I have battled with my mental health for as long as I can remember and so I have had plenty of time to come to terms with my mental illness, to learn what it is and ways of managing it. That being said, I suppose my mum has also had a lot of time to come to terms with it, to come to terms with having a child that suffers with her mental health and as a result needed extra support.
I have a diagnoses of depression, anxiety and distress intolerance and as a child I remember being tearful and often on edge, worrying something bad was going to happen and not understanding why. After numerous GP visits I was eventually referred to the child and adolescent mental health services and since then the mental health services have been a part of my life. Throughout my life treatments have included medications, talking therapies and an inpatient hospital stay, but I feel the most important and lifesaving thing was having my mum has a constant support.
Since the day I was born, I've had a built in best-friend. She’s protected me, supported me and taught me everything I know, she taught me right from wrong and eventually taught me to have strength - I'm lucky to of had that. I remember as a young girl having a conversation with my mum because I was scared that it didn’t matter she was my mum, she could still leave me if she wanted. I thought ‘yes she wanted a child but she didn’t sign up for this, what if it was too difficult for her? What if she couldn’t handle it? What if I didn’t get better?’
That’s the tricky thing about a mental illness, it changes your perceptions on things and if allowed will make you feel so alone, so vulnerable, it allows you to live on what if’s.
Now this is where my mum saved me, at a time where I thought I wasn’t worth anything, wasn’t able to be loved my mum made it known that she was there for me, that having a mental illness didn’t change a thing in her eyes, I remember her saying that ‘all parenting is challenging with or without the illness’ and this was just a part of that. Then she changed my whole perception of mental illness in a second when she said;
‘Andrea, if you were physically poorly do you think I’d love you any less? Of course not so this is no different, we're lucky to have each other’
My mum was right. Those few words of encouragement, of love changed my life because it gave me hope and taught me mental illness is a natural part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. As a young girl mental health wasn’t discussed openly and certainly not in a positive light. There was no education regarding mental health and so as a result my friends were not supportive, they didn’t understand. This is where having my mum's support was invaluable, she was firm when I needed it, always honest and never let me hide behind my illness, in fact she taught me to have pride in my strength and compassion in my struggles.
By having just one person in your corner, to just talk and offload your worries it gives you strength. My mum isn’t a superhero, although she may as well be, she didn’t need any powers to help me through it all, she just gave me her time and support, small gestures can be lifesaving. She was in my corner and having that can be the difference between feeling able to conquer the world and it being the end of the world.