This is how it feels to be the child of a suicidal parent

There hasn’t been a day since being 11 years old that I wasn’t prepared for my Mother to die. There is no scenario in which my mind has not investigated or planned; from her funeral, what I shall say, how I will feel, who will judge me as the cause of her death. This is not due to a macabre obsession or a morbid wish, this is how it feels to be the child of a suicidal parent.

My Mother has Bipolar Disorder, she was diagnosed when I was a toddler after seeking help because she couldn’t connect with me and feared she didn’t love me. My awareness of her illness was not completely realised until attending secondary school, before this point my Mother was a workaholic and never cried, she was a passionate, opinionated, clever woman who people loved to be around, the life and soul of most parties and fancied by most men. Always doing what she wanted when she wanted and never apologised for living her life. Even when she would drop me off to friends so she could meet men on trips away or when she made fun of my weight or told me I was too sensitive or too serious – my adoration for her was impenetrable, thinking of her as the best Mother in the world and wanting to be just like her.

However my Mother had a sever break down. Suddenly this vibrant woman was in bed, unable to get up, dress herself or wash, her room was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. This made no sense to me, I did not understand why she had changed; it was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers – this wasn’t my Mother. Suddenly she was crying all the time and she didn’t want to do anything, she would watch daytime TV in bed and would be surrounded by books, paper and food wrappers.

Life hadn’t been easy up until now for many reasons for both of us, having experienced depression and loneliness at the age of seven, this new darkness took it’s toll and this was when I started self harming. After seeing a program on a TV talk show about self harmers, after hearing of how these people felt the pain go away and that they actually felt even better whilst cutting, this seemed like the ideal relief. Knowing my Mother had lots of books on psychology and psychiatry I asked her if she had anything on self harm and said it was for a school project, (which for the early 90’s would have been very progressive). My Mother found me a book on self harm and I took it to my room and started to plan my first cut.

A few weeks later I caught my Mother in the bath weeping and cutting herself with razor blades, a mess of tears and blood through the crack of the bathroom door. Shocked that she did it too, shocked that she was in pain and devastated that I had possibly caused it or was going to cause more. In hindsight this is when my Mother and I truly severed our relationship, it was the beginning of the end, even though we were almost on the same page, my need for a parent and stability and her need to be alone and have no responsibilities was like a knife slicing our family tie.

Soon after this my Mother tried to kill herself and she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, I was left at home alone with our 18 year old lodger (who was very unwell herself) and was allowed to do what I wanted, structure and adult care went out the window. Upon turning 12 I stole some sleeping pills from our lodger and tried to kill myself, instead of dying, sleep was all that was achieved for almost two days and awaking to the realisation that the darkness still existed, there were still no adults or safety.

From this point on, again and again, my Mother tried to kill herself or self harmed to the point of needing hospital treatment. This is when preparation for the inevitable was my only solus – her death. Having lost my best friend to suicide and many other friends; suicide became such a possible outcome that I started being unable to determine when my Mother was actually in danger.  She would say “If I didn’t have you I would die” or “I want to die – there is no point”, always reminding me of how much I didn’t understand, how no one understood – when all the while I understood more than she knew.

After several hospital admissions, 17 ECT sessions and continued private therapy from her psychiatrist on Harley Street in London, it was clear my Mothers condition was getting worse, no cocktail of drugs seemed to help and the bipolarity of her disorder caused havoc on our lives. My Mother experiences mixed states with her Bipolar Disorder which cause her to be irritable, to have high energy, racing thoughts and speech, and over-activity with agitation and becomes an even higher risk of suicide.

This effected me as a child and teen and still does now as an adult. The instability of her impulsiveness, her recklessness and her allowing me freedoms that other children envied, which I did not like or want, I envied the children who sat down for dinner, who had curfew, got money for chores, did homework with their parents, had rules; whose parents wouldn’t discuss anal sex with your friends or discuss their many sexual escapades. In mixed states of mania she would become aggressive, argumentative and so unkind that this emotional abuse still causes me sever pain till this day; name calling, screaming, mental abuse and belittling me with the advantage of not remembering what she had said or done when she was feeling “better”.

There is one act which however hard I try – my mind cannot understand it. When I was raped at 15 and hospitalised as suicide is all I wanted, my Mother made my rape about her and ended up abandoning me and admitting herself to a private hospital (with room service, massages, ice cream) whilst she had stopped my private health insurance (as you do) so I had to go into a mixed boy/girl NHS adolescent unit situated on an old Victorian asylum ground. How could my Mother consider suicide when her baby had been violently raped, operated on due to the rape and then hospitalised? The doctors would ask me how I felt about her doing this, I would always protect her regardless of the fact I was so hurt and felt so unloved.

At 17 she became physical with me on the day I was moving out as I could not take living with her anymore, this truly became my only option to survive, she began to shake me, she slapped me and then she tried to push me into a single pane glass window on the fourth floor of our apartment building. In amidst of this she was shouting at me that I was a whore and that I had probably made up my rape. My boyfriend (who is now my husband) had to pull her off me and at the age of 19 had to confront her with some very stern words and managed to get me out of there.

