and we, she was in a good place and that worked out really well. And then I felt guilty when back to school and I couldn’t do it anymore. So, and, and then I didn’t pick it up again the next summer cause I was working hard or you know, um, Oh well. And then that was the time where dad was very, very ill. So he had, he passed away when I was in college. So then there was that hanging over our heads too
Paolina: What did he have? Prostate cancer. Oh wow.
Patty: So a year and a half after he was diagnosed, he passed away. So I was finishing up my junior year of college and he died.
Paolina: So you’re dealing, you’re dealing with an illness that will never go away. Right. And it’s just, you can’t fix the broken bone and be done with it on the mental, emotional, psychological side. And you’re dealing now with on the physical side, it’s an illness. It’s not going to go away. But the end of this one is the end of the individual. Yes. Right. Yep. So I know it’s a horrible question to ask, but you know me and I will ask, you don’t have to answer it, but in my own experience, there were times where I wished she had cancer or something because I knew there was an end. You could, you could be that loving giving daughter knowing that there was an end or even some, some guidebook of here’s what’s going to happen in month three in month four versus what we were dealing with, which never ended. Always, you were waiting for that other shoe to drop, right. Did you ever like,
Patty: Oh yeah, most definitely. I mean a mental illness is horrible cause I have conversations with my sister Judy, and she has such different memories of our mother because she grew up with a different mother, you know? Um, she talks about mom doing this and mom doing that. And mom used to sew clothes, mom used to do that and I mean I never got to see any of that stuff. So that does make me bitter in the fact that I didn’t get to see the good side of mom that she did. Right. You didn’t.
Paolina: Yeah. You didn’t. Yeah. And so, you know, I said, now you’re a mom. What plays into your mind as you now take on the role of what a mom is, what a mom needs to be, what you know, either by necessity or by even your own kind of thoughts of, no, no, I want to be the best mom I can. Versus the mom you grew up with, those that play a factor in how you raise your own kids or
Patty: I think parents always try to improve in what they add most definitely. Um, I think my biggest struggle is that last year when he was turning seven was my trigger because that was the summer for me when everything fell apart and I just look at them and go, wow, I can’t believe that I went through so much that summer. And I’m so grateful that he doesn’t have that. And so for me to look at that, for me, that’s my, my hardest thing is to not live in the past that way and just appreciate that we’re able to give him a cohesive home that’s not falling apart. That’s not crazy.
Paolina: And when you look at him, I mean seven’s pretty small, like, yeah, but when you think of yourself at seven like you don’t, you almost, you almost blame yourself for not doing more until you see seven.
Patty: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean that’s, that was probably the most emotional part is how, you know, you don’t realize how little you are when you go through this stuff on how young you are when you go through the stuff that you go through. Right, right.
Paolina: So have you ever, you know, one of the things that I always was worried about was getting it myself part of even why I don’t have kids. I mean there’s a lot of reasons, but part was, you know what I, so it was for me, my mom and my sister like, right. And I was like, I can’t do it a third time. You were similar, right. So I said, do you ever think
Patty: It’s definitely a concern. It really isn’t a concern. And um, I’ve had at least one niece who was, had, um, depressive issues and she had made it through, but at least in my anecdotal, um, past the people that I have known that have gone through this, it seems like they’ve had a trauma that I think you’re predisposed to it, but I think that trauma can trigger it. I know you’ve talked about your mother and sister and that kind of stuff. My mother lost her father when she was I think eight years old and they ended up living, my uncle said one time, like 30 different homes over a few year period because they were, you know, she had nowhere else to go. She had two small kids and you’re living in all these on the grace of good people and everything else. And so really who knows what may have happened in that whole thing. And of course for three years, not having a stable home, not essentially being homeless, but you don’t think of it that way. Cause she always had a bed to sleep in as far as I know. But I often wonder if that was something that triggered it. And my sister’s done some genealogy and there’s definitely some interesting things that have happened in the family tree that makes you wonder that yes, there’s probably a train of some genetics in there, but I, I would like to think that if I can somewhat shield my children from trauma, It’s difficult thing to do. Yeah. And I mean, I guess my whole thing for them is I try to make them as resilient in a strong as I can so that if they do have hardships, they can come out on the other side.
