- By girly-d
- On 05/10/2017
- 0 comments
Mental illness runs in my family.
Addiction and suicide are rife - My fathers side mainly.
I have his hair. And the same blue/grey eyes. I wonder if this counts? That one day this will be enough to tip me over. And I get to join the ranks of those who came before me.
They grew up in care. Seven institutionalised adults came churning out of the machine after my nan decided that she didn't much like children after all once they had arrived. I can only imagine the damage that did to them all. Not the best start in life for any kid.
My Aunty Sheila was the worst affected. She was legendary in her madness. We used to hide from her. The three of us. My mum, my brother and I. Whenever she came to call on one of her random visits. Having apparantly walked for miles. With nothing on her feet. Dressed in a dirty fur coat and probably little else.
We didn't know what to do with her. The times that we had to let her in because she wouldn't go away. The occasional cup of tea and stilted probably non-sensical conversation and that was it. Off she would go to wherever she went when she wasn't desperately trying to connect with her family.
She died alone in a bedsit. She'd been there for weeks. Nobody knew that she was there...or didn't bother to check on her if they did. It fills me with shame that she died in this way. Her loneliness must have been overwhelming.
Her brother, My uncle Bill had a row with his wife. She'd been having an affair. It was the final straw. He chose electrocution. Ceiling wires in the bathroom. Not the easiest way to go I would imagine. By the time they'd broken the door down it was too late to save him.
Another Uncle wasted his days in a drunken haze on the streets of London. He was a gambling man. A waster. A womaniser. Someone you would pretend not to see if you passed him on the street. He drank himself to death. I doubt that he was missed by many. He owed far too much money to everyone.
My dad was next. He died of a heart attack at 38. Presumably the stress of battling his own demons along with juggling a wife and two kids that he didn't know what to do with in a marriage that wasn't working, got too much for him.
So I don't come from the greatest of gene pools.
My family history makes me shudder. I'm related by blood to each and every one of them. I look back at my own horrific year and can only pray that my reaction was a normal one. That my crossover into addiction and breakdown was to be expected once my own burdens at that time became too heavy to bear. That I'm not some kind of horrific timebomb that is currently lying dormant in my head. Just waiting for someone or something else to set the timer....
As a child I was petrified of my family. As an adult I wish that I could take those thoughts and reactions back. All of those people - my people were ill. They needed help. Not a bell around their necks announcing to all and sundry to keep clear.
Mental illness is just that. An illness. That lives in your head. It's a crippling and destabilising monster that is difficult to overcome. My Aunty needed help. Desperately. Instead she was talked about, pointed at and became the butt of peoples jokes.
I can't help my Aunty. Or the rest of my family. Without exception as far as I am aware apart from my mum, my brother and me they are all long gone.
But what I can do is shine a spotlight onto this complex and complicated issue. I can write about it. This shocking, taboo subject that is everywhere and nowhere, depending on who you speak to.
Because it is here. It walks amongst us every day. No one on this planet is immune from it. It touches us all in one shape or form. Every man, woman and child. It wrecks lives with it's relentless all consuming appetite for destruction.
It went through my family like a wrecking ball. But I'm attempting to break the mould.
I don't want to live my life like my family before me. Battling, battling, battling those inner demons and monsters in my head. So to the best of my ability I won't.
I'll write and I'll eat well and get plenty of rest. I'll deal with problems as and when I need to and try not to overthink. I'll try and keep things in perspective. Choose my company wisely. Be a nice person and do what makes me happy.
None of these things individually are going to be the key to my wellness. In no way shape or form are they going to protect me from any nasties in my future designed to rock my world. But they are a start. Something I can cling on to in the quest for emotional stability.
Because I don't want to live the rest of my life haunted by the ghost that was my late Aunty Sheila.