Linky Blog – Brave
This weeks Topic –
When I was a little girl, about 10 or so I think, I remember writing a poem. I still have it, in a box in storage, but one line from it (sort of from memory) reads “sitting inside, looking through my bedroom window. All my friends windows are bright and sparkly, but mine is frosted. Opaque. Smeared in dirt with cracks that I cannot stop from spreading” Or something like that anyway. You see, my Mum has been sick as long as I can remember and I guess my relevance to the topic of BRAVE is how (she and) I dealt with that growing up as an only child and whose parents marriage dissolved when I was thirteen.
Growing up I knew my Mum had Manic Depression, or Bipolar as it is called now. Her first episode was when she was fifteen and on a German Language Camp at high school. She still regresses to speaking basic German in her manic episodes. It has now been classified as Schizoaffective Disorder with Bipolar thrown in for fun and games.
When I was born, my Mum was in the Psychiatric ward for 6 months. She went through her entire pregnancy on lithium and breastfed me also for 12 months. Nowadays they take women off lithium when pregnant I believe, as it can have severe side-affects on unborn children so goodness knows how I turned out They are still studying the long term side-effects of lithium and my Mum is a living case study. Her kidneys are shot and she has been given another five or so years if she stays on it – trouble is, there is no viable alternative for her. She would live longer but be locked up in hospital. She says no thanks.
Throughout my childhood she was in hospital every year or so for 2-8 weeks at a time. My Dad was a school teacher and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents when Mum was in hospital and he was on school camps and later on when he was a geologist and away on trips. I have distinct memories of loving to stay at my Narnie and Papa’s. I miss my Narnie very much. She was an only child too and I think I was favoured more than a little amongst her grand children. Drinking orange juice reminds me of her. But I digress.
As I got older the fights between my parents got worse. I grew to “understand” Mums illness a lot better and often found myself defending my Dad when her paranoia took over and the TV would start talking to her, giving her messages. My Dad stuck it out for 16 years with the last 5 being particularly venomous and miserable for all involved. Eventually on August 6th, 1987, after I had been driven home from school with my Dad he told me he was leaving. He went quickly and packed his bags and when my Mum got home from work, he told her and left abruptly. I knew before she did that he was leaving and he left me all alone, aged 13, to pick up the pieces of complete hysteria. Within days Mum was in the psych ward again and was there for three months. I was thirteen and in year nine. If my father, aged 39 couldn’t cope living with my mothers illness, what on earth made him think his 13 year old daughter could??
After Dad left, the relationship between me and my Mum was changed forever. I was no longer the daughter in the relationship. I was the reluctant parent. Very reluctant and very resentful. I took a lot of time off school and babysitting her when the hospital beds were full. I cancelled credit cards so she couldn’t spend all our money, sat with her whilst she sobbed at three in the morning, convinced her she wasn’t a failure and that she and I would be OK, all whilst trying to concentrate at school (a private girls school that my Dad had mortgaged his house for) and generally keep it all together. I couldn’t really talk to my Dad about it as he had left the marriage to escape the drama and I didn’t want to burden him, and nobody else understood.
I found my coping mechanism was to shut my feelings for Mum off. If I didn’t show her how much I loved or needed her, it wouldn’t hurt so much when she wasn’t there mentally or physically in hospital. It was awful. I adore my mother and she more than adores me. She would lay down and die for me and for me to put up walls absolutely killed me inside but it was the only way I knew that I could then take control when I needed to, that I wouldn’t fall apart when she needed me. How I could be brave. I had to be a bitch to be brave. I didn’t know how else to be and I hated myself for being that way. I still do – it is one of my biggest regrets in life that I couldn’t have found another way to cope. It must have hurt her so much – I love you Mum, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you more back then. I still retreat to this behaviour at times when my Mum is sick (as she is now, coming up to two months in hospital this time), and my patience is wearing thin, listening to her “stories” that I have heard a million times before. I really TRY to put on my “patient pants” when I talk to her every day on the phone – its hard, but she deserves it. And more. So much more.
At 14 years old I was spending the weeks with Mum and weekends at Dads. At 15 I was at Dads during the week and Mums on the weekend and at 16 I had moved in with Dad full time to complete year twelve. At 18 I moved out with a school friend.
Fortunately, my Mum met a man. A man who would turn out to be my saviour. Mum got re-married when I was 21 and is still with her amazing husband. He is my hero. She is my hero too, to have lived with this debilitating, agonising, heart-breaking illness for over 45 years and him for nearly 20. My (our) life would be so much different if this amazing man hadn’t have fallen in love with my beautiful, generous, intelligent and totally amazing mother. I struggle to think where we would all be and what our lives would be like. He is there for her when I can’t be and I owe him so much. He is her rock and his love for her is deep and eternal. I am so grateful that he came into her life and saved us both.
I wish I could go visit her more often, give her a big hug and some comfort, but the logistics of country living and dropping everything with two kids make it nigh on impossible and it breaks my heart when she is on the other end of the phone crying, trapped screaming inside her fragmented mind, broken and begging to see me, see the boys. She has her husband and I must be brave.
I MUST BE BRAVE. Her and me both.
Her and me both.
She is so brave – she taught me how – she is my hero.
Love you Mum.