Self-care is a really difficult thing to endure when you are feeling under the weather yourself.
This week, I have had to force myself to get up off the couch, get showered and eat. Life changes, illness, pain and other indemnities have left me feeling tense and angry over the last few weeks and this has of course mirrored itself in the forefront of my mental health. I am one again finding myself enraged with not only the unpredictable practicalities of life, but aiming the flaming arrows at myself everyone around me. Not good news for my close friends and family, my partner and my daughter – particularly when I can’t seem to gain any sort of control over it.
I had my bi-annually medication review with my GP a few days ago, and mentioned to her that with all that is happening – decline in my physical health, moving house, the change in weather – my mood has significantly dropped to the levels where I feel I’m in the red warning zone. She doubled my Sertraline, something which hasn’t happened in a long time, and two days later I can certainly feel the effects. This morning I managed to get myself out of bed without being too exhausted to want to crawl back in to it, I feel less like an emotional blubbering mess and my productivity and creativity has sky rocketed. Hallelujah.
I am starting to realise that the many medication tweaks and altering my environment to compliment my bipolar waves will be permanent. There is no easy ‘one state’ fix for me. These little adjustments are mandatory to see me through to a healthy life. I feel okay with this now, there will never be a single solution.
As the years go by, and I get further and further away from the messy life before diagnosis, I can feel how far I have come and how much I am learning from my past to implement in my future self-care. There’s so much value in experience.
I walked in to the room and was immediately alerted by the wild look which had taken over her panicked face.
I looked around the room for some clarification of the unexpected welcome. Everybody was silent, their heads bowed in ignorance. I looked back at her. She didn’t offer any words, just widened her eyes and shook her head in defiance.
‘What? Will somebody tell me what the hell is going on?’
More shaking of the head. Eyes as big and glassy as two large blue moons, her skin bagging underneath with exhaustion.
‘It’s bad Megan.’
She spoke as if I should have known the full context of what she was talking about. My face crumped in confusion again, I pursed my lips for a preliminary ‘what the fuck’ and scanned the room for another clue. Nothing. I looked back at her again.
‘Haunted.’ She said sternly.
‘Oh for ffff-‘
‘No.’ She stopped me in my tracks, holding her palm in front of me in attempt to block the words pouring out of my mouth. My mind was still on loop – ‘Not this again…’
‘Bad. It’s bad… I’ve had to get my sister up here because I just couldn’t be on my own, I just can’t –‘
Then, the rambling began.
‘ – Voices. Footsteps, walking behind me, following me ‘tap, tap, tap’. Taunting me, all night. Skeletons, Ouija board, books, videos – the lot! All in the bin, it’s gone, wiped. It’s not the house anymore, it’s me, it’s latched on to me and it is evil, it is evil Megan! It’s following me. Stalking me. All day, all night. Touching me, prodding me in the night. Taunting.’ Her words were rolling off her tongue and rang in to the room, I could barely keep up. Her nephew was sat in the corner sniggering to himself at the absurdity of it all.
Christ. I’d just about had enough of this heebie jeebie bollocks.
‘Where’s the tape?’
‘It’s gone. It’s not on the tape anymore, it’s in the bin. It’s gone – the voices aren’t there anymore. They are in the room now.’
I looked at her in bewilderment. Did she look genuinely petrified?
‘Honestly Megan I am not pulling your leg even the priest that has come up and cleansed the –‘
‘You wha -?’
‘- place has told me that there’s a presence, and –
‘A priest? You have had a priest around?’
She nodded, expectantly. I looked over to her sister for confirmation. She looked up at me, closed her eyes and quietly nodded, before hanging her head back down shamefully.
‘God can’t save me now…’
She had been at it for months. None stop talking about the paranormal and the afterlife, making her own Ouija board, voice recordings in attempt to pick up ghools that she believed were floating around her 19th Century block of terraces. She’s always had an interest, but over the past few weeks an interest had slowly evolved in to an obsession. In the past two week that lead to this moment, it was getting painful to come up to see her – all you’d get is ghosts and presence and ‘can you hear this on the tape? Listen, I can pick up a word!’ She was driving her son bonkers with all, he’d roll his eyes every time the subject was mentioned. Recently, it had been that bad that in a passive thought one night before bed a week earlier, I sat there thinking how she couldn’t seem to think of anything else, I’d be telling her important details about my life and you could just tell her mind was elsewhere, or she would interrupt at the most inappropriate moment. I shrugged it off as unnecessary worry.
I took another look at her and realised how sunken and haggard she looked. Had she slept at all? She appeared as though she hadn’t bathed in weeks, her fluffy fine hair stuck up all over the place in short blonde tuffs like a feral chicken. I looked over her chest to find a solid chunky metal cross, which hung around her neck and rested on her oversized jumper embedded with rips and holes. Her eyes were teary. She was genuinely petrified.
She continued to ramble on about how the priest was now on leave for a few weeks and that she couldn’t stay here, then tearfully began pleading for me to believe her.
‘Okay, of course I believe you.’ I said to her, gently. ‘Calm down, you can stay at mine for the time being, you don’t have to be alone.’ I needed to keep an eye on her, something was not right.
I had never seen her so jumpy in my life. Every noise, every shadow she feared. She was frightened. After an update form her sister, I’d also found out that she’d been hearing voices all night and tried sleeping with a bible over her face. At all hours of the morning, she had been jolted awake by her shouting ‘The power of Christ – Begone!!’ in to the emptiness of the room. Throwing salt about the place. Making growling noises that she swore was out of her control. This had gone on for a few days now, and it had pissed me off that I wasn’t told about this sooner.
I got her to my house and settled her on the couch. Her eyes darted around the room in alert, survival instinct charged up full force like she was being hunted down by a predator. She cling on to her cross and whilst she pulled on her chain, I noticed she also had rosary beads tucked in to her shirt. She got her bible out and stared reading. She is not remotely religious. Never had been.
My stomach churned as I dialled The Boy’s number – I needed some support. It was happening again, like it did during my young teenage years. I can’t go through this again, I just can’t. What scared me the most is that you could see this was factual it in her eyes, it was a dead cert, the adamancy that she was not going completely bonkers, but she was ‘in fact’ possessed by a demon.
I put a reminder on my phone to ring the doctor’s in the morning.
to be continued…
Last year, I had the honour to be approached by the founder of The Recovery Letters blog, James Withey, who asked me to submit a letter for his upcoming book, the Recovery Letters – Addressed to People Experiencing Depression, which compiled letters from people who had once suffered – to the currently suffering.
My contribution made it through to final print, and when I got the package through from Jessica Kingsley publishers with a copy of the book, I wept with absolute joy. Upon reading the extracts, the book offers a real inspirational insight in to what it feels like to suffer, and each letter is raw with relatable stories, advice and hope.
Here is my contribution to the book.
Please do support James for all the hard work he has done by purchasing a copy for yourself, or even as a gift for someone you know is going through a tough time. Each one of these letters holds so much value and hope for those who are suffering. Details of how to purchase can be found in the link below, along with the Recovery Letters blog.
It’s been quite a while,
since the last time my cheek
This week, god has made the decision to hand me a pair of grey tinted glasses to try on. I have taken these glasses, adjusted the fit and seen through the lens what an absolute fucking shambles my life is when it is viewed from a different perspective altogether.
Last week I was skipping about, happy as Larry. Sociable Megan. Invincible Megan. Going through a hard year but still, let’s just take it as it comes Megan.
Thats what mental illness is, isn’t it? It’s a pair of grey tinted glasses.
I have endured, the past few days, life as I have been flipped upside down and I am standing on my head. I feel unsettled. Uncomfortable. Everything is tilted and backwards. What was the capable has now become the escapable. My home is now a prison, not a place I can hide in for comfort. I feel trapped in a room that’s physically too big for me – now that’s a surreal feeling. Replying to a text message now too colossal a task. I want to be away from people, from the world but I am too on edge and anxious to be alone.
I know this will pass. It always does. It will be forgotten, and I will be swept up in the world of colours again. But tonight, I cannot stand to lie here in my own skin, in the silence of this house, stopped in time.