Paolina: Okay. And know that they have nobody they can come to without being fearful, without thinking, you know, wow, that’s a, I’m adding some kind of weird stigma or something and somebody who will understand and have that knowledge of what to do. Like what’s the next steps, what’s the smartest way to deal with this, you know, make it a safe zone kind of thing. You know. Now and when I asked you, you, um, also had, and we don’t have to talk about this, but you yourself have had some issues with a different kind of mental health. Do you want to touch on those and, yeah.
Patty: And I can’t even tell you cause I’ve been through much more trying situations before and afterward and why that particular situation sent me spinning into a very sad place. I have no idea.
Paolina: But let’s kind of set the stage for that situation. So for, for everyone kind of listening, Patty and I worked at a set the same place, um, different roles, different departments, and we just became friends. Um, ultimately petty, moved in with me. We were roomies for a while. Um, and the, the situation where we worked was, um, let’s just say a kind of dysfunctional, um, on different levels. And perhaps for Patty it was just a different level of dysfunction
Patty: They were asking a lot for the amount of time that I had.
Paolina: And so what happened? Because for somebody so accomplished and so, um, so equipped to handle a lot, right? Because you not only professionally but personally write juggler, et cetera. What, what happened? Because this, this whole topic also fascinates me because I, myself being pretty high functioning had my own scary bunny hole moments. Um, and I, I want to explore this because a lot of people think, and this is my opinion, a lot of people may think that, Oh, if I’m strong and I can do it all, and you know, that’s never going to touch me. I’m never going to be depressed. Just get yourself out of bed and get dressed and get going. Right. But sometimes the stronger people, because they’re trying to do it all on their own and nobody, like you feel almost as if you, you know what it’s like when someone needs help and how much time that takes. You don’t want to bug anybody else because you’re the one now who needs the help. Right. So, so set the stage for kind of what happened to you.
Patty: Well, I think part of it also is my sister was struggling back home.
Paolina: And by struggling you mean…
Patty: She actually, I don’t know if you could call them suicide attempts, but she was cutting herself and we didn’t understand at that time what cutting was.
Paolina: Um, this is Dorothy, you’re closest sibling.
Patty: Yes, yes. She was going through some terrible times and I was a thousand miles away. I didn’t know what I could do for her. Um, she was having her own trials and tribulations and it was very stressful for me. Um, I had broken up with the guy that, um, I had come out here, so that whole thing blew out. But I mean, I’d broken up with guys before. Um, I can’t even remember. And I mean it just seemed like everything came crashing at once. I mean, for all I know mom was having another crisis, who knows? Um, I think I was feeling guilt for being out there, um, and all that other stuff. And then they just kept asking more and more. And I do remember going to the president of the company and saying, look, I’ve got a lot coming down here. Um, I just need a little space in a little room. And he said, sure, fine. Sure, fine. And it still just kept coming. And I think that was part of it was just all of that. So it just came crashing and it, and it could have been just the fact that for so long, you know, you, you’re strong for so long, you keep going, you keep going. And finally, this is your, your tipping point where enough is enough.
Paolina: And so number one, when you ask for help, and, and even people are like, yeah, sure, but they never deliver, right? Then you’re like, Oh wait, okay, so I already tried that route, or you, I’m an idiot for train that route. Right. And you’re dealing with it on your own. And then you said that was the tipping point, right? What did your tipping point look like? What was the ultimate, the, the lowest level in the basement that you went to?
Patty: I don’t think I had a huge crash or anything else. It was just hard to get out of bed. Oh, I know what finally put me over where I finally left and didn’t come back to work. I went back home for vacation and all I could think about was my job. And it wasn’t like I had a high powered job. It wasn’t like people were depending on me or anything else. But all I could do was worry about that job. I couldn’t relax and spend time with my family and, and just enjoy my vacation. All I can think about was all this stuff that I had to get done back right back at where we were working. And I think that was finally, I was like, okay, I can’t do it anymore. And at well, and the other thing is walking through those doors just made me cry. Just the thought of walking through the doors would make me cry. And for me, that was the final point of I can’t do this anymore. And again, I don’t know why because I’ve had much more stressful jobs. I’ve had much more, um, places where people have depended on me and everything else and why I put it on myself as well as yes, it was being put upon me. I don’t know. And that was it.
Paolina: I remember. So when we were living together, I do remember you, you had just, it was almost as if, um, you had, I don’t want to use the word given up, but like you had given up, like you completely shut down.
Patty: I completely shut down.
