Are you embarrassed by your friend/loved one/colleague? why be embarrassed? Why worry about what anyone thinks? Ask yourself WHY would you be embarrassed because a person is in a total state of despair & obviously having a really bad time. Are YOU that important? Are you so worried about your image that you can’t possibly be seen with someone in distress? I’m mean really? Get a grip! Get over yourself! This actually could happen to you & never EVER think you are immune to this, you never know what is going to happen in life which might well make you just like it.
I literally do not care who is watching, staring, whispering about why my mum is standing there, crying, shaking in the middle of the town centre. The only thing I care about is calming her down, comforting her & trying to get her back to the car or to a place where she feels safest.
I have been in so many situations like this I have lost count. My mum would feel so utterly overwhelmed & frightened that she would literally freeze. If anyone ever came up to us, a stranger or a person she knew, she would cry, uncontrollably. She would look at them & beg with her eyes, beg for help, reassurance, anything just not to feel the way she did.
This isn’t a dramatised story, it’s all too true I’m afraid, I can’t even explain how bad some days were, how many times we stood in the middle of a superstore, town or cafe & I would be trying to reassure my mum & help her to stop crying, not because I cared what anyone thought but because I so desperately wanted her to stop feeling like it. I have never known anyone in my whole life cry as much as she cried, it was like everything that has happened to her during her life was coming out in tears. Every single little bit of pain, every bad word said to her, every stab of grief she had ever felt was pouring out in streams. She would wake up & cry for hours & hours, then fall asleep through pure exhaustion & then repeat the process all over again. I would be a liar if I told you I didn’t shout at her on a couple of occasions. My stress levels were sky high & I was totally exhausted myself. She wouldn’t or couldn’t talk, I didn’t understand why she was crying & she just couldn’t stop. I feel awful for those occasions when I lost it & raised my voice but I’ve learnt to forgive myself, I’m only human after all.
Of course, now I know the reasons. I know she was/is ill, she was reliving her past, her childhood, her losses. She was crying tears of sadness & frustration that she had held in for years for us kids. My poor mum, she had been through so much pain, tournament & grief, how could I ever be embarrassed by her or her illness? I can’t & I am not.
My mum went to see Bohemian Rhapsody. She went to the local cinema with my dad, can you believe that? It might seem like a normal thing, an easy task, something no one would write home about, but this is HUGE!
I will shamefully put my hands up & say I was one of those people that thought anxiety was just something you could snap out of if you really wanted to, mind over matter kind of thing. I knew Mental Illness was very real but I thought it could be controlled if only they knew how. I’m talking about years ago when this all started, 11 years to be precise, obviously I came to learn it is very real & controlling it can be impossible. Up until recently I had never had anxiety in my life, I got nervous on occasions but nerves & anxiety are two very different feelings. The guilt I feel for not understanding the full affect anxiety has is awful, it’s a wasted emotion because guilt solves nothing but I feel it nevertheless. It’s a very real illness & my mum has been extremely ill for a very long time. Her actual diagnoses was Bilolar & Pyhscotic depression, But what about those who aren’t really ill?
There is still such a huge stigma around MH but there is so many people suffering with some form of Mental Illness nowadays it seems to be number one on the list of illnesses BUT do you know what really, really gets my goat? People who claim they have an illness, people who ‘play’ the system. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen them having one big laugh at the NHS’s cost & using the services because they are too fecking lazy to go & work. This is a real problem & it makes it even more difficult for those who really are suffering.
I was in one of the psychiatric wards waiting for my mum to finish her meds review. A woman in her late 20’s came & sat next to me & asked me if I had a cigarette. I told her I didn’t smoke & she went on to tell me that she that she ‘loved a fag’ & that was the only shit thing about being in the ward because she had to go outside for a cigarette. This woman proceeded to tell me that she had 4 kids, who’s dad’s weren’t about anymore & her mum was looking after them & that when it all gets too much she just goes off on a ‘bender & acts a bit mental’ then get put in this ward where she doesn’t have to do a thing. She told me it was like a little holiday for her & she actually liked going there. Why do these people keep having children?? That’s another bugbear I have. Now don’t get me wrong, you could say that this in itself was a sign of MH, but this woman was playing the system, she was one of those that don’t want to work, feels she shouldn’t have to work, pops out kids like she’s shucking peas & feels it’s perfectly acceptable to use the ward as a weekend retreat.
