I was born in coastal North Carolina at Cherry Point, a Marine Corps Air Station. My dad, a retired USMC sergeant, was an aircraft mechanic at the base. Mom stayed at home to take care of me and my brother Moses (Mo, as we affectionately called him), who is eight years older than me.
I do have some really great early memories of my family growing up in NC. I remember us having this big backyard and huge garden with tons of veggies and fruits. We had several sweet dogs. I even remember the road we lived on and the modest house our family lived in. On weekends, we would go crabbing on a river at the base and scoop up coolers full of blue crab.
Our family would regularly go pier fishing near Morehead City. We would catch so many fish: mackerel, blues, sharks, flounder and kingfish. We’d haul our fish home and mom would cook an amazing meal.
I do remember my mom being so smart, kind, gentle and loving. The kind of mom Mo and I needed.
Unfortunately, these memories became overshadowed by the impending turmoil.
The manifestation of symptoms
When I around 5 years old, I remember my mom started to act different (or maybe she had been this way a while and I was just starting to notice it). Regardless, some of my earliest childhood memories are of her “odd” behavior. I recall my parents arguing about it, a lot. She would be adamant about someone coming into the house and moving her personal items (her purse, a wallet, a book--random objects). My father would explain it was not true and locate the item for her, but it would still turn into a long drawn out argument. My brother, 8 years older than me, and I initially thought she was misplacing and forgetting where she put things. What we didn’t realize is this was just the beginning of her mental disorder.
By age 6, this was almost a daily occurrence. Mom would declare another one of her items was missing. Dad, being the impatient and stern man he was, would argue, yell, curse and call her names. Mom would scream back. This was a daily pattern in our home.
What is a delusion?
A delusion is a belief that in reality is not true. It is often a characteristic or a symptom of a mental disorder or illness. When someone has a delusion, they firmly believe it to be true. It is a firm fact in their mind–just like we know the sky is blue, the grass is green or George Washington was the first U.S. president. We all believe those things to be facts. The same goes for a person experiencing a delusion. You cannot convince a person with a delusion what they believe to not be true. There is no talking, persuading or enough evidence you could give to make the person think otherwise.
So with mom there was NOTHING we could do or say to make her think differently. Eventually, everyone in our family just grew frustrated with her delusions. How do we handle this? How do we respond to her? She truly believed someone was coming into the house and moving her things no matter what any of us said. She never believed us despite what we told her.
At age 7, we moved to Florida. Dad had requested a job transfer to NAS Jacksonville. I think my dad believed moving or a change of scenery would help mom and make a difference with her thinking. Of course, it didn’t. My parents were still constantly arguing about things being moved in the house. The arguments grew more heated and verbally abusive. The frustration of mom not believing him made my dad more exasperated and angrier by the day. What we didn't know was that her symptoms would become more intense with time and what happened next was something we would not be prepared for.