Paolina: Yeah. I remember that. And it was, it was a challenge to even know what to do or say, knowing that there were so many things that people say that are stupid, you know what I mean? And I’m like, okay, don’t say that. Okay. Don’t say that. But it’s so funny cause it’s like naturally you want to like, say something, right? Like, you know, like here’s the, here’s a piece of cake Patty. It’ll make you feel better. Right. Yeah. Which doesn’t really work. Um, so, so how did you then, um, get yourself out of bunny hole?
Patty: Oh, well, someone I know referred me to a very good psychologist and, um, and she was very instrumental in just getting me to realize that, you know, it wasn’t my crap, you know, it was not. Um, and just kind of helped me dig my way up out of a hole. I can’t, I can’t even say I didn’t have this big aha moment. It was just realizing how to do self-care and realizing to look out for myself and realizing that my sister’s problems were not my problems in that my mother’s problems were not my problems, which was hard and it still is hard because you want to be there for your family members. But at that point I just couldn’t do it right. In fact, I didn’t tell anybody what was going and my family through that whole thing. I think, I think I probably told Dorothy soon about time where I started to feel better, but I didn’t tell my brother, my sister and my stepmother, mind you, I have a wonderful stepmother now, not the horrible one. Um, and I didn’t tell people for a long time because it’s a very shameful thing and you do, like you said, and um, before, you know, you don’t want to go down that road. You don’t want to imagine yourself being there. And that’s, and I think that was the other thing is that fear of, Oh God, is this going to happen to me? Right. You know, and I think I always knew I wasn’t, but it’s always still there. Yeah. It is always still there. Yeah. You know, I, you know, I heard you say something about celebrating your 30th and I had four parties, um, when I turned 30 for the very similar reason. Again, I knew I didn’t have that kind of mental illness, but just the fact that you made it through to the other side was a huge relief. It really, really was.
Paolina: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. And, um, and honestly, you know, just to take a minute to shout out, um, to Lynn who I think we’ve kept her in business for a while, you meet a whole bunch of other, um, connections. But, uh, she, there are, there are people who become therapists who maybe that’s not their highest calling. Um, and I’ve seen some of those and unfortunately I think people are out there seeing some of those people and, and not even realizing that maybe there are the other ones who will help you get to the other side. And so they kind of give up. Right? It’s kinda like, no therapy didn’t work for me, but Lynn, um, I think was meant to do what she does and she is unique in really drilling down to you, your experience, what you’re going through and helping you get help. Um, so kudos to her. For me it was a lifesaver so, well,
Patty: And I’m a very logical, pragmatic kind of person. I think for me it was, she said, okay to do this paperwork to do the disability and that was taking that disability for a little while was a bit of a, a shot in the ego to say the least. But she made me fill out like a form. And, uh, I remember putting on paper, you know, you have to say, you know, have you had these kinds of things and is getting out of bed hard, is doing this hard. It’s doing that heart. And to see that actually put it on paper was like a bit stunning cause I, you realize it’s like, okay, if I’m going to be very honest about this stuff, wow, this is, this is where I am right now. And it’s just a rotten place to be. And I think for me that was to accept that I had done a little bit of therapy in college just trying to deal with some issues, but that was the first time where it was truly depressive and realizing, okay, it’s time you need to really take a look and, and, uh, take care of yourself properly here
Paolina: And to actually a, have some, a support person, right. Can kind of help you walk through that without like losing your shit that, Oh my God, I am this right. I am. I am. It’s sort of like, I’m sort of like, you know, in my mind here, there’s a great example in my mind. Um, when I had my wedding, uh, and we did the orchestrated, uh, dance, the wedding dance, in my mind when I was doing the dance, I thought I looked like, you know, Dancing with the Stars. Right? But then when you play it back on video and you see yourself, you’re like, Oh my God, what was I thinking? Not nearly as graceful. Not at all. Yeah. No one is seeing that video. But, um, but in this case, actually there’s always that denial, right? Like, no, I can’t be, no, I can handle it on my own. No, I can’t. You don’t want to do that when you are forced to, whether it’s write-in or tick off boxes and you do realize, wait a minute, this is something that’s documented that people have, right? Just like a broken bone, cancer, et cetera. I’ve got this. So I need, I need the treatment to get better. And yet when it’s something that’s mental, emotional, whatever we’re calling it, psychological, there is such shame and stigma. Why, why do you think that is versus, I mean, okay, we both worked at a place that dealt with people who are blind or visually impaired, right? Nobody was pointing to them and saying, you know, why can’t you just like, you know, wake up, put those glasses on and see something? Right? No, of course not. But what to those with a mental health issue, it’s why can’t you just get up out of bed and, right. So why and, and that you don’t even want to admit that you’ve got that issue. Why is it in your opinion, like so different between a physical illness, getting treatment and the mental, emotional, psychological