My life is fine, the people around me are fine. My soul however, is not.
This month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Claire* who bravely opened up to tell me her story of how she grew up in a domestically and emotionally challenged environment, and the impact this had on her mental health as an adult. Claire is now a parent and a homeowner with her long term Partner, and when she’s not caring for her two children she works part time as a registered medical professional. This is Claire’s story of her experience with an abusive parent.
*WARNING – this post contains some reference of domestic and sexual violence, and some contents can be triggering. All names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
TMY – “So what made you want to speak out?
CLAIRE – Mostly to help your blog, and to touch on subjects that I don’t really speak about which could help other young adults or children. Um… about – it’s really hard to say it now – if you are having a tough time at home when you are young but you don’t see it as abuse or anything… But when you get old you know it is, do you know what I mean?
And how it can affect you a little bit really.
So tell me about the background of it all, obviously I know quite a bit about the life you had with your mum?
Even now I’ll try and discuss it, and I still won’t see it as abuse. But now when I think about it with my children, and if I was ever to do something like that, I wouldn’t do it – you know what I mean – so I know it’s wrong. But even discussing it I’ll think – ‘No, it’s not really, it’s not’ – but then again it was. So I’ll think about the way my mum used to speak to me… see even now I think people will just think it’s attention seeking or you are just being stupid, but that’s just my mum talking.
Do you see what I mean?
Yes. I think when you are that age as well you just don’t know, you haven’t got the experience to compare it to. You haven’t got that self-worth built up over the years.
No, I remember when I was at school and I went to one of the mentors who helps students, and I really wanted to tell her what had been going on, and I approached her and she said to me, ‘Someone’s mum died today’, and then just blanked me so I never spoke out to anyone again after that. So I do think it’s quite important for children to be able to approach people and mentors who are supposed to be there to help you. And actually get acknowledged and not brushed off, because that actually reinforces you saying well, maybe it is nothing? If she’s not going to listen to me who is? Maybe it is nothing, maybe it is just in my head.
It’s quite a big deal for someone to – how old was you at the time?
So… I think I was in year 8 when that happened…
So 13, 14 maybe?
And that was the first time I actually went to approach somebody about it and it was the last time I ever did.
I suppose things might have been a little bit different if I’d actually said; look this is what’s happening at home, I’m not very happy.
It’s a big thing to do, was it just… built up? What made you want to talk to somebody?
I can’t remember to be honest I just remember thinking I need to tell someone, and then I never did again.
And to face that kind of rejection as well at such a young age, it must have made you feel like…
It’s something that has always stayed with me, what happened, it’s not something I will ever forget.
Yeah. Do you remember the next time you spoke out after that, when you told somebody?
I think it was….. I think it was when I had had my proper fall out with my mum, and I went to the doctors with panic attacks – I couldn’t breathe – and like, I kind of spoke about it but not really. I can’t remember really? I think I have obviously spoke about it to my friends as I got older, but at the time it was normalised, you sort of get desensitised to things you know like, you don’t see it as… maybe when I went to councillor really, but that was when I was about… I was pregnant with my son, so, about 13 years later. And that’s when I really opened up to a stranger about wanting to seek help again, so that’s probably about 12, 13 years later.
It’s a long time.
Yeah. Oh and I did at university actually, I had this lady called S that I used to speak to. And I wrote a massive long letter about all the things my mum had done and she like took me under her wing a little bit. Um… yeah, it affected me whilst I was at university; I used to self-harm, I tried committing suicide. I had to stay in observations with the nurse for a couple of nights, I wasn’t allowed to be on my own. I had to sleep there before they were worried I was going to kill myself. I think that’s when I wrote the letter to this women who tried to help students.
Trying to reach out?
Yeah, yeah. I’m a little bit all over the place, sorry.
It’s okay. Do you think that…you said you was pregnant with your son at the time when you really started opening up… Do you think that being pregnant with your first born kind of helped to see your own worth in a way?
No, I sought help because I didn’t want to feel that pain anymore, and bringing a child in to it.
I was so… I think it highlighted things more because my mum would, we’d obviously had that fall out, and she wasn’t bothered with my – you know with me being pregnant or anything – and I think it just hit home just how hurt I was still and that’s when I sought counselling, I didn’t want to bring a child in to it. Well, since having children it’s got better, but I still feel feelings of guilt towards my mum, I still feel like sometimes in my head… was it acceptable behaviour? And I’m just… You know… But I wouldn’t do the things she has done to me to my children, you know then it’s wrong, you know?
Yeah, I suppose you’ve got something to compare it to now, you are on the different perspective, you are on your mum’s perspective in a way.
Yeah. Because I think really, it would be nice for people to read this, and acknowledge that there are similarities in their stories, where they have got a narcissistic mum, that they are getting abused and that it’s okay to stand up – and if they are in the situation like, with the woman at the school who didn’t acknowledge it and brushed it off, because she’d heard that something more important had happened to someone else – there are other people who you can speak to, you don’t have to just walk away and then try and find help 13 years later because you wouldn’t have to go through all that suffering.
Do you think your life would have been different if she did say, ‘Okay, let’s sit down and talk?’
I think I would have been under the eyes of social services. But my mum was under social services with my younger brother. I’m not really sure of the story behind that, I know she had a social worker to take him out, but I don’t know we never spoke about it, so I don’t know what that was all about. But because that had happened, maybe… Well, if I had gone in to more detail, gone in to any detail what had happened, I think she would have spoke to various agencies to try and take me away.
When did it all start with you mum? Can you remember?
I don’t know if this is a memory… or it’s something she had told me. But she left alcohol out in the living room when I was about 2 or 3. I got really drunk and passed out, then I got bit by a dog. And I don’t know where she was then, and I find that quite neglectful because you don’t, like –
It’s very young.
– ‘Where are you?’ You know. But, um… I do have a memory of her pushing me down the stairs when I was 4. And I have another memory… the one memory I remember really well is, I was – I can’t remember why she was angry at me – but I was in primary school and I must have been about 5 (I started school when I was 5), and she was really annoyed with me, I can’t remember why. And she pushed me. We had this sofa where it had all these little metal studs going all around it, she ended up blacking my eye? And she told me I had to tell people that I had fallen over my toys. Um, and I remember that, and pushing me down the stairs, but I can’t remember anything else after that. So I think… what I can remember… I think she was neglectful from me being a toddler, because why else would a two year old get drunk and get attacked by a dog?
But my first memories are more when I was about 5, um… yeah.
Did you feel like it was normal, growing up in that environment? Or did you know something was wrong?
I used to watch films and I would see like, these families being really happy, and I used to think, ‘Why is my family not like that, you know why are we not like that?’ and I used to say that to her and she’d be like, ‘Oh it’s just in the films, it’s just films.’ I just saw it as normal I think though really, I used to see the films and think why is my family not like that. But… yeah I saw it as normal really. I think it was as I grew in to an adult where I thought, you know, it’s not right, it’s not right.
Yeah. Did you tell your friends?
I can’t remember. I don’t know if they witnessed it or… I know one of my friends said that ‘I know your mum is always a bit funny with you.’ I don’t think I told my friends at the time actually, what was going on. They must have known something because when I was about 15, I lived with my friend and her mum for a while, and her mum used to say to my nan, ‘Oh I used to have her all the time as a toddler,’ and my nan was like ‘Well I used to have her all the time as well,’ so when did my mum actually have me? My mum had me quite young, and I think she felt she had missed out on a lot of her teenage years where you are going out and getting drunk and all that, so I think she wanted to experience those that everyone else was feeling? And I think she took it out on me. Quite a lot. Blamed me.
Do you know if she had a history of any abuse, anything similar?
