Pt 31-C: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness
“He did the wrong thing for the right reason.”
Repeating what was said in previous blogs, both my mother and Grandmother Maud LeBaron believed the cause of mental illness in their immediate family was mainly due to the townspeople who ostracized and persecuted them incessantly.
But people need to take a good look at what part they, themselves, play in what happens to them and the lives of their children.
Let’s continue where we left off in blog “Pt 31-B.”
M- All the previous situations discussed in blogs “Pt 31-A & B,” and more, contributed to mental illness in the Mexico-LeBaron family—especially given that there was a history of mental illness in both my grandmother and grandfather LeBaron’s family lines.
N- Let’s not leave out that Grandpa Dayer LeBaron, himself, was not well-balanced mentally. Besides being guided by dreams, voices he heard in his head, and other such, he had personality disorders. On top of that, he, himself, was born and raised in a Mormon polygamous pioneer family—So no doubt he suffered and experienced many of the same things his own children later endured.
What’s more, despite how handsome he was, Grandpa Dayer was already an outcast when Grandma Maud married him. But she, too, had a few personality disorders, albeit to a lesser degree. And HER own father became mentally deranged in her later years. More on this in future blogs.
O- Now let us factor in the Mexico-LeBarons’ many fanatical and shaming fundamentalist Mormon/Fundy beliefs. And the ignorance we all share as human beings. ALL of this and more colluded, collided, and escalated to incubate the insanity and other personality disorders running in the Mexico-LeBarons’ genes—a collusion that eventually kicked in big-time with especially my grandparents’ sensitive and highly-gifted Ben, Wesley, Lucinda, and Ervil.
P- We’ve gotten this far and haven’t mentioned they didn’t believe in Psychology nor Psychological Counseling. And there was no Dr. Phil anywhere to be seen!
Q- What’s worse, besides being laws unto themselves, and largely ostracized by others, this beautiful, bright, talented family was nonetheless not well-educated nor well read—though they thought they were.
R- And, on top of all else, they were pretty much isolated. They lived far away from family and relatives and without many friends. Plus, they lived during the Great Depression, in a foreign, strange land, in a small-town—a Mexican-Mormon colony that faught tooth-and-toenail these gorgeous, highly gifted, Mexico-LeBaron renegades and creatives living on the fringe of society and reality.
S- The Maud and Dayer LeBaron family simply had almost nowhere to turn for help in the face of all their extenuating problems and situations! And to exacerbate everything else, Grandpa Dayer lacked tact. The last thing he would do was compromise ANY of his values in order to come to an agreement so as to get along with others who differed with him. He didn’t believe in compromising when it came to telling the truth and doing what was right. It was not beneath him to tell people they were stupid and going to hell if they didn’t agree with him and follow his beliefs.
T- I almost left out a crucial factor: Not only were the Mexico-LeBarons ostracized by most of their own town’s people, AND the mainstream Mormon church, but by all the Mormon fundamentalist groups too—the “Fundies”!
U- Now add to this that in the time the Mexico-LeBarons lived—the olden days—Mental Illness carried terrible stigmas! People held extreme and fearful beliefs such as “The devil or evil spirits are in the mentally ill person!” Many believed Satan resided in the insane so avoided the family.
A person could be ostracized from the community because he or she was mentally deranged. Often the mentally challenged person’s whole family would be ostracized right along with the crazy member. They would be jeered at, sticks and stones thrown to break their bones—the list goes on. Sadly, the Mexico-LeBarons endured all this and more.
V- When you consider the many things my overly-challenged Mexico-LeBaron family had to bear up under, it’s a wonder they survived at all and remained strong and determined in so many ways. (Nietzsche said: “Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger” Really?!)
One way they survived was to try to prove themselves by out-doing others whenever they were able to. (Often that was not such a challenge for the Mexico-LeBarons!) Another tactic they employed was to try to rise above the gossip and persecution. Still another was to escape into a dreamworld. Mother said she purposely created stories in her mind about the way she wanted her life to be because this helped her survive the terrible ostracism and shame brought upon her and her family.
W- I’m not saying the Mexico-LeBarons didn’t have their faults and foibles that caused them to be cast out by most people. I’m saying this was a most unusual and strong family, considering all they endured and survived. And, despite everything, they were leaders, no less: They acquired followers and they lead them—by hook or crook!
(Continued January 28, 2019 in “Pt 31-D: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness)
Pt 31-B: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer,
The Mexico LeBarons, and Mental Illness
“As you work on your memoir, write with fidelity to your own experience while knowing that memory is fallible. Write with respect for your subjects, even if they come across as louts. And tell your story true, artfully, and with courage.”
My Ruby Slippers
(We left off on letter “E” in blog “Pt 31-A”)
Repeating what was said in blog Pt 31-A, both my mother Esther LeBaron Spencer and maternal grandmother Maud McDonald LeBaron believed the cause of mental illness in their immediate family was mainly due to the Mexican-Mormon townspeople of Colonia Juarez who severely ostracized and persecuted them during the twenty years they lived there.
But I believe people must look at what part they, themselves, played/ play in what happens to them and their offspring. Many things went into the Mexico-LeBaron mental-illness factor.
Let’s continue where we left off with what I believe caused the mental illness in my dear Mexico-LeBaron family:
F- Mormon fundamentalists/Fundies believed in beating the devil out of their children—as in Spare the rod, spoil the child. Force, physical and emotional abuse, brutality — these were only some of the control tactics my well-meaning, old-country, perfectionistic grandparents employed to keep their children in line in an effort to make SURE they were perfect little Saints bound for the the highest degree of glory in the hereafter-—as if one can force somebody back to heaven! (Wasn’t that Satan’s plan, according to Mormon doctrine? Jesus wanted to let us all choose for ourselves what we wanted to do.)
G- They stuck to many strict, stoic, fallacious beliefs—backward values and fears they lived by, taught, and ingrained in their children. These shaming, guilt-provoking, fanatic religious strictures were, alone, enough to cause mental illness—especially in highly sensitive kids.
H– Add to that the unstable life of moving back and forth from one homestead, town, and country to another during especially the older Mexico-LeBaron childrens’ lives.
I- Then, take into account that not only was their mother Maud absent much of the time teaching piano lessons to help support the huge family, but their father was also often gone months at a time. The oldest children, who lacked parenting themselves, were, nonetheless, left to raise the younger ones—if any of them got raised at all!
J- On top of this, in 1940 Grandmother Maud left Grandfather Dayer and went to live in the United States, taking her two youngest children with her—ten-year-old Verlan and thirteen-year-old Floren. She returned to Dayer in 1945. The separating of one’s parents is, in and of itself, a great emotional stress on children.
K- Now, add to this whole scenario the problems involved in dealing with polygamy, including two plural wives and all their kids living in the same house for seven years — and Maud being many years older than Onie.
L- And remember: These were the olden days. Hindsight is always the best sight. We have come a long way in understanding and knowledge since my grandparents’ day. Child-protective laws and much more have changed since then. At least we hope so.
I only know my grandparents had their sight set on heaven and the hereafter so were definitely trying to do what they believed was right. They thought if they did what God commanded them to do, He would take care of the rest!
(To be continued January 17, 2019)