In 2008 I wrote a memoir entitled What Remains Inside. It recounted my experiences with my mother who suffered from severe mental illness. I wrote my memoir during the year she was dying of leukemia. We had been estranged for almost 20 years.
Recently, I was thinking about her psychosis and I remembered an event that happened in 1970. This memory was nothing new. It was something our whole family recalled and my mother often recounted (at least her version of it). Other than my mother's retelling, not one other adult in our family EVER mentioned it. This was how my mother told the story (over and over throughout my childhood).
I had a terrible headache. Back then, I never drank alcohol and I had a beer that night. I went upstairs to lay down because my headache kept getting worse and worse.
I had had a stroke.
They took me to the hospital and did brain surgery. They drilled two holes in my head (she'd point out where on the crown of her head, or have us touch the soft spots. Like a piece of leather stretched over a hollow hole, about the size of a quarter). They drilled the holes to release the pressure in my brain.
I went into a coma for six weeks. The doctors didn't they they could save me. And, your dad. He knelt by my bed every day and cried. He prayed over and over "God please don't take Bunny from me."
I was going to die and they called in the Catholic priest. He gave me last rights.
I remember being on an escalator, there was a bright light at the end. I was going up and up. I saw another escalator--I felt such a sense of peace. Then I noticed people I loved and missed so much. They were waving to me. I smiled at them and headed up towards the light. Then, I realized.
They are all dead. These people are all dead.
I woke up.
Whether all of her story was true, she had been taken to the hospital and she underwent brain surgery. The doctors did drill two holes in her head. When she returned home, she was a completely different person. My mother was severely mentally ill for the remainder of her life. She attempted suicide on many occasions, had psychotic episodes, lacked inhibitions, abused drugs & alcohol, and was violent.
As she had with her other pregnancies, I suspect that my mother again experienced postpartum psychosis after my brother was born. I suspect she was underwent psychosurgery, something like a lobotomy.
But I don't really know.
Through interviews, family archives, and diaries I am setting out to find out what happened to my mother. I don't have a lot of hope that my journey will take me too far because so much time has passed and very few people who knew her then are still alive. But maybe...
The post that follows is a video epilogue to What Remains Inside. It is a reflection almost 10 years later. I made the video to add context to the horrific story of abuse that my memoir presents.