Read time: 6-7 minutes. Warning! Potential triggers: contains details of depression, suicide, parental physical/sexual/emotional abuse and child neglect.
Since September last year, I’ve been exclusively writing on my Instagram blog account instead of publishing posts here. It feels good to publish blog posts again, as social media is so limiting and the blog requires a certain amount of consent to view the full story along with a content warning.
When I started this blog in 2019, I didn’t plan on becoming a confessional writer. I just wanted to write memoirs that felt like confessions, and in writing a blog that I wish my younger self could have read, it has helped lots of people in lots of different ways. After spending years intermittently journaling during early mornings privately, the blog felt like an easy place to publicly offshore lots of bullshit narratives that I didn’t need to internalise anymore, and a space I could speak out about my experiences as an AuDHD, self-employed woman who was navigating life and business (post-trauma and sober) whilst managing my chronic illnesses and disabilities/conditions. I felt like I could untangle and free myself from events, people and situations that were no good for me, and in doing so I could work on becoming a more confident writer and more accountable human (hopefully). In all honesty, I just wanted it to help people and went from there. The blog was a great way of communicating what has happened to me and what has helped me, without the emotional labour and energy spend of communicating all this to people separately and freeing myself from any pressure to manage/advise/tutor/coach anyone directly. If I can go through this stuff and more or less “get through it”, I promise that you can definitely get through whatever it is that you’re fighting through.
I posted the first photo 2 years ago; I was doing excruciatingly hard inner work, which was untangling my painful relationship with my mother. Along with this book, my therapist, my partner Chris (and lots of self-care), I was trying to figure out what our relationship would look like moving forward. My mother was a strong woman, but she was also extremely unwell, for the entirety of my life. I posted the second photo nearly 4 years ago; the last time I hung out with her for Mother’s Day. I would make sure to arrive as early in the day as possible and would buy her flowers every time; this way she wouldn’t be too drunk to communicate with and the flowers would remind her that I’d visited recently. They never lasted long, but I kept buying them anyway. I sat next to her on the sofa for a while (she hated that) and asked to take a photo of us holding hands (she hated that too) so I got to have that typical(ish) Mother’s Day photo and I had proof that she held my hand.
My mother was my best kept secret. As a child and young teenager, my father would tell me “Make sure you don’t tell anyone about your mum” and I always knew what that meant. He meant don’t tell anyone she hears voices. Don’t tell anyone she talks back to them. Don’t tell anyone she thinks people are after her. Don’t tell anyone about how much she drinks. Don’t tell anyone she hits you. Don’t tell anyone she’s tried to kill herself. Don’t tell anyone she isn’t fit to look after you, otherwise they’ll take you away. I loved my parents and was dependant on them, whether I liked them or not.
My father was all about secrets, including the ones I was made to keep about him. He has lived out in Australia since I was in my late teens, with a woman who shares the same name as my mother and an Autistic daughter who shares a similar age and name as mine. It’s pretty much the farthest location on the planet you could run away to and is awfully convenient in terms of jurisdiction and legal purposes. Y’know, just in case I managed to survive all that trauma into adulthood and decided to take him to court over historical abuse and neglect(!). When I started learning about the words Depression, Schizophrenia, and Addiction (first from my father and then finding out for myself) I slowly began to piece together the unhealthy, unsafe, and unstable situation I’d been born into. No wonder my dad had done a runner and attempted a complete fresh start, he was a coward who didn’t know how to face up to the true extent of what he had done (and not done). Fathers are supposed to protect and support their daughters; not scream at them, hit them, call them names, flirt with and try to coerce them (when that father is drunk), teach them to hide things, live in shame, or make them feel like their body and soul has been tainted and disgraced forever. Daughters should never have to feel like they are completely and inherently “wrong” because of their father.
I saw mum for her birthday in July 2020 (socially distant) and August 2020 (in person, finally). I hadn’t been able to hug her in 8 months because of lockdowns and precautions. I walked into her flat and threw my arms around her in tears, so grateful to be able to be close to her again. She flinched immediately and muttered “oh you’ve become emotional” and pushed me away from her. I know that it was too overwhelming for her, but it broke me. All those heart-warming videos I’d seen online of daughters being able to finally hug their family again, I wanted that happy moment for myself too. I decided it would be best to limit my interactions with her for the both of us moving forward. That plant didn’t last long, unfortunately.
