I have recently discovered Our Time and am so glad that such an organisation exists as it has compelled me to share my experience. As a child in the 80’s and 90’s, growing up with a schizophrenic mother was pretty lonely as no one understood, or that’s what it felt like. As much as people tried to explain I was confused, embarrassed, frightened and sad.
My Mum had been experiencing mental health issues from her teenage years but was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was around 4. Throughout my childhood the schizophrenia took hold and I never knew how she would be. There was aggression, long periods of psychosis, withdrawal – you name it. When the psychosis was severe was the most frightening, the voices could get quite demanding. One memory I have is my Mum slitting her arm with a kitchen knife. She would go for walks in the middle of the night barefoot and became convinced that there were children on the roof who needed help. Mum spent a lot of time in and out of hospital, having been sectioned on a few occasions.
Although I didn’t live with Mum full time I was embarrassed about having friends over. Being a child and teenager is hard enough but I didn’t want people to know about my Mum. When they did I felt judged and outcasted – I was worried if people knew they would think it was catching and not want me around. I often did not put myself in certain social situations because I did not know how they would react. I felt like I could not get a decent boyfriend as I came with a ‘problem’. I tried to be strong but all I wanted was a Mum to protect and care for me NOT the other way around.
Fast forward a few years and Mum finally was given a place in a care home. It has been a hard ride with lots of ups and downs but she is settled and stable. For a long time I was angry – why me, why did it have to be my Mum. I grieve for the Mum I have in my mind and I am sad that she hasn’t been able to experience the wonderful things in life. However, I am proud that I have been able to deal with the trauma of my past through counselling. I have the most amazing friends, family and husband who give me ongoing support. My Mum is still in a brilliant care home and has a passion for clothes, cigarettes and takeaways – she also loves her grandchildren to bits!
I am now 37 and it is only in the last few years that I have been open about my Mums mental health issues. Saying the words ‘My Mum is a Paranoid Schizophrenic’ is a really brave thing to do! Time’s changing and people are more understanding and educated about mental illness – I feel like if I am not brave and say those words then who else will!