Life with a Mentally Ill Parent

A Remarkably Realistic and Ultimately Therapeutic New Book

Posted Feb 02, 2017

As anyone who has lived with a mentally-ill parent knows, the media rarely gets it right.  Dramatic moments of rage, psychosis, or disorientation don’t necessarily happen very often.  It’s also unusual that decades of trauma are resolved following a sudden moment of insight or a spontaneous hug. 

Maxpixel, Creative Commons Use
Source: Maxpixel, Creative Commons Use

This is why the new release, “A Good Solider,” authored by Ally Golden, a brave survivor of emotional abuse, is so very important for folks to read. 

As Ally describes, a childhood with a mentally-ill parent typically is far more insidious than Hollywood usually depicts.  That parent’s diagnosis of depression, or personality disorder, or anxiety, for example, wraps its tentacles around every parent-child interaction and remains the secret embedded into every childhood memory.  It is painful and scarring, not because of a single scene, but from a thousand emotional cuts that sting years later, sometimes in not-so-obvious, but clearly devastating ways.    

To the child experiencing this type of parenting, life with a mentally-ill parent means years of anxiety (e.g., Will Mom be too depressed to pick me up from school?), anger (e.g., Dad doesn’t even realize how he humiliated me in front of my friend and their parents), or shame (e.g., What will people think of me if they know my parent is on a psych unit?).   Years later, as an adult, the effects of a mentally-ill parent remain pervasive and even more confusing.  Every relationships is contaminated by a legacy of fear, hostility, and confusion.  And the ongoing relationship with that same parent is a trigger for every moment of childhood pain, reopened by the resentment that comes from slowly realizing that your own childhood did not have to be as difficult as it was.   

In A Good Soldier, Ally describes in gripping detail the day to day moments of her life with her mother – a woman whose behavior suggests borderline personality disorder, depression, and ultimately despair.  The book is not only essential reading for anyone wishing to learn about the effects of parental psychopathology on children, but also for survivors themselves.  Ally’s reflections, life decisions, and remarkably sophisticated coping as an adult mourning her lost childhood are an inspiration for anyone who has ever wrestled with their conflicted youth.  There are millions of silent sufferers who have experienced emotional abuse alone.  With A Good Soldier, Ally Golden offers a voice for them all, and a chance for healing with this realistic, sobering, compelling, and extraordinarily therapeutic book.  

©Mitch Prinstein, 2017