No, she was doted on by my grandad, absolutely doted on and the problem with my mum and how she is, is that my grandad doted on her, and gave her anything she wanted, but he was a strict parent. But my nan used to hide things from my grandad too so she wouldn’t get in to trouble, and I think she has always get away with stuff and walk all over her mum because my nan wouldn’t say anything. Like my mum used to come home drunk and my nan would make cover stories up for her, you know… so. But I don’t think she was abused. She once said in anger that my dad had raped her, but I think she just said that because she’s just…
There are some stories about my dad and how he’d pushed her down the stairs when she was pregnant, and that he’d held her face to dog shit, but I don’t know how real these stories are because she, with my mum, you never know what to believe. She tells so many lies, it’s like the boy who cried wolf, you don’t know if it’s true or if it’s not true. So you just doubt everything she says.
How was the relationship between you mum and your little brother? Was it different to the relationship that you had?
Yeah. Um, my mum hated… So my Mum used to buy all my brothers clothes and stuff, she wouldn’t buy me any, so my nan would get them for me, my mum hated that. And my mum was very all for my brother, my brother was a little turd when he was younger sometimes… But my mum was quite nasty with him growing up though, I just remember little things, you know? And I’d think ‘It’s a bit mean that’, but… not half as much as she was like with me. They were quite close.
When you had your first born, was anything like, brought out of you?
Yeah so, some of the mental health things that I experienced was, when I was with my son, and one of the other reasons why I tried to sought counselling was that I was getting nightmares of my mum. Um, every night really, waking up screaming and stuff… and even though my mum had been abusive like, I still wanted her, I still wanted her in my life and I wanted her to care for me, and I still want her to care for me but she’s never going to be that person so you’ve kind of accept and acknowledge the fact that she’s never going to be the person that I want her to be… and a lot of anger and resentment came out for her really as well when I had my son because I thought how could you do that? How could you treat your daughter that way, like I could never be like that with my children, you know? Um… Yeah. But… There’s a lot of things though that I think ‘I could write a book about my life’ and there’s a lot of things I find it hard to talk about.
Does your partner know about what you have been through?
He knows everything, I think he knows everything really? Most things yeah.
I bet it feels nice to have someone who you can share your life with in that way?
He doesn’t… he hates her with a passion.
But… He gets so angry when I’m upset about her, because he hates what I have been through… where it can come to the point where he’s not really supportive and he’s just angry at her? And sometimes, like, I mean I’m not really like it anymore because of my medication but when I used to get really down… he didn’t get it? He just didn’t get it, because he has never experienced any bad things in his life, everything is perfect and rosy and he doesn’t really understand that anyone can ever suffer in pain or anything, and feel down.
Do you get depressed? Do you have bouts of depression?
Not at the minute though, because of my tablets, they really help. If I was to come off my tablets tomorrow, I’d say in a few months’ time I would be back down there feeling anxious, feeling paranoid that everyone is out to get me, like nobody likes me, I’ll get a funny look off someone and I’ll think, ‘Oh they are talking about me!’ I feel devalued, I feel below everyone, I don’t feel like I’m… I feel like everyone up here? *Raised hand above head.*
But I’m down here… *lowers hand.*
I don’t feel like my worth is…. Everyone else’s standard…
Um… I’ll look at myself in the mirror and think – ‘You’re ugly, you are so fucking ugly!’ Um… and I’ll… I’ll just have really bad… Yeah… and, but… I’m on the tablets and I’m a lot happier, I try to avoid thinking about my mum now, but I do question my own parenting, I get paranoid that I’m not a good parent? And I feel like I’m letting my children down, but I try so hard. I think I overcompensate, but I just, I just want to be everything that my mum’s not. Um, but yeah without the tablets, I would be very down I think.
How long have you been on them for?
About 2 years… yeah.
And who’s decision was it to be on them, was it your doctor’s?
That was mine. That was mine.
And was you in counselling before that?
I think I started with CBT…
But that was before, that, I think it was before I was pregnant. But I didn’t like that, I didn’t like the female therapist, I thought she was young and I would have wanted someone a bit older and I’m my eyes a bit more experienced and someone who could actually listen to me, I felt like I was talking to someone my own age who was being judgemental of me, so I didn’t go to any more of them. So that’s when I opted for counselling, that’s when I was pregnant.
Was that through the NHS? (National Health Service)
Yeah – do you think it helped at all?
It did yeah, but unfortunately got cut short because I had my son early…
And we never really followed it through after because obviously with a newborn it is quite difficult to go to counselling.
But, with my first born I had suspected mild psychosis, which is what my mum had. Well, she didn’t have mild, she had strong psychosis where she would see blood coming out of the walls. Um, I can talk about that if you want, with psychosis and stuff?
So… when I was pregnant with my first born, I used to, like see the devil coming out of the ceiling like out of the corner, um… I used to see the number 6 everywhere, and think of the devil, I thought he was after me. I’d be screaming at night telling my partner I could see the devil coming out of the wall. I used to have nightmares. And then when I had my son I was hearing voices where, I could hear voices but I could never make out what they were saying it was like whispering it was like…
…One time, I heard somebody go, ‘Go on…’ like an old man’s voice but there was nobody there, because I was on the postnatal ward and it was in the middle of the night, but I was so tired and drained it was just normal to me. And then when I got home I could see bears coming out of the walls, and on the way home I could see shadows climbing up trees, and loads of weird things going on. I went back to hospital because of what I could see in the walls… And then it kind of just disappeared, it kind of disappeared after all. But I remember, like, when I used to breastfeed my son, and I’d be looking at his toys and I could see them moving and I though they was alive, so when I used to feed him I used to hide his toys away so I couldn’t see them. I used to hide them behind the cot the teddies because I genuinely thought they were moving! But then that kind of disappeared then, I went to a support group for women with postnatal depression, and I found that really helpful and it all so gave me a bit of structure – that helped. But with my first son I had to be super mum, I had to do everything, I couldn’t sit still. In one day we’d go swimming, library, park… everywhere like, it would be jam packed my schedule, I’d never keep still. Whereas this time around I’m a little bit more relaxed but then I’m thinking am I a bad mum because I’m not being super woman, I’m not doing this and doing that, you know? Um… but I’ve not had any signs of psychosis this time around. But, the hospital was quite rude though with my second son, because I got told because I had mild psychosis with my first, then I had to see a psychiatrist in order to get discharged?
So… about 7 days after having him, I said, ‘Can I see the psychiatrist now?’ So when it comes to me leaving the hospital, I can just leave, instead of waiting around to see the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist came in… And he was asking me all these questions – which they have to do – do you think you have got super powers? Do you think everyone’s after you? And I was like, ‘No, I’m fine, I’m absolutely fine there’s nothing wrong with me, I feel so much better than I did when I had my first…’
And then they was like, ‘Well I think you should get supervised whilst you look after your baby for the next few weeks, can you agree to that?’ and I was like, ‘No!’ I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m getting supervised, there’s nowt wrong with my parenting, I’m not giving you any answers that would make you feel that way?’
I requested this psychiatric assessment because it’s what I need to get discharged, and I didn’t want to be fannying about! Because I’m in hospital for so long, I want to get discharged, I don’t want to be waiting around, I wanted this to be over and done with, and I found it quite…. Infuriating. Because I’d had it the first time around that they had assumed… Do you know what I mean? It wasn’t like that at all.
What did they say to that then, when you put your foot down and said No?
He just said – ‘Okay then!’ – he didn’t say anything. But he was a student psychiatrist and I think he was just covering his own back.
Yeah maybe, maybe… Did you have any signs of psychosis or paranoia, or anything like that when you was younger?
Paranoia, yeah. Psychosis, no.
I was always frightened of ghosts and stuff. But no not really…
A lot of my memory is blanked out. I don’t have a lot of happy memories. I do of my nan and grandad. I don’t really remember a lot. I remember one time when we was sat on the floor next to our house and we was chatting a lot, and that was really nice? But my mum could turn really quick, and I always remember being really disappointed where one minute she’s be really happy, and the next minute she’ll take it out on me. You’d feel lifted and nice and comforted, and the next minute… You were back down to the bottom again…
Um… yeah… I don’t have a lot of memories of my childhood to be honest, I have a lot of stuff from what had happened but the happy memories, I don’t have many of them.
Do you feel like you missed out on a childhood?
