We’ve all worn them at one time or another, the eyeglasses of “Okayness.” They are colored lenses, shades which give us an impression of Okayness when something has gone too bright or we don’t want anyone to see the black eye. “There’s nothing we can do” we may say as we put on the colored eyeglasses “so, we shouldn’t try. We’ll just pretend we see something other than the truth.”
The lenses we wear offer a fake view of what’s actually taking place, framing something other than the truth. We get so used to wearing the frames that they’ve became a way of life, a way of being, a way of “truthing.”
What if we never removed lenses which wonderfully bent our reality for us so that we could survive a distorted childhood?
The precious child of a mentally ill parent may find himself in a unique position as an adult. We may have been instructed verbally or by example by the other parent to “put on the glasses,” pretend, to keep the secret, to harbor the shame. If we keep viewing a mentally ill parent through a colored lens, then the hope we hide might actually come true in the best of ways. What kid doesn’t want a parent to be whole? If we tell ourselves a parent is OK then surely they will be, eventually.
These colored glasses we wore for school, church, community, and at home, especially at home. We were taught to view the circus fun house as “just fine,” the hall of distorted mirrors as wonderful. We were taught to pretend madness was okay.
But the popularity of being the family with the monkeys, the place where strawberries were grown not for the family but for a family of slugs — (“Don’t you dare eat them. They’re intended for the slugs!”), the sheer weirdness and novelty were not OK. You have your own equally astonishing stories. No one can say we children of mentally ill parents lived a boring existence. But underneath was felt an uneasy, churning earth we could not see.
Though some lucky kids may figure out a way of early escape from the fun house, others are unable to until they reach adulthood. You may be one of those kids. For those left behind, living with the madness of a mentally ill parent is reduced to mere survival with no escape hatch. Those who remain behind are forced to wear the eyeglasses of Okayness, knowing full well they will be stuck, for what feels like a very long time.
We wore the lenses to keep parents comfortable with the status quo. So they wouldn’t have to answer questions our friends asked us: “Hey, what’s up with your dad, or mum?” Or, “Why does your mum do _________?” Or, “How come your dad keeps____________?” We simply adjusted the glasses on our noses and gave a pair to the friend who asked the questions.
The distortions may have continued well into adulthood. We may have forgotten to remove the glasses which served us so well in childhood, or we may not know how to remove them, or we may not think we have permission to remove them.
Just because we’ve been trained to be unaware that we have the power to make things better for us and for our children doesn’t mean we don’t have power now to wake up, say a firm “NO” to abuse and aberrant behavior and say “Yes” to getting help for us to cope and help for the loved one who suffers.
Here’s the thing: all the colored lenses in the world cannot hide the unease we call our gut, or intuition, our questions, our VOICE. This is the truth. Our gut, our truth has been tugging at our shirt sleeve for years. It has always tugged. That voice is little kid us tugging on the shirt sleeve of grown up us saying,
The little voice is patient. It wants to be heard. It will keep saying our name until we…
- Rise up
- Remove the colored lenses
- Turn our full attention upon truth
- Listen to what truth has been trying to tell us
So then, let’s not forsake ourselves or others. Help will come if we seek it. Let’s wake up, look, take off the lenses of “Okay-ness. ” Let’s stop pretending. Help is available. Let’s deal in truth for our happiness and for the happiness of those we love.