Too Much Help Doing Too Little Good and Too Much Harm

 Mary Hintz

I think that the fact that I was quiet caused folks to fill in with their imaginations what they did not know about me.

I grew up in a little town and didn’t know there was a family history of mental illness. I was shy and nervous or panicky about interacting with other kids. Besides my shyness other things set me apart as different . The town was 90% Hispanic and I was not. I seemed to be set up as better than and as an object of envy a bunch of different ways when I wanted to be one of the guys. For a while in about seventh grade my best friend was the only Black girl in the town. Rejection at school when I was in first grade was enforced by an older girl who got all the kids to not let me play with them and then told me privately that If I went into the bathroom with her and let her touch my private parts she would tell them to play with me. Also she would beat me up if I told them about this. She was discretely expelled for this but the pattern of my sort of being excluded continued and even became a part of my relationships with brothers and sisters.

My Mom was a very outgoing charismatic natural leader or something like that and I was her oldest child. This meant I was expected to help with housework, cooking and taking care of younger brothers and sisters. It sort of made me the Cinderella of the family because of my Mom’s methods of getting me to do it. Her method mainly involved disapproving of me for not doing enough. I was supposed to earn my keep was another argument. Younger brothers and sisters had no such obligation and deserved their keep in the way of nice dresses and handsome princes while to think I might deserve the same was deemed crazy. When we all came home from school I was not allowed to eat till I fed them. If I did not watch out for myself somehow. they ate up everything I fixed, Part of the problem was I was spoon feeding the baby too. Cinderella got the scraps left over according to the story. My who was Mom busying watching soap operas on the new TV and not paying much attention tended to take sides with any kid who put up a fuss about wanting what I had saved for myself. I got out of the habit of eating lunch myself. After that I just went home at noon to feed the baby and if I did not fix something for myself I did not get asked to fix some for my other siblings. They had to fix their own then.

Mom spent time in an orphanage where she was assigned chores and told this was to earn her keep.

The Hispanic people were kind of proud of that the way they did sex education was considered more healthy by some new thinking. It was the 1950’s. Because there seemed to be less mental illness among primitive tribes and because of Freud’s focus on sex, primitive tribes were studied about it. The Hispanic folks in the southwestern part of the US and south of the border were not in on the Victorian age at all and influenced by the Native American Cultures they blended with.

My quietness plus the idea mental illness ran in families caused gossip about me having a problem in that regard. I was sent to a psychiatrist when I was 21 years old who questioned me a lot about if I knew if there was such a thing as sex. According to rumors spread about me I was going to be frigid on my wedding night and it was supposed to be that my family believed in keeping it a secret from me there was such a thing as sex and I would find out about it on my wedding night. I lived in three different town in the early 1960s and three different therapists learned of that opinion from some source and asked me if it was true.


I was religious and anti-religious prejudice included gossip that I was full of guilt about sex. A nun in the Catholic school I attended had focused on me as someone to set an example for her views on “modesty in dress” I took a dislike to her for setting me apart as different and acted out by sitting in the front seat in her religion class in ninth grade and blowing big bubbles with bubble gum. Chewing gum in school was against the rules. That was around the time such gossip started. I also deliberately broke her dress code and got corrected a lot about it and she was criticized for worrying me too much about it.


When I was in seventh grade the fact that I was quiet and shy was an issue and my class was given a reading comprehension and vocabulary test. It was a new thing back then but years later my children and grandkid all took tat test at about the same age. I was twelve years old and we did not have TV yet and not much reading material around so I read the Readers Digest my Mom got sold a subscription to and it had recently published in a section “How to Increase Your Vocabulary” with the exact same questions and the answers upside down. The reading comprehension part where one reads something and answered questions about it was in their too I was an all “C”s student at that time as I remember it and it was a big surprise that I might be smart. There was sort of an attitude in the air I was dumb because I was so quiet. The idea I was a genius was blown up into a big deal. I believed it because they said so but every once in a while would tell my Mom I don’t think I am really a genius and if I am a genius is not really much smarter than everybody else. She would disapprove of me for questioning authority, educate me I was too stupid to think I knew anything about such things and make like I was required to I believe what I was told to believe about it.