After I’d tried to see her on Christmas Eve 2020 and it ended in me suffering a severe panic attack that took weeks to recover from, I was questioning if I had the physical or emotional strength to keep visiting her. I needed help navigating this change and made some real fucking hard decisions.
During that visit on Christmas Eve whilst I was socially distanced from her doorstep (back then I thought that COVID would be the worst thing that could happen) she’d started violently coughing, bringing up blood and almost collapsing in front of me. I panicked and wanted to call 999, she was just 10ft away from me, but I couldn’t touch her. She refused to let me help her and slammed the door in front of me. I was terrified and wanted her to be okay. She didn’t want me to know how bad it really was. Afterwards, I turned to the people I loved the most about what happened and was met with a resounding “oh it’ll be fine, it’s not that bad, she’s okay now, it was just a cough” etc. I hated that I knew without any having any proof, but I did: it was cancer.
A Schizophrenic, alcoholic, depressed suicidal mum with cancer? Seriously?! WORST GAME OF BINGO EVER.
Although I was aware of how unwell she was for years and years, I’d had this denied in the past by friends that I realised were trying to use me as an emotional support animal without another terminally ill mum to contend with. I was told that my mother didn’t have cancer and that alcoholism is a choice (not a disease) and she would have been able to stop dying and get better at any point if she wanted to. Safe to say, they were more enemies than they ever were friends, and I went no contact soon after. I was quickly replaced by a dog, which seemed much more appropriate. When it comes to relationships with family, don’t ever let someone deny your reality. The people I’d trusted enough to let meet my mum, always said the same thing: she seems fine, what’s the big deal? It said more about how I used to choose people than it did about her.
It wasn’t until December 2023 that I would see her again. I felt that the 2 years of space I had from her gave me the strength to see her one last time.
My mum was finally identified as Schizophrenic by a doctor in her final days at the hospital, as well as multiple cancers. It was later confirmed by my therapist that she fits the classic DSM model for Schizophrenia. It was painfully cathartic to know that finally, the person who used to be my father, was right the whole time about her mental health. Ironically, her Schizophrenia isn’t hereditary but was most likely an unfortunate combination of trauma and hormonal changes; mainly the 15-year abusive relationship with the father of her 2 children, post-natal depression and her perimenopause/menopause (my mother had children at 36 and 38) which were all self-medicated with heavy drinking and becoming a recluse.
“Love is a river, and there are times when impediments stop the flow of love. Mental illness, addiction, shame, narcissism, fear passed down religious and cultural institutions — these are boulders that interrupt love’s flow.” “…I felt all the love swirling and festering and the pressure of it all felt like it would kill me. But they couldn’t feel any of it. To them, it didn’t exist.”Glennon Doyle, Untamed.
I’m so sad that she’s gone but so happy that she is free now, finally. I’m grieving the way all these things came to pass, as well as the passing of her as a person that was so full of love but was trapped in a body and mind that couldn’t show it. I’m also grieving not being able to speak up when I was younger, and potentially being placed with foster/adoption parents that could have provided me with everything I needed easily without the trauma and pain I’ve survived.
“Shoulda, woulda coulda” is a mind killer. I need to remind myself that I shouldn’t worry if it “shoulda” happened or not. If it “coulda”, it “woulda”.
But somehow, I DID survive all of this. But people shouldn’t have to fight and endure this much to feel basic comfort and safety. Children shouldn’t have to take care of the people who should be taking care of them. Adult siblings shouldn’t have to co-parent their own parents in secret. Children shouldn’t be bred with the expectation that they will become unofficial carers and staff later in life, regardless of their own disabilities, trauma, and mental health conditions.
It’s sad that I now have a relationship with my mother that’s the best it’s been in about 10 years, but I smile more when I think of her now. I can be more compassionate with myself, and I finally don’t have to worry about her anymore. The flowers and plants last longer, and I can love her safely and freely as much as I want to.
1 thought on “Don’t Tell Anyone.”
[…] I am ashamed to write this out loud, that my mother hit me right up until I was 28 years old. It would be over something small or for no reason at all, whilst she was more drunk than usual, and I hadn’t been keeping close enough attention to her mood and visual/auditory hallucinations whilst I was visiting her. I suspected she was Schizophrenic most of my life, but she wasn’t formally identified until a few days before her death. I wrote more about this in my last blog post: Don’t Tell Anyone. […]