During my childhood years, my biological mother's history was shrouded in secrecy. I was adopted by my paternal grandparents as a six-week-old infant. I always wondered why my mom was different. I never understood why other kids lived in typical households with a mother and father and I didn't. I would visit my mom in strange settings, such as group homes and halfway houses for people with severe, chronic mental illness. We met about once a month for dinner at McDonald's, and I was always so ashamed to go. My mom was overweight, shoddily clothed, and different from anyone I knew. As I got into my teens, my grandparents would tell me stories about the state mental institution, but I never equated them with my mom. I don't know who I thought she was. I was too young to understand the repercussions of schizophrenia at the time and how it would affect me as an adult. One comment she made to me at one of our dinners had devastated me. When I was 13, she simply said, "You are disabled." I don't know if she meant that I was showing preliminary signs of mental illness, but I left that night in tears.