As I begin to write about my childhood experience, growing up in the county of Cornwall, I feel a mass of coiled emotions rising. Returning to my past I have to face the reality of what happened. I have to remember the things that eroded my youth, the torment, the shame and the loneliness that stalked me.
My mother was going down the slippery slope and one day decided to end her life. She was serious this time. The bottle of poison lay empty on the floor, where my brother found her. I was eleven years old when my mother disappeared. When she was eventually released from the institution, she was a shadow of her former self. Although she was present in physical form her personality, her spirit, everything that defined who she was as a person had been erased. I did not know this woman anymore. My father who was ex-army, a disciplinarian and not emotionally warm— he never said he loved me — tried in vain to hold our family together.
My mother's GP was a stout, middle-aged man, who wore a tweed jacket. His face, with the insincere smile underneath the dark moustache, was always the same. He reminded me of Groucho Marx. I remember looking at him and wanting to pour my mother’s pills down his throat, to make him experience the consequences and the pain of his actions. He had let us down. To this day I do not recall him ever paying a visit to our family to show his concern, or apologise.
Later in my teens I decided to follow my older sister into nursing. It seems a strange choice because I disliked science and now I question a medical model that relied too much on pharmaceutical drugs, treating the symptoms but not looking for the causes. I guess I'm still learning here but I know that when my mother died years later, her fractured life was not in vain. Her experience taught me to stand strong and firm and to follow my intuition. If something doesn’t feel right I know I must listen to the voice within and follow her authority.