I wanted to write a blog a little earlier on taboo’s, on how when something is considered a taboo, those who believe that taboo subject becomes rejected from society.
The area I was going to look at was the people who believe in conspiracy theories. I won’t get into the issue deeply now. Only to say that although I haven’t put my energy into following any rabbit holes at the moment and I admit I sit on the fence about such things. I have become increasingly irritated by the general feeling towards people that do follow these rabbit holes. My take on it is everybody is entitled to pursue whatever rabbit holes they want. Freedom of opinion is important to me. Of course, I also believe in not using your opinion to harm others. So, there is a slight conundrum there. Another rabbit hole that I don’t have the time to go into right now.
These topics do cross relate to the area that I want to explore now, though. Which is the area of mental health issues.
The reason I think these areas cross relate is that mental health is a kind of lesser taboo topic. It’s an area that people don’t really like talking about. It’s an area that does get swept under the carpet. It’s an area that is kind of frowned upon. When you get subjects like this. People suffer. Not always just the people that are suffering from mental health issues, but their families and their children.
If we dared to shine the light on these areas and were braver about our own dark side, perhaps we could limit the amount of suffering that mental health issues cause.
I speak from experience, and I want to use my experience to help others. Because mental health issues and conditions and their effects aren’t made up, they aren’t a dirty secret, they are real.
I have a mother who suffers from mental health issues. She’s been diagnosed with borderline personality and bipolar. I am going to share a short story memoir piece of writing that I feel gives a glimpse into what it is like to have grown up with somebody with mental health issues. Although there is so much more that I could share. This will do for now.
I’m standing in the cold on Paignton pier looking out to sea. There are cracks in the clouds that allow light to funnel through onto the sea below me. It is the kind of day that looks like it is going to rain, despite the sun trying to break the grim weather apart. The clouds are like prison officers and seal the gates shut, the sun’s attempts are mediocre at best.
I turn around, and there is my love, he is smiling at me. I feel safe when I see his face, warm green eyes and happy mouth, thank god I have him. He is my home away from home, he is my anchor.
We walk to my mother’s house, and I tentatively go through the front door. Jake waits outside. It isn’t locked, and I don’t knock. I am banned from the house, my mother has forbidden me because I can’t even think why, because I said she should drink less. Because I said that she needs to be there for her children. Because I stood in the firing line each time to protect my sisters because I stood in the firing line for Hannah, the au pair saying that she needs a day off. There are too many reasons to count, but it doesn’t matter the reason, I am always the bad guy in the picture. Nether less I have come for a specific reason because now Hannah does take days off. After all, evil as I was to suggest such a thing, everyone needs days off. Only thing is when Hannah isn’t there, my sisters and baby brother are left to fend for themselves, and sometimes there is no food in the house. My 12 and 10-year-old sisters are too young to be looking after themselves and a six-month-old. So I sneak into the dragon’s lair, risking detection and animosity. Usually, what I find is a quiet house though, my sisters and baby brother are by themselves, and my mum is out at the pub or sleeping a hangover off.
So, I gather my siblings together, packing essentials, and I take them to mine and my Kiwi partners house for the weekend. My mother never notices that they are gone.
At my home, we set up the spare bedroom for the girls and put up the porta cot in our room for my little brother. My sisters Fearne and Tara love to sit on the stairs and watch our tropical fish tank. We have a selection of colourful fish, Neon tetra’s, Angelfish, Japanese fighting fish. Sometimes I have the fish trap in there with a pregnant Mumma fish or wee babies. We rearrange the living room, putting the sofa and chairs as barricades to all the pot plants and breakables, that little Kahu can reach. I cook dinner cauliflower cheese and serve us all a portion; we sit together and eat. I feel happy that I’m able to give the girls and Kahu a bit of security in an otherwise tumultuous time.
The next day I return my siblings to the house. I quickly help them carry their things in and turn tail and leave. Hannah will be home soon and able to look after them. Jake and I go into town. We head towards the supermarket. We are almost at the entrance of the supermarket when we hear a loud voice shouting at us. Oh, my fucking god, I think, surely not. Turning around however and yes it fucking is.
My mother, oh how proud I am, there she is running towards us screaming. I don’t know what she’s saying, nothing that makes any sense, because none of it makes any sense really.
Jake and I tun on our heel and run into the supermarket, thinking foolishly that she won’t follow.
Ha, how wrong we were. My mum keeps on running straight into the supermarket, still howling at the top of her lungs. Jake and I split up, I run down one aisle and Jake runs down another, we really want to escape this encounter. I crouch behind the crisps, I mean, I don’t know why I was squatting, because if she came round the corner, she would have seen me, but it felt like a good thing to do. She doesn’t come round the corner into my aisle; instead, she finds Jake, I hear her through the food items. ‘There you are you fucking asshole, coming round to my house when I told you not to.’
I imagine her angry face, spittle flying out of her mouth as she talks—a rabid woman, eyes ferocious, beyond sanity.
Then I hear a thwack, which although I didn’t see, I later learnt was her slapping Jake around the head. I know it sounds awful, but I was relieved that she hadn’t found me, although of course, I felt bad for Jake. I just felt a little better for me. I snuck out the exit of the supermarket and waited around the corner. Soon Jake came out too, and we both ducked away to safety.
This was just part of my mother’s decline. It is impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced the effects of mental health disorders. When you haven’t witnessed the outbursts firsthand, it may seem that nothing is going on. I often thought that I was crazy because my own mother would tell me her version of the truth that was so far off my understanding of the fact that I struggled to know what the truth was. It was hard to not believe I was a bad person when that was what I was told I was. I was terrible and interfering, but my moral compass refused to believe that and I had to stand up to her. My mother had been so beautiful in her youth. I had loved and admired her, but that was all lost.
Now my mother is a recluse and has no family. She lives a broken life. I feel sorry for her. I wish there were something that I could do. Still, I have moved to the other side of the earth, partly I think to get away from the uncertain hostile conditions that were in my youth, so really there is nothing that I can do. I look to my home the land of the long white cloud. I am a refugee that has made a new life with her family.
I feel frustrated sometimes, when the issues of racism and prejudice, seem to be exclusive to people of colour, different ethnicity, or refugees. Because actually having experienced growing up with mental health issues, puts you into that same bracket. Yet it is an invisible topic, one that places you outside a network of support. It feels like being ostracised, for something that you didn’t do. Not being accepted because of who your parents are. It teaches you that actually we are all connected. For what you have experienced most likely, I can relate in some way with an experience that I’ve had. It has taught me to see how excluding society can be, and I don’t admire those qualities in the human race. I will challenge those qualities again and again. I will do my best to include and to break down the walls that keep people apart. These experiences have given me a strong sense of justice and an immense sense of empathy. And the ability to fight for what I believe. When we turn our backs on someone because they are different or their behaviour is challenging, we turn our backs on their children too. We become part of the cause that keeps these issues in the dark and stops the families, getting the help that they need. Support is better than judgement.