“I could see the fun part of Mum slipping away” – Liberty’s story
Liberty looks back on childhood memories she holds of her mother, who has experienced borderline personality disorder (BPD), paranoid personality disorder (PPD) and cyclothymia (a milder form of bipolar disorder) for most of her life. Using snapshots of the past and present, Liberty delicately captures the nuances of caring for a parent living with severe mental illness.
A world’s perception of a mother is someone nurturing and patient, selfless and affectionate, warm and kind. When I write about my own mother, I struggle to find the words that accurately describe her, the main reason being I seriously doubt my own perceptions of reality.
I hold a plethora of heart-warming and life altering memories that help me to remember my mother in the way I should. But the position I’ve been in for the last ten years makes me seriously question if what I ever experienced as a child was real.
Reflecting purely on my relationship with my mother growing up, I remember her as the ‘it’ girl. She was beautiful, charming, sociable, generous, and wild. She played completely by her own rules in life and made every day a little bit more interesting.
She became withdrawn from people; lost jobs and would say things that just never made any sense to me.
My earliest memories of my mum involve her singing to Sophie Ellis Baxter's Murder on the Dance Floor in the front room of our small, terraced house; making me skip nursery to have a duvet day watching Sleepy Hollow and helping me feed uncooked pasta to my imagery dinosaur. She encouraged my imagination to run wild and supported me in experiencing life’s full potential, even as a toddler.
However, there is another side to her which is darker. When she wants to, she presents as fearless, reckless, selfish at times; completely incapable of taking any accountability or understanding an alternate point of view.
My memories that best describe this side of her character includes her driving without a license for a year, multiple separations from my dad and erratic or impulsive behaviour like losing her temper and throwing things.
One of my earliest memories which I often ponder on is the time I opened a whole advent calendar in one sitting. As a child in that moment, I was elated thinking: this is great! I can eat all my chocolate at once. But one day, it dawned on me that the only reason that memory ever occurred was because she had disappeared, leaving my dad, my siblings and myself behind for several months over Christmas.
The only thing that keeps me going and hoping that she’s in there somewhere, are the great memories I live with.
The thing about my mother that always keeps you hooked is her ability to enjoy life. She’d throw amazing parties, danced like no one was watching, drove me to school with the most current music playing full blast out of her car window. She ensured I always had all the best things to help me fit in and succeed in life.
However, looking back, she always presented with what seemed like inconsistencies. It was never anything major in my eyes when I was younger, because after-all she was my mother, and all the great experiences really did outweigh anything negative I might’ve felt.
As I grew up, I learned more about her background and past, and became to understand the world much more through her eyes. I recognised she had her own demons. As well as a mother, she was a woman; a person who had lived a life, fought her own battles and was dealing with her own traumas.
In knowing this we grew closer, and she quickly became my best friend. She supported me through my own mental health struggles and took me to the Trafford Centre to eat and shop whenever she could get away with it.
I recognised she had her own demons. As well as a mother, she was a woman; a person who had lived a life, fought her own battles and traumas.
I began feeling her slip away again towards my final years of high school. She became withdrawn from people; lost jobs and would say things that just never made any sense to me. I could see the fun part of Mum slipping away, and no matter how much I tried to convince her to stay she didn’t ever come back around. I screamed, begged and cried until I was blue in the face asking her to get help. But the harder I tried, the more distant she would feel.
Ten years on from endless conversations, the side of her which I loved dearly is still yet to return. I ache daily wishing things were different. At times I see glimpses of her, and I become attached to the hope but within minutes, she is gone. I blink and start the grieving process all over again. In recent months our family have learned of her diagnoses of borderline personality disorder (BPD), cyclothymia and paranoid personality disorder (PPD).
Whilst her engagement with now accessible services is an ongoing battle, the only thing that keeps me going and hoping that she’s in there somewhere, are the great memories I live with; the nights I couldn’t sleep, when she’d take me out shopping at midnight to buy me chocolate, the spontaneous trips, and her mischievous presence. After-all, love truly leaves memories that no one can steal.
This year, Liberty will be completing the Snowdon Triple challenge in September to raise money for Rethink Mental Illness.
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