Another aspect of her mixed states is that of mass overspending which she has done to the extent that all our family money is gone – to be fair my Father contributed to this too with his mental break down. However my Mother seemed to have plenty of money to buy Louis Vuitton bags and accessories, take long haul trips and buy expensive cars, but when money started to get tighter and tighter as the money became less and less, she became selfish and from 17 to 22 let me be homeless, go hungry and I had no access to medical care or dental care, I was very unwell at this time so needed a lot of extra support – but her need to keep up appearances and maintain some of her luxurious lifestyle came before my needs. Anyway it was my own fault after all for being a bad child.

My Mother withdrew from life, hers and mine and as a consequence her sadness took over our relationship and her own guilt for how she has treated me – chokes her just enough to say what a terrible Mother she was or is, something which makes me want to protect her, deny and tell her all is fine, I am fine and she is fine. But her withdrawal made me withdraw from her more an more emotionally, so to not get hurt when she eventually kills herself. Hugging her is painful, when she cries I want to stuff a sock in her mouth – when she complains about her life I want to be anywhere but near her.

Loving my Mother is not hard, liking her is impossible at this point and wanting to have a relationship with her is damaging. However the feeling that at any moment I shall get a call telling me she has died is always there, the preparations are always in place and the guilt consumes me. The illness, the Bipolar Disorder is not my Mother however her core personality and ability to care and love for me is a mixture of narcissism and emotional blackmail.

Who knows what will happen with our relationship, all that is evident to me at this point is for anything to be possible with regards to my Mother is a question of recovery and acceptance. Not forgiveness, we do not need to forgive abuse, however accepting it happened, and that it was not my fault is probably a better focus than my obsession that she will take her own life.


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Art to end the Silence on Rape – by artist Charlotte Farhan

Art to end the Silence on Rape

Since receiving reliving trauma therapy for PTSD my mind has swollen and over-spilled with flashbacks and night-terrors. This intensive therapy has hurt like a thousand knives piercing my brain and heart, but with all intensive therapies it gets worse before there is any relief. I have yet to feel any deliverance.

The word ‘rape’ used to be an utterance I was unable to speak or think, the mere mention or thought of the word, would send me into a detached state, a complete shutdown and the escapist inside found a way of entering a safe place which was more like a dream world.

It took me 10 years to confront the word, not the act, just that word ‘RAPE’.

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I had now accepted the word and what it meant for my continued existence, however I still can not truly accepted what has happened to me.

I still go over and over the incident, although the voice of society bullies my mind and the disbelievers ring in my ears. Telling me “but you fancied him? How could you not have wanted it?” and “But you are crazy, why would we believe you?” 

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Everything you could think of was used against me; my clothes, my mental health, home life and how well I knew my rapist were all used to justify what happened to me and I felt blamed, confused and as if I was deserving of it all.

Even after internal and external surgery caused by the rape, it was still said “she is so crazy she probably did the injuries to herself”.

The doctors, surgeons, police and mental health team all believed me and repeatedly told me it was not my fault and that the damage was clearly from forced intercourse and the bruises and marks were conclusive of restraint marks, but they were unable to undo centuries of victim blaming and misconceptions about rape, the world around me was singing from a different hymn sheet and I could not hear their support over the louder voice, saying “you were asking for it”.

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The person who I needed to believe me was not my friends, family or even society, it was in fact me!

I only managed to do this, this year and strangely enough it was exactly 15  years since that day. Through reliving the rape in my therapy I was able to separate myself and all the other voices and see the truth. Although it was a relief to finally say to my 15 year old self “I believe you”, it felt as if it had just happened and felt more real than ever.

I am still struggling and receiving treatment. But as a survivor I decided to speak my truth, to be part of the change and help others like myself. 

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As an artist I have decided to raise awareness and help end the silence.

Here is one of my first pieces from this collection, which is accompanied by a poem.

Chained By Charlotte Farhan
Chained By Charlotte Farhan

Chained – By Charlotte Farhan

I was chained by my fear, after you held me down.

I was chained by your force, when my life was turned upside down.

I was chained by peers and the social pressure to conform, with not wanting to be different or to cause a storm.

I was chained by my clothing, which was used against me, as well as my self loathing.

I was chained by the trauma, which haunts me to this day and the wish for life to serve you your karma will never go away.

I was chained by you, by them, by me.
Chained by the idea that “I was asking for it”
I am still chained and wish to be free.

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Thank you for reading.

Please share this post, be part of the change yourself. 

At this present time I am working on an exhibition of art, sculptures and a book to accompany this project, to share my story, my suffering and my survival as well as highlighting rape culture in our society on a global scale.

Please help me in my campaign and like my Facebook page:

No Excuses – Sexual Violence Must End

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For further advice and support :

Rape Crisis UK

Get Connected – Rape Support

RAINN | Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network