Yeah. Because I don’t have a dad. Haven’t got a dad that has bothered with me as they say, and my mum’s not particularly the best mum you could ever have…so yeah I do feel like… I wish that I had a family where, like my partners mum and dad; where they come and help with DIY and you can go round for your dinner and you can raid the fridge without being judged or… and I had a mum where I went shopping with her and drank champagne. Maybe those things don’t happen, and maybe that’s not reality and that’s just created in my head because that’s what I want? And I see it in films and stuff maybe that’s not what family life is really like and that’s what I have created and it’s not really real. But that’s what I’d like – a mum and dad – with no mental health issues and that cared about me and loved me and took me shopping, did the normal things that mother and daughters do, and a dad that cares about you and judges all your boyfriends and… Instead… Instead of having emptiness. It is, it’s just like a childhood of emptiness, I don’t remember anything… Apart from the bad things…
You seem quite close to your partner’s mum and dad, do you see them as a family?
I know they are family because they are my children grandparents, but I don’t feel like… I get on with them but I don’t feel like I am part of them, I don’t feel like I a worthy of being part of their family. I just feel like, it’s me, my partner, my children and my nan. I feel quite lonely. I feel like my children family, it’s all about my partner’s side, because I haven’t really got anybody. That’s how I feel. I feel like I’m quite lonely, like I feel like I’m not really part of my son’s life.
Because I feel like, I’m here. That’s their family… And my nans over there? I don’t feel like really… yeah. Yeah, I don’t know.
Do you feel like… I know your mum came back in to your life quite recently and you tired making a go of it, and that didn’t work out. Do you feel like you was stronger to handle the situation this time?
I was a lot stronger this time than how I was when I was pregnant with my first born… I was a lot more accepting of it because I’d already been through it. But, I still get feelings of guilt that maybe it’s me who’s in the wrong? And being that person where you have always been put down… My mum is like, it’s like role reversal where I’m her mum and I have to look after her needs and her feelings, and it’s still like that now, I think that’s why I get the guilt. Because, she is narcissistic, she has got the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, she’s like that. Even now I’m thinking, ‘Oh I feel guilty on her, how is she feeling? How is she coping? I am being the bad person because I’m putting her through this?’ But, then I’ve also got to think I’m doing it for myself as well, and I’ve got to be in a good place to look after my children. And when I was friendly with her, she did nothing to make her horrible when we were friends, obviously the telephone calls she went a bit insane, but the times we saw each other she was okay. But there was always that doubt in myself thinking she’s not doing to stay like this, this is all an act. And she proved me exactly right when we fell out. Because of the social services things, and, ‘I’m going to take your kids on a Saturday,’ and, ‘It’s going to be on my terms,’ and I thought well you have not changed and I know I did the right thing my cutting her out again.
But it does mean I don’t feel guilty and that show I feel, but she doesn’t worry about how I feel because it’s all about her.
I know that you had quite a bad time with it again, but do you feel like you did the right thing by trying to give her a second chance?
Yeah I’m glad I did because if I didn’t I would always wonder what if? but I’ve done it, I have extended the branch, and it didn’t work out so. That’s the last time I ever do it because I don’t have any feeling of what if anymore. I know what it leads to… it leads to me feeling anxious, me feeling nervous, me worrying, me being paranoid – even if she doesn’t give me any reason to be paranoid. And then, it’s just not worth it, like I wasn’t sleeping, I was overthinking. Do you know? Whereas now I feel a lot better.
I still feel guilty. I feel like I have pushed herself out on purpose, but she proved me wrong anyway with calling social services on me and my children and stuff. I thought – you’ve not changed.
You’re still selfish.
Do you feel like you have come out stronger from it?
I’m back in the place where I was when it was me, my son and my partner, where it was just us and I didn’t have to think about her. But I feel like I think about her a bit more now because she has met my son and I’ve put her in that situation where I have introduced her to my son and then I’ve taken it away? But I took it away – not in spite – but for my own sanity, because I’m worrying so much, and also when she used to be with him I used to think, ‘You don’t deserve this, you don’t deserve this happiness to be with my son, you are not worthy of being with my son, because you are so cruel.’ She’s been so cruel to me yet I’m letting her see my son? And I used to resent her and think why am I doing this? I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for her, I’m not doing it for me, I’m not doing it for my son, I’m doing it for her, and it’s the whole role reversal thing again of looking after her needs.
Yeah, I think there’s bit of a whole role reversal with your worth as well, I mean you grew up in that situation thinking that you wasn’t worthy, and now it’s she’s the one that’s not worthy?
Yeah. Kind of, um… but on the same token, I’m still looking after her needs by feeling guilty, you know?
I won’t… but then, I am more worthy than that so…
I think that’s what makes you human though? Like, we’re empathetic creatures aren’t we –
– Some of us.
Some of us…
I just… I’ll close my eyes and think of her when I was a child, and I’ll just see these evil eyes, looking through my nan’s window, shouting and swearing, and saying, ‘let me in’ or saying ‘You’re killing your nan and your grandad, they don’t want you here..’ And she didn’t want me because obviously her husband would beat me up. He’d bust my lip open. He tired breaking my nose, but my nose it like… malleable…
*laughs and squeezes tip of nose*
Um… I forgot what I was saying now. What was I saying? Yeah, so she didn’t want me and my grandad took me in and she hated that, because it made her feel jealous, so in turn shed make me feel like they didn’t want me, that I was killing them, she actually said -‘You’re killing them being here!’ and… she just made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of anybody, of anybody loving me, of anybody taking care of me… You know if they ever brought me some clothes – even though I was living with them and she didn’t buy me any – she’d go sick, she’d hate it! And I used to think… why? You know, why am I not allowed a holiday, why am I not allowed clothes, why am I not allowed to be loved? And it did make me… because I know I look back on my school days, there was a time where someone would wind me up and I’d just go over to them and punch them in the stomach *laughs awkwardly*. Like, that I’d be so angry and I’d just go over and punch them… Like… I think if I ever worked in a school – which is something I do want to do – if anybody ever came to me and said, ‘I’m having problems at home’, even if it was something so daft I would sit down and I would listen to them, and I would acknowledge them and make them feel acknowledged, I wouldn’t turn them away because, schools hard enough as it is without having problems at home as well.
Yes, I agree.
And when you seek that help of someone who’s in an authority position, where they are in a position where they can help you, then they should stop listen, actually listen to what they are going to say, because you never know what that child is going to say or what they are going through. You can look at somebody, they can be well dressed, well groomed, going on holidays all the time, they can be the most happiest person in public – but if they come to you are say they are having problems you need to listen to them. You don’t just turn them away.
Do you think with the situation that you went through, it would make you be more aware of it with your children? You know, say if they are going through tough times at school?
Yeah I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t want to see any child, regardless of it they are mine or not, I wouldn’t want to see any child going through any problems because it would really, you know… strike a chord with me, I wouldn’t like it. But it would make me feel more desperate for my children to be happy though, because it would make me feel guilty if they were so down? It would make me feel horrible. But my children will never experience anything from me or from their dad, you know… I don’t know really? I want my children to be more open with me and willing to discuss anything with me, without feeling judged. Where they can have ten minutes where they can shout and swear, and punch things and after ten minutes… *holds hand up* ‘right… Calm down now,’ do you know where they have got that time to be able speak about their emotions, you have ten minutes where you can shout and swear, you’re not going to get in trouble, just get it all out… You know, where they can just come to me and feel open and relaxed, to say – ‘Look mum I’m having problems’, and that’s something I wished I’d always had. My nan’s always been there for me, she’s been amazing, but there is going to come a time when my nan isn’t there anymore, and like I said before my partner and my sons are there and I’m literally on my own then I don’t have any branches off to anyone else really, you know what I mean? And I think there is going to be a time, when that time comes I’m going to feel incredibly lonely.
