Something good must come from this | i am me
I’m not sure when the drinking started. I feel like it has always been there. I have a few old photos of my Mum, my sister and I scattered around my home office, but I don’t recognise the happiness I see on our faces. It’s like looking at a shiny happy version of my childhood.
Mental health has always been something I have been aware of albeit subconsciously. Depression and addiction run deep in my family history and doing the work to shift myself to a more balanced place is something I have been committed to for a very long time.
This dedication sparked a real interest in understanding more about mental health and what we as individuals can do to prevent mental health conditions in later life. Given my Mums start in life and my own early years experiences, I am passionate about helping young people grow their knowledge and understanding about themselves and their own mental health from a young age.
What led me to create i am me
The desire to share what I now know is what led me to create i am me, an organisation that is committed to educating, enabling, and empowering young people to understand what they can do to take a proactive approach to looking after their own mental health.
The content that supports this process is housed on a free app, available to download on the app store or google play and delivered by me either face to face or online. The app was a finalist in the Tech for Good category in the Global Good Awards just one year after it was launched, and is used by educators, employers, and charities throughout the country.
As a young child and especially as a teenager/young adult I felt a great sense of shame about Mums drinking, but today I can chat openly about her dependency on alcohol. This open dialogue often brings the conversation to the topic of my Mums own childhood and the beliefs around why she herself became alcohol dependent. My Mum’s mum was an alcoholic and from what I know of the little snippets she has shared about her childhood; my Mum had a very tough upbringing which left her with a very low sense of worth and self-esteem.
I felt a great sense of shame
I feel true sadness for the start in life that Mum was given. Whilst I know that her drinking wasn’t/isn’t my fault, even as an adult today, I still question why my sister and I weren’t reason enough for her to stop and guilty that I couldn’t save her and help her to turn her life around.
As the older of two siblings my mum did a brilliant job of caring for her younger brother, but sadly she has been left with many scars that still cause her a great deal of pain today. Her drinking has led to the breakdown of close family connections and friendships, something my mum struggles with every day and we as a family work hard to rectify.
From the outside looking in I am sure that whilst I was growing up things seemed to be going well for me. Our family homes were in nice areas, my dad was successful in his own career, and we went on various holidays as a family. However, there was always a dark undertone to my childhood.
I lived my life on high alert
As a child of an alcoholic, I lived my life on high alert, something that I have carried forward with me into adulthood. From about the age of about six or seven I became a sort of detective. Piecing clues together, questioning mums’ behaviour and searching high and low to uncover vodka and whisky bottles tucked away underneath jumpers, inside show boxes or hidden high on a shelf seemingly out of reach. Mums hiding skills were no match for my fierce determination to remove the source of all her problems, or what I thought at the time was the source of all her problems, from our family home. I naively thought that if the alcohol wasn’t there, everything would be ok.
I recently read that trauma can be described as trauma with a big T and trauma with a little t. Growing up in a house with an alcohol dependent parent is considered trauma with a big T. As a child I didn’t realise that what I was experiencing was considered Trauma. As an adult who has had support to try and understand my childhood, I can see this so clearly now.
Attempted suicide and fear of what will be waiting for you at home after the school day is not conducive to a happy and healthy home environment. Research tells us that trauma can be inherited for up to 4 generations. Before knowing this, I knew that my Mums drinking had shaped the person I am today.
Something good must come from all the heartache
It has shaped the way I form relationships, the way I care for and love my children and the way I am fiercely protective of them, my work ethic, and the way I view the world and its injustices. It also means that I tend to operate from a place of fear. Fear that something bad will happen and that I will not be enough or be able to do enough to stop it from causing harm to those I love.
Without the experiences I had as a child I know that I would not be as determined, self-sufficient or as resilient as I am today. However, I do believe that had I known as a child what I know now, the journey would have been a lot smoother.
I have always believed that something good must come from all the heartache and trauma over the generations and I try every day in some small way to make that a reality.
Turn and face the flames
My hope is that all young people value themselves enough to invest in their own health and seek and receive the support whenever and wherever they may need it. I am so grateful for the work that NACOA do to help the young people they support. I wish I had something access to something similar growing up to help me make sense of what was happening.
“Family dysfunction rolls down from the generation, like a fire in the woods, taking down everything in its path until one person in one generation has the courage to turn and face the flames. That person brings peace to their ancestors and spares the children that follow”.