If Only we Knew Then What we Know Now
I don’t know many 11 year old children who would recognize if their parent was experiencing mental health challenges. But, maybe because the awareness is out there now, it might be more apparent.
Born in the UK I attended High School over there from the age of 11. My elder sister by 22 months was already attending the High School but made it clear I was not to talk to bother her, she had her friends, I had to make my own.
My relationship with my Mother was very mixed, I thought she did not like or love me, and I can’t actually remember her telling me she loved me. I seemed to upset her easily, and maybe I was a difficult child who knows at that age?
A Child Who Just Wanted to Please Everyone
I was a nervous child, asthmatic and I remember being rushed to hospital, quite a few times, in an ambulance when I was quite young. My Mother and my Father worked hard to ensure we had a nice clean, tidy home, and home cooked food. Both worked, my Mother evening work so she could be home during the day when my Father was at work.
I missed a lot of time from Primary and High School due to ill health, but by the time I was 11 years old some of the time lost from school was due to my Mother’s mystery illness.
She would phone my High School and ask if I could be sent home because she was unwell and needed me with her. I literally ran all the way home and rushed up the stairs to her bedroom to find her just laying there silently. I would ask if she wanted a cup of tea or company or anything at all and she would say “no” she just wanted to rest.
My Father would come home from work early and disappear upstairs and sometimes she came down with him to cook supper, or stayed in her bedroom and my Father took care of the cooking.
I often wondered why she never asked for my elder sister to come home from school to be with her, I never discovered the answer because I never asked.
My Mothers Mood Swings
My Mother had mood swings, she was very up and down. She would ask my Father to decorate the living room with new wallpaper and then a few weeks later tell him he had to change it because the pattern made her feel seasick or some other such comment along those lines. She once had three different fire places built, and they all had to be take down with a year or so, to make way for newer ones. Her furniture was changed almost every two years, but she never seemed satisfied, happy or content.
She never had many friends, seemed to argue with most people, especially my Father.
When she was angry, she was a different person, never violent, but I always thought it was my fault. When she was sad she was scarily quiet and we could get nothing out of her.
He was a quiet, kind man with twinkly eyes but spoke little, laughed little and we always knew even though he loved our Mother, he was not happy.
We never saw much of either sets of Grandparents, especially on my Fathers side, or our many Aunts and Uncles.
Looking back I believe my parents came from different worlds, completely different upbringing, and lifestyles.
Religion in our early years was a bone of discontent. My Mother was not religious but christened Church of England. My Father had been baptized a Catholic and had attended church regularly.
My Mother had promised my Father their children would be baptized as Catholics, that never happened.
In later life I chose my own religion and it’s a very private thing that I keep to myself.
I had no idea as a child, but it became apparent as a young adult, that we did not communicate with each other as a family as such. Neither of my parents told us stories about their early lives, or about their families, so we never asked.
It’s too late now but I wish with all of my heart I was the person I am now, then. Maybe I would have been able to help my Mother more, or if I had been interested enough to ask about their past lives, they would have shared their stores, who knows? Living with regret, should have, could have, did not – is no help at all.
I Still Want to Please Everyone
All these years later I am a work in progress. I still want to please everyone. If I feel I am unkind, rude, or have to actually stand up for myself, I still second guess myself. I feel guilty and wonder if I have offended someone or hurt their feelings.
Being a work in progress has meant I am getting better at not trying to please everyone. But, and this is funny but sad at the same time, I know for sure if I act out of character and say the word “no” it’s often taken the wrong way and people don’t like me for saying “no”. When I say out of character I mean I do take the time to asses the situation before I say no. I don’t instantly say that word, and if possible I avoid it. But there comes a time in my personal and business life when I know saying no is the right thing to do and not everyone responds well.
Because I am not known for being mean, spiteful, cruel etc, I suppose people think I am acting odd when I do have to stick up for myself, for want of a better word.
I am Sensitive, Shy & Lack Confidence
Those of you who know me well, or who have heard me speak at conferences, or who have watched my videos are saying at this point in my story “No way is Linda shy, sensitive, or lacks confidence”, I can hear you saying those words. Well maybe you do know I am very sensitive.
I hide my insecurities well, but I always admit to having them. In some cases they help me do a better job. When I step down from the stage I always know I can do better next time. Before I actually present I have butterflies in my tummy and I am always nervous.
The most amazing thing is, becoming a Mother to four wonderful children, and changing my life completely after divorce, financial challenges, and cancer, and marrying my soul-mate, changed me for the better.
I became more confident because I knew I was helping other people. My work is something I am passionate about and love it so much it’s not like work to me.
Helping people whether it’s by mentoring, listening, just being there, or via my work means I know why I am here, I am meant to be here for a reason.
I wrote my first book to gain more exposure, but in a sense it was therapeutic to share my challenges.
There will always be a sadness in my heart, both my parents are now dead, I don’t have the chance to do better, or try to get to know them.
Divorce is not something I planned for, but something I needed in order for me to live a life that counted for me.
As a parent I know I am not perfect, I have made mistakes, but I could only do my best.
I make sure I please myself a lot more in my new life. I can work as much as I want to, travel the World for business or pleasure, shop until my hearts content, and of course decide who I want to spend time with or not.
But, and this is very important, it’s not the above “things” that make me happy, happier or content. It is wonderful to have the choices to do all the things I do. Freedom is a wonderful gift.
Contentment, joy, hard work, loving myself as a person ( still a work in progress), are the things are truly make up my happiness. Believing in myself, self care, growing as a person, educating myself, all count in my life and help me become a better person every day.
I am not selfish. I am still a Sister, a Wife, a Mother, but ultimately I am a person, I am me.
Life is Short
Life is short, no one knows how long we have on this Earth. I intend on living my life to the fullest and enjoying every minute.
I woke up this morning, I looked out of the window and saw our frozen pond, knowing that soon it will be full of water lilies and fish, that fills my heart with joy. I saw two sleeping wood pigeons on the fence post, so I crept outside onto the deck in my pyjamas to take a photo. I heard my beloved Canadian Geese flying above our house and I knew my life was what I wanted it to be.