It is Sunday 25th May 2014. Mum and Dad have just gone home after spending a couple of days with us. Mum has been difficult: moody, irritable and attention-seeking. Dad at one point says, ‘She must be getting better because she is getting crosser.’ He tries to laugh. We all do.
I heave a huge sigh of relief as I wave them off. The black cloud which Mum brings with her, both literally and metaphorically (she has always brought the weather with her) clears minutes after Dad’s car turns the corner in our road. At the same time I feel a sinking sadness as yet again it has been a fraught visit and I know I should have taken more deep breaths, tried to ignore Mum, tried to get Dad to come out for a walk on his own . . .
We retreat to the four corners of the house, each seeking refuge in the peace and quiet after the storm that is a visit from Mum. Ever since she has been on the medication she has been even less predictable in her moods. We walk around her on eggshells. Will she explode with anger? Will she be anxious and timid? Will she hyperventilate, shake, talk incessantly on a loop about her latest obsession? Or will she bathe us in one of her beautiful smiles? The latter is such a rare gift that I can feel myself holding my breath on the few occasions that I am lucky to receive it.
Later that evening I see that Mum has left her favourite umbrella behind. I think about posting it the next day, but then worry that a parcel arriving unannounced will not go down well. Also if Mum gets home and finds she has lost the umbrella, that may cause untold problems for Dad. So I phone.
‘Hi, Dad. I hope you had a smooth journey home. Just calling to say Mum left her umbrella–‘
‘Well, she won’t be needing it. She’s in hospital.’
‘We got back, had some supper. She went upstairs, then came down and told me she had taken all her pills. All of them. She didn’t want me to take her to A&E, but I did.’ Dad sounds exhausted. And angry. Very angry.
I don’t know what to say to Dad. I ask if he wants me to drive down. He doesn’t. He doesn’t want to talk either.
Over the days that follow, I feel his anger invade me too. I know I should feel pity – pity for my mother, pity for Dad as well. But instead I feel myself drowning in anger. Mum didn’t mean to kill herself. That is what we will be told over the weeks that follow. She is not a danger to herself or anyone else. She simply needs closer monitoring at home. She would not have managed to kill herself with the pills she took anyway. If she had been serious she would have taken Paracetamol or similar. She does not need to be sectioned. She is fine.
Ah, well, that’s OK then. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders. My mother has taken an overdose, but everything is fine.
Eventually the day will come when Mum is detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. It will take months and months of writing letters and making phone calls and going to psych reviews. My sister and I will vent our anger in front of carers and social workers and GPs and psychiatrists and psychologists and nurses, asking over and over for help, for understanding, for support for Mum and Dad.
But for now, everything is fine.