Over the past 11 years I have seen so many people, mainly young people, be admitted to a phychactric ward because they took a ‘bad pill’ & had a bit of a bad trip or snorted too many lines of coke & were having the worst come down. The system is being abused left, right & centre just like the benefits system is. I know a local man who rides around on a bike, so tanned his skin actually does resemble leather where he has spent his whole life sunning himself when the rest of us are working, he drinks coffee everyday in the local costa (which isn’t cheap) & he’s never worked a honest day in his life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this man but somehow he has managed to play the system, he gets benefits for things he hasn’t even got (I know this for a fact as he actually told me) He is one of the millions of people playing on issues they simply do not have. I know people who have spent their lives pretending they are ‘nuts’ for attention. I’m not saying there isn’t MH issues there with a lot of these people. After all, if you are craving that much attention, needing to be noticed so badly, it’s very likely they do have some kind of issue but where do you draw the line? How can you separate those people from the real sufferers? The ones that really are going to try & kill themselves because they are literally being driven mad by their own thoughts.
Its one of my real bugbears. People who think the world owes them something, they aren’t willing to put into the world they just want to take take take! It so easy nowadays to just say ‘I’m anxious, I’m hearing voices, I’m going to kill myself’, how can we tell if that is true? It’s not actually very difficult to trick a shrink & it’s more than he’s jobs worth to dismiss their patients claims so he has no choice but to put them into the system.
We ALL have some kind of issue throughout our lives. I would be absolutely amazed if someone told me they hadn’t. It could be anything from nerves, anxiety, body dismorphia, bulimia, self harm, bad childhood experiences , ocd, phobias etc etc but most of us has suffered with some kind of issue even if it’s not that as severe as some mentioned, it could still be an ‘issue’ in their life, but does it mean they need to be sectioned or admitted a Psychiatric ward? No not necessarily but it’s a fine line because no one wants to be responsible for getting it wrong, for not sectioning someone who then actually does go & try to commit suicide. I don’t know the solution to it all but I know it won’t stop & I know as long as this planet is here we will always have these ‘users of society’ that expect us, the hard working people to pay for them. It makes my blood boil but it’s not going to stop anytime soon…
Days like today I just want everyone to fuck off. Sorry to be blunt but that’s real life. I don’t have my own life, not fully, it’s dictated to me. Some might say that is my fault & I could change it if I wanted to which isn’t necessarily true. Yes, I could stop going to my mum & taking her out, doing her cleaning, taking her to appointments, seeing to her general well-being. I could do that. I could have a life where I work a normal 9-5 job or a job which suits but I don’t.
Is this a choice really? For me, I don’t see it as a choice, I see it as my mum needing me & relying on me to help her get through this illness. Over time though I have realised there is no end to this illness & actually she won’t get better to the extent she can drive again, take herself out or be totally independent. That realisation sucks!!! And it only really sunk in a few years ago, for the first 8 years I truly believed I could ‘cure’ her. Idiot.
If you didn’t get the jist, I’m angry. I am angry, I’m pissed off, I’m sick & tired, literally. I am mentally & physically drained, my road rage is bad, this is always a sign I’m feeling strained. Normally, I’m kind, patient, understanding & would go out of my way to help anyone. When I feel like this I just want the world to stop so I can get off!
I was called a martyr once. If you look at the some of the definitions, a martyr is someone who exaggerates their pain & suffering. All I would say to that person is walk one week in my shoes. Actually, walk one day. One day of trying to calm someone down who is so anxious they shake & sweat, who needs constant reassurance, who’s eyes are darting from one person to the next to see who is out to get them, someone who truly believes they are going to suffer a horrific brutal death at any moment. Then try & walk away from that person, your own mum. Could you do it? Have you any idea how much energy that takes? How many skills come in to play when you are using strategies to calm that person down. It can take a whole day to do this IF you actually achieve it at all & by the time you get in, you feel like you are absolutely wrecked but you get on & close the door behind you & then become mum again, organiser & good old allrounder because that what you do. You cope. You carry on.
