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Shannel's Story

Voices in Her Head
My mother's mental illness haunts us both.

By: Shannel W.

When I was 4 years old, my mother went into the hospital. We found out she had a mental illness called schizophrenia. After that, she was in and out of the hospital a lot.

A year later, my mom left me in our apartment by myself. A social worker found me looking like a mess and brought me to live with my grandmother.

Still, I remember that my mom and I were close when I was little. I wanted a pet so my mom got me a cat named Lulu. I also had a little jewelry box. I used to put on jewelry and my mother's shoes and play dress up.

My mother and I would go to the park to jump rope and play hand games. We would watch my favorite video, Michael Jackson's "Do You Remember the Time?" We would sing along and dance until we both got in bed to sleep.

Do I Know This Person?
Over the years, my mother changed because of her sickness. She gained weight from the medicine and she had mood swings, heard voices and seemed confused.

When my mother starts to get worse, she acts scared and calls me up to say she hears voices, and that someone from her past is telling her they are going to take me away. She sometimes says, "I'm gonna kill myself," or, "Someone's gonna kill me."

Other times she'll look at me like I am someone she does not know. Once in the kitchen I tapped her and she turned around and asked, "Who are you?" I said, "Shannel."

Then she remembered and said, "Oh, what is it that you wanted, baby?" I know that she does not know how she is acting.

Whenever my mother is doing better I feel hopeful that her illness will go away forever, and that we can live together as mother and daughter. My mom stayed out of the hospital for a whole year once. But this year, she was in and out of the hospital about 11 times.

When she does a 180, I think to myself, "Do I know this person? Who is she? Who is this inside my mother's body?" I try to tell her, "Wake up!" but it does not work.

I know my mother's sickness is not like a broken leg, where a doctor can patch her back up again. Still, she knows to put herself in the hospital when she's getting sicker. "If she can do that," I wonder, "Why can't she make herself better? "

Confused Inside
Not having my mother, I've felt unhappy, angry and confused inside. I am grateful to be living with my grandmother but I want my mommy.

I've never told my grandmother how I feel, but I think she knows. My grandmother often asks me, "Did you talk to your mother today?" I'm glad that my grandmother encourages me to visit my mother and makes sure that my mother feels welcome in our house.

"Reprinted with permission from Rise Magazine, Copyright 2010 by Youth Communication/New York Center, Inc. ("


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