Originally published on A Lust for Life
Battling with mental health problems since childhood has never been easy task. Living with Schizophrenia has become something I have spent my life accepting and adjusting to. From the age of four I have endlessly fought with demons, voices and the constant fear that comes with delusions and paranoia. I grew up in my own terrifying little bubble, lost in my own anxious thoughts with mood swings that ranged from extremely low to manically high. Along with obsessive compulsive behavior, learning difficulties and a never ending cycle of self-harm it is not surprising that I struggled a lot over the years. I kept it all a secret because I feared how people would react. It took a long time to get help, after a suicide attempt and two hospitalisations my condition became more apparent. I have had to deal with stigma and some unhelpful mental health service professionals but I got there in the end to some degree. My illness is a life sentence, I will never be cured but it is relatively under control most of the time. I still hear voices, have delusions, anxiety along with a lot of other health problems. Symptoms change from day to day sometimes hour to hour, these are the cards I have been dealt in life and although it can feel unfair, it is what it is.
My story is a long one but right now I want to talk about someone else’s journey, my mother; Marian. The bravest, strongest person I have ever known who picked me up when I was down more than anyone else and held my hand every step up the way to get me to where I am today. My mother thought me how to be strong and fight through the pain no matter what life throws. She thought me everything I needed to know to become who I am but one thing she never thought me is how to live without her. Last Christmas while the big rush was on and the world seemed full of excitement for the festivities, my family sat around a hospital bed and said our final goodbyes to a truly special person.
My mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago. She got better and then got sick again. It spread everywhere, lungs, liver, brain and eventually into her nervous system. Once it reached her spinal cord she became paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. Cancer took away so much from my Mam, except for her positivity. She remained as determined as ever right up to the end. My mother never wanted people to know how sick she really was, she encouraged us to live our lives and wanted the best for all her family. I flew home from Australia to see her and when it became immediately obvious that time was running short, I flew back to my fiancé, and we packed up our lives in Sydney to come home for the end.
Christmas is a strange time of year to deal with such a loss. Outside the hospice, everyone was buying presents, going to parties and stressing about Christmas dinner. We were in a terrible reality, waiting day after day for the last breath to tell us her suffering was finally over. Instead of begging her to hang on all we could do was hold her hand and whisper that it was okay to let go while she lay in a coma. That’s the thing with palliative care, all hope is gone and there’s nothing left to do but say I love you and thank you for everything you have ever done for me. My mother died on the 21st of December and we held the funeral the day before Christmas Eve. We celebrated her life just as she would have wanted.
Since my Mam’s death, the world has been a different place. Nothing will ever be the same, my Dad has lost all the plans he had for the future with his wife, my brothers and I have to face the fact that she won’t be there for all our milestones; birthdays, weddings and that our children won’t ever meet their grandmother. The sense of loss is overwhelming and completely devastating for all of us. Waking up every morning and remembering that she is gone forever is the most surreal feeling. The main thing I have to concentrate on right now, is trying not to slip into old habits. To look after my mental wellbeing so that the voices stay at background level. To keep myself busy enough as not to let anxious thinking and paranoia take over. To remind myself that I am going through the grieving process, the same as everyone else and that the bad days, the really horrible ones are to be expected. It is a long tough road ahead that will never truly end. My Mam guides us in a very different way now and she is finally reunited with her son, our brother Stephen. For her funeral, I volunteered to do her eulogy. I put my heart and soul into it as I stood at the altar to make people laugh and cry in equal measure. I wanted to make her as proud of me as I was of her for always seeing the light amongst the darkness.
Keep Shining On