What it feels like to grow up around mental illness
All my parental figures had mental illness of some sorts. My mother struggles with depression, my step-father has PTSD and my father has Schizophrenia.
To say my childhood was normal would be an outright lie. It was tough sometimes, I was lonely. I realised from a young age that it wasn’t a good idea to talk about my father…
The word Schizophrenia usually rubs people up the wrong way.
So I learnt to live two separate lives. One with my family and the other out in the world. I can remember feeling insanely jealous when I was young, I’d hear people talking about their families and what they done on weekends, where they’d been on holiday etc.
I felt alienated from most people my own age. I felt like I couldn’t relate to them at all. I had thing’s going on in my life, at home and they wouldn’t understand, so I just simply didn’t talk about it.
I would go to school, play with the other kids there, attend class, go to birthday parties but something on the inside was just different to everyone around me. Mainly I felt sadness. I wanted to fit in so I hid my family life. I pushed it out of sight and tried to be normal.
My Parents Story
When my mother came to England she was a single parent. She was heavily pregnant with her second child when she tragically lost the baby. If he had lived he would of been my baby brother. I think I would have liked that.
My mother discovered the reason for loosing the baby was because she had cancer and was really quite sick, so I went to live with my grandparents, so she could recuperate and gather her strength.
She beat cancer and she survived but she was given a hysterectomy which caused an early menopause and left her severely depressed for many years afterwards…
My father in the meantime, still living in Holland at this point was having a drug fuelled Schizophrenic break down. He’d been a singer in a Punk band called The Utensils and he’d developed a lot of bad habits during this time.
He’d lived an interesting life, his childhood was difficult. He’d grown up in a children’s home in the 60’s, he was starved, unloved and mistreat.
On his seventh birthday he was adopted by my grandparents.
They were wealthy but they couldn’t have children themselves, so they decided to adopt. They lifted my dad out of poverty and gave him everything he needed. They also adopted a young girl, his sister Carole.
They travelled the world with the two children they had adopted and my father was very much given a second chance.
My grandfather was a clarinet player in a Jazz band, so when my father showed a talent and interest in music he eagerly supported it. My father formed a band in his teens and they’d practice in my grandfathers garage.
He was very troubled at school and he often got the cane. He recalls that once he wrote a paper on evolution and was given the cane for not believing in God. Perhaps, this is where I get my rebellious side from.
As my father reached his teens he joined the punk movement. My grandparents were disappointed.
Then, in his early twenties, he was sent to prison, for the possession of heroin. He lost his job as a graphic designer, and landed a two year stretch in prison. My grandparents were horrified. They came from a nice part of town.
When he left prison he moved to Holland. That’s where he met my mother.
My mother is a healing type of person, she wanted to help him. I’m guessing they took a lot of drugs. They were wild party animals. I’m not sure why they had a child. Perhaps my mother thought it would fix him, who knows?
After I was born my father’s Schizophrenia really started to show. It would make him do crazy things and jump to wild conclusions. Eventually, my mother had enough and she left him and took me with her. She was heavily pregnant.
When I really came to terms with my fathers illness
I was 14 when I saw my father have a breakdown, I was visiting him during the holidays, I woke up one night and he was sat on the edge of my bed holding a carving knife, saying something incomprehensible to himself, muttering it over and over again, staring blankly at the wall.
In his mind he was protecting me, I think.
I remember whispering to him, like he was in a trance and I was trying to gently wake him in case the shock frightened him.
The truth is, I don’t even know if he knew I was there or what he was thinking. I was scared but this was a breaking point for me. I realised for the first time just how ill he was.
My grandparents called a psychiatric ward. He was sectioned early next morning.
He spent sometime in a mental hospital called High Croft after that. I visited him while he was there. I wasn’t allowed in the building because it was too dangerous for me to go in, but I sat with him on a bench in the grounds.
It was peaceful, I could hear the birds singing and the sun was shinning.
He told me he hadn’t taken his pills that day and then got angry with himself for telling me, then he started to look around in a paranoid state like someone was watching or listening.
He didn’t ask me any question’s about myself or how I was. I didn’t mind. I found his paranoid state funny. I giggled at him. He smiled at me.
As an adult I am grateful for my uniqueness
My father was always this troubled figure in my life, he was both my hero and the cause of my suffering. I struggled through my teens and twenties, I needed a dad.
But what he did teach me is that it’s OK to be different. He made me fiercely independent. I inherited his aptitude for creativity and I’m an empath. I care about the wellness of others. It’s also made me a good parent because I don’t want my kids to go through what I went through.
Some of us are born to walk troubled paths. They do not wish to struggle with mental illness so please don’t judge those who do.
Some of us have a harder life than others and that’s okay. Our struggles give us character and shape who we are as people.
It’s taken me many years to come to peace with my childhood.
For many years I was angry, I suffered with anxiety and low self esteem, If you would like to read about how I came to terms with it you can here:
At least now I take pride in being unique, life shaped me this way so that I would go on to help others and start this blog. I trust the universe and the journey it put me on and I’m okay with my life because it’s mine to live, it’s my Journey.
To anyone out there that has grown up around mental illness, you’ll know the pain I am talking about. You learn from a young age how to be strong because if you don’t life will crush you.
Just know that you’re never alone, even if you feel like it. Life can be complicated and painful but one day you will heal. You will emerge from that chrysalis and spread those wings.