Watching Joe Wicks: Facing My Childhood, I was so pleased to learn about Our Time and the work being done to support children living with parents who are suffering with mental illness.
My mum has just died at the age of 95. She had bipolar, and there were many periods in her life when she suffered from the debilitating disorder. I am now 72, but I know the terrible sense of hopelessness I used to feel as a young person trying to support her during these dark times, which began when I was only 12.
I first became aware of my mum’s occasional mood swings when she was in her early thirties. I used to have to take over the running of the home for several days each month. Then, when she was in her fifties, mum’s bipolar episodes became much more severe and frequent. She would spend weeks in bed, eating very little and neglecting herself. It finally led to her having to take early retirement. It was only at this point she was finally persuaded to go and see a psychiatrist. He diagnosed bipolar, and she started taking lithium. It was a wonder drug for mum, for thirty years she never had an episode, but by her eighties the doctor had to take her off the drug, as it was affecting her kidneys. A year later the episodes began again.
In the past 11 years, her bipolar episodes gradually worsened, to the point where she was depressed most of the time. I did get support from a local ‘mental health for the elderly’ team for a time, until she eventually went into residential care as a direct result of her bipolar. Although the drugs they prescribed didn’t work, it was comforting to finally have someone to talk to.
Because she could no longer live independently and because of the debilitating effect of this disorder, I feel that it was contributory to her decline and eventual death. At 95, she had no major health problems other than bipolar, so I insisted that it was included on her death certificate as a contributing cause of death.
I hope that Our Time receives more support after the exposure given by Joe Wicks’ documentary. It’s good to know that nowadays there is more support available, and acknowledgement of the effects that parental mental ill-health can have on children. I wish I had had access to more support over the years. I have asked family and friends to donate to Our Time, as I will do too, in memory of my mum.
*Names have been changed.