(I started writing these blog posts at the start of this year and then buried the documents aside in a folder, unsure that I should publish their content. After getting back from London last week they came back to mind and I made the decision to open them and read them, which lead to some edits and additions. I’ve decided to publish them on WordPress, although I’m not entirely certain why, perhaps as a better explanation that only touches upon the complexities of the situation we are dealing with when it comes to having a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder and severe depression as well as a diagnosis of dementia.)

ALL ABOUT OUR MOTHER. Well, not all… (Part One)

The first time I clearly remember receiving a hug from my mother was as she was leaving to go to hospital. Everyone was stood in the hallway of the family home. I was barely in my teens, maybe eleven years old. As she had her arms around me I could feel her laughing heartily, her frame shaking and I could hear gasps of hysterics. I laughed back, my brain not quick enough to work out why we were laughing in the first place, but as she pulled away I realised that she wasn’t laughing, not at all. She was hysterically crying. And in an instant I was crying too.

Let me try and recall just how this all panned out.

If my memory serves me right this was a few days before the New Year came in. She had stuck Christmas out with us, and as I’ve said in blog posts before, Christmas in my family was a tense affair, even at the best of times.

The full background to this point in time could fill a reasonably sized book or ten. Before my earliest memories kicks in my mother had suffered some sort of meltdown. She took to her bed, she had stomach pains, she had ripped up the passport that had “brought her to this place” (I always remember her old passport being in bits). A doctor was called. “That is one very depressed woman” he told the family that was present.

And that is why my mother had been on tranquillisers as far back as I could remember. Lorazepam is one of the names I distinctly recall, but I’m certain that for approximately ten years she was on a steady dose of various benzodiazepines, of which she became medically and mentally addicted to. She suffered severe depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, none of which were tackled in any productive manner other than the pills she had been constantly prescribed. She functioned on the most basic of levels. She made dinner, cleaned the house and got me off to school most mornings. She occasionally erupted in bouts of vitriolic anger and upset.

After so many years of being stuck in a rut she was encouraged (I can’t remember the how or who that prompted this) to sue the health centre and the general practitioners that had allowed this continued dependency on benzodiazepines well into the early nineteen-nineties. The health centre took offence and literally barred her and our entire family from their practice. The legal proceedings weren’t followed up on, and we all had to change GPs.

I clearly remember the fretting that ensued as the new GP refused to continue feeding her dependency on tranquillisers. He stopped them in an instant and started her on beta-blockers, I believe to minimise the withdrawal effects. And so, my mother was now without her crutch. Years of (partially) suppressed rage and emotion erupted. This moment could be considered one of many pinnacles, I remember it well, physically, I was in centre of the storm.

Lying on the sofa, the GP had been called for a home visit. By god the pain was excruciating. I was in sheer agony. Embarrassingly there was a problem ‘down below’, but no one had a clue what (I feel I should add here that it was later found to be ‘inflammation of the lining of the bladder’, something the doctor said mostly affected old-aged pensioner males). The GP came in and as he examined me I winced under his prods and presses. The examination was over, some sort of conclusion was reached, maybe I had to go to hospital or I was to get some pills, I can’t remember which. And then suddenly my mother exploded.

“I’m not letting you out of this house until you write a letter to send me to the Maudsley.”

She was angry, vicious and deadly serious.

The Maudsley is the keystone psychiatric establishment that operates in conjunction with most mental health services across South East London. In the kitchen the GP talked to my father and one of my sisters in regards to just what was going on here. My mother, despite demanding this hospitalisation herself, begrudged that they had agreed that yes, there was an issue and that yes, it needed to be tackled. She was and still is a woman of extreme contradiction.

At that point, or soon after she went to the hospital. Somehow she’d made the decision to come back to make Christmas dinner for the family. And then she was admitted into a psychiatric ward in Hither Green hospital. I remember visiting and being utterly terrified of this place. Hither Green, now shut down and derelict, was an old Victorian hospital with very eerie corridors. Some patients in her ward were volatile and I can clearly remember us sitting ‘calmly’ as another female patient in the nearby vicinity tried to smash the Perspex windows in the ward with a chair.

Then New Year’s Eve arrived. My Uncle, Aunt and cousin came to stay with us, perhaps to try and make it all as ‘normal’ as possible. There was music (probably switching through the various London radio stations every time a song came on that no-one liked), nibbles, the adults had drinks, people danced, but of course it was all very far from ‘normal’.

A few days before I had watched my mother walking out of the home in a hysterical state. When the clock struck midnight I watched my father stood in the middle of the living room, and perhaps for the first time, maybe the only time I can remember, he was sobbing. He’d always been a ‘man’s man’, he rarely showed vulnerability and was emotionally closed. I had to be prompted by my uncle to hug my father. Crying, I walked up to him and put my arms around him. I don’t think I’d ever hugged my father before that.

Everything changed after my mother came back from the hospital. My father moved out. My mother received occupational therapy which managed to achieve the impossible and break her decade long agoraphobia. She attended ongoing one-to-one therapy sessions. She ended up getting a job as a volunteer in the hospital that she had stayed in and once in a while when I was off school I’d go along with her, helping old aged patients play games of bingo or walking around the grounds of the hospital, taking photos of those creepy corridors.

I guess you could say that this was the best period my mother had. She went out, she enjoyed her job, and she learnt how to run a household in regards to bills and such. Believe me, she wasn’t ‘fixed’, but looking back I’m still astounded that, considering the years previously, she’d ever gotten out of the mire.

It wasn’t to last.