But some days, not often, I stop & I say NO! I can’t do it today. You will all have to get on with it & just leave me alone. When I have a day like this, panic sets in. My mum thinks I’ll never come back, my dad goes into quiet mode with a sprinkling of mood because he is frustrated by her illness too & he works as many hours as he can because he can’t cope with being at home with her & he needs to work, or wants to work I think. He’s coping mechanisms are music & red wine, I wish I found solace in such simple things.
So today is a “leave me alone” day. I want to clean my car out, change the bedding, clean out my kitchen cupboards. This sounds like the most boring tasks but it will make me feel better, tidy house, tidy mind & all that. I’m going to spend the day in my nightie & put on a face pack, play some old skool tunes & drink tea!! Today is not everyone’s idea of bliss but for me it is. I don’t have to go out, I’m normally out 7 days as week, I work evenings & I work every weekend & then of course I am with my mum during the days.
I am not looking for a big pat on the shoulder or to be told I’m so wonderful. I don’t feel like that, that isn’t why I do it. Some days I feel so far from good & kind, I feel an ugly anger, bitterness & frustration that it almost breaks me. Almost.
Ill be ok tomorrow, I would have had a very rare day at home all day & I will feel refreshed & calm. Tonight I have decided to go to the cinema & watch Bohemian Rhapsody. I will do my absolute best to totally cut off & fully emerse myself in the atmosphere, popcorn & the moment. Tomorrow is a new day.
The man in the white van was waiting for her, waiting for an opportunity to kill her. Earlier she had seen the Nun from the nearby Covent, she was carrying a gun under her habit. The postman days before had tried to get into her flat, he had banged on her window demanding she let him in. He had snarled at her & told her he would ‘get her’ soon.
She was terrified, unstandably. Why would this be happening to her? Why did anyone want to harm this gentle, loving, caring woman who had done nothing but try & help people her whole life. She had trained to be a psychiatric nurse & was a bloody good one at that. Aunty Mary had been in the hospital, she had been in there since she was a child. My mum looked after her & it was probably the first time she was ever shown any real love & attention. Mum would organise curry nights, movies & even fancy dress, none of which some of the patients had ever had the pleasure of. She was good at her job & was passionate about it, everything would be done properly, no short cuts, just good honest care.
One morning mum went to work really early so she could go & pick the ample mushrooms on the field next to the hospital. She would bring them home & we’d have them the next day for breakfast coupled with bacon & egg. It was a crisp autumn morning & the dew was still on the grass, Mum headed over to a huge tree in the field as this is where the biggest mushrooms grew, that’s when she saw him.
He was dangling from the centre of the tree. All colour from his face gone, arms limp by his side, feet pointed downward almost like a balerina standing on tiptoes. She didn’t know how long he’d been there but she knew he was dead.
I wonder if all these experiences she was having was working for so long in the hospital & seeing so many awful things that eventually contributed to her cracking up as it were. Of course there was no gun wielding nun. The man in the van was probably just having a break & wondering why this woman was glaring at him from her flat window. The postman probably got pissed off that she hadn’t opened the door to him & taken in the parcel for the neighbour, but to her, it was very real & who was I to say differently? I wasn’t there.
We don’t call them asylums anymore but we may as well. The name asylum fits the description so much better than ‘ward’. A ward to me symbolisms a hospital type place with clean washed floors, neatly made beds & patients sitting in chairs next to them, or tucked up with clean white sheets up around their neck.
I have visited many Psychiatric Hospitals over the past 11 years. My mum was transferred to a hospital on one occasion quite far away from home & I literally could not believe my eyes. There were tiny rooms with 6 beds, 3 either side & they were divided by curtains, if you could call them that, more like off cuts of material which didn’t even fit. It was filthy! I mean really really dirty, the walls were stained with smears, the furniture was torn & black with grime, the patients looked like no one was bothering to make sure they kept any regular hygiene routine going. It was bad!
The first thing that struck me were the staff. Here I was bringing my mum over (they asked me to drive her even though she was under section 🤷🏼♀️) to be admitted to this psychiatric ward. We walked in with one small hand luggage, paperwork in hand & obviously one very distressed patient. It was clear I had been crying, we were both emotionally drained, tired & scared & we were totally ignored!
