Archive for April 13th, 2011


Living in a Shell

April 13, 2011
Nautilus House

Read More at Geekologie

 “There is,” Gwin writes, “such a thing as crazy-mother bonding. This can occur unexpectedly anytime two women who have crazy mothers are having a conversation. . . . There are more crazy mothers than you might think.”

~ Wishing for Snow: A Memoir ~ Minrose Gwin

About Daughters of Madness

June was 9 years old when she came home from school and her schizophrenic mother met her at the door, angrily demanding to know, “Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my house?” In another family, Tess repeatedly saw her mother wait outside church then scream at family friends as the emerged, accusing them of spying on and plotting to kill her. Five-year-old Tess and her 7-year-old brother would just cry, begging their mother to take them home as onlookers stared. These are just two of the stories gathered for this book as psychotherapist Nathiel conducted interviews. The children, now adults, grew up with mentally ill mothers at a time when mental illness was even more stigmatizing than it is today. They are what Nathiel calls “the daughters of madness,” and their young lives were lived on shaky ground. “Telling someone that there’s mental illness in your family, and watching the reaction is not for the faint-hearted,” the therapist says, quoting another’s research. But, she adds, “Telling them that it is your mother who is mentally ill certainly ups the ante.” A veteran therapist with 35 years experience, Nathiel takes us into this traumatic world–with each of her chapters covering a major developmental period for the daughter of a mentally ill mother–and then explains how these now-adult daughters faced and coped with mental illness in their mothers.

While the stories of these daughters are central to the book, Nathiel also offers her professional insights into exactly how maternal impairment affects infants, children, and adolescents. Women, significantly more than men, are often diagnosed with serious mental illness after they become parents. So what effect does a mentally ill mother have on a growing child, teenager or adult daughter, who looks to her not only for the deepest and most abiding love, but also a sense of what the world is all about? Nathiel also makes accessible the latest research on interpersonal neurobiology, attachment, and the way a child’s brain and mind develop in the contest of that relationship. Some of the major topics addressed include:

    * Feelings of guilt in the child – Is it my fault?
    * Keeping the secret
    * Role reversal – when child acts as parent
    * Fear of the same fate
    * Building resilience and accepting help
    * Insights from daughters of mothers who were schizophrenic, psychotic, severely depressed, paranoid, and personality-disordered.

Manic Depression by James Hammons

You talk about the importance of the connection between mothers and daughters because daughters identify with their mothers, and the mother is the first model for how to be a “woman.” What impact does having a mentally ill mother do to a daughter’s sense of self?

Susan Nathiel: There are two parts to this answer. First, when a child’s primary care-giver (usually mother) is impaired psychologically, this has an overall effect on the child’s developing sense of self. A core sense of self is strongest when the caregiver can be reasonably attentive, can have many more positive interactions than negative with the child, and can mirror the child’s expressions and experiences. No mother is perfect, obviously. But a child’s sense of the world and her place in it, and her place in her own body and mind, is formed in the web of interaction with the mother, hour to hour and day to day and year to year.

Manic Depression by neogothic-jam on deviantart

The second part of the answer has to do more specifically with being the daughter of an impaired mother. For a young child, “how mother is” and “how women are” can be one and the same. So if mother is volatile, mean, depressed, or neglectful, this can be confusing to the daughter. Being a woman may seem to be a bad thing, so a girl may do her best to be not-like-her-mother. Many women I interviewed said they didn’t really know how to be a “woman” – they didn’t admire their mother, or want to be anything like her. It was very hard to separate what was the illness, what was the person, and what was the woman. So if a girl doesn’t want to be anything like her mother, where does she find a role model? “Being a woman” is something we learn most easily by identifying with a woman we want to emulate – it’s not something we naturally know how to be.

Nautilus cutaway

Shell Essences

Fossil Nautilus: Connecting to the Love Within. Remembrance of Forgotten Gifts

Totemic Energy

Nautilus – A symbol of beauty and proportional perfection. When a nautilus appears in a dream or meditation, it is there to teach you how to make your living environment a safe and comfortable place to be.  Nautilus teaches you to sense, intuitively, the sacred geometry of any environment.



The Nautilus

Artist: Lynette Shelley, Curious Creatures