Dooley is my family nickname from childhood. It seems most appropriate as a pen name because I will be writing about my family, my mother, her mental illness, and homelessness particularly.
I would love to tell you I am embracing anonymity to protect my mother’s privacy. That is part of it, of course. The fact that she doesn’t believe she’s ill, I would hate for her to become acquainted with my writing. It would deeply compromise my relationship with her and I am the only one in her life.
I am also embracing anonymity to protect myself from the judgements of “friends,” acquaintances, and strangers. Mental illness is still so much a stigma that I act in ways that I would not if my mother had a heart disease, a lung disease. Instead, she has a brain disease and here I am, not proud of bending to stigma, but going ahead anyway.
My profile picture is from “Wisconsin Death Trip,” an amazing book by Michael Lesy. My mother had a copy which fascinated me in my youth and young adulthood. Little did I know how significant it would be to me in regards to my mother in the future.
My mother has schizoaffective disorder. She was first hospitalized, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, 27 years. She has been off her medications for 13 years. She has been homeless for three.
There is so much to this story and there is no happy ending I can offer. Here I am anyway, trying to write it all down, bearing witness to a reality that very few have understanding of, unsure if anyone really wants to hear it.
I don’t even want to know the things I know.