My mum disappeared in October 2011.
I have always been close to my mum. Mum is kind, dependable and caring. She is also the life and soul of the party. A great friend. A wonderful mum.
In my late teens and early twenties, my sister and I would often enjoy having a ‘gathering’ as we would call it, a little house party with mum and her friend and friends of ours. A few bacardi and cokes later, we would be laughing, singing and dancing.
When I had my first child at 24 years of age, mum was there every day. I had moved into a house with my husband to be (three years later) but I missed home.
Eighteen months later, I was moving back home – partner and toddler in tow. A year after that and our ‘new home’ – an extension on the side of my parents’ house – was built. We shared a front door, a set of stairs and the central heating. My partner and I now owned the house.
It was a relief for mum. Dad, seventeen years older than mum, had not worked for over ten years. Mum had worked nights as a nurse whilst caring for dad and me and my two sisters, the youngest eleven years my junior. Money was tight for a long time. When we bought the house, she was in arrears with the mortgage. Dad didn’t have a clue – she didn’t want to stress him.
Mum and I became even closer. Sure, it was tough trying to balance my own feelings about being back home with my husband’s. I relished my mum wanting to be with us all the time. My husband wanted some privacy. It didn’t help that I didn’t quite acknowledge how unhappy she was with dad.
Another baby and a wedding later and mum was our childminder. She brought my kids up whilst my husband and I worked to pay the bills. Mum had given up work a few years after we had moved in due to the arthritis in her knees.
Mum supported me in April 2011 when I ended my marriage for the first time. She understood my pain and frustration. I again didn’t understand how deep rooted hers was.
In October, only weeks after my sister’s wedding, she disappeared.
There had been a huge row with dad. And then she was gone. Days later she returned for her things. We were in disbelief – she didn’t mean it, surely? For weeks we didn’t hear from her. I was so angry that she would leave us, leave dad.
When she finally resurfaced, she was living with a friend. She’d exhausted the good will of many by this point. I will explain why. She wasn’t my mum anymore.
The first time that I saw her, I knew immediately. There was a wildness to her actions. She spoke differently, moved differently.
For six months, my sister and I argued with her GP. We told them how uncharacteristically she was behaving. We told them about the thousands of pounds worth of debt she was now in, sent to a conman lover in Nigeria. They would not listen.
After six months, mum was living alone in a flat. She was dirty, smelly. She had lost ridiculous amounts of weight. She lived and slept in her kitchen.
When she didn’t answer the door one day, we called the police. The policewoman knew from the moment she saw mum and us that we needed help.
The A&E doctor listened to our pleas and ignored my mum’s bitter lies. After a night sat in a waiting room – my face burning from my mum’s angry glare or my chest heaving from the sobs that destroyed me as I listened to her cry whilst speaking to the doctor – finally, she was admitted on to a psychiatric ward.
So much has happened since then. She lives with her new partner now, happy but too far away for even weekly visits. There are no daily calls or texts. We make contact each week.
I don’t know why. I could understand it for a while – too many things said and done whilst she was ill and I struggled to cope – but not in the past few years. Much of my old mum has returned but not all. She’s happy and yet there is still a pervading sadness when she is around.
I miss my mum every single day. When I allow myself to think of her.
I no longer wish she was here. Time and reflection have shown me and my sisters the signs we missed. She is happy now: her only regret is not being closer to us.
Mum visited today. I’ve not seen her in a month. It’s funny how, whenever I see her, I end up crying or moaning. She told me today that my sister does the same thing.
I think that when she’s here, and particularly now she is ‘well’, we revert to old times: mum is our protector and our strength. We both feel guilty afterwards. She says she doesn’t mind.
My two sisters and I have suffered from depression too. My middle sister was house bound for two years suffering from depression and PTSD. My youngest sister lives a life of euphoria and despair. She’s the life and soul now. I worry that one day she will suffer life mum. Hopefully we know the signs now.
And me? When mum became ill, I became the strong one. I have been the strong one ever since. Until, that is, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression myself.
When I tell mum of my woes, there is a part of me that is disgusted in my willingness to offload. She doesn’t need to worry about me. I don’t want her to. But I still need her. At the age of 37, I still need my mum.
Ever time she leaves I cry. I’m crying now. I miss my mum every day: for who she was and for who she is and for where our relationship is now.