But then I’ve got to think that I’ve got two beautiful children now, and I don’t have to dwell on the past and that I’m not really on my own because I have these two beautiful babies and I can look after their emotions and help them to grow up to be strong people where they do feel wary that everyone is here, but they’re up there, and they are not on the same level they are up here…
You know? I want that for my children, I want everything that they didn’t have, where if they… You know… If they… where I can get them the shoes that they want so they fit in at school, where they can talk to me if they need to talk to me, where they can feel open to talk to me where they can get a cuddle from me or they feel comfortable to give me a hug because that’s what they want. Where they are not nervous to give they mum a hug because it’s not a natural thing, I want it to be natural where we give each other a hug and you know, where they speak to me and know that… Their worthiness is up here, so they can do well in life and they have the confidence to go forward, instead of thinking, ‘Oh everyone thinks I’m down here, you know…’
Yes. Well…they are two very lucky boys!
They are very lucky. So what would you want to say to somebody who read your story and was going through the same thing, what would you say to them?
Acknowledge it. Acknowledge that it is wrong. Speak out, don’t feel guilty for speaking out on that parent because that parent is not thinking about your emotions or your health or your happiness, they are not thinking about your happiness. Speak out and do something, and if the first person doesn’t listen to you don’t give up. Don’t just put up with it, and acknowledge that it is wrong, ask yourself would you do that to your child? And if it’s no, then it’s not right.”
The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is a registered UK charity that provides 24/7 support and information for children who are victims of abuse, and support for families. For more information about the NSPCC, research, and their services please follow the link to their website below:
For help for children and young people, the Childline website, provided by the NSPCC, is a great resource for information, advice and 24 hour support.
Tel: 0800 1111
The blog is looking for people to take part in telling their story. To take part in The Conversations, please drop me an email on email@example.com.
A few days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Annie in her home, to have an open discussion with her about her past struggles with drug addiction. Annie, who is a single mum of a little boy, aged 3, lives by herself and has volunteered as a mentor for recovering addicts after she became clean. Here is the conversation we had together.
TMY: “When did it all start?
ANNIE: About two years after I started taking drugs.
When did you start taking drugs, how old was you?
Do you know why you started taking them?
Why I started taking drugs? Because I wanted to be the cool kid didn’t I?
Yeah my Brother used to do it all the time so I thought, ‘Oh I want some of that’.
Do you think you was influenced by him?
Yeah. I think you are at that age aren’t you?
Yeah, plus – I liked drinking a lot as well, and I could drink whilst I was on drugs.
Did you start out with… well, I know you’ve had a bit of a past with cocaine. Did you start out with anything else?
No, straight in to class A’s.
Gosh. Is that the time when you was at the flat?
No, I started all that when I went in to my first ever house.
But, when I was in that flat, I was taking it every single day. So when I first started it was once a week, just partying, then by the time I was 22 I was taking it every single day.
It’s quite a long time to be taking drugs, was it like the 4 year stint of it? You didn’t have a break or anything like that?
No. 6 years all together I was taking drugs.
That’s a long time.
When did it start to become to the point where you feel like you needed to take them?
Err, probably when I was about 20, and I used to sniff coke in the toilets at work –
What was you working as at the time?
A receptionist. In a gym.
Did you have anything going on? Like, in the background, did anything trigger it?
I don’t think so? Not at that time no. Well – I had a bit of an eating disorder at the same time, so maybe that as well.
I think illnesses like that, eating disorders, depression and other things go quite hand in hand with addiction, it’s that whole idea of self-soothing….
It was a similar situation with me when I started self harming, I started taking paracetamol and stuff, sounds really daft because you can’t really get addicted to a substance thats not addictive – it’s not chemically addictive –
You can get mentally addicted.
– Mentally you can, yeah. It’s just one of those. When did your eating disorder start?
Probably when I was about 20 – no not 20 – about 18 when I met D.
When you met D?
Do you think she kind of had an influence on you?
Yeah I think she was a bit of a bully really, she used to always call me fat.
I know. So…
I know there was a lot of stuff going on with her as well. So with this eating disorder, was there anything else? I remember when I was going through the whole diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder…
Oh they tried getting me with that as well. But it’s, completely wrong.
…Yeah. I think it’s one of those disorders that they kind of like label on people when they don’t know whats wrong with them…
Yeah. No, I never told the doctors that I was taking drugs or anything like that so they tried like, diagnosing me with everything. I even saw a psychiatrist once and he even thought that I was Autistic, until I told him that I was actually taking drugs! *Laughs`*
*Laughs* Right… did you go to the doctors for help with it?
No not with that, I just… my life was just falling apart, I thought my life was shit so I was at the doctors every week, telling him I couldn’t cope with my life.
Yeah. It’s intense, to go through something at such a young age.
So when did you first reach out about the drug addition thing, when did you first admit it?
Erm, probably when I was about 24, after my ex, A, had been in rehab. And then I got homeless because I couldn’t pay my rent, I was buying too many drugs. All my friends fucked me off, and I though ‘Oh I think I’ve got a bit of a problem here…’ And then the doctors as well tried to get me sectioned, and involve social services in my life because I was that off the rails and mental, but instead of having that… because you can never get rid of a section or get rid of social services being on your file or on your life. So I thought I’d better…*laughs*…try and sort something out with my life eh? And I thought I was going to die as well.. But I don’t know if that was paranoia or not…
Did you have any friends at the time who you kind of, spoke up to about?
Not really, I told my mum that I had a problem with drugs…but, she could’t really do anything.
Was she there for you?
Not really. No. My mum’s got problems as well so I don’t think she finds it easy to see other people’s problems.
Yeah. Does mental illness or addiction or anything like that run in the family?
Erm, I don’t know, my mum has mental illness but I don’t think anyone else does. And my grandad was a gambling addict.
It’s… with my family, I see like a long line of it. And it’s all different things as well, it’s not just the bipolar thing, which is meant to be genetic – which is quite a scary thought really – Erm… but it was everything like S.A.D – seasonal affective disorder – addiction, alcoholism, and I didn’t know about all this until I started opening up about it.
Yeah, people don’t talk about it.
I’m well paranoid about turning out like my mum.
She’s well bad with it, yeah. Like any time I say something that sounds like my mum, I’ll like, shit myself.
I don’t want to turn out like that, I don’t want it to be genetic.
What’s she got in terms of mental illness?
She’s just got really bad anxiety and depression, like savage depression. But her anxiety, I can’t be around her when she’s like that, it annoys me.
Like I said yesterday, when she was doing my head in because you can feel the nerves coming off her, like it comes off on you doesn’t it, people say that it does?
No, it definitely does.
It’s really irritating. It’s like having a child, it’s like a toddler, she’s like a toddler when she’s like that, I can’t handle her.
Has she always been like that?
No, she was like that since her mum died.
How long ago was that?
About 16 years ago.
Did you pick up on it when you was younger?
Yeah I think that’s where my panic attacks came from. From being around her too much.
Because you can feel it can’t you? But she would never go shopping on her own, and I went through a phase too where I couldn’t even leave the house, you know, I started getting the same things as she did.
Yeah. What about when you was a teenager? Did you feel like you was going through a lot with her, being the way that she is?
No, I didn’t even bother with my mum when she was a teenager, I rebelled against it all.
Yeah. I hated my mum as a teenager. *Laughs*
Well that’s most teenagers really isn’t it? *Laughs*
Yeah, so I didn’t really speak to her, I don’t pick up on it.
You seem quite close now?
Yeah, we are now apart from when she’s like this. But that’s just part of growing up isn’t it?
Yeah I think so. Yeah, I had the same with mine, because my mum’s been ill since my dad left, she was fine before then, absolutely fine, and then I ended up leaving home when I was 13, because I just couldn’t be around her. And it seems daft –
– It is hard. When you go through something yourself and you know you can justify it, and you know that you need people, but at the same time it’s a hard kind of ‘burden’ – if that’s even the right word – to take.
Yeah, it is. It’s well hard.
So did you tell your mum about the drugs?
Yeah. Erm, I think this was before… when was it? I sat my mum and dad down and said ‘I think I’ve got a problem’ and they was just like ‘Oh, right okay. Stop doing it then.’
Do you know what I mean?
Did you tell them the full extent of it?
Yeah. I told them I just spent all my money on drugs and that I needed help and they was just like ‘Well just stop doing it then’. Which, didn’t help.
