I want to share my story.
I am an educated woman. I went to school, a reputable private school, I went to university and I have a profession I love.
I have parents who separated when I was 7 years old. Both remarried and the disruption to my life over this was minimal
I married at 29, I had a baby girl when I was 31.
I separated from my husband shortly after the birth of my daughter and being a mother has been my main focus over the last 14 years. I worked part time while my daughter attended family day care and then onto school.
We live in a reputable suburb and she attended a good public primary school.
So why do I tell you all this.?
Life; as far as my educated brain sees it, was relatively stress free. Sure we were not rolling in cash but never were we evicted for not paying rent and never did I have a problem getting a good meal on the table. This was most probably thanks to government support and assistance from the generosity of my parents.
So again you may ask why are you telling me this.
I tell you this because 2 years ago for some reason my relatively easy life became a nightmare.
My 14 year old daughter for reasons completely unknown had developed a mental illness.
She teeters in and out of depressive suicidal episodes, she cuts herself on a regular basis sometimes superficically, often seriously deep requiring medical intervention. She spends her time tooing and froing from various health professionals offices, all trying to help her, all offering much advice and medication while she relates over and over again her story of basically not knowing why she feels or behaves like this.
My daughters father stepped in for a while and provided much needed respite in the constant supervision that was required in keeping her safe. A responsibility her school was not prepared to take on.
So both her father and I are unable to commit to full time employment. We did not have the financial capacity to slot her into a private clinic, and this left us at the mercy of a state system that is bursting at the seams and appears to only be able to provide reactive care when she goes into crisis.
I question how long one can keep going. Getting up each day with the constant dread she may give up,and push herself to far today. She may die. Surely this heightened level of anxiety can not be sustained, surely I will break eventually.
So what is meant to happen to families in this situation. A 14 year old that needs to to to school. 2 adults that need to source an income in order to avoid the welfare trap.
On Feburary 27 2014. my daughter was forced to leave my home, forced to reside with a side of her family she hardly knows. Bringing a bright light on the obvious fact that the family she thought was good, strong and loving. A family that at a point of crisis provided nothing in the form of support or assistance in the care of her. While I, her mother crumpled under the stress and strain of managing a child with mental health issues and the family we both thought was strong and supportive, did not step up to help. It had to take the offer of her fathers family ( my ex in laws ) to take her for any respite to be given.
I feel ashamed. My family would think they were so very supportive but when it came to the crunch, quite simply put, they were not.
How; I wonder, does my mother, who considers herself a loving doting grandmother, sit comfortably knowing her grandaughter has had to move across the other side of the country in order for me to get a break.
My Daughter is ill.
Now if her illness was something like cancer my family would be falling over each other to assist in her care, but not mental Illness.
For over 2 years I endured the constant vibe from my family and many of my friends of how naughty my daughter is, how deliberately difficult she is, how she is just out to hurt me, How she just needs a good, firm talking to or how disrespectful she is. And, in a sad way, because I loved and respected these people and because I was worn out and full of my own self doubt as a parent, I sort of believed them.
But on reflection I can see how unfair that is. Like any other illness my daughter did not ask to be this way, she can not help the way she is. It is a mental issue that she has. Just like cancer is a disease you get.
Sure on one level only she can help her self to improve but what they fail to see is this mental illness is what she has, and it will never be ‘fixed’ as such, just managed.
So while all well meaning friends and family were suggesting she’s just a naughty, difficult kid they are failing to accept she has an illness and so much of her behaviour is out of her control.
So what message does this send to my daughter?
‘No one believes her.’
‘Everyone thinks it is all her fault.’
What damaging messages to send to an already fragile mind.
Certainly not therapeutic for an individual with a low self esteem to find some peace and direction in managing her illness.
The stigma associated with mental illness continues and as long as this stigma persists so many; like my daughter, have an even harder road to travel in managing their health.
I know I am not the only one. I know there are many in similar and in far worse situations than myself. My question is what am I supposed to do?
The following is my journey so far, in how I hope to survive what often feels like an ongoing nightmare.