Hi, I’m Joanna, This is my story

So I guess the first question I need to ask myself is:

“Why do I feel nervous, or even scared, when I have to visit my mum”, for goodness sake I am 50, I should be able to manage that, but……………………..

My mum suffers with bi-polar, we (myself and my sisters) don’t know from day to day what mood she is going to be in. Is she going to be having a manic episode when she feels life is good; or is she going to be in bed in a deep depression, when life is not worth living?

Growing up we were lucky to live next door to our grandparents who looked after us and sheltered us from my mum’s mood swings. If mum was depressed and couldn’t get of bed Gran would make sure we were fed, our school uniforms were washed and ironed, and that our homework was completed.

Gran even made sure we had Christmas presents and dinner when one year. Mum went to bed on Christmas day and didn’t get up until the 2nd January.

To be honest Gran hid mum’s condition from us right up until she died at the age of 94!!

I think the biggest problem is that Mum has suffered with Bi-Polar most of her life but was diagnosed with depression, as opposed to bi-polar, so never received the correct treatment. Now at the age of 75 she is too old to obtain the correct treatment, we are simply too far down the road.

We understand its an illness and she  cant help it but life is difficult.

Over the years she has accused me of causing my daughters eczema because I hadn’t put enough cream on her and accused me of not loving my children. When my son had a number of operations at the age of 4 she told me I hadn’t supported her enough; she is my mother, she should have been supporting me!!!

We have learnt that we have to manage her expectations, if we say we are going to be somewhere at a certain time we damn well better be there at that time, otherwise she actually believes something terrible has happened. Mum makes things up in her mind to justify her behaviour and it then becomes “the truth”. We just go with it, it just makes life easier all round.

For many years we argued back but it just made matters worse, now we walk away, shrug our shoulders and say “hey its her illness”.

I know of at least 5 occasions where she tried to take her own life.

The last time was around 20 years ago. I was so angry and upset by it I am afraid I told her that if she wanted to die then she should try harder because I was fed up of wondering what condition I was going to find her in. The psychiatrist was not impressed with me, but I was at the end of my tether.

We were lucky  we had Gran and Grandad who were our stabilising factor in life. Without them who knows how we would have turned out. I can guarantee we wouldn’t be the 3 strong, independent and successful women we have become.

Has it made us stronger – Yes

Has it made us closer – Yes

Has it made up more aware of our own mental health – ABSOLUTELY

Remember life is not easy, especially if you are living with or looking after someone with mental health issues, so you must look after yourself to help them.

You must find your coping mechanism; going to the gym, walking the dog, a long hot bath – anything that helps you to cope and destress!!

But most importantly you need to talk to someone yourself. I hid mum’s condition for many years, now I talk openly about it. Mental health should not be anything to be ashamed of, it should NOT be a taboo subject.

Have you had a similar experience to Joanna, if so we would be honoured if you would share your thoughts in our comments below. Thank you

2 thoughts on “Hi, I’m Joanna, This is my story”

  1. Wow, thank you so much for sharing such a heartfelt personal story Joanna. It sounds like you and your family have experienced some very challenging times. Its so inspiring to hear how it’s brought you closer as a family though and how you are all very aware of your own Mental Health. I wish you all fair winds and happiness. Thank you Joanna.

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