Mental health/illness or wellness. It seems to be the buzz word of the last couple of years; I’m not throwing shade in the slightest, it is something we have blogged about in the past and will continue to do so, because it is very important. But, this week’s blog post isn’t about mental health or wellness specifically- more the ripple effect it has on the people it touches, the family members who are also effected by its presence and the children that it leaves feeling rejected and unable to understand what is going on with their loved one. This post began 6 months ago and took ages for me to churn out because of fear. Fear; of admitting that it’s something I am constantly thinking about, fear that I am sharing someone else’s truth, fear that I’ll be seen as taking/seeking attention. All in all, I aim to merely be open and honest and (hopefully) retrospective and critical in some ways of myself and of my thoughts.
I have had very personal experiences with mental ill health and I have been lucky or unlucky enough to have seen it take hold of someone close to me. My father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was around 10-11, but I don’t remember much about that time as I saw it all through a child’s eyes. Fast forward decades later, and my interaction with mental ill health is much more intimate and hits much closer to home. I have seen them treated from the inside of a hospital, from supported housing, from counselling with a psychiatrist and though not affected myself- some times it felt like I might as well have been. I took on a lot. Looking back, I’m not really sure how I did it and how I managed to juggle all of the things I did. (I’m not saying for pity, just being honest about how I felt at the time) It didn’t seem to let up, I would drop my daughter off to daycare, go to work, pick her back up from daycare, feed her, try to spend some time with her, drop her off at my mom’s and then head off to the hospital, spend 2 hours trying to make sure they still felt included in everyday life, trying to keep them upbeat (because hospitals are dismal places) all the while making sure not to let them know I was scared, worried and being spread thin. The one day in 3 months, I couldn’t make it to the hospital, (I was so very tired, hasn’t been sleeping very well and just mentally exhausted). I felt so guilty for not being able to do it all, guilty that I had abandoned them for the selfish reason of being “too tired”.
𝓢𝓽𝓸𝓻𝓶𝓼 𝓶𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓽𝓻𝓮𝓮𝓼 𝓽𝓪𝓴𝓮 𝓭𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 𝓻𝓸𝓸𝓽𝓼.
– ∂σℓℓу ραятση
I had always thought of myself as a resilient person, I, at 12 along with my siblings, had survived my parents’ divorce, I had moved out and lived with a partner who really wasn’t good for me, I had moved back in with my mother, only to then move half way across the world and pick up and start again. Who me? I gots this! Mental health? Meh- can’t touch this! Then life humbled me. Seeing someone become a shadow of themselves, anxiety riddled and fearful of the world they had embraced just days before. Watching them wear the floors in from pacing back and forth, listening to them laugh uncontrollably for no particular reason. Having them play out their life like it’s a Hollywood Blockbuster, reacting to every noise, crouching down on the floor or hiding from non-existent people or non-existent fears. Trying to be their anchor or their beacon, but looking in their eyes and fully knowing they can’t see you in the fog or their illness. In the aftermath, it has left me on edge, constantly looking out for signs, subtleties or changes in behaviour, sleep patterns, actions- it might even become obsessive to the point where you may not even trust that you are seeing the reality, because let’s face it- I missed the signs before (I didn’t know what they were, but I had still missed them). I would be remiss to say that a flashback doesn’t cross my mind every once in a while or the odd day I let my imagination wander and see flashes of my worst nightmare. Realistically, I had seen them, but didn’t know what to make of them so simply ignored them until it was quite clear something was not right.
Would it happen to me, could it happen to me?
But what really went down? Mental health stole my family, it didn’t crack or leave a fissure, it fully ripped it apart, what it left in its place is nothing like when it started. It took away the laughter, the personality and the joy. It took away the plans for the future and left in it’s wake worry, doubt and guilt. It took away the hope and left a shell- a functioning shell, but a shell nonetheless.