Her children could sometimes see the strain through the smile when she came home from work. She always had time to help with homework and when the weather was nice in the summer, she would take the kids to the beach. The beaches were beautiful. These were some of the best days the kids remembered. One sunset evening, walking on the beach with her two young boys, she said “never forget this”, the shells and moist sand crackling under their feet.  Life was perfect, as much as it could be for a single mother of two, trying to do the best for her kids, in a job she hated, in a country foreign to her. Most of the time no one ever noticed, but it was only a matter of time until the strain would break her.

On the way to being middle aged, she confided in her own mother. Upset, describing her bosses at work, how they intimidate her, bully her… “I hate this job” she often said.  Her mother was an old, hard detached woman, raised in Southern Ireland after being left at the doorstep of her grandmother in the 1930s. She dismissed it. ” you aught to be happy you have a job”. Without anyone to talk to, for her children, she continued. She tried to give them everything…through this they were left with nothing.

In a mask to numb whatever it was she was going through, the smoking and binge drinking continued until the kids were in their early teens. One day, returning home from school, the kids, who are brothers, aged 14 and 16 arrived home to see the car in the drive and their mother home early, before them. Today, the house smelled different. There was no smoke. Dinner was already made. Their mother quit her job, and smiled uneasily though the day. It worried the boys.

Over the days, something was noticeable different. Their mother was there, but, also somewhere else. She was never religious but now started to speak more and more about the devil. She had started to run red lights in her rants while driving. Things progressively got worse and scary. At night the boys slept in the same room. They could hear the walking around at night time. They put a chair against their bedroom door, for a reason they could not fully explain. Something was very wrong.

One night, the boys awoke, hearing screams from downstairs. Their mother was knelling around many lit candles in the dark, which reminded them of a horror movie, screaming chants. Screaming to the ceiling. Nothing that made sense. Switching on the lights and calling their grandmother, things that night settled as their mother went to bed, un-phased by the event. The grandmother arranged for relatives in the UK to come over. Meanwhile days were bad and nights even worse. Sometimes at night, the boys were told to leave the house. They slept in the front lawn and even in the local park.

When relatives from the UK arrived, they quickly saw the issue and called the doctor. Restraining with force, the boy`s mother was taken to the hospital to a locked psychiatric ward. The boy’s grandmother was flown to the UK and left the country with the family. Alone a 17 and 15 year old boy went to school and got the groceries until their mother was better. Sometimes they walked an hour to visit their mother in a locked room for 30 minutes, then they walked the hour back home. Their mother often asked them to break her out. The doctors assured it was for the best.
Eventually their mother was released. She was never the same. The boys grew up and quickly left home, one joining the US military the eldest becoming a scientist. Their mother now lives alone, no TV, no internet, suspicious of every person, she lives in her own world as if lost and forgotten.
Her oldest son still comes to visit her most evenings. Sometimes the evenings are OK and a little of his old mother still shines through with a laugh or smile, but some evenings are worse where she accuses him of conspiring against her and calling him the devil. Those evenings are short and sad.
Still I remember the beach, and all the good memories. I still call around because she is my mother and I won’t forget.
Mental health shows signs early and there are many different degrees of mental health issues. Before, people did not want to talk or speak about it. It was often dismissed and in extreme cases some people (like my mother) broke under the pressure. If she had the courage to speak out more, to a doctor, anyone, if they would have listened, maybe things would have been much different.
Thankfully, today we are talking about this issue.
Take care of yourselves and each other.

You think I don’t know. Do you really want to see Mama like this? Wake up.

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