(Content Warning: mental health, childhood trauma)
When I was 11 years old, my Mum had a breakdown. Prior to this happening with my Mum, I remember one night she went to church and did not return home. I remember Dad worrying where she was, as well as me.
The night she went missing, prior to that, I knew something was not right with my Mum. I stopped going to church for a while, but I remember asking my Mum that night that I would come and she said no. My Mum saying no, was the strange part. I did not argue it, but I knew something was not right. I just could not put my finger on it. We found out the next day that she signed herself in a mental health unit.
Around that time, I remember it being a difficult time. I won’t go into the details with regards to how my Mum was and what she did, as this is personal to her and me. But as for me, with the worry and upset, I went from a size 16 to a size 14 in the space of 2 weeks. School got involved at one point, asking if Dad could come in to discuss what was going on, as my schoolwork was going downhill. He explained to them the concerns I had as a child and he was advised to pass on to me, what they said to him. What he had to pass on, was some reassuring words to ease my concerns I had and what I could do if I felt the need. I felt reassured by this.
While my Mum was in this unit, it was just me and Dad. I can’t remember how long my Mum was in there for, but while it was just me and Dad, his behaviour changed slightly for the better. It was weird seeing some of this, as it was a side I had not seen before. Why could he have not been like this all the time? I remember during this time, that I had no fear of him.
I also seen Dad pass out quiet a few times before me, which scared the hell out of me each time. My learning I had from going to St. Johns Ambulance each week, went straight out the window, except for observing that he was on his side, before running outside and banging on next door’s for help. No one was in next door. (We had no phone in the house.) Dad came round each time and got himself up. I don’t think he ever went to the doctors about that.
Later, my Mum took Dad to court to fight for me. As a child, I could not grasp why this was going on and soon anger from me, was being directed to my Mum. I hated the idea of choosing who to live with. I wanted both. I remember being at the courts with Dad and asking him do I get to have a say where I can go? He said he did not know what would happen. In the end, my Mum did not turn up, so we just went home. I was angry even more.
One week, not long after this, Dad insisted I go on the weekend holiday already booked with the St. Johns Ambulance to Skegness, as we were doing a walking parade over there. Then later, I was to go to my cousin’s for a weeks holiday. I did not want to go to either, as I had not forgotten about him having those blackouts. But he insisted.
When I was a couple of days into my holiday at my cousins, Dad phoned and explained Mum was back and she was right with him now. He explained how he was going to pass the phone to her. All this time I was shouting down the phone that I am not speaking to her. I heard a hello from my Mum, but I just slammed the phone down. I remember I was upset and shaking. The phone rang again and my cousin answered. It was Dad and I had to speak to him again and he wasn’t happy that I put my phone down on my Mum. My Mum spoke to me, but I cannot remember what we would have said to each other at that point. When I came home, life went on.
The parts after this, I cannot remember much now, other than I remember my Mum could not keep any money on her. Any change she had, she had to give it back to Dad, which I knew was wrong, but I do understand why he did it. Dad had to pay whatever was remaining on two catalogues she used to have at the time. What he had to pay, I don’t know, other than to clear outstanding balances. My Mum wasn’t allowed to buy anything else from these catalogues. Instead, anything we needed, had to be bought from the shops.
Years later, when Dad passed away and me and my Mum talked about that time. I learnt my Mum had a flat. My Mum could have moved into there, from the mental health unit. My Mum would have had the support to get the flat kitted out with the basics she needed too, had she took the flat. But she came back to live with me and Dad, because she came back for me.
I also learnt, that Dad threatened to burn the house down next time with us all in it, should she ever thought of leaving again. He apparently would have set a metal bucket alight, in the spare room. This made me feel sick to learn this, that Dad could go that low.
The first thing I would say when talking about my Dad now, is the fear I had of him. As a child, although I felt the fear, I would not have come out with those words directly. But a childhood friend who knows me, can remember when we played and what ever idea she had, how I came out with that I couldn’t because of my Dad. I apparently said, my Dad would belt me one. I can’t remember this, but when I mentioned it to my Mum, she said no doubt I would have said it, because my Dad used to say this often to me.
Why did I not take the opportunity to go with my Mum? I know there are people who get abused, but cannot leave, because they love them. That’s probably me, because as a child, I did feel closer to Dad, as we had shared interests. I also remember hoping and wishing that Dad could show me love like other parents did. Not put the fear in me. Maybe I hoped to see more over the better times. I don’t know, it’s rather vague and I won’t continue asking these questions to myself, as there is no point by it. But it is good to just get it out and wrote down.
Had I chosen to live with Mum, I know life would have been different, but how different, I don’t know. I know that life would have still been difficult though, because of what I experienced as a teenager, after Dad passed away.