My Mom had a dream of my becoming a nun. She had me reading a worn out book about “vocations” that she said inspired her youngest sister to become a nun. It was not about becoming a nun specifically but about discerning what purpose God might want you to serve in his plan. The idea I was a genius made me feel obligated to go to college. There was a sort of notion in the air that a genius was expected to be a scientist.


My Mom acquired some thinking about child geniuses never amounting to anything and ending up being taken care of by family. She like to tell everybody about it and laugh. She predicted my adult life would be spent helping her with the housework. When I finished high school she expected me to start doing that full time. Her kids going to college had never occurred to her. She was influenced by the old fashioned attitudes of her Mom’s generation where women did not work unless they inherited a business like an elderly spinster aunt of ours who had a small grocery store she inherited around the year 1900. Otherwise in my Mom’s mind, women were not expected to ever hold jobs. It maybe she did not realize that what she expected was tantamount to the prediction she liked to make about child geniuses never amount to anything. She also seemed to think what I was supposed to do was her decision and what I wanted to do had nothing to do with it.


She shared about my wanting to go to college at a laundromat and an older student offered to take me to the school and get me fixed up with the financial help to attend. I had said I was interested in studying science and that was were the financial aid was pouring in as a result of the Russian’s being the first in space with the Satellite Sputnik. I got a degree in Chemistry.


My Mom had a whole bunch of issues having to do with her childhood and school. She felt like she was smart because of being an outgoing natural leader but it bothered her she did not do well in school. She felt she was looked down on for it and went to the same grade school with parents of kids in my class who she felt looked down on her as dumb and because her family was poor. I was bad because I did not appreciate having things she never had. For example she never got a new dress but just hand me downs from older sisters. This made my normal teenage dislike for the old fashioned styles I did not like to wear a pretty big deal. I seemed to have a reputation with her for making straight “A”s in school and when I showed her report cards with a B- type average she thought I just did not do as good as usual this semester. Either that or telling people I made straight “A”s was something to get their sympathy about she never did. Don’t think I ever did either.


I got sent to a psychiatrist when I was 21 and in my last year of college. My Mom was giving me a hard time at the time. When the psychiatrist expressed doubt that anybody thought I was a genius my Mom’s selective memory immediately focused only on that she “never really thought so” which is maybe a big part of the problem because she thought it was an IQ test I did good on and she was required to agree with it instead of believing in what she really thought.


I have a theory that for a few years I was not believed about there being such an opinion and remember them changing the subject if I brought that there was an opinion I was a genius. I kind of dropped the subject because imagining such a thing is kind of crazy.


I got put on the drug Meprobamate by the first psychiatrist. It was new on the market and I have read that it was the drug that started the use of drugs as being a common treatment for Mental illness. Some other drugs came out before that but were used in mental hospitals. I talked to a doctor once who told me that he was in Medical school back then and all the students were on it. Maybe that is how the idea got spread. It has withdrawal symptoms that are like withdrawing off of Heroin. I was taken off after a year on it and the misery I went thru had me believing I needed to be under the supervision of a psychiatrist. It is my understanding the feeling bad for a few years after getting off may have been I was still in withdrawal. I had difficulty sleeping with excitement. A crisis in that caused such a sleep disturbance got me put on drugs again a few years later. I was put on antipsychotic drugs and efforts to get me off caused a return of symptoms I never had before I took psychiatric drugs. I got off in December of 1993 with a lot of difficulty. I tapered off very gradually and it was very tricky. One psychiatrist I had around that time said it could not be done. I got a whole spectrum of long term side effects becoming a definite problem maybe ten years after first being put on the stuff. Some of those lingered on for several years after I got off.


I was hospitalized a few times because of withdrawal problems that were not necessarily recognized as such. It was for short periods of a couple weeks or so while drugs got back in my system making me alright again.


I got married in therapy and stayed married for 48 years till death do us part. I raised two daughters during a time when most mothers were stay at home Moms and I did not reenter the work force because of back problems and because I did not feel up to excitement while on a low dose of the drug I was trying to get off of.