• Kelsey Healy

My Family Curse: Mental Health

Mum never believed in depression, or any other kind of mental illness for that matter. “You just have to keep going,” she’d say, there is always something to do. She couldn’t understand how someone could be so sad, so incredibly sad that they didn’t want to get out of bed, at the same time wishing to unburden everyone by not being there… until suddenly she understood.

She wasn’t always this way, you see. Although her snotty kids couldn’t see it at the time, she did everything she could for us. My parents were never meant to be together, but they tried as hard as they could for a good sixteen years with a labyrinth of challenges along the way. When it was over my Mum didn’t know who she was anymore. That was the beginning of her fall and I watched it happen in slow motion, like a baby bird falling from a tree for the first time, unsure of how to spread its wings and stay above the ground.

As time went on she grew fragile and although she was an independent, working, thriving woman, suddenly she developed a desire to feel needed. The desire to be independent encouraged her to let her guard down and quickly she jumped from wanting to feel independent to wanting someone else to need her. This all happened through our teenage years and although we didn’t know it, we’d break her heart soon enough too. Her two teenage children decided to leave and this was where she really hit rock bottom.

It took six painful months for me to crawl back and beg of her forgiveness. At 18-years-old I was reduced to acting like a child to help her feel like she had a purpose again. I knew I was the one who needed to make her feel like she was needed. I needed to make her feel as though I required her guidance and her advice to ensure I was on the path to success.

Time went on and we developed a ‘push/pull’ system. We’d both push each other away in order to feel independent and I’d always be the one to pull us back together. My duty was to ensure she was still going because she proved to me that she couldn’t do it alone.

It has been almost ten years since my mother was diagnosed with major or clinical depression, ten years of of heartache and uncertainty. There are small moments when all feels well again but overall the experience has been life changing.

Mental health doesn’t just affect the diagnosed; it also affects those around them. I had to look after both mine and my mother's mental health for years. Our ‘push/pull’ relationship has depleted over time and although we had the ‘push’, it got to the point where we’d lost the ‘pull’.

It has been more than a year since I have seen or spoken to her and I am incredibly conflicted. The problem when dealing with someone so close to your heart having a mental illness is that they are not necessarily the same person you knew in the past. There isn’t much you can do to help other than provide moral support when they want it.

I had to leave because I couldn’t let her drag me under with her. Although I felt like I’d done wrong, I wasn’t doing myself any favours by staying. My Mum went from such strength, such a cold, hard, straight and narrow exterior to a melting pot of unpredictability and pure misery.

I want to be sure I’ve diverted from that path to ensure that my life will be different. I’m sure my parents never made it their mission to make my life difficult, but I’m glad that I can look past their lessons around what not to do because it’s okay if I fail at times because that’s what life is; trials and tribulations.

In some ways I know I am her. It’s difficult to get out of bed unless I’m going somewhere. It’s difficult to wear an outfit in case someone judges me. My room is a mess because I just can’t fathom the energy or desire to clean it; but in smaller ways I know I am not her because instead of spending the whole day in bed, it gets to 10am, I look outside and can recognise that it’s a beautiful day. When I finally get up, instead of driving to the shops, I walk, soaking up all that the world has to offer.

It's come to Kelsey's attention that teachers don't always teach because they can't do. Only the best allow themselves the ability to pursue both.

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