DEAR ABBY: I am in my 30s and have a disability. I live with my mother. The problem is, she belittles and shames me. It is bad enough to deal with schizophrenia without constantly being insulted.
I have heard her tell people that I have ruined her life. Abby, I have never been violent, I have always taken my medication, and I do practically everything in the home. I'm clean and neat, I don't party or do drugs, I don't drink or smoke, I have no children, I have never been promiscuous, and I am a Christian.
Mother tells people that when she dies, she knows that my older siblings will put me in a home. This is insulting, because I am intelligent and can handle my own affairs. It also hurts because it implies that no one cares about me. She has even said that the only reason people associate with me is because of her. (As though our family and friends belong only to her.)
What I have mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm so tired of being disrespected, but I have put up with it this long without offering a single word in my own defense. How should I go about letting my mother know that I deserve the same respect she so readily gives to everyone else? -- DISCOURAGED IN THE SOUTHEAST
DEAR DISCOURAGED: Since such a large part of your mother's existence revolves around being a "martyr mother," it probably won't be easy. Waste no time in enlisting some help. The psychotherapist who issues your prescriptions is in a position to advocate for you -- and to clarify for your mother and siblings the degree to which you are able to live on your own if and when the need arises.
In contrast to decades past, there is much information available about schizophrenia for anyone who is interested. The World Psychiatric Association sponsors a Web site, "Schizophrenia: Open the Doors" (www.openthedoors.com), and you can find referrals to local chapters of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) that provide emotional and educational support for people with -- and families of people with -- all the major mental disorders. The toll-free number is (800) 950-6264 (NAMI). The Web address is: www.nami.org.
Although you may feel isolated and all alone in your mental illness, nothing could be further from the truth. I urge you to reach out and join a support group of other people who are coping with the same problems you are. You will find it both encouraging and empowering. Trust me.