After finally locating someone, it was very apparent that I was being a pain & was completely ‘in the way’ and was very inconvenient, they wanted me to to drop my mum & leave. After I found a chair for my mum who by this time was even more terrified, I literally had to take the arm of a nurse and asked ‘is anyone going to actually ask us who we are?!?!’
They finally took us in to a room & to do the booking in palaver, this always seemed to be such a chore for the poor souls 🙄 finally we were taken to my mums new boudoir. Look, I know it’s not a hotel, it’s a hospital with very poorly people & it’s not going to be like home BUT for Christ sake! These are people, very sick people and they were putting them in awful conditions which I wouldn’t put my dog in!! It felt like no one there could or would actually complain because they were so ill the majority of the time & they probably didn’t even notice a lot of the time because they were so ill. But my mum noticed! Even as poorly as she was, she saw the state of her bed, the ripped curtain that only came not even a third around her bed to give her some privacy. You know when you watch scary films & a hospital features, there’s always the creepy long corridor & at the end of it is normally a female patient wearing a white gown & has crazy black wiry hair, we’ve all seen it right? Well it felt like that scene, only worse because I was placing my mum in this hospitals care.
I didn’t see one patient who looked like they were getting any help with looking after themselves in any way. It was horrific! My mum was begging me, BEGGING!!! Not to leave her. Have you any idea what that is like? To have the the person you love so much, who has cared for you & given you nothing but love and devotion your whole life, beg you not to leave them in a hell hole! It’s absolutely gut wrenching. But what choice did I have? She was suicidal, a danger to herself & I had a 4 year old at home who I was desperately trying to protect. My mum was living with me as I had bought her back from France where this hell all began. I was terrified! I didn’t know what to do, or if this was normal! I was just beside myself. I hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours, I had been keeping watch on my mum who was trying to hurt herself at any given opportunity. I wanted to scream at them all “what the fuck are you doing you fucking morons!!! This is my mum! Don’t you dare treat her like shit!!!”
So much of this past 11 years is a blur. So much has been blocked out by my brain trying to protect me & lots of it is just a blur because I was so sleep deprived so for many months, I literally can’t remember. I do remember this memory though. When I eventually left my mum in that excuse of a hospital, I was walking back to my car. I was totally wrecked in every respect. I was so exhausted, angry, devastated, guilty, sad, scared all at the same time. As I walked I started to cry again but then it turned into a distraught sob which then turned into almost a deep gut scream. I got to my car and slumped at the side of it & swore, every word I could think of. I don’t know why but the only word that ever really gets to the nitty gritty of how I am feeling & feels so good to say, is the C word, probably because it’s such a vile word & I know it bad & horrible. I said it time & time again whilst thumping my car. I was shouting “you fucking bastards! You c**nts!!!! That’s my mum!!! You fucking wankers!!! Don’t you dare treat her like that!!!!”
I needed that. It was the first release I had had for weeks. I never lost it at home for the sake of my little one. I was keeping it all together, seemingly. It felt good, I needed to hold someone accountable for this awful thing happening to my mum, to us. Taking it out on the staff seemed fitting at that time because it seemed they just didn’t care.
Then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned round & was confronted by a nurse.”it’s ok” she said. “It’s all going to be ok”. I just fell into her arms. I’d never seen her in my life but there stood this lady, with a huge Afro, the smoothest skin id ever seen & the kindest face. I sobbed uncontrollably & ranted. I told her it’s not a hospital it’s a torture ward, dirty, understaffed & not fit for my mum or anyone else. The nurse took it all on the chin, cuddled me & said soothing things which I now can’t remember but it calmed me down. I told her all my concerns, she nodded accordingly & agreed that it all needed modernising & they were all aware of how bad it was but assured me the nurses were doing their best.
I definitely didn’t believe that all the staff were doing their best but after begging her to take care of my mum, given her a full description and character reference to make sure she knew what a good, kind, caring person my mum was, I left. My heart was like lead, my head hurt & I was so so tired. I went home & I slept. It was all I could do at that moment but for the sake of my son, I just had to get myself together again & sleep was the first thing on the agenda.
