When you are the child of a suicidal parent

The death of my Mother is something which I have been prepared for since a young age. When you are the child of a suicidal parent you learn how to make preparations for yourself for the worst, spending years thinking of how you will cope, what this will mean for your future and how it is possibly your fault that your “caregiver” is so sad that they don’t want to live. For a child this is confusing at best and life shattering at worst. Understanding the complex nature of suicide is something most adults are unable to cope with, let alone a child still developing their own grasp on existence and surviving what life throws at them.

My Mother has Bipolar which is a mood disorder – a severe mental illness with mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows, alternating episodes of mania and depression are pervasive throughout an individuals life. Bipolar increases the risk of suicide by 20 times and The World Health Organisation identifies bipolar as one of the top causes of lost years of life and health by 15 to 44 year olds. 

My mother has always seemed to think I am oblivious, however from the age of 8 I began to see my mother slip away and her illness start to take grip of everything that made my Mother my Mother. Her moods became erratic, her temper – palpable and her tongue sharp with abusive slurs, yet still I saw nothing wrong with her, she was my Mummy and had stayed when my Father had abandoned me, so she had to be the best mother in the world , no?

The day I realised my Mother wanted to die was the day I saw her in the bath with cuts all over her, it was the time period that my mother didn’t get out of bed and the curtains didn’t get drawn, it was when she fully left me as my mother and attempted suicide several times, it was when she was put into a psychiatric hospital but left me at 11 years old with a teenager, who was unwell herself. It was when I was raped at 15 and put into an NHS psychiatric hospital and my Mother abandoned me and checked herself into a private psychiatric hospital because she was at risk, she didn’t want to save her child and care for her, she wanted to die.

Defending herself and her bad parenting jumping back and forth when it suites her, blaming everything as a consequence to her illness, attempting to let herself off the hook for just “being there” and not walking out (which I was made to feel was a tremendous task). Adults, including doctors – regularly stated to me throughout my childhood and teens: “do you realise you are the victim of circumstance Charlotte?” or asking “do you resent your Mother for being this way with you?”. My answer was always the same – no! Some adults even suggested she was abusive to me, which I was in no way ready to accept or believe, I did not understand this, admitting this would mean both my parents were unable to love me or care for me in a healthy way.

The truth is I felt sorry for my mother, I still do have an overwhelming amount of empathy for her. I feel she is stuck in a loop, a romanticised view of loneliness and melancholy has hold of her and is never going to let her go. In a perpetual spin, blaming everyone else for life’s disappointments and suffocating me with her negativity. Love doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of my Mothers focus, having been told repeatedly that life gives us choices and that no one else is responsible for our choices (advice she is never able to take herself). I was told that if she upsets me that it is “my problem”, that if I take offence that she or others have not given offence. Telling me I am too sensitive, high maintenance, a drama queen, a baby or just lacking a sense of humour. I believed these labels for a long time, occasionally these judgements come flooding back, which triggers my BPD – leading me to be unable at regulating my emotions and becoming highly unstable as a consequence.

In amongst my Mothers suicidal ideation I too started to see the allure of death and my first suicide attempt was at 12 years old, whilst my Mother was in hospital after a suicide attempt and breakdown. For 5 years I stood over the edge of a cliff, attempting to jump, still remembering the feelings that consumed me; that life was pain and death was the cure.

Children with a parent who has attempted suicide have nearly a five-fold increased risk of attempting suicide themselves, new research shows. Results from a longitudinal, prospective study showed a direct effect of a parent’s suicide attempt on a suicide attempt by their child, even after taking into account a history of previous suicide attempt by the offspring and familial transmission of a mood disorder.

Bipolar is a serious illness, as are my illnesses: borderline personality disorder, complex post traumatic disorder and psychotic depression (just to name a few), however my Mother sees her Bipolar as a badge of honour, as a get out of jail card and an explanation for everything. Never taking my illnesses seriously, suggesting that I was mimicking her, when I first showed signs at 11 – ironically relinquishing herself from all responsibility and diminishing my experiences and pain. Getting angry at me for being suicidal – the cheek! For most of my life she has made it abundantly clear that I am not worth living for or taking care of when it comes to the big stuff.

Seeing my Mother as a human being , not just a parent is possible for me, I realised that she did not choose to be severely ill when I was around 18. My Mother did not realise she married a child abuser (my Father) or could she have predicted her own illness, however she did choose to have me, I was actually planned, now this choice is one that seems to be brushed under the carpet, yet – this is the choice which I judge. They weren’t children, uneducated or religious, they made a very conscious decision, one that in hindsight was a hideous mistake.