But I think, after all that had happened with my ex, like he said my mum’s mum dying and your dad leaving your mum I think sometimes, it gets worse when something bad happened doesn’t it? So, like after that I started having hallucinations, like proper, and it didn’t get better until I stopped taking drugs.
That’s pretty bad.
So was it the doctors decision to send you to rehab?
No, I did that on my own.
Did you? Like a self referral? Where did you go initially?
Erm, I started going to.. Well, my ex D told me about R.A.M.P – Reduction and Motivational Programme – and you went twice a week for two hours, and they just talked and did presentations about coming off drugs.
Did you feel like you fit in there, like –
– Or was you completely in denial about it?
I was in denial about being in rehab, it took me about… even when I’d graduated from it, I thought I was alright, you know what I mean I just thought I’d got in to a bit of a shit with it. Even though I must have known in my heart that I was an addict, but I’d never admit it.
And then obviously I relapsed, I went a bit off the rails again, I relapsed for about 6 months, and then I genuinely thought I was going to die from it, then I just stopped myself.
How long, so your first attempt to get off them. Did you have support there?
Well I was in rehab wasn’t I?
I mean with anyone outside, like family, friends? Did they kind of take it seriously then?
Not really, no I don’t think they did to be honest, at first. But, I think when I graduated, they were all happy for me and glad, but I don’t think they understood. I don’t think many people understood, they were all like ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, you just like partying and having fun’. But, they only see the partying and having fun bit, they don’t see the… –
– … Yeah.
Behind the scenes.
Exactly. And the only reason I was partying and having fun was because my life was shit all the rest of the time, you know what I mean?
Yes. What do you feel was missing from your life at the time?
Honestly I think self-love. Because, I didn’t hate myself, but I din’t like myself. And I had no self esteem, and I think just knowing and accepting that people care about you, instead of pushing everyone away.
It’s easy to feel like when you are in a situation like that.
Yeah, if you see yourself as a bad person or not good enough, you are going to expect that everyone else thinks that about you.
And in the end they will think that about you because they cant be arsed trying with you, you know.
Tell me a bit more about this eating disorder, how extreme was that?
I think I got addicted to exercising first, thats how it started, I would do this exercise DVD like twice a day, every single day, and then it started to cutting down food. And at first it was sort of funny, because me and a friend was just licking the flavour off crisps and putting them back in to the bag so we had the flavour but you know, not having the calories. And then I started taking laxatives every single day, so if I did eat anything, I didn’t have to worry about it. It would just go straight through.
My lowest weight was about 6 stone 10, erm, I looked like a lollipop, but like I just thought I was fat all the time.
But I though if I was skinny, then I’ll be pretty, then people will like me. But that didn’t happen. *Laughs*
Do you feel like you have recovered from that? Or is there still something there?
Yeah, definitely. I still always see myself as bigger than what I am probably. Like I see people wearing dresses, and they are quite big and I think, ‘Oh they look so lovely, you can’t even see they are a little bit overweight’, but if I have anything on, if I wear something and I can see that theres like an inch sticking out on my belly, I cannot wear it.
Like.. I just cannot wear that outside because I look too fat. Do you know what I mean?
I don’t think anyone can truly be that comfortable, well – comfortable yes, they can be comfortable with themselves – but 100% happy? I don’t, even when they are dieting – ‘Oh, I’ll be happy when I get to 9 stone…’, and then when they get to 9 stone…
Hmm, I think it’s when people compliment you though when you have lost weight, it’s an ego boost. You think if I lose more I will get more compliments.
But yeah, I am happy with myself but at the same time I’m not. I don’t think I ever will be with weight.
This is the fattest I have ever been, and this is because of the pill, but like I always say, I would rather be pregnant than fat – I hate – like I actually hate being chubby. I can’t stand it. I feel disgusting. But what can you do?
It’s just one of those things, I think its a but part of being female as well, it’s media pressures and you know, some men who have these ideas that they need a pretty woman on their arm and not an intelligent woman on they arm… they are very physical aren’t they?
Do you know what though, sticking up for men, I think a lot of men don’t care as much as women do about the woman weight, or women think they care more than what they actually do.
You know. But some of them do, and some men are like proper up their own arses and expect that of women, but I think most normal men don’t really care a bit about belly fat.
I think it’s very magnetised in our eyes isn’t it?
It’s a bigger deal to us.
Yeah, and you want to be perfect when you have got a boyfriend don’t you, you want to be perfect for them? But, that’s never going to happen.
I wonder if men are the same?
I think they are, yes. Men don’t talk about it though do they?
No, no they don’t.
I know a lot of men who don’t like certain parts of their body. But they aren’t as bad as women.
No. It all comes back to that self-loving thing I suppose as well.
Did you get help for the eating disorder? Or did that all kind of dissolve when everything started getting a bit easier with the drugs?
No, that was the main goal in rehab, to learn to love yourself and learn to respect yourself. Because if you learn to love yourself you wouldn’t want to disrespect yourself by fucking your life up and putting drugs in to your body, *Laughs* so because the main reason most people take drugs is to cover up stuff. And it was about uncovering all that, and realising that whatever has happened to you, you are still a good person, you deserve a decent life, so most of the rehab was learning to love yourself. And empowering you and that. So that just came naturally.
So after the programme that you talked about, was there anything else involved in your recovery?
Like AA meetings? NA? (Narcotics anonymous).
NA, yes, but after rehab, because I got kicked out of rehab for having a relationship with someone, even though I graduated, erm… it was with someone who was in there as well, like all the help was cut off. And the only help that there was the AA/NA meetings, but, because I didn’t have to go to them, I just didn’t. Because I was pissed off that they kicked me out.
Did you fall back in to drugs after that?
Yeah, erm, I got kicked out of that, and then it was like two days later when I started drinking again. And I thought, well I will just drink, I won’t take drugs – because I know that I don’t have a problem with alcohol – and then about a month – probably not even a month after that – I thought ‘I’ll just have one line, just one little line’ and then I was straight back bang on it.
Do you feel like they failed you a bit with your aftercare? Do you feel like they could have done something better?
Erm. I don’t know, looking back maybe because I was really angry but… I did break the rules. There wasn’t much else they could have done. But, I think a lot of the clients, they’ve all got this sort of like, complex, this ‘Oh, I’m clean so I’m better than everybody’ and if you relapse they all look down on you, so none of the other clients spoke to me either. So, all that unity which was apparent, that was there, went.
That’s a big thing isn’t it?
Yeah, going from feeling in a bubble, because I lived in rehab didn’t I?
And I had everyone around me, like, who constantly lived there; went to meetings with them, spent all my time with them, all of a sudden all that to go, it was not nice.
It was like being booed out of your mums house, you know? But yeah, because it was a bubble, and then when that popped it was back to reality.
Yeah. How long was you back on the drinking and the drugs after that?
About 7 months. But yeah one day, I think I just took too much drugs and I genuinely thought I was going to die. I thought, if I ever manage to sleep tonight, I’m not going to wait up. And then the next day I was like that’s it, I cannot do it any more. I cannot do it.
Where did you go for help after that?
Nowhere, I just did it on my own.
Yeah. Because I’d learnt all the stuff when I was in rehab, but because I didn’t really believe it… I think the next couple of days I had a few drinks, and that was it, no drugs and I just thought, why am I doing this as well? So, I just cut it all off.
That’s big. That’s such a huge commitment to just decide by yourself. And in recovery, I think you need so many people to just cheer you on, but for you to actually say and make that decision yourself… it’s huge.
Yeah. I had to do it though. It’s jails, institution or death isn’t it?
Well, I would have ended up being sectioned if I didn’t die.
Yeah. Have you, do you still talk to the people from rehab? Anyone?
I still speak to my counsellor a couple of times per week. After I got kicked out, he rang me a few months after, just to see how I was and I lied to him and told him I wasn’t drinking and that. But then when I got clean, I spoke to him a few times, went to see him, had a few meetings with him and then obviously I started volunteering there myself, and I saw him every single day. But we still met for counselling like a couple of times a week. He’s not my counsellor now I’d say we are more friends, but if I ever do need help I will say to him ‘Can we just go and sit down togged and sort my head out?’
