DISABILITIES

HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com


By Daniel J. Vance


Lorinda Eldredge of Spring Hill, Florida, regularly reads this column in the Hernando Today edition of the Tampa Tribune.

Eldredge was raised in a household with a schizophrenic parent. “Growing up with my mother was pretty horrendous,” she said in a telephone interview. “Those were the days (in the '40s and '50s) when there wasn't much enlightenment about schizophrenia and they threw people away in mental hospitals and didn't have drugs to treat it.”

A successful musician, her father often was away from home on tour playing saxophone and clarinet. At one time, her mother had been a professional singer and dancer trying to break into Hollywood.

Eldredge said, “Eventually, my mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had to be committed to an institution. She had many symptoms. She would talk to the walls and wouldn't communicate with neighbors. Sometimes she'd stick out her tongue at the neighbors. In the house, she liked things dark and often would pull down the drapes. She thought everyone was evil and out to get her. It got to the point where she heard voices in her head.”

One of Eldredge's few toys as a child in the '40s was a stuffed cat. One day, her mother began believing the cat was evil and tossed it into a garbage incinerator. Eldredge was crushed.

“I also had no friends as a kid,” she said. “I didn't go to school until I was 10 (because of my mother's paranoia toward outsiders). My mother also didn't believe in doctors. I would get an injury and she wouldn't take me to a doctor. She'd treat it herself. And when angry, she hit me a lot. When I was a child, she kicked me once in the eye.”

Due to her mother's paranoia toward outsiders, Eldredge wasn't able to make any childhood friends until she was 12.

Her father was old-fashioned, she said. Despite the couple's numerous relational problems, he remained devoted to his ill wife and was bedside in 1957 when she died of lung cancer.

Amazingly, Eldredge turned out all right. Now 67, she has been a bookkeeper, and currently is a substitute teacher and a student working toward a psychology degree from a Florida community college.

The National Institute of Mental Health website describes schizophrenia as a “chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder” affecting about 3.2 million Americans.

For more, see www.danieljvance.com or www.nimh.nih.gov