Mental illness and me.

14th January 2014

Yesterday the Zero to Hero task required me to make comments on 3 blogs. I plucked up to courage to comment on a fellow Zero to Hero’s blog.  Heather came across as a lovely girl and I love the way she writes so it was easy to make my very first comment on her blog which is now committed to “Blog For Mental Health 2014″

I didn’t get around to looking for the other two blogs to comment on. Reading Heather’s blog had set me to thinking about the effect that mental illness has played in my life.

For a start, my father must have had problems, since he ended up an alcoholic – methylated spirits in the end until he had to give it all up or die. In the end, he chose death. Pot calling the kettle black, as I had my own problems with depression and drinking in the second half of my first marriage, all swept under the rug and suppressed while I used the “it’s in your head, get over it” approach.

I became familiar with Dementia during my Enrolled Nurse training and then later with work in the hospital and the doctors’ surgery.  I had first hand experience with my elderly mother-in-law who ended up in care for her own and the family’s safety. Unless you have experienced it directly, it is very easy to criticize children who “put away” a parent. Mother-in-law’s siblings were most upset, but none of them had bothered to visit so didn’t see the decline. The hardest part to deal with was her frustration when everyone denied her what she wanted to do. She would look so bewildered when you would say that her son was grown up so she didn’t have to go pick him up from school.

Then my brother. Diagnosed with schizophrenia very early in his life and had all the paranoia associated with it. I remember  him telling me that the hospital killed them off. “Have you ever seen an old schizophrenic?” he asked me. I tried to convince him that it meant they recovered or had their illness under control. I  was  careful not to push my opinion too hard, else he would wonder if I was “in on it” too. The worst memory in my mind is when he rang me one day and told me he was getting on a train to go to Melbourne. Then he promptly got on a bus to Adelaide. He was throwing “them” off the scent so he could get home safely. I was one of “them”. I never had to actually live with an emerging schizophrenic, as I was well gone from home, with children of my own. I feel bad about it all as I wondered if it was the last straw for him when I turned my back on him like my mum had seemed to do. He was in a Melbourne home for wayward boys after he and a brother got into trouble for trashing a newly built house. He would come and spend holidays with my family but in the end my husband of the time didn’t want that to continue and we didn’t take him one holidays. We eventually insisted that mum should have him back. Mum’s own life was in tatters as she fled my violent father (who had found where she was living once she left the safety of her brother’s home). Mum found work in the South Australian back blocks near the Coorong, taking the youngest of my siblings with her. Mum was the one who had to bear the brunt of my brother’s breakdowns and in the end mum feared for her life.

The doctors had trouble finding the right medication for his schizophrenia. Now, I am happy to say, he is an old schizophrenic and he lives on his own with a dog, home help and daily visits to the nearby hospital for his medications. He almost died a few years back because he will not give up smoking. His body had started to shut down but he pulled through okay. I haven’t seen him for a long time: I didn’t visit him when I was in Adelaide the last time. The time before that he told me, in no uncertain terms, that I needed new dentures (even truer now) and I looked like a dyke since I stopped wearing makeup. Apparently he has this direct approach to anyone who visits him.

Below is the link to Beyond Blue
“3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety.
beyondblue is working to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety in the community by raising awareness and understanding, empowering people to seek help, and supporting recovery, management and resilience.”

So, if you are feeling any of these things, you should seek help. If I had sought help then maybe I would not have to live with memories of my behaviour during what I call my “previous existence”. There are many ways to commit self-harm, not all of them with a razor blade.

9 thoughts on “Mental illness and me.

  1. so glad you wrote this down and put it out there on the web … so many people have mental illness in their lives but it is still something they can’t find courage to speak of … my mother and grandmother suffered from depression … no surprise when I did too … one sister has had all kinds of diagnoses but is very fragile and suffers immune system disorders too … we can no longer talk on the phone because it causes her too much stress … and that is just a very laid-back conversation … I could go on but that is enough for now, you can imagine the dementia, madness and badness that remains unspoken!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your sister. I can understand that a simple thing like asking how she is can stress her out. We all have an automatic “I’m all right” to the question, and then you have the unspoken dialogue going in both your minds. On the phone, the reassurance of eye contact and body language are absent to convey the caring. Hang in there. Sisters are precious.


  2. Oh Christine. I understand how hard it is to record such history, and to relive it, and to explain it so others have a sense of what it was like. Yes, it is overwhelming. You got that across. “Previous existence” is a great term. That’s one I hadn’t heard before, and it fits well. How glad I am that you and I feel so disconnected from those days, yet can recount them with the awareness and privilege that we made it to the other side, and continue to stay on this side, for the most part.

    One of my upcoming posts is a similar subject to this one. It is a follow-up to my Bipolar Snowballs one, which was inspired by a couple of posts by a friend:

    Sending healing thoughts your way


  3. Such an unfortunate circumstance to get to know you better. You are truly a survivor for such an impressive feat. I have had friends living with many of the illnesses and experiences you describe but have of course not to deal with the responsibility that entails. I wish all the best to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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