So.. I was well angry at him though for kicking me out, but like, I understand now.
Yeah. It’s good that you have someone there, and after so long as well, how long is it that you have been clean?
4 and a half years now.
Yeah. But I went in rehab nearly 6 years ago, but I’m 4 and a half years clean.
Do you ever think you will be tempted, or have you been tempted in the past four years?
Erm, no not by drugs. Only because it scares me so much, I’m scared of drugs. So… I remember once, speaking to my old counsellor on the phone, and I was saying – ‘Do you know what, Im really struggling with my life blah blah blah’- and he said, ‘Well what would you do if you ever went back to it all?’ and I said ‘Well I would have my son would I?’ I wouldn’t have him any more. And he said to me ‘No, your son wouldn’t have you.’ And I just thought, no I can’t do it, the fact that my child wouldn’t have me in his life? It scares the shit out of me.
He is very lucky.
What my son?
Oh I’m not sure about that!
No, he is. He is lucky.
I’m glad I got clean before I had kids. Because a lot of people when they are using and they already have kids, the kids don’t matter.
Because of the drugs, not because they are horrible people.
Do you feel like your mental health has improved since?
Yeah, well loads.
Do you feel like you have still got anything there at all?
Yeah I have some days where I don’t want to get out of bed. I have panic attacks still. I’m still on medication for it. I tried coming off my medication, I tried lowering it a bit but I just couldn’t cope with my life again.
Paroxitine. But erm, I know it’s really hard to come off. Like, when I come off that, when I lowered it I just, I just couldn’t… I just got depressed again. The medication is helping. But I started having panic attacks again. Some days I’m alright, most days, 6 out of 7 days I’m alright, but even with like my child, sometimes I just want to give him away to someone who can look after him better. But then a few days later I’m like ‘I can’t believe I was thinking that!’
But sometimes when I’m like that, I just want everyone to leave me alone, and I don’t want any responsibility, I just want to, you know…. I just want to have nothing.
Yeah, I erm, I think thats hit home that for me. Because I think exactly the same thing sometimes. Because I just love my daughter so much, but when it gets hard, it erm…. I just want to look after myself.
Yeah. Sometimes its hard enough just to look after yourself.
Do you worry about your son going through anything like this?
Yeah I think when my mum, and sometimes my dad can be quite anxious as well, and when they are being like that I say to they you know, can you stop around my child because I don’t want you picking up on anything. I want him to be happy all the time and not like, worry about things, because they sort of pick up on little things and you know, express them, which is probably fine, but when my son is running around and my dad is like – ‘Be careful with this, watch you head, don’t do this! He’s going to fall, he’s going to do this!’ – Because I don’t want him to have all this anxiety around him.
They are very intuitive aren’t they kids?
Yeah. So yeah, I don’t want him to… because he’s a natural worrier anyway, you know, he’s a really sensitive boy, and I was like that as a child, I was so sensitive. So I am worried he is going to turn out like me. But, at the same time every night I will sit down and I’ll tell him at least 5 things that I love about him, you know to try and bring out the positives. Because I never had that as a child. And I think this is where the self esteem issues have come from, it’s just trying to prevent it you know, because if you are happy with yourself, not much can get to you can it? Even though I know mental health can’t be stopped, but it’s just trying to not let him see it, because it can rub off on people.
Yeah, of course it can. Course it can. I feel quite grateful sometimes when I think about some of the things I have be through, because I know I have got the tools to share with her, like she will always have someone. Like, when I was younger, I couldn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone. It’s not going to be the same with her.
I know what you mean.
And it’s erm, it makes me feel quite safe. I was the same with my mum, my mum was ill when I was growing up as well, and the only thing I didn’t want was to turn out like her. And I, well, I kind of did a little bit too much, and I ended up going crazy in my own way I suppose. *Laughs*
Yeah. Whatever is going to happen with your kids is going to happen anyway really, whatever happens, happens, but you can try an give them tools like you say. To be happy. That’s all it’s about really isn’t it? You just want them to be happy.
Have you ever thought about when he grows up, and when he starts going out drinking and partying for the first time, does that ever like, scare you?
Yeah! Because, I know what it’s like. Even though he’s a boy and it’s meant to be more different for boys isn’t it, you know, like ‘Boys can look after themselves..’ And you know, I know what it’s like. Because everyone does drugs, you know, everyone does them. I don’t know one person that hasn’t took drugs in their life. And obviously, because he’s not coming from me, got that genetic as well. That he might pick up on. But, I never want to really drink around him, or do anything like that around him. Because my mum and dad used to drink every night so I thought it was normal.
So.. I mean you can prevent it, you can try an prevent it as much as you wan’t cant you?
It’s that question of nature or nurture.
Yeah. I think he’s got the nature of the personality side. Definitely. Because I was so sensitive everything just got to me a lot, and when I was upset thats when I wanted to use or drink.
Yeah. So with your career you have volunteered and done the same thing, talking to people who are recovering addicts. When did you decide to go down that route?
I don’t know, I just noticed that they were opening a Women’s Only housing, and I thought I might as well give it a go, because it’s only women and I sort of know what I’m talking about. So I give it a go, I did the training and that, and I’d not been around recovery for years, like I don’t do this anymore, I don’t do that, and just being around it – I felt safe again. And I liked it, so it was good for me as well.
Yeah. A bit of a reminder about what you have done, and how far you have come.
Yeah, erm… it was like being back in that bubble again but not as… well, I was smarter about it this time, it’s not actually a ‘bubble’ it just feels like one. But erm, and then seeing other people happy as well, it makes you happy. Because I know now that I have a good life now, you know, I’ve got my child, I have everything I need in life, I’ve got my friends, and its just showing other people that they can have all that as well.
That’s really good. It’s really nice. I bet it feel liberating as well because it feels like – it sounds like – you are quite open about what you have been through, where as once before you may have been quit closed about it.
Yeah, I feel like I probably wanted to talk about it but I never did.
How open are you about it now? Like, new people in your life who are quite new and don’t really know what you have been through, do you ever say….
Yeah, I’ll always say it, I will always get it out of the way. When I met ‘him’ a few weeks ago, he was asking me why I didn’t drink hardly, and I said ‘To be honest, I had a bit of a problem a few years ago, I took too many drugs and ended up in rehab!’ And that, you either like it or you don’t.
I think it would be better telling someone at the beginning, than waiting 6 months and then saying ‘Oh by the way…’, because they would be like, why did you hide it?
Yeah. Do you feel more ashamed or do you feel proud that you can say that?
I’m proud that I have turned my life around yeah, I’m not ashamed of it because it made me who I am. I’m probably ashamed of some of the things that I did…
…You know, but I don’t need to tell anybody that because the people who need to know, and the people I have had to apologise to know, but not everybody needs to know what I got up to. To be honest when you say that you seem quite open, this has felt quite awkward at times for me.
It’s putting it out there I think as well isn’t it.
How do you feel now you have talked about it?
I feel alright yeah, because it’s not anything that most people don’t know.
Yeah. It’s a nice sorry to hear, I know there was a lot of bad things at the beginning, and how it all started off but… it’s a long way to come….”
RAMP (Reduction and Motivation programme) is a 12 week motivational programme aiming to help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction. The programme is held by ACORN Treatment and Housing, a community recovery treatment centre in the North West, UK. Their contact details can be found at;
Tel: 0161 622 1577
Narcotics Anonymous (N.A) is a global organisation which aims to offer recovery through a 12-step programme and group meetings. They focus on recovery from the addition of both drugs and alcohol. To find more information of N.A or A.A. (alcoholics anonymous) in you area, this can be found the link below;
Talk to Frank is a great resource for information and support on drug and alcohol addiction. They also offer a confidential support helpline, email/text and live chat support. Information can be found at;
Helpline: 0300 123 6600
To take part in The Conversations, please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Manic Years is looking for UK Participants to take part in a relaxed, unstructured interview about their experiences with Mental Health.
To express your interest and for more information about the feature, please drop us an email on email@example.com.