However I am able to be grateful to my Mother for doing the basics, for giving me valuable advice and for helping me be the activist I am today. For introducing me to art, literature and my French heritage, there have been lovely times, we have laughed. The holidays we took or the deep discussions we had about life, politics, philosophy and social injustice. I admire my Mother for many reasons and I have never stopped loving her.

Is love enough? It could have been, if the foundations of my life had been maintained, cared for and not left to rot. But now? No. Love is not enough. At 34 with the relentless stress of fearing most days that I shall receive a phone call – telling me my Mother has taken her own life, I am unable to have a relationship with her. She has taken my ability to function when around her and has left me a hollow shell of inabilities. As I write this I imagine her response to this statement, she would say: “I did not take anything from you, you chose to give it away”. Mind fuckery at every corner, a grand manipulator of logic and a riddler with words.

To this day she taunts me with her last will and testament which she has be preparing for nearly 10 years, maybe longer – it feels like longer. The “death file”( which I named), is referenced at every opportunity, making it seem that she is continually putting her affairs in order so that she can take the next step. My husband and friends are understandably complaisant and reassure me that she is just being manipulative and trying to control me. This I don’t doubt to be true – however my Mother has bipolar and is at risk.

In an ideal world there would be enough support for those wishing to start a family and established parents with mental illness, there would be intervention at appropriate times, that patients who are parents within the private psychiatric services are treated as those in the NHS services with children – social workers being made aware of any dependants and assessing the safety of the child within the home. There is no doubt in my mind that my Mother needed more support when she was raising me – I feel for her with this. However she has a part to play, she had choices and she certainly could have learnt by now, after 34 years, that the psychological warfare she has taken against my mental health could have stopped before now.

Still my heart stops every time the phone rings…

Make it Stop - Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan
Make it Stop – Art by Charlotte Farhan

 

Infertility gave me the chance to question my abilities and accept being child free

(Please be aware that this essay is my opinion and represents my life. In no way am I judging anyone for their life choices with this piece) 

Being child-free was not my first choice; like most people the indoctrination of the projected ideal of “family”, being specifically to procreate in a hetro-normative way, had been passed down to me through relatives, religion, culture and societal norms – there was never a need to challenge this or think of a life otherwise inclined. Everything reflected this narrative, in literature, film, TV, cartoons and advertising – all showing you the eventuality of having children and it being the “right” thing to do.

My first ever fears of not being able to achieve this pre-prescribed life was at the age of 7. My fear arose upon realising that I liked boys and girls romantically, already having fancied and kissed both, my mind was now confused; to what this made me? Could I have a “normal” life, because no one else seemed to be like me? Running to my Mother in tears I tried to convey all of these fears and express the isolation that I had already perceived as my future. My Mother simply said to me:

“This is a phase and everyone experiences it, you will grow out of this and get married and have babies”

Looking back on this moment it is strange as my Mother was considered a “progressive”, she stood for equality and claimed to be a feminist (a very privileged second-wave white feminist who echoed Germaine Greer) but still in comparison to my racist and homophobic Father and grandparents on both sides, my Mother always seemed like a beacon of light in a murky prejudice swamp of people.

My Mother challenged marriage and did not think it was anything other than a legal agreement which protected you financially, often saying that she didn’t even want or need a man, just a child (me) and the two of us facing the world. However my Mother seemed convinced I was a “mother earth” type – stating I (even when very young) had always displayed maternal qualities – qualities she would say she did not possess.

At the age of 18 my boyfriend (now husband) and I got pregnant. We were living together in rented accommodation that we could not afford and could barely feed ourselves. At this point my mental health had taken another nose dive, my agoraphobia started at this point and was still having regular psychotic episodes, being very unsafe and destructive with myself due to my borderline personality disorder. Stability was no where to be found, except in one another. To make things more complicated my boyfriend is Muslim and we did not want the family to hate me and know we had sex outside of marriage (in hindsight this would not have happened as the family are beautiful people – but we were kids ourselves and scared). We decided to get an abortion.

As a survivor of CSA, rape and sexual assault the termination procedure was very triggering for me. Vaginal examinations cause me to have sever flashbacks, which causes me to experience chronic pain in my vagina and anus, this is due to complex post traumatic stress disorder. As I was at the latest stage of being able to have a termination I had to be put under general anaesthetic – reminding me of the internal surgery I had after I was violently raped at 15.

