Lori Schafer : A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness

My mother's mental illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future.

It is a great honour to have the talented author, Lori Schafer share with you her thoughts and a brief excerpt from her book today on the blog as my guest blogger. I wish her great success with her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness

Only a Dream

Every so often, I have a dream about my mother.
The dreams differ in story, but never in setting – they take place in a little ranch-style house in the suburbs, very much like the one in which I was raised. The characters, too, are always the same. My mother and me, living peacefully together in our old family home.
Even in the dreams, I always find myself puzzled by such an arrangement. It’s been twenty-four years since I lived in the same house with my mother, twenty-four years since I’ve so much as seen her, and when the dreams begin, I find myself wandering cautiously about, like a time traveler who has been dropped down into the midst of an unknown scenario and who is uncertain of what she will find.
Mom is never insane in the dreams. At least, she doesn’t seem to be. She has no delusions, makes no murderous threats or wild accusations; is indistinguishable, in fact, from any other run-of-the-mill mom. Oftentimes it develops that we are still part of a family, she and I, a rather ordinary mother and daughter with rather ordinary mother-daughter problems. I might be in the kitchen cooking while she’s taking a shower, she might be coming into my room to wake me for work; there might even be a man in the picture, yet one more stepfather to add to the list.
No, there’s nothing extraordinary about Mom in the dreams, nothing to suggest that she’s unwell or unbalanced or in any way a danger to herself or to me. Yet somehow I know, somehow I always suspect it’s a cover, a carefully formed mask or disguise. Somewhere inside I know something’s not right. Somewhere inside I know it, I feel it. I can’t fall for the lie.
I begin to plan my escape. Even in the dreams, I plan my escape; I determine how quickly I can go and be gone, what I need to take with me, what I won’t leave behind. I always need money, a car, and a license; I can acquire new clothes, a new job, a new home, a new life.
But I never make it. I never get out of that house before my apprehension wakes me, before I snap to alertness as abruptly as if I hadn’t been sleeping, wondering in that instant when she’s coming to get me, wondering how I could have been so stupid as to allow myself to be drawn back into the trap. How could I still be living with her?
And then I remember. My mother is dead now. Gone. Passed on. There’s no need anymore for me to keep trying to leave her, no reason for me any longer to fear her.
Because surely this is what the dreams are about? My lasting anxiety, my residual fear?
Perhaps. But sometimes I wonder whether it’s not the end of the dream, but the beginning part that reveals what I’m reluctant to consciously feel. Whether that image of home and the two of us in it is the real dream that I’ve been denied, the real reason I sometimes revisit that place that should have been mine, that place that should have been ours. That place that should have given me what I wanted and needed: a house, a home, a family, a mom.
Yes, sometimes I wonder. Then I remind myself – that, too, is only a dream.
My mother's mental illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future.

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness

It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.
Then came my mother’s psychosis.
I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.
My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.
But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.
She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until 2013 that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness is now available in eBook and paperback on Amazon.

About Lori

0d02b6688696e859198a688c8ec2b773Lori Schafer is a writer of serious prose, humorous erotica and romance, and everything in between. Her flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her memoir On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened: A Daughter’s Memoir of Mental Illness won a Gold Medal in the 2015 eLit Book Awards. Her second memoir, It’s the Iron: How My Iron Deficiency Anemia was Misdiagnosed as Arthritis, and Why Your Depression, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Pain and Fatigue Might Be Low Iron, Too, will be released in 2018.
When she isn’t writing (which isn’t often), Lori enjoys playing ice hockey, attending beer festivals, and spending long afternoons reading at the beach in the sunshine.
To receive special offers from Lori, please visit her website at http://lorilschafer.com, where you may subscribe to her newsletter or follow her blog. You are also welcome to email her directly at lorilschafer(at)outlook(dot)com with any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. No requests for advice on your love life, though. She’ll give it to you, but you probably won’t be thrilled with the results.
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“We Are All Miss America”

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  1. Wow I can only say “SNAP” to say many things Lori says here. My mum died early 2007, and had a mental illness; I only found out she died in mid 2011 – 4 1/2 years later. Oh, and my recurrent dream I am also plotting and planning my escape from home and how I could take and provide for my younger siblings. I was 19 when I left home, back in 1986, so it was a very long time ago! The dream is a lot rarer these days.

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