After holding this in for the last 19 years of my life I think I’m finally imploding. Not because it’s my family’s dirty little secret. We are not ashamed. But people just don’t need to know and most don’t want to know and that’s fine. I’ve had it happen so many times over the years where my friends, even teachers, have asked me “What’s wrong? You can tell me anything” but then I’ve watched them feel awkward and shy away after I tell them. That’s the stigma and that’s fine - I still love them.
The thing is, if I could tell people my mum had been in a car crash, or had a heart attack or any other physical injury then people could understand. They’d send flowers and they’d ask how we are and friends and family might even visit. But my mum hasn’t been in a car crash, her heart is perfectly healthy and on the outside she is perfectly fine - give or take a couple of scars. My Mum has depression, an invisible disease that causes unimaginable amounts of pain and suffering unbeknown to the people that surround her because there is no pain there for them to see. But I see it, and my brothers and sister see it, and my Mum feels it.
This illness weighs down on her like a house balancing on a brick. And sometimes she breaks. When my Mum is ill, she’s alone. That’s what she thinks. She’s alone and it’s her fault and she’s our burden. But that’s not true; my mum is not alone. She isn’t alone because my four siblings, my stepdad and I are there with her. She can’t see us but we are there always in her head with her. I have spent years trying to figure it out with her - even though to her it feels like nobody is there, trying to get through to her that she’s not alone.
Although she doesn’t know it yet, my Mum outsmarted this disease a long time ago. I’ve seen it myself. In the past it was uncontrollable and it consumed her but now, oblivious to her own strength, she controls it. We know now that when she is ill she will get better. She catches the illness in time before it takes over, but sometimes it still manages to steal parts of her. My mum is not a burden; you never have been and you never will be. I watch Andrew, the youngest of us all, tell Mum that her broken head will be fixed, and I am proud. My Mum is the Sun of our family, we orbit around her, and if she doesn’t shine neither do we. We are one and the same. We will try and try again until she finds her light and she shines so bright that I watch everyone she meets fall for her irrevocably kind personality.
My Mum is special, she has given us the best childhood anyone could ask for. The gathering of leaves and conkers in the Autumn, the father’s day outings where she attended as the only Mum so we wouldn’t be left out, the hundreds of books she still buys me because there is a beauty in losing yourself in a book and she always understood that. For teaching us to be open minded and kind and strong. My Mum has depression, but depression will never have my Mum.
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