When I phoned my Mother to tell her, she at first misheard me and thought I said “I am not having an abortion”, well thank goodness this was not the case, she started screaming down the phone telling me:

“you stupid girl, you will ruin your life, you have to have an abortion”

AT 26 years old my boyfriend (now husband) and I started to try for a baby, we were more mature and intended on getting married in the near future, so we joyfully prepared for our “real” lives to begin as parents. After 3 months I got pregnant and we couldn’t have been happier, all our plans and dreams were going to be put into practice and realised. However after our first visual scan – after seeing our little life we had created; in the early hours I miscarried. It was an ordeal like no other, experiencing the loss physically and emotionally, the pain mocking you and the world reminding you that you have failed and that it is most probably your own fault.

Friends and family were either unable to comfort me due to awkwardness or the projection of their own fears, together repeating the mantra:

“this one wasn’t meant to be.”

My husband and I still grieve to this day for this loss.

Soon after the miscarriage I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) , this diagnosis was a shock and scared me so much that for another 4 years I did not address my PCOS and ignored all the symptoms and hid my head in the sand – not wanting to face it. The doctors told me that it was likely that my anorexia and bulimia had given me a metabolic disorder which had lead to PCOS. Then just before I turned 30, after almost 2 years of feeling at deaths door and putting on lots of weight even though I wasn’t eating much, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes which I developed from having PCOS.

The girl with the eating disorder inside me saw this as the biggest failure possible. These illnesses were considered by society as “fat people sickness” deemed to be the responsibility of the overweight and lazy, the burdens on the NHS and society. For the first time since I was 11 I felt I couldn’t take back control of my body, as I always had during periods of extreme stress and emotional unrest. No longer able to starve myself like I had , especially if I wanted to have a baby.

The anger toward myself was violent, wanting to rip my flesh and fat off my body, often obsessively imagining cutting fat with scissors, wanting to stab myself in the ovaries and remove the cysts.

After the diagnosis and being at the doctors and hospital appointments weekly, the eventual conversation began about whether I wanted to have children or not and what fertility treatments were available to me. Even being referred to a diabetic midwife to get the best advice possible due to my PCOS and diabetes. At this point feeling confident we would be able to conceive. People kept telling me that the fact I had been pregnant twice before meant that it was just a matter of time and patience. So my husband and I persevered and continued to do all we were told.

We had been trying for over 2 years and we had no luck, the next step was for me to go to the doctors and ask what our options were for fertility treatments. Due to my disabilities, visiting the GP surgery  is an ordeal in itself, unable to go unassisted my husband came with me, however I went into the appointment alone as knowing there would be a lot of fat shaming, which would embarrass me in front of my husband.

Walking in, this unwanted feeling of loss surged through me – feeling emotional and anxious, adrenaline pumping through me, shaking, I sat down. The doctor asked what they could do for me. Explaining as clearly as possible my situation whilst gasping for air through shear panic. After the usual chit chat about my medication, diabetes checks and general well being – I took the plunge and asked:

“What are my fertility options?”

The doctor tilted their head in that manner which suggests pity. The following information was about to hit my ears and puncture my heart:

“Unfortunately your BMI is too high for us to give you any fertility treatment, if you can loose the extra weight before you are 35 then we can give you IVF treatment, ideally you would start fertility treatment now due to your age.”

My heart stopped for what seemed like a lifetime, the tears swelled in my eyes and throat and the rage inside me was switched on. Indignant to the ridiculous hoops, that metaphorically were too small for my fat sickly body to jump through. The doctor knew that due to my circumstances that this achievement was highly unlikely, having PCOS and Diabetes made it very hard to loose weight, not impossible but certainly challenging, especially when unable to leave your house freely and in a time constrained manner. Having lost so much weight since my diagnosis, logically my thoughts were that fertility treatment would be a woman’s right and that I had shown my commitment to being healthy. Not, however, arbitrary bureaucracy dictating that my weight fit into the predetermined “one size fits all” paradigm, due to the outdated system that is BMI testing. As a tall, big framed person – my BMI has been high even when visibly skinny.

My voice was irate, my tears chocked me and my anger made me shake – the “hysterical” mentally ill person was about to blow, you could see my doctor visibly lean back – ready for impact. Crying through my words I said:

“But how is this fair? How can you treat women this way? These rules are ridiculous and penalise people who are over weight, even if they are as healthy as they can be. Fat people get pregnant all the time, I see them!”

My doctor explained to me it was due to the area I lived in, in other areas of the country women have until they are 40 and the weight requirement is not an issue. This injustice made me feel detached and empty. They didn’t care that I was severely mentally ill, that leaving the house on my own was impossible, making regular exercise difficult. Even reverting back to my anorexic or bulimic ways was not an option, not eating now made my  pancreas produce less insulin, my liver produce more glucose, which makes my body store fat. These requirements gave me (a now 31 year old) 3 years to loose weight and then 1 year in which to conceive with IVF. To some this may seem achievable, for me I knew that the impact this would have on my physical and mental health was dangerous. That already the obsessive thoughts had begun:

“I wont eat. I will exercise excessively at home. If I am stressed I will have to start to self harm again, to keep the pain controlled and away from others. I will have to only focus on this until I get pregnant – nothing else will matter, If I don’t succeed I shall have to kill myself.”

