Deborah, January 14, 2020

My Mum would not hurt a fly, yet her illness has meant her having to keep her guard up

Isn’t it funny that if you have a physical illness, you get all the sympathy and understanding of the world?

My Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 67. Suddenly, my friends, work colleagues, even other family members were showing great concern for mine and my Mother’s wellbeing. I was granted compassionate leave, allowed to cry at work publicly with no shame, and be fearful of my Mum’s life coming to a tragic end. Yet my Mum has had a life-threatening illness since I was 4 years old. She has continued to work, bring up a family and form friendships, all the while keeping her debilitating illness secret from the wider audience. My Mum has Schizophrenia.

Every day of my life, I have lived with an extremely brave, strong woman who has had this terrible voice living inside her head telling her that she was a ‘horrible person’. That she should harm herself because she was not worthy. My Mum would not hurt a fly, yet her illness has meant her having to keep her guard up, fearful that people would find out the extent of her mental illness and worry that people would suddenly turn on her, believing that she was capable of having anything but the wonderful kind heart she has.

Now, my Mum and I have decided that enough is enough. Because their ignorance is not her bliss.

At the age of 16, my Mum tried to end her life for the first time, but it was not until she was 31, having had a miscarriage, giving birth to a very sick child and then having a hysterectomy that caused her to finally break down. She started hearing and seeing things. She thought she was being stalked. She started harming herself because the voices told her to.

When I finally reached the age of 16 myself, my Mum was admitted to a psychiatric unit for 4 months and I suddenly had to grow up very fast. I did all I could to research this illness, trying to gain a deeper understanding of what her life must be like. I have learnt that Schizophrenia does not mean ‘split personality’ or equal violence. That some of the most bright, creative and caring people in the world suffer with this extreme form of mental illness.

So, the point of this blog is to tell people that it really is Time to Change. That we need to share our stories, listen to others and have a thirst for knowledge of another person’s plight. We can and will end this discrimination against mental illness because my Mum and lots of other people out there face a challenge every day, fight for their right to survive every day, and request to be treated with the same compassion and dignity that any other human being with a serious physical illness would receive. Thank you.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.