When someone is constantly anxious it becomes the new norm. But it also takes it out of the person with them. I have been guilty of telling my mum to ‘Pull herself together’ on numerous occasions. I feel absolutely shit for saying this! I only have to look on the face of the cartoon characters above to relate to how it is. The face on the person on the left was my mums, I’m the person yelling at her 😞 I felt such deep shame & guilt for being like that. I was pulling my hair out, I felt so desperate, I was impatient after years & years of dealing with it. It wasn’t just the anxiety, it was the fear, the slowness (mum has severely slowed down since she has been ill) it was the misunderstanding, the accusations, suggestions, the blank stares, silences….the list goes on. Some days I’d cope, other days I wasn’t feeling too hot myself & i would get ratty, angry, tearful. I would shout at her, scream at times. What kind of a person does this make me?! I mean, who does that to their own mother? A mother they adore from head to toe?! Me. I did it. I did it because I’m human, because we can only take so much & because we need our own mental health to be good before we can even think about trying to help someone else.
I love my mum more than words could ever describe. We have this unique closeness & we can tell what the other one is thinking. I say ‘have’ I suppose I should say ‘had’. It’s still there in so many ways but that trust has gone, I’m not trusted & it breaks my heart. I’m the one who will run to her if she calls, I am the one who will literally drop everything to go to her no matter what time or what I am doing yet she doesn’t trust me. Isn’t is weird that someone will give you a key to their house, allow you to help clean their house, handling their belongings, will sit in a car & let you drive yet she doesn’t trust me. To me, this is why I know she’s still in there, still the mum that knows I wouldn’t hurt her for anything. She knows that deep down she can trust me.
Never, ever EVER forget who that person was before. They are still in there ❤️
In the beginning I was constantly on auto pilot 👩✈️ it wasn’t by choice, it was just how my brain was deciding to manage it all. When you have a loved one trying to escape from the house, run into the road & harm themselves at every opportunity, being on auto pilot is all you can do because you need to have your wits about you. There were nights where I would sleep for maybe two hours. I lost count of how many books I read during the first couple of years, I couldn’t sleep & it was the was the only way to occupy my mind. I lose myself in books, I forget what’s going on around me whilst I read. That was the early days & although I still love books, over the past few years they haven’t been able to completely free my mind like they did.
So, what do I do? How do I occupy my mind now? Well, it’s probably not the thing for some people but for me, research has been a major factor in taking my dark thoughts away, from stopping me thinking about my mums attempted suicide & all whilst learning, a win win. I LOVE to research! Give me a topic & I will research it into the deepest nittiest grittiest corners. I have researched anything from Fibromyalgia (my husband is a fibro warrior) to wildlife & everything & anything in between including Mental Health of course.
When I suffered with insomnia, reading didn’t cut it because I was too tired to focus so I started to medicate. I was a total sceptic when it come to meditation, I just thought it meant sitting with crossed legs, holding middle finger to thumb & mumbling some kind of crap! I take it all back, it works, it truly works, well it did for me anyway & I definitely don’t meditate like I described. I listen to YouTube, a couple of guys called ‘The honest guys’ it’s called guided meditation & for me, the soothing voice, the talk down & the ability they have to make you completely relax works a treat!
The other thing I love is the gym. I’m addicted. I always have loved it but over the past 10 years my love for it has grown (although at 6am you wouldn’t think I liked it at all!). Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Jane Fonda & I would literally scare the shite out of the fitness instructors if I wore a leotard, but I love it & it keeps my mind focused & my body strong.
