If my mum was a tea towel she would have “Keep Calm and Carry On” printed on her. Actually, I’m pretty sure she has a mug somewhere in the kitchen cupboard that says that.
Once I became a teenager, and my depression, anxiety and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) came along, we drifted apart in a big way. We bickered and argued a lot. I rebelled in lots of ways, put myself in some dangerous situations. I became close with the wrong people. Snuck out of the house. Pretended I was seeing my friends when I was actually seeing men whom I got the attention I desperately wanted from. Harmed myself. Did lots of things that I suppose many teenagers do really.
I didn’t open up much to my mum. I always felt that if I did, I was going to be scolded. I remember once crying under the covers, my mum trying to help as she sat on the side of the bed. I blubbered and said that I thought I should maybe speak to someone, professionally. Mum brushed off my suggestion instantly. I was about thirteen at the time. Little did we know that two years later my school was going to refer me to a therapist for some CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to deal with my BDD.
One of the worst times was when mum had found some of the explicit messages that some men had sent me online. I had kept them because they made me feel like somebody wanted me. My mum threatened to take me out of school, as my all-girls school was what she blamed for messing me up. Nothing ever came out of that threat though, and in some ways, I wish something had. Looking back at that time, I wish she had helped me see that men are creeps, and maybe found me that help I had asked for. I wonder how things would have panned out for me, if anything would have changed. Not that it matters now of course.
Moving back in with my mum was not something I was really looking forward to. I’ve realised that we are very different people indeed, and that is why we regularly butt heads with each other. Our views are almost opposites when it comes to a lot of things (mostly political things), and my mum sees my sarcastic humour as insulting (which makes her become defensive).
I’ve been battling with this round of depression since August 2015, and have barely told my mum anything about it because I knew that she just wouldn’t ‘get it’. I think she sees depression as something that people let themselves fall into, something that can be cured by simply busying the mind, and something that people use as an excuse to not go to work.
So, you can imagine my apprehension to begin living with my mum again. I have kept my distance a lot since we moved in.
Within the first two months, I began to have these imaginary arguments with her and her new husband (they married last month). These imaginary arguments filled me with gloom and rage, and I always pictured the very worst scenarios, making me very anxious too. Before my mum married her new husband, I felt like I was going to implode because of all these emotions I had been bottling up, all these arguments I imagined, all the things I wanted to say but didn’t feel like I could.
There were other factors involved too, mostly regarding her new husband, but I was terrified to say anything because I felt that my mum would take his side – defend him to the death, rather than really listen to what I was trying to say.
The day of the wedding was fast approaching, and I knew I had to air out some of the things I wanted to say to her, regardless of potential consequences. One morning I asked her if she would like to have a talk with me the next day.
The next morning I woke up in a state of panic. My anxiety decided to take my breath away and I had to lay on the bed, trying to breathe as I wept, with my SO stroking my head, trying to calm me down. That reaction made me think that I simply couldn’t go through with the talk, so as soon as I felt like I could, I went downstairs to cancel it.
Later that afternoon, mum came to find me and wanted to do the talk. I took a deep breath and realised that maybe I should just do it – get these imaginary arguments out of my head so that at least I can feel less anxious.
We sat down and I began. I told her everything about my depression over the last two years; how thoughts of swerving my car into another car made me see a doctor, how he diagnosed me with depression, how I was on anti-depressants for a while, how I became signed off from work, how I continue to have suicidal thoughts, how depression leaves one absolutely empty and unable to do normal things. I tried to make sure I got it all out – I wanted her to see depression as a real illness.
I also wanted to make sure that I told her how her attempts at helping in the past had been unhelpful, even though she had had the best intentions. I told her how her telling me to ‘think positively’ or ‘think about all the people who love you’ were all terrible pieces of advice for somebody with depression. Depression eradicates any good thoughts, it makes you feel guilty when you think about the people that love you. It only lets you think about how you are terrible, how everything you have done has been terrible, and how your future will also be terrible. I wanted mum to understand that being open to just listening was the best thing she could do for me.
I then talked about my imaginary arguments with her and her then-fiance, and some of the concerns I had about their upcoming wedding. Thankfully, she took most of this a lot better than I thought, though she instantly came to his defence, but I knew that she would do that already.
I did most of the talking for about an hour and a half. We hugged at the end. It felt good.
Of course, it was not some sort of magical solution to all our problems. I still keep my distance sometimes. I still snap at her if she’s bothering me on a particularly bad mental health day. Things are a bit better though. I no longer have those imaginary arguments, or at least, nowhere near as much as I used to.
I think there will always be a bit of a block when it comes to our relationship, but I think that’s okay.
I don’t mean to demonise my mum in any way – she has always tried her best and continues to be as supportive as she can with myself and my three brothers. She’s had a lot of rough times in her life that she has been able to get through.
I know that Violet and I will have a different relationship to the one that my mum and I have, as I am not my mum, I am myself. I do however hope that like my mum, I will always try my best to be there for those I love, and to see the tough times through to the other side.