For the past ten years I have used my lived experience of mental illness to give talks to community groups, self-help groups, carers and mental health forums. I have also written articles, blogs, and given radio and newspaper interviews. I always pride myself on my honesty as I feel it helps others and reduces the stigma involved with mental illness. I would answer questions as openly as I could and I felt no topic was out of bounds.
Last week my daughter asked if I could help her with her assignment about parenting and mental health as part of her studies. As soon as I read her email I felt my jaw tighten, tummy feel uncomfortable, my chest fill with guilt and my lower lip start to wobble. This was not a good start.
I rarely write or talk about my parenting because I reasoned my children need their privacy.
I have had my parenting decisions questioned in the past but in last few years I had decided the past was the past and to concentrate on the present and future. This had been working well but now I felt the peace was being threatened.
I have so much guilt about my parenting that it could not be contained in one lifetime so I had buried the pain and the guilt into a box. Unlike Pandora this box was never ever going to be open. However, my maternal instinct that wanted to help my child created more guilt and angst.
Who am I? I thought I was this open and honest person prepared to reveal all so that the discussion of mental health and its stigmatisation can be as detailed and thorough as possible.
I was now thinking of my self-preservation as I did not want to open that box.
I think the hard part is not just remembering the bad decisions I made as a parent but the fact I am not as honest and open as I thought. The hardest part is the disappointment I read in my daughter's email. I let her down when she was a child and now I am disappointing her again.
After many tears and soul searching we made a compromise and she emailed me some questions, which I answered, it was difficult but I did it.
Have you had to face some unpleasant truth about yourself? How did you handle it?
Are there things in your past you would rather leave there?
A Moodscope member