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  • Alexis Soul-Gray

Depression and my mother

When I was a baby my mum tried to kill herself. I didn't know this until I was about 23 or so...I remember how she told me...so matter of fact. I was writing an email on a laptop a bit like I am now, facing away from her sat at a desk. Quite a run of the mill conversation had turned into a confession. I remember her words exactly:

"didn't you know I did that when you were a baby? didnt I tell you?"

I remember feeling frozen as tears ran down my face, still staring into the white of the screen, I felt that I couldn't turn around and show her my tears. I just told her that "No, I didnt know that mum"...I think there was a brief request for more information ie how? where? why? "vodka, pills, cheshire"


I think I did sort of know why she might have done this. I am the product of an affair, my mum was married with a child when she met my father. They fell in lust or love or both and she got pregnant. Her husband at the time (and my older brothers father) knew about this relationship but decided that despite this infidelity he would stay married to my mum and bring me up as his own daughter, knowing that biologically I was not his. I lived with my brothers father until I was approximately two years old, then I was separated from him and my biological father moved in.


At some point between my birth and my second birthday my mum out of desperate unhappiness ran out of the house they shared, leaving my brother and I, found enough alcohol and pills to do the job and crawled under a bush and waited to die.

I think my (biological) dad found her. After this it was decided that the marriage needed to end and that my mum and (biological) father would be together.

This early separation/loss from the father figure meant that when I lost my mother in 2006 the separation was magnified and could have been the reason I had such an extreme period of grief and depression with symptoms of ptsd.


I always knew my mother had never been that happy. I remember once a conversation in a pizza express restaurant when we were talking about the subject of happiness. I said to her that I thought she had never really been very happy and she just cried in front of me, in front of the restaurant. I didnt mean to hurt her, I felt I needed her to know that I understood that about her.


She was a successful woman, she hardly ever cried, she was always strong. If we were upset often we were told to 'stop being so ridiculous'.


My maternal grandmother was an alcoholic, she functioned until about 5pm then you had to stay out of her way. She was quite a fierce woman, not a 'granny' or 'nan' in any way. I remember her telling me I was a 'stupid girl' for getting upset about things and that my long hair was 'very silly'. I also remember her reading peter pan to me and getting pink Robinsons squash for our bedtime drink...walking with her and the dogs in Epping forest early in the morning...she wasn't a bad person...but she was also quite depressed. Her mother had died of cancer very unexpectedly in her mid 20's...like mine did. Mum said the alcoholism was her being unable to face that loss.


When I was 20 my mum nearly died in a riding accident. You are not allowed to ride horses in Epping forest because the risk to the horse, rider, people and animals is too great. She ignored this of course, but one day she flew off her horse hitting her head on a tree. The horse bolted off and ended up running loose on Loughton high street I think. Some walkers found my mum unconscious, called an ambulance and then found her mobile phone and called 'home'. My dad ran into the forest and found her before the ambulance arrived, she was blue he said, he thought she was dead.


She spent a while in intensive care and slowly recovered over a couple of months. My grandmother said to me "I was terrified the same thing was going to happen to you as it did to me, losing my mum in my 20's"


Luckily for my grandmother, she never knew that her daughter was dying, nor that my siblings and I would indeed face exactly what she did. She died in 2005, months before my mums terminal cancer diagnosis and untimely death by assisted suicide in 2006.


During her 5 month illness she became 'morbidly depressed' a term I have not come across since. It is difficult to put into words what this psychological distress looked like, and I will not attempt to. I do not think she would want me to describe any further.


And for my parents whose love started in the most unfavourable of ways, they were deeply in love and stayed in love until death parted them.


Sort of a happy ending?



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