Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A difficult conversation

There is a difficult conversation I have needed to have with my Step-Mother for the last three and a half years. It relates to her backwards notion of mental illness and childcare.

When my Step-mother was pregnant with my baby brother (who is now 3 and a half years old) she said that I would not be allowed to be left alone with him or look after him. I was inpatient in hospital at the time after two attempted suicides. It upset me that, because of a mental illness, she saw me unfit to take care of my little brother, especially as I love children, have worked in a crèche and have been police vetted on numerous occasions for my Occupational Therapy and Applied Psychology courses. Even though she hurt me with her comments, I tried to understand where she was coming from. She was pregnant and full of hormones, It was a very long pregnancy in the making as my father and her had been trying for over ten years to have a baby. My suicide attempt came seemingly out of nowhere. I became very unwell, very quickly and she had no experience of mental illness before. I believe it was her ignorance that made her say nasty things about my mental health issues.When we don't understand things we make rude and presumptuous comments maybe unwittingly. 

I figured that , if I showed them how much I love my little brother and that I could be responsible in other areas of my life, such as living independently, paying my bills on time and child-minding for others, then I would gain back their trust and eventually be allowed to mind my brother. But, unfortunately that has not been the case. Still to this day I have not spent a moment of time with my brother without the constant presence of another person. I feel this is damaging our relationship. There is so much I wish I could do with him that I can't, because of the restrictions she has put on me.

This issue has been a major source of pain and suffering for me over the past few years. Yet I have never felt strong enough to bring it up with my step-Mother. I realize now, that there may never be a time where I feel comfortable to have that conversation with her, it's never going to easy for me, but it is important to me, so it may be something I am just going to have to do if I want to continue contributing to a life worth living. 

I guess the reason it has upset me so much is because I KNOW how great I am with children. I would never put a child in harms way. If I felt unable to look after a child, I would be the first one to say so.  I have spent more time than most people of the general population learning what triggers a bout of emotional vulnerability for me. I have a great amount of supports and tools available to me to help me cope with stressful situations and I am mindful that I do not become overwhelmed rather than just motoring on through.

Mental illness does not make me unemployable, otherwise, a much larger population of the world would be unemployed. Mental illness does not make me stupid either. Typically, those who are symptomatic or chronic to the point where they are unable to care for children, generally understand the fact and don't tend to enter the field. Mental illness is everywhere, whether you know or see it or not. Its there. People of all responsibilities, jobs, Etc. live with, cope with and manage to live healthy productive lives. 

I wonder if many parents would/wouldn't leave their child in the care of someone with a known psychiatric disability or disorder. There are lots of different types of childcare out there, and obviously stay at home parents, but it's hard to imagine that within the numerous kinds of day care, kindergarten, nursery staff and nannies, there isn't a single one with some form of mental health history or current problem. Should every parent be informed if a crèche worker or support staff member has clinical, medical or just Time of the Month issues?

What are your thoughts on this issue?