Making Friends with Mental Illness

2nd March 2016

Hi Everyone, I have been pondering my next post and wondering “what shall I say?” “How much of myself do I REALLY want to share?”

Both are very good questions; I pause and I look up at  the title of my blog “Little Pieces of Christina” it blares at me like a neon sign, I guess that means I need to share with you the good bits and the sticky bits as well.

This is one of the Sticky bits.

I am the mum of a beautiful son who has a complicated & serious Mental Illness.

I was so young and so naïve about Mental Illness when his first symptoms appeared. Sadly it was also the time that Ashley choose to no longer experiment with all manner of illicit drugs, but to fully immerse himself into the Melbourne drug scene.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my son was actually self medicating. By using all sorts of drugs and alcohol he was able, albeit temporarily, to dull and sometimes still the voices and clutter in his head

Some doctors say that his mental illness is drug induced, how cruel is this poison that it would leave such a deficit? was it really drugs or did he have lying dormant inside of him the triggers and the prescription for endless years of torment? we will never know the answer to that question, but we will both live with the consequences.

Puberty came early to our home, a single mum, no male influence of any significance, my son soon choose a life of rebellion and freedom on the streets, with all the glory and deadly consequences, while I followed him step by shameful step from court room to court room, detention center to prison, even once crossing the border over to NSW when he took a joy ride which didn’t end in Melbourne.

There were lots of signs along the way, swinging gateposts with neon billboards, but my eyes did not recognize such things, I was managing alone from one crisis to another.

Shunned by family and friends who just did not understand that I couldn’t “tell Ashley to stop” or “tell Ashley to change” he was not even in control of his own actions let alone being able to manage any sort of change.

No one understood the loneliness that I felt, no one understood the torment I coped with every day and every long dark night.

Finally through a long set of divine interventions that took years to orchestrate, he ended up in Melbourne’s Thomas Embling Hospital. A notorious place filled with murderers and crazy people out of their minds.

I had no idea when he first arrived; I thought he had done well to end up in hospital instead of prison. My first visit destroyed my false illusion. The security was curiously stricter than the other prisons that I had visited him in, many pathways to walk through before getting in, hand prints and photographs, I began to wonder if I was visiting my son or checking myself in!

Ashley quickly made friends with murderers and 7pm headline news breakers, they socialized in the same communal area, I wondered if I should fear for his life, but he seemed oddly at home and curiously happy.

Despite all of his naughtiness, my son is the most beautiful person anyone could ever meet, he made friends easily and from his account only really had one fight in goal and the word got around that he was not to be messed with, and so time served was a welcomed break from his life on the street, and finally I knew exactly where he was!

One sunny afternoon, a cloud descended upon our little family as I met with Ashley’s treating team at Thomas Embling.

My beautiful son had been diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Paranoid Schizophrenia, “most likely drug induced, we will never really know” I heard the doctor say; My head was spinning with the information, what did it mean? how could this be true? is that why he is here? is that why he’s been so naughty? It wasn’t his fault he was sick. So many questions and for me no real answers and nobody to ask them of.

I wondered if it would be possible for me to get my beautiful son back, was this good news I wasn’t sure, Mental Illness was NOT talked about back then, (the 1990”s) it was something to be feared, something to be avoided, pull the curtains, cross the road, no one knew anyone who had a mental illness, (or they did and they never talked about it for fear of judgement and isolation) only crazy people knew those who were crazy and you kept far away from them in civilised suburbia, didn’t you?

The Doctors said that ” there was some hope that Ashley could improve, but it was only a small hope”

That was all that I needed, the possibility of HOPE, I needed nothing else to conqueror this demon, my faith and my hope would be all that Ashley needed

This post is long I will tell you some more soon.

Christina x


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