Patty: I dunno, it’s the big question of the whole thing and you know, why can’t you just be stronger? You know? And that’s where it really comes down to is you, some people can deal with it and go forward and they’re stronger and some people just don’t have those skills and there’s, you know, it’s seen as a flaw if you can’t go forward and doing it. Um, at least it seems like, um, it’s almost a good thing to have a diagnosis of bipolar or schizophrenia and things like that. But if just plain old depression, it still seems to be an issue. Right. You know, why can’t you just do it? I had a conversation with my brother cause you know, he’s been very fortunate that he hasn’t had these kinds of issues to my knowledge. And I remember him getting frustrated with my sister who just couldn’t seem to get out of her own way. And he said, well why can’t you do this? I said, because that’s part of it. What can she do this that’s, she can’t do that. It just, you don’t understand how hard it is to get out of bed every day and do what you’re supposed to do. And it just is what it is. And it’s hard to explain to somebody who hasn’t been through it.
Paolina: Right. And what’s the best thing in your mind? Like, what do you wish somebody would’ve said to you or what’s like a piece of advice to anyone who is dealing with someone else who is depressed or who is, or even themselves. Right. What thoughts do you have on what should be said or shouldn’t be said?
Patty: More than anything else. Seeing what happened with my sister, my stepmother tried to get her help and she lived with her for a while. My, she lived with my brother for a while. He tried to get her help and everything else and at least for her, she was the one who found the program that worked for her. Um, she really was the one who pulled herself up and out. Um, everybody is different. I mean, you can offer the programs, you can put it out there and everything else. I guess more than anything else, just, um, make sure that they know there’s resources out there, um, and offer them up. But, you know, stupid saying you can’t lead a horse to water. They have to make that decision because if they’re not going to commit to it and want to do it, I don’t see an easy way of doing it. I mean, yes, you can commit somebody against their will and you can get them to a certain point, but somewhere along the way they have to just do it.
Paolina: Right. Well, I do remember, um, with, we have a cat who’s performing for us, let’s just say he’s playing with his tail. And he was angry at his tail anyway. I remember with my little sister did everything for her. And by everything, I mean actually, I mean from, from financial, yes. You know, uh, paying for everything, um, navigating medical systems, navigating the psych system, dealing with a neighbor’s housing, like doing everything. And I’m not saying perfectly, but everything. Yeah. And it didn’t matter because, and that’s a sad statement to make because you are 100% right. It has to be within an individual, whether it’s you, me, them to actually want to do all the hard work to get themselves out of their current situation, whatever madness that might be, whatever form that I take theirs.I know of too many people even now who have like a daughter or whatever it is that’s dealing with stuff and they are asking, what, what else can I do? Why can’t I can’t fix her? I can’t. No, you can’t. You can’t. And that’s gotta be the toughest pill for anybody to swallow. Yeah. Right. So, so anyway, um, okay, sorry. Like, and now at, no. Um, all right, so very, very, let’s call it serendipitous that the two of us ever even met. Yeah. The fact that our lives, like, it’s like parallel lives and in many, many ways, um, not only a parent, but a sibling and ourselves. And yet we’ve both come out kind of the other side, right.
Patty: And a little more damaged. But yes. Stronger.
Paolina: But yes, well, you know what, stronger, right?
Patty: Yeah. So I don’t regret, It’s made us who we are.
Paolina: Right, right. And that has made us in great part who we are. True. Yes. I mean, Oh definitely. Yeah. And in my mind too, you know, one of the things that has kind of, um, helped me is almost like, you know, is not, not to run away from it, right. And just to realize like well, ironically it sounds crazy, but to, to make friends with the man, it’s like that part of you cause cause look, I don’t care who you are. Everybody has this, right, this black, white, dark light, whatever we want to call it. Um, in them, there, if you, I think it’s that whole concept of, um, what you resist persists. And that goes for not acknowledging that maybe there’s something, right, but also not being so afraid of it that, that everything you think is like, Oh my God, I’m mentally ill. Right. It’s, you know, it’s just, it’s life, right? It’s that whole up and down.
