Today T.M. Hogan talks to us about what it’s like to grow up when mental illness runs in the family, and how she learned to cope.
My experience with mental illness. Well, I guess it begins with the family, in that it is a trait I was born with, mostly from my father’s side of the gene pool. So, I grew up in a household dominated by bi-polar – anxious anger and control, and manic outbursts of waste and laughter. I don’t typically like thinking of my past; it hurts too much, what was and what could have been, growing up inside a cage of fear.
From the time I was born I’ve only known hate from other children. My earliest memories are of being pushed away, excluded, teased for being the way I was – female, ugly, fat, stupid, annoying, too smart, “why do you like this, you’re not allowed to!” Primary school was not any better, throw “tomboy” into the mix. Having people that were meant to be your friend running away from you when you went to the toilet, so I’d avoid going during break so I wouldn’t have to feel abandoned. High-school just made the fact that I was different stand out even more, being said straight to your face, “I’ll make out with you but only if I get to do your friend first,” because of course they’d only do it out of pity; need to get paid first by making out with the hot chick. Never invited to the group functions that I hung with every day.
For sixteen years, my reality was that I was a piece of shit and unworthy of being in anyone’s presence… it really leaves a mark on someone’s view of the world. It’s not an easy thing to change, to believe it when someone says “you’re beautiful” because, OF COURSE they’re lying.
So, since meeting my husband when I was just fifteen, I’ve been working very hard to change the way I think. People keep saying, “take meds” but they can only do so much. They are a tool to help bring clarity long enough for you to change the way you process thoughts into actions and words. I say, I’ve done very well, people only know I have a mental illness because I tell them. There are no signs on the outside because I contain it. I’ve learnt my triggers and my calmers. I know when my thoughts are illogical and a result of the illnesses, I can disconnect from the hormones that control the mind and make logical decisions and follow them through even if it’s hard or painful. But still, every day is a battle. Ever hour and every minute, I must remain in check, and when those bad days come, the ones that last weeks sometimes, I have to concentrate extra hard to keep all my ducks in a row and call in reinforcements to help with my three children that don’t deserve to live with a mother that fears the shops and the parks and the play centres. They need the happiness that sometimes I can’t provide because I crumble under to fear of open spaces, closed in spaces, spaces with too many people, too many variables of danger and where things can go wrong, too much judgement.
Mental illness should no longer be stigmatised. Everyone should know it is real and it is manageable. We should all be helping each other to get over old wounds and get on in this crazy hectic world we live in. Less of the dog-eat-dog mentality and more help-thy-neighbour, mateship, team work. We can do so much more working together than alone.
T.M. Hogan is a Greek Australian mum of three, who refuses to grow up. Grade-A crazy that makes life explode with colour and noise. A blooming dark fantasy writer, Walking Through Darkness is her first story to be published, with a trilogy titled Ganymede in the works.