Where does it hurt?

This blog post is part of CLIC Sargent Do Something Yummy awareness campaign.  Over on Nickie’s blog this week, sovaldi sale Nickie has posed writing prompts relating to family.

Inspired by the prompts ‘What kind of family did you grow up in? Why is family important to you?’ and a little of ‘A perfect family moment.’ I’ve written the below account of growing up in a family where mental illness had a steady hold.

Depression. Manic Depression. Bi-Polar Disorder. Anxiety. Paranoia. Not words that colour your average teenagers vocabulary (though as naive as I am, shop I do suspect the teenage sufferer stats are higher than I’d imagine.) But as a teenager, concerned only with new clothes, underage clubbing and snogging the face off my boyfriend at the bus stop, it’s fair to say I had little time for my mother’s ill health. And for that, I feel regret.

The glaring absence of a large plaster cast that screamed ‘Look, I’m broken and hurt’ didn’t help with the understanding that my mum was suffering from a horrible and extremely debilitating illness which had taken over her whole life. It was her life.

It wasn’t uncommon at all for my mum to be in bed all day. Hidden away from the world, the fug of the horrible darkness she now describes enveloping her and smothering her whilst the world carried on as normal on the other side of the door.

My coping strategy was to make like an ostrich and bury my head firmly in the sand. If I didn’t think about it, or dwell on it, then it wasn’t really happening. Depression wasn’t ruling her life – our lives. For the most part, this strategy worked, mum didn’t have any outward emotion other than indifference and on occasion what seemed to me to be extreme sadness, and she certainly didn’t pick me up for not caring. At other times, an intense madness, a rage would bubble up inside me and spill over into a tirade of fury which led to me screaming and questioning her as she cowered in the corner looking like a lost little girl. I couldn’t understand what she had to be sad about when the world around us, that we were untouched by, was cruel and horrid. Famine, war, poverty, death, abuse, violence. I couldn’t understand what she was frightened of, what rendered her unable to face not the world, but her friends and family who loved her dearly. I couldn’t understand what she was unable to cope with.

What I did know for sure was I hated this wretched illness and what it did to her, to us as a family. It shaped how I feel now as an adult with my own children. I now know and fully understand that mental ill health is every bit as challenging than physical ill health, and I know the impact it can have on families. My mum lost friends, people who struggled to understand that she wasn’t choosing to suffer from this damning illness, despite it overtaking everything good in her life. Perhaps they felt they’d simply tried too often to get their friend back, the one with the spark, the wicked sense of humour and the most caring, giving and gentle side. Perhaps, like me, they didn’t know how to support, how to be with her and how to feel themselves. I was moved recently by a friend who wrote about their own experiences with mental ill health but it brought to the surface all those emotions I tried so hard to bury deeply 15 years ago.

Back then I vowed never to allow such a ravaging illness to take over my life. There goes my naivety all over again. I may not have a choice. There is no blueprint for who is susceptible. But today I surround myself with positivity and I choose a thankful and grateful attitude every single day. I’ve said before, our family motto is ‘we can do anything we try.’ Simply because it’s the polar opposite of ‘I can’t.’

After a seriously long spell of illness which didn’t dissipate as previous episodes had, some extremely dark and bleak moments within that time which thankfully had positive outcomes, and a risky and unpleasant treatment, we now have Mum back. My Dad has been there with her every step of the way, through those bleakest and darkest of times. Rightly or wrongly I’ve put my Dad up on a pedestal for that. It’s bold to say, but I don’t think my husband would stand by me as he did her. To see the pair of them now, enjoying the things in life that previously were simply too frightening to embark upon is wonderful, and I’m talking little things here, meals out, walks along the pier on holidays.

She is adored by her grandchildren, she has fun with them, and they know nothing of the lost days with them when they were tiny and even the miracle and wonder of their arrival couldn’t break through the barrier of despair.

A little part of me is still a tiny bit scratched. But a bigger part of me is joyful; glad that for the last two years at least, the darkness and emptiness has lifted.

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