It is all about balance & trying to find that happy place between being the caregiver & being kind to yourself. It’s something I am only just coming to understand & practise. Only in the past year have I started to give back to myself & realising I can’t fix everything & everyone. I always felt guilty if I bought myself something nice, or pampered myself. It felt like, if my mum was suffering & so utterly miserable how could I go & enjoy some time to relax, have fun, laugh & actually live a little?Guilt has been a huge feature during this journey, it has reared its ugly head when I least expected it. I could be out shopping for something nice to wear for the first time in months & all of a sudden I would be suffocated by this overwhelming feeling that I was being selfish because there was my mum, sitting in a mental hospital feeling terrified, lonely & probably abandoned. Of course I never ever abandoned my mum, I had absolutely no reason to feel any guilt, it wasn’t my fault yet I blamed myself. I would visit my mum sometimes three times a day in the beginning. If she called me & was distressed, complaining about another patient, asking for cigarettes or whatever the reason, I would go, right away. Even if I hadn’t run to her whenever she needed me, I still didn’t have reason to feel guilt but I don’t think it will ever leave me completely, it’s always there in the back of my mind because there is nothing I want more than for her to be living again, not existing & I feel like me living & enjoying life is selfish 🤷🏼♀️
It has taken me almost 11 years to get to this point in my life. I wish there had been someone there to relate to, someone who knew what it is like. Of course I had family & friends who listened, they were loving, caring & tried to understand but ultimately they really couldn’t possibly understand exactly how it feels. Writing this blog is therapeutic & very rewarding but I’m doing it to reach out to people who might be going through something similar. You never know what a person is going through until you walk in their shoes. ❤️
I never know what I will be faced with from one day to another. One day I could open the door to find a very anxious, frightened, shaky pale looking mum, the next I could find her attempting a genuine smile with lippy applied. One of the most difficult things about this illness is it doesn’t just have one face.
It took me years & many tears to finally accept the fact that the mum I once knew had changed. She hadn’t gone, not completely, but she was very different. Once upon a time there was this vibrant, bold, seemingly confident & colourful woman who held fancy dress parties like no other. She has always been a highly intelligent woman with a passion for antiques, art, history & she loved learning. My mum made a living from her knowledge of antiques & became well known for it, she was a real character, very popular & once met never forgotten. Then one day, everything changed & this woman was taken by mental illness. Every aspect of my mum was different, it was like she had literally been possessed. The life of this beautiful, giving, selfless woman had been taken & was being destroyed & destroying all those around her.
This was almost 11 years ago. Today, after many hospital stays & several suicide attempts, she is at a point where she is not trying to harm herself but she is just existing. My mum doesn’t enjoy life, she finds the world overwhelming & frightening, everyday struggling to just step outside the door. Anxiety is present every single day without fail, all trust has gone, all independence has been snatched away. She was the strongest woman I have ever met & I have looked up to her my whole life. My mum is the last person on this planet I would have thought would be taken by mental illness but she was. She still is the strongest woman I have met & I still look up to her whole heartedly because everyday for her is hell but she stays here for us, her family & for that, I will be forever grateful. ❤️
It is truly heartbreaking to see a loved one go through some kind of Mental Health illness. Heartbreaking doesn’t even cut it actually. It’s more like crushing, devastating & soul destroying. You see a person you know & love with all your heart, suddenly change. In many instances even become unrecognisable, behaving like you have never known before & even stranger, sometimes also changing in the way they look. For me, it was my mums eyes. Her beautiful hazel eyes changed so much it was shocking. Some won’t believe it but even the colour changed, it was like the fear had taken over her entire body. Not only had mum lost at least a couple of stone in a crazily short period of time but her hair suddenly had a streak of grey that hadn’t appeared to be there before. Her skin had paled dramatically and her eyes had this wild look about them, a look that said a thousand words but most of all, said fear.
In the early days I was accused of so many horrific things, some things that literally made my stomach churn. I was accused of having an affair with my own father, being a member of the mafia, being involved in drug rings, being a prostitute (I did roar at that one!) & even of being the devil himself, the list goes on. It’s really really hard to write that, One because of fear that people might read it & actually think maybe those accusations are true and two, because it hurts so bad that your own mum could think that of you. Even though I knew none of it was true & I knew it was her brain playing tricks on her, none of that mattered to me. It was the fact that when she said these things, they were said with such conviction & with that look in her eyes which said exactly what she thought of me, it actually made me feel like I had done something so bad, that maybe she had really felt like that, or maybe I had hurt her so much in the past (I had only ever been a normal teen, a bit rebellious) & that this was my punishment.
