Throughout my adolescence my mother’s life was punctuated by visits to specialists and trials of alternative therapies to help manage the pain and debilitating effects of the arthritis that existed in every joint of her body. She also continued to do battle with depression and was hospitalised several times following suicide attempts. I became accustomed to waking in the middle of the night to the lights of an ambulance in the backyard coming to take my mother away once again. By this time my sister Heather and I were old enough to stay home and care for our little sister so we no longer had to endure long periods of exile at relatives’ homes.
My father worked doggedly and quietly at his rehabilitation. He taught himself to write with his left hand as the right side of his body had been compromised in a way similar to that of a stroke victim. His ability to return to work part-time as an external marker is testament to his strength and determination as well as the high esteem accorded to him by his colleagues. He eventually returned to the classroom teaching one entry-level subject. By this time he had also spent many hours teaching himself to write left-handed on a chalkboard.
When I was seventeen years old my mother was diagnosed with secondary amaloidosis, a complication of the osteo and rheumatoid arthritis. The amaloidosis affected the functioning of her kidneys and at the time of the diagnosis she was told that she had five years left to live. I remember the day she told me. It was in the afternoon after I had come home from school and as usual she was in bed. Looking back I know my reaction was inappropriate and must have hurt my mother deeply. At the time though I felt so relieved and happy that she had a whole five years left to live! I thought it was wonderful because I had spent a large part of my childhood dreading coming home from school because I expected to find her dead from one of the many ailments that plagued her. This diagnosis meant that I didn’t have to worry for another five years, what a blessing.
The next three years passed with no major events. At the age of twenty I married my husband, and we have now been married for thirty-three years and have three amazing children. However at thirty-three years of age I experienced my first episode of major clinical depression. My journey with depression and anxiety had begun and it is only now, twenty years later, that I fully understand its purpose and lessons.