Patty: It is who we are. There’s just no two ways about it.
Paolina: Right. No. Well, and I, and I like who you are,
Patty: so well thank you very much.
Paolina: Notice she didn’t say that right. I was waiting for that. That reverse compliment but okay.
Patty: Well if you fish for it. No, no. I mean I think it also, um, you know, as we’ve said, we’ve both run into people in similar situations and suddenly it just like Bing, Oh yes, I had a similar situation. Yeah. It’s like I knew I liked you for reasons. Right, exactly. It’s really, it really does kind of come down to that as is your, you are who you are from your experiences. Right, right.
Paolina: And for you and, and your experiences and, and who you have, um, grown into being, do you see it as some piece of the puzzle in terms of what your purposes are, what you’re doing with your life or not that, not that you should or, or might at this point, but do you think to yourself, huh?
Patty: No, I mean it seems like when I was a kid I was the one that everybody would like spill their guts too. And I remember being a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but just because I was kind of an introvert, introvert and quiet and everything else, I would just listen to it and they’d be like, you know, you’re the really nicest person. It’s like, I just don’t know what else to say to you, but I feel like for a while there, that was kind of my role in life. And I don’t know, maybe I’ll come back round to it right now things are just very busy and the whole bit. But yeah, now I hate to say it. I’ve become selfish in my life and I’m doing things for myself and um, but I mean, I’d like to think I have a good circle of friends and they could come to me at any time. But as a purpose in life, no, I don’t see myself being quite that lofty.
Paolina: Yeah. Well, and you know what, I’m not, I’m gonna, I’m going to say I don’t view it as, um, as lofty. And I know you were joking. I don’t view it as lofty. If, if that purpose is to like actually help others through it, which you don’t know right now, right. What it might even evolve into if anything. But the one thing I do want to kind of underscore I’m with you is I am actually really glad that you said you’re being selfish. And I, I don’t view that at all as selfish like the way most people kind of interpret that word because what I know is had my mother been more selfish, right? Maybe even yours, maybe you yourself at the job, had you been more selfish or had more self-care, maybe you wouldn’t have gone down that bunny hole right? To even start with, because there’s gotta be that, that putting on your own oxygen mask before you help others. Right. Definitely. And I think too often caregivers, we forget that. And that’s how we get ourselves into trouble. And that’s when not only can we not help others, but we, we get lost ourselves. You know what I mean? When do you agree?
Patty: Oh, definitely. Yeah. Yeah.
Paolina: So now being selfish, that’s going to be the the target, the intention for every single day.
Patty: I’m sound good. My family would tell you I’m very good at that. Not being the youngest in my family. Yes. I’m kind of used to getting my own way.
Paolina: So that’s why you have children to show you that you’re not going to get your own way. Yes. We have that conversation a lot too. Is there anything else that you maybe want to kinda touch on that helping to talk about that I didn’t know.
Patty: I had no idea where you were going to go other than, you know, the whole madness thing. No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I, I’m trying to think, I’m just trying to, to, you know, the climate as it is these days is very hateful and um, I just think we can use more kindness and people, you need to see it on Facebook and Instagram, all that. You never know what somebody else is going through. So, and I try to keep that in mind when I see things happen and I also try to keep it in mind when I have my kids out and something happens and I’m just like, let’s just be kind more than anything else. Um, and try to live my life that way.
Paolina: Thank you. And if anybody out there, um, if this resonates, if you’ve got a story to tell, um, do share it with us, we’d love to hear from you. All right until we meet again. Bye. Bye.
Paolina Milana: Thanks so much for listening to Madness to Magic and my podcast, I’m With Crazy, A Love Story. I believe we’re all here for a purpose, and I know that this is part of mine. Please share this with anyone you think might benefit or might even have a story of their own to share. You also can visit me at madnesstomagic.com or check out more of my stories including info on my book, The S Word, at paolinamilanawrites.com. I hope to hear from you and to join forces with what I consider a unique caregiver tribe as we all learn to embrace all of ourselves, to have compassion for others and to come into our full power by the grace that is both madness and magic. Until we meet again, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite mantras. Be bold and mighty forces shall come to your aid. Thank you.