What I am taking about is the pain it causes the loved ones close to that person. The heavy heart you carry around 24/7 never goes. Yes, I can go out, let my hair down, laugh, dance & have a great time, but it never ever leaves me. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, I happen to be extremely close to my mum, perhaps too close at times, perhaps we confided in each other too much & relied on each other emotionally more than we should have, who knows. All I know is that I have never felt pain like it. It’s like a grief, but the person is still alive. It’s like they have left their body and been replaced with someone else but you know the real them is still in there but you can’t reach them. I think about her & the illness every single day, day in, day out, night in, night out! Literally, it never leaves me. Ever.
I find it particularly hard at special occasions like Christmas. Christmas is time so many people find difficult for many reasons. It’s a time I have such fond memories of, Mum dressing this ridiculously huge tree, decorated so beautifully. We were allowed to dress the tree but I knew (Because I do the same) that mum then went back & rearranged it. The house would smell of baking with what I call real fruit cakes in the oven laced with alcohol. Brandy snaps were homemade, delicately rolled around a wooden spoon. Christmas carols always played in our house, our stockings had tradition written all over them with satsumas & nuts placed in one of the legs from mums tights, surrounding the perfectly chosen little stocking fillers. Mum used to go to a the beautiful town of Arundel in Sussex where they had the most delightful little gift shops, filled with quirky fun things perfect for my sister & I who loved the unusual. Christmas was a proper family occasion, full of joy, laughter, food, games & silliness. Now, Christmas for me is hard. The joy of having a child made Christmas special & that made things a lot easier but there was & is, always a sadness in me because the spark has gone, the smile on my mums face has gone, there is no carols playing when I visit, no tree unless I do one for her, no Christmassy spirit because now, Christmas like all other occasions, Easter, Halloween, summer bbqs only bring anxiety & sadness. My mum doesn’t live with me although she did for a while before being sectioned but it’s always there, in my mind, bothering me. I find it difficult to be at these events without feeling a real dull ache in my heart, craving for the old mum I knew to return, to see that smile, a real smile not a “I’m pretending to be ok” smile. It hurts like no other pain I know other than actually losing someone when they die. So it’s not just the person who is ill, it can affect the people caring for them so profoundly it can alter the whole course of their life, and in some cases make them actually become mentally ill themselves.
Have you ever had the feeling like someone has scribbled all over your brain? If not, just imagine your brain ticking along nicely, with clear thoughts, good head space & great perceptive & then all of a sudden thousands of tiny little brain people come out from their crevices armed with marker pens & scribble all over your brain! And then, if that wasn’t enough, they start to shred your brain matter to bits, tearing it from the soft fleshy cerebrum & reattaching it to another part of the brain just to cause confusion! This is quite graphic, but its a good way to describe how it might feel if you are suffering from a metal illness of any kind.
No one will ever know what exactly causes a person to become ill. Most people have an individual story to tell & reasons why they developed an illness but for some people there seems to be no rhyme or reason at all. As we know, the brain is a very complex structure. It contains billions of nerve cells–called neurons–that must communicate & work together for the body to function normally. Just as there are different types of neurons there are also different types of chemical neurotransmitters. Researchers studying mental illness believe abnormalities in how particular brain circuits function contribute to the development of many mental illnesses. Connections between nerve cells along certain pathways or circuits in the brain can lead to problems with how the brain processes information & may result in abnormal mood, thinking, perception, or behaviour.
I am an absolute believer that life circumstances contribute massively to Mental Illness. This cant be said for all cases of course, but from my own experience & from speaking with people who have had episodes of illness throughout their life, I truly believe that whats happens through ones life impacts on the brain so much so, it literally can send them mad. There are those who would argue that it is merely a chemical imbalance which just isn’t true. Trauma before birth, such as an infection or exposure to alcohol, drugs & other toxins can cause Mental Health issues just as trauma during birth, such as oxygen deprivation or premature delivery can cause issues. There are also factors such a inherited disorders, such as phenylketonuria (PKU) or Tay-Sachs disease. Chromosome abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome which are abnormalities within the body from birth. I am talking about illness caused by your Psychological state, coping with traumatic experiences such as abuse, bereavement, divorce etc. All of these will strongly influence an individuals mental & emotional state which will in turn have an impact on their Mental Health. It it absolutely mind boggling to think about the nitty gritty of what actually happens inside the brain to make a person lose their marbles as it were. I will never give up trying to find a way to help my mum regain some kind of normal existence, whatever normal is.