Dianne’s mama

The data which supports a genetic link with major mental illnesses may be complicated by living at home with one’s mama.  This raises the chicken and egg dilemma to new heights when attempting to untangle cause and effect.  Dianne was the client, a referral by the University of Missouri Medical Center’s psychiatric department, while her mama was always lurking in background.  This is probably the natural byproduct of having an offspring with a major psychosis.  At 30, Dianne had lived her entire life with mama.

Dianne was a delightful and quite talkative paranoid type “person with schizophrenia”, as they like to say in politically correct circles.  She discussed her delusions openly with anyone who would listen.  She had her own car and drove wherever she wished at will.  One preoccupation was with the folks who would steal her car and drive it as needed.  She was never able to catch them in the act, nor was her car ever physically missing that she could report, but there was never a question that things were happening to her car in her absence.

Because of her concern a friendly mechanic told her, and showed her in detail, how to remove the rotor from the distributor in her car when she was not using it.  Rendering the car inoperable in this manner was not quite sufficient so Dianne also chained the car to a tree in the yard or to a post on the front porch.  On asking whether this multi-layer protection worked, she indicated it was still not enough, as she often felt the hood of the car, and the engine was radiating heat from being driven.  This little bit of physics was a free gift from the same mechanic to help Dianne discriminate those occasions when the car had been taken.  Whether he added the sun as a possible complicating factor was not considered, as the thief always took the car at night.

Rehab circles at the time suggested that finding constructive ways to express a delusion might help the individual deal with such preoccupations.  A case illustration at the time was of an office worker who was advised to write down her most interesting visions on her desk calendar as a way to “handle” such distractions.  The rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say, was that the calendar created some pretty exciting reading.  I opted for a much simplified approach which was to worry about the car only when it was not there, and discuss it with others only when it was really missing.  As Dianne had visited the local police station on several occasions, presumably about her car that was always there, the police had trouble raising much concern over her allegations.

Dianne was a high school graduate who had never worked, but expressed the wish to work rather clearly.  She was open to the kinds of work she would consider and had no particular skills to qualify for work beyond those which might be learned on the job by most folks.  With mama’s consent, we settled upon an on-the-job training program as ageneral hand at a local nursing home.  Her duties excluded direct patient care, but included regular tasks in the kitchen, dining room and laundry.  The home’s management and charge nurse were fully informed about Dianne’s impairment.  How readily she would learn to perform regular tasks was anybody’s guess.

During several weeks of on-the-job experience, the only feedback I received was through Dianne, often a good sign.  Her reaction was similar to that of any adolescent on a first job.  There were certain tasks that were fine, some were difficult, and others she did not like.  This rather uneventful several weeks also produced a fascinating social interaction between Dianne and the building maintenance employee.  She described a few instances of his “coming on” to her while she was working in the laundry.  For some reason she felt obliged to discuss this with me, rather than her mama.

While I was instrumental in setting up her program at the nursing home, and monitoring her reactions with the other employees there, I had no interest in replacing her mama’s prominent position in Dianne’s life.  I likely assumed a father’s traditional role to a daughter to go slowly and carefully, and stay focused primarily upon the job rather than the social opportunities.  It seemed to me that Dianne was dealing with all she could reasonably handle without piling complications onto that experience.

On occasion social relationships may be a central impetus to ones motivation.  This was clearly the case with Bill Bailey’s story to follow, but a serious distraction for Dianne.  On occasion all one may go on is gut reactions, for better or worse.

At about this same time I was involved in organizing a Toastmaster’s Club in Columbia.  During one of our regular meetings Dianne’s mama called my home and talked to my wife.  She was looking for her daughter, and was clearly frustrated that she could not find her.  She asked to talk to me, and was told that I was not at home, either.  Mama’s immediate response was “Do you suppose they are somewhere together?”  She was assured that this was not a possibility.

Reflecting on Mama’s telephone call, when things and/or people go missing unexpectedly, every good mother would like to know they are safe.  If Dianne’s car is still tied to the tree in front, she may be in the basement taking a full body mud bath.  If the car is gone, then probably the car and Dianne are off together.  This may be good news.

One fairly lengthy discussion with Dianne covered the full dirt basement in mama’s home, and the large recess in the middle of the floor which, when filled with water, created a pool of mud.  Such mud baths were all the rage at the time to assist with maintaining or enhancing ones physical beauty.  Dianne’s counselor was unable to figure out how Dianne could earn a living in Mama’s basement, and do so legally.  As I recall the thorough discussion of mud baths never came up again.  I don’t know if Dianne’s mama even knew about the carryings-on in her basement.  I am still not certain the mud baths were any more real than Dianne’s car being missing.  I was not about to check into Mama’s basement to trust, but verify.  I would rather not know.

Ignorance, on occasion, is bliss.  At other times it is fatal!!

        Hello!  Real World.  Are you really out there? 

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