Story of the week: Mental illness and my mother

“It has taken years of questioning, understanding and acceptance of Mum for who she really is that has allowed our relationship to be so close and special.”

I could write a book about my Mum. I feel so much love for her that at times it can be overwhelming. The love translates into a language of mutual understanding. I’m convinced that my Mum is telepathic – as soon as we speak on the phone she instantly knows how I am as I take my first breath. She is a true detective in her own right and always manages to get the truth out of me! The bond we share is very special and we enjoy the very simple things in life. As I grow older, my love for Mum reachIes a new level that fills my heart so full of unconditional love it could burst.

This wasn’t always the case though as I grew up with confused feelings about Mum.

I watched as she went through the heartache of loosing her first born daughter who was five-years-old. She struggled with a mental illness and two years later her own heart struggled to beat to the pain of her past and she underwent a heart transplant at the age of 48.

When I said I had confused feelings about Mum, I was embarrassed that she had a mental illness and required multiple admissions to a psychiatric hospital, the first when I was 15-years-old. I didn’t understand what was wrong with Mum and resented the fact that my teenage years were stolen by the mystery of her illness. I had two younger brothers to look out for. It felt like I was landed a promotion that I knew very little about…pseudo motherhood.

Thankfully, I was blessed to have my Nana (Mum’s Mum) always there to help. We lived on Nana’s brown bread filled with her faith in always seeing the good in challenging situations. To be honest her positive energy alone would have been sufficient in keeping us afloat!

With each admission to hospital, we nursed Mum back to health. I always worried that Mum was no longer a mother figure and struggled to translate how to love Mum with a reserved fear inside that she would return to hospital yet again.

There can be so much emphasis on ‘good’ parenting, but what about schooling on how to love our parents (especially when tragedy comes knocking on the door).

When I was growing up, all we were told was to respect our parents, reminded of  one of the Ten Commandments: ‘honour thy father and mother’. But how do we do this?

It has taken years of questioning, understanding and acceptance of Mum for who she really is that has allowed our relationship to be so close and special. I have so much respect for her, with each knock back she always manages to get up on her two feet with a fire inside her belly that allows her to enjoy this life. A couple of years after her transplant she stepped outside her fear of heights to climb the Sydney Bridge. When asked how she does it, she puts it down to her special angel in heaven, my sister, her daughter, to who she prays to and in return, she looks out for our family.

The bond between a mother and daughter goes beyond understanding the dictionary of life in a clearly defined language but more to accept that this is a special love called ‘unconditional’.

– Fiona O’Neill, Dublin