“I have suffered with my mental health since I was young, and diagnosed at the age of 12. My mum had been a heavy drinker since I was 3 and I’d been in and out of foster care on several occurrences by the time I’d actually been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. In the years before this, at primary school, I had just been called “soft” and picked on because I cried all the time or overreacted to the smallest of things and then just I’d sit there in silence just thinking.
Fast forward to when I was diagnosed. I was in year 7 at high school and not living at home with my mum because yet again she had fallen off the wagon and become physically abusive towards me. I was given counselling again from a child counsellor I had seen a few years earlier. She was great, I could let of steam, scream and shout all while being allowed to be the child I hadn’t ever been. By the time I was 14 I had been back home and back in care several times, again my mum was physically abusive towards me on several occasions. I felt like a yo-yo, back and forth, up and down. In school I was a loner, I didn’t have many friends; there was a few that were aware of things and supported me, an in addition of having a mentor. I was the one that people made jokes about; I was different, I didn’t live at home with my mum, other people didn’t really understand my situation and they’d make fun out of the fact that my mum was an alcoholic. I felt isolated, like no one liked me or wanted me around. I began to feel nervous about being around people, although generally I appeared to be this bubbly person who was always happy (I was good at putting on a mask) – no one saw how things had actually affected me over the years, they didn’t understand either as most of them couldn’t relate, only those really close to me knew what was going on. I continued through school bobbing in and out of depressive and anxious bouts, controlling it fairly well from 15 when I had a stable foster placement where I was treated well.
When I was 16 I fell pregnant, I wasn’t with the dad… ‘Oh s**t, what am I going to do?’ I thought about all my options and after a few days of knowing I was pregnant I was madly in love with this little blob inside me, I moved back home to my mum and everything was great throughout my pregnancy, my mum had stopped drinking and was being supportive and we were getting on great. My little girl was born in autumn 2007. I was 17 years old, I had this tiny being in front of me needing me, completely relying on me ‘I can and will do this she needs me’… I wanted to be the best mum I could and prove everyone wrong about ‘teenage mums’; I breastfed her so I knew she was getting the best I could give her, all her things were new, she was always immaculate, I wanted to be the best that I could… After 3 weeks of horrific pain and a baby stuck to me permanently I gave up breastfeeding, I’ve never felt so bad in my life and that is where it all began again.
I felt bad, I felt guilty, like I had let her down… I hadn’t – I had done my best – but it didn’t feel like that at the time. I went to see my doctor straight away this time as I didn’t want anything to effect the way I looked after my little girl, I was prescribed fluoxetine, an anti-depressant. Diagnosed with postnatal depression and pretty much just sent on my way, I was taking the medication for a few weeks and I felt worse, they actually made me feel like I wanted to do myself harm, and after another two weeks I came off them because the side effects were horrendous and made me feel worse physically and mentally. After a few months of battling by myself, using the strategies I had learnt through the years; once again I was ‘okay’. I continued to be okay for a good while afterwards too, and when my little girl was about 10 months I met someone; we had known each other a while, he was older than me and my mum disagreed… He made me feel special, I felt lovable for the first time in my life and I felt like everything I had been through was worth it for this. I finally felt accepted and it was amazing.
Shortly after getting together, to everyone’s surprise and a few people’s horror we moved in together and quite soon after that I fell pregnant again. We were on cloud 9… Unfortunately after 3 weeks of knowing I was pregnant I had a miscarriage (I was bitten by a stray cat which caused septicaemia and led to a miscarriage). We were heartbroken and again it made me feel bad as it was my job to protect this little life and I had failed to do that, I know it wasn’t really my fault but at the time I felt like it was. After the miscarriage we moved in with my partners parents to save up for a bigger house and a few months later I found out I was pregnant again. This time we told very few people, just to save heartache having to tell people if anything had happened. It was a worrying 9 months but in spring 2010 I gave birth to my second daughter (my partners first). We were delighted and everything was perfect, again I breastfed but this time with the notion of stopping when I needed too with out feeling guilty about it because I had done the best I could do. Roughly 10 days after our daughter was born I received a phone call that would haunt me for years to come.
My Nan, my rock, the most inspirational woman I had ever had in in life had lung cancer and had been given a maximum of 6 weeks to live. Due to the severity of the cancer and her age there was nothing they could do for her. Five short weeks later, she passed away in hospital surrounded by all of us. The next few weeks and months would be the hardest I had ever faced in my life, in the first few days after her death I just cried. I have never actually felt as broken as I did right then and I had been in some pretty low places over the years. I had to try and pull myself together for sake of my partner and my girls – I couldn’t carry on like this, just basically functioning and doing what I HAD to do. About 6 months after my Nan passed away we moved house again, a fresh start, or so I thought. I fought with my Nan’s passing for a fair few years, but I never dealt with it I accepted it, I ran on autopilot, forgetting important things, leaving the housework and just generally not being myself; I ended up going to the GP because I needed help to deal with my grief. It had been 3 years, I didn’t want medication this time though but my doctor strongly advised it, I was prescribed citalopram and was referred for counselling which actually helped. I faced a lot of demons in those sessions, dealt with why I couldn’t let go and why her death had destroyed me like it had done. A lot of it boiled down to anger stemming from childhood, my Nan was always there for me.
After the counselling I felt great, I weaned myself off my medication with my doctors guidance, I even went back to college to get some qualifications. Once I left college I applied for every care job in my area and within a few months I got an interview, a week later I got the job. I loved it, I’d always wanted to work in the healthcare sector and the aim was to start at the bottom and work my way up. I’d been there almost a year when I again fell pregnant, we were over the moon as we’d been trying trying for quite a while. During the early weeks of pregnancy, work was fine, but due to the complex needs of the people I was caring for and the fact we were extremely short staffed that soon changed. I began getting agitated and upset in the mornings before I went to work and I would dread every shift, yet I loved what I did, by the time I was 15 weeks pregnant I had thought about handing my notice in for the sake of my mental health several times; I was taking my work home with me, which is never good in my line of work.
I worked until I was 19 weeks pregnant when I finally bit the bullet and handed my notice in. I thought it was for the best but in hindsight it wasn’t, although it was stressful it gave me a distraction from my own mind. For 12 hours I was this big ball of fun, the joker, I got on with my colleagues and had fun whilst working. Ironic really considering what was really going on in my head! The rest of my pregnancy went well and I gave birth to the most beautiful baby boy I have ever laid eyes on. From the minute he was born, I worried. I wasn’t depressed, just anxious. Like the girls, I breastfed him and to my absolute amazement, I managed just over 6 months, I ate well, I slept so well (our son slept through from day one) and I was generally happy. When I stopped feeding him myself, I expected to feel guilty like I had done before this time I didn’t, I was fine, it was amazing! I finally felt like life was going my way…
Shortly after this my mum was on one of her usual drinking binges and was unhappy because I wouldn’t let her see the children; we’d had an on-off relationship for the previous 8 years due to her inappropriate behaviour and drinking which led to me me stopping her from having contact with them. She did the unthinkable and tried to have my children taken off me, luckily everyone saw through her lies and the children are still where they should be, at home with mummy and daddy… This again raised that horrible darkness that I hated so much! It made me question myself, ‘what have I done to deserve this?’ How can someone that is supposed to love me do this?’
Now almost 7 months later I’ve been lower than I’ve ever been in my life, until recently when I realised I can’t keep myself down there, I don’t want treating with medication so I have to make myself feel good! I have done it before… I need to be proud of myself and what I have been through! I need to realise that I have everything in the world to be happy about and that is my little family.
I will get there eventually, I have support from good friends and family. In a way I’m glad of the life I’ve had, and made me who I am and I will find that person again. For now I will keep going; Life is precious.”
– By Emma Burns.
Stories are still needed!
Do you have a mental health/recovery story of your own that you’d like to reach out and share to others? Whether it be overcoming depression to addiction to eating disorders… no matter what your area, there will be a chance that your experience will touch someone elses life.
Send your story with your name to firstname.lastname@example.org and i’d be happy to publish on The Manic Years.
Sharing saves lives –