Saturday, 10 March 2018

Me, my mum and schizophrenia by Jessica Wilby (MHAM2018)

Hey guys! I hope you are doing well! So I am officially launching mental health awareness march 2018! (#MHAM2018) I had a break last year but I really wanted to bring it back this year and bring some posts and stories to life by some lovely people who have agreed to help me this month! I am hoping we will have some bloggers and other people writing some posts for you guys, posts on awareness, telling their stories or some helpful tips for others with those disorders too! I am hoping that this little movement will be useful in either helping some people or bringing awareness to what living with a mental disorder is like. If you would like to get involved, send me an email at Smitheh01@gmail.com. Jess has kindly offered to do a personal post all about her mum and schizophrenia which we thought would be apt since it is nearly mothers day. 



Hello Ellie's readers! I'm Jess from Philocalist and I'm really grateful to Ellie for giving me this space to talk to you about something really personal today, in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness month.


With the subject of mother's day everywhere right now, I've been thinking about my own relationship with my mum. Whilst I know there's no such thing as a 'normal' mother/daughter relationship, I would hazard a guess that my experience is slightly more niche.
My wonderful, kind, creative mum has schizophrenia.
Don't let your imagination run wild when I say that. It's most certainly not how the movies make it out. She doesn't draw on the walls, fly into a wild rage at the drop of a hat, openly talk to the voices (although she does hear them), etc. Forget everything Hollywood has taught you about this complex mental health issue and go in with and open mind.
My mum had undiagnosed mental health issues for many years, so if I wanted to start at the beginning I wouldn't really know where to pinpoint it. There didn't seem to be a specific issue that 'pushed her over the edge', it wasn't as if she suddenly had a breakdown and *surprise* she's schizophrenic.
Instead it was almost like a vine slowly constricting various aspects of her life and relationships.
She became withdrawn, stopped cleaning, lost control of her emotions, lost her confidence. Maybe not all at once, but slowly and somehow that was worse. When you're young you don't immediately sense that something is wrong but you just know something is different. You can't play out after school because your mum has an intense paranoia that you'll get snatched 'by men hiding in the shubbery'. You can't have your best friend over for tea because your mum's hoarding has gotten way out of control and guests are no longer allowed. You have to walk everywhere rather than drive because mum had her driver's licence revoked (this happens when people suffer from hallucinations - sometimes if your migraine auras are really bad it can happen too).
And there's this temptation as a child to rebel, which my sister and I did because we lacked understanding. No one teaches you about this, do they? We didn't know how to handle it, we thought we just had strict parents and that mum slept all day because she could be bothered to spend time with us.
But then suddenly, it hits you. One day it clicks into place that mum's ill. Things aren't 'normal' and they probably never will be. So you've got to adapt and you've got to do it fast. Sometimes it was small things like walking to the shops arm in arm with her, regardless of getting ripped by school friends who'd spot you on the way. Then other times it was more dramatic, like secretly prank calling the community drop in center over and over after they told her 'Oh no you can't work here with problems like THAT' when mum tried to get onto a 'back-to'work' voluntary scheme.
It's not easy though. Picture yourself, 10-years-old, chilling in your bedroom listening to Busted full blast on your headphones. Suddenly mum comes in the room, teary-eyed and panicked. She turns the lights off and simply sits next to you without and explanation. She asks you to take the headphones off and you sit there, together in the dark in silence knowing that it's actually not silent for her at all, unable to leave until someone comes and gets your mum. However long it takes.
Episodes were thankfully few and far between, but they make a mark.
When you start going through puberty you have your own mental health issues to deal with, mine undoubtedly clashed with mum's. Arguments raged on. My sister moved out. And suddenly home became a lonely place leading to escapism in the form of internet addition and self loathing that manifested into self-harm.
Your teen years are a nightmare, but adding mental health issues into the mix complicates everything and it's hard to salvage a relationship with your mum.
But it is possible.
Young carers and teens in this situation have a lot of work to do. Supporting your family and yourself can be a hard journey, but I promise it will make you stronger and you will grow up with the incredible ability to take on almost anything.
Because when you remember to look after yourself, you lose the bitterness that your mum can't do it all for you. You gain an understanding and an independence that your friend's don't have. Most importantly of all, you take the pressure off your mum which paves the way for a glorious friendship to blossom.
Sure, you'll still have tough times. Unfortunately my mum couldn't come to my graduation because she rarely leaves my hometown, but it doesn't mean she isn't proud. Then there's times when you just want to tell her about something dramatic but you don't want to start off her paranoia, like when we were burgled... twice.
I guess what I want people to understand most of all is that it's not totally unthinkable for children and young teens going through this to come out the other end in one piece, with a family relationship no matter how unconventional that may be.
Sure, schizophrenia has had an impact on my relationship with my mum but it certainly doesn't define it.

Jessica Wilby
Fashion & Beauty Blogger for Philocalist.co.uk