It’s hard to remember the first time I registered that my mum was unwell; especially as she’s been like this for as long as I can remember. I often remember as a child our trips to the hospital or the local Samaritan’s, even when the vicar was called in to a nervous breakdown and her thinking that everyone around her was evil. It’s hard to contemplate any child having to witness these kinds of things, but it would be naïve to assume that children do not see what someone close is experiencing. Of course I was sheltered away from it all, the best way I could be, but small elements of my mum’s illness trickled through the barricade placed around my brother and I. I am fortunate enough to have an amazing dad who always tried his best to keep us away from it, but living under the same roof as someone with a multiple personality disorder is hard and ultimately you begin to see everything. Children are not stupid!
There were a few times in particular where I found it incredibly hard to deal with, one being when my mum took overdoses or harmed herself. We would beg her not to do anything stupid. Of course she never listened to anything we said, I don’t think it sank in that we loved her and it hurt us to see her hurt herself. A couple of times we’ve had to ring for an ambulance or we had to drive to get help for my mum as she was having one of her episodes. A few times she was admitted to a psychiatric ward at the local hospital and visiting her was an ordeal, especially as I was in my early teens at that point. Just being on a ward with swarms of mentally ill people is enough to distress anyone, let alone someone who doesn’t fully understand how serious it is. It definitely scared me.
There were a few occasions where the news of my mum being unwell spread around school and I was picked on because some random idiot considered me as the spawn of a nutter. As I was already a victim of bullying, I became a much easier target for the bullies and bricks were thrown through our window. Obviously people didn’t understand what was wrong with my mum and that wasn’t an excuse for their actions. You’d think people would be more considerate of your situation once they find out, but there’s something about mental illness that freaks people out, like it’s somehow contagious and they will catch it. She was even refused help from one of the doctors at the surgery; he didn’t want her anywhere near him. Luckily, one of the other doctors told him he would help her and my mum was treated as a friend of his, he even gave her his home telephone number for if she was ever having one of her turbulent days. Even now that he has retired he still chats to my mum, even buying her a present on her birthday to cheer her up. He seems to be one of the more human doctors within the NHS, which is a shame as you’d think people would be more human about another person’s suffering, but some seem to treat you like scum. The media definitely don’t help matters, especially when they feed the hysteria that every mentally ill person is unstable and will hurt you.
I often found myself wishing as a child that I had a mum who did things with me, being a girl I wanted to have that mother-daughter relationship that you see so much of within the media. There has been many times where I have found myself filling up with jealousy at the sight of other girls doing the simplest of things with their mum. It really clawed away at me inside, especially when I became unwell myself. I needed my mum there. Of course she was there in body, but with her illness she doesn’t really connect with people from time to time.
I do have a special relationship with my father, who is incredible. I am a daddy’s girl and our bond became even stronger after I went through my illness a few years ago. I suffered from anorexia as a result of being bullied. I discovered that it was my way of controlling something after years of feeling that my life was out of control. Even now, I struggle to talk about how I feel and something as complex as an eating disorder really takes its toll on your mind.
I still find everything difficult to talk about, I guess it’s still pretty raw, but I have done well to get this far. It’s about taking one step at a time and to be fair, that’s all you can do. Anything else is out of reach.