These thoughts took over and were at the back of my mind when I told my husband what the doctor had said, pretending that to a certain extent I was OK, that I could handle this. Although there was this little voice inside me, whispering repeatedly:

“Is this what a safe Mother would do? Is this the parent I want to be – half dead by the time a baby arrives? Will I be able to regain mental stability once pregnant or once the child is born? What if we miscarry again? What if this recreates a dangerous environment for my child, such as the one I grew up in?”

In hindsight the realisation had already hit me, that was the end, the end of that dream. That the answer to all my thoughts and questions were right there in front of me. Not realising it at that point, but a valuable lesson, a pause in the rat race for the nuclear family, an opportunity not granted to most – a chance to question all of this!

Over the next 2 years keeping most of this to myself, especially because when you do tell people, they can not help themselves but say:

“This will happen for you, I will keep the faith”

Not realising how damaging these words are, making you feel like less of a woman or human – for the fact you had lost “faith” or that this will not happen for you at all. This made me feel very alone and meant my grief was shoved down and buried. More opinions from people were:

“Why not adopt?”

The answer was simple – in this country (the UK) I am considered as a severely mentally ill person, who cannot adopt. This at first seems like an injustice. Yet if you think about the fact that severe mental illness is an umbrella of disorders some of which mean you can be a danger to yourself and others, you can deduce that this is for the protection of vulnerable children and not to discriminate the mentally ill. This does not mean that there shouldn’t be further investigation, to look at how to give those who may have chronic mental illness and wish to have children more support.

You see mental illness is almost viewed in groups. It starts off with situational and circumstantial reactions to the stressful eventualities and life events we face, such as grief, stress and low self esteem which can cause bouts of depression and anxiety – normally affecting an individual for less than a year. Then you have people who have mood, personality and anxiety disorders for more than 1 year or chronically, such as: bi-polar disorder, addiction and impulse control, clinical depression, personality disorders, OCD, generalised anxiety disorder, eating disorders etc. Then there are disorders considered severe which are psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, psychotic depression and postpartum Psychosis, as well as trauma related disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder, either complex or non-complex. 

Most people who suffer mental illness in their life time, do so for short periods or their illness does not affect their ability to lead a functional life. However some of us have severe mental illness which impacts everything in our day to day lives, our abilities to function and take care of ourselves are impaired and the likelihood of impulsive unsafe behaviour is higher. So the point I am trying to illustrate is that – there is a point to this rule – to be properly assessed makes sense. Furthermore only the individual can really know if they can or cannot take care of a child, asking themselves:

“Am I too ill to have a child and take care of that child, to not impact them in a negative way with my illnesses and disabilities?”

The realisation was clear and logical, the answer for me, personally, YES!

Asking myself continuously why the need to have children and each time it was apparent to me that all my motivations were selfish. Wanting a child so that I could experience a “happy family”, to “break the cycle” of abuse and neglect I had faced, to witness my husband be a Father so that I could experience a healthy Father and child relationship, so that if my husband died I would have a part of him still here. None of these reasons seemed good enough, seeming empty and damaging to a child.

Thinking of myself when young and the pain endured from my parents, who really should have questioned everything before bringing me into the world. Possibly concluding it was just to fuck me up and narcissistically abandon me or hold me emotionally hostage. Or maybe it was to love and be loved and things changed, as life does. Whatever the reason – the reasons were never challenged, the status quo needed to be maintained, as would have been if I was never afforded the opportunity to question my abilities as a parent. It is never a bad thing to ask yourself:

“Can I truly (to the best of my knowledge) say that upon having a child that I shall be able to look after them, emotionally, physically, fiscally and that I shall not put my child in danger due to selfish needs and ego”

Genuinely most people will think they can do this (I did too), however the statistics of child abuse, neglect and sexual abuse paint a different picture. Furthermore the extremes are not the only damage that can be done, the importance of functional safe upbringings is fundamental to bettering the physical and mental health of children collectively. Too often the selfish needs of adults cause children the most harm. Having children or caring for children is a privilege, it is not to be taken lightly and your rights to “have them” does not override their right to exist in a safe environment.

Even though grieving for what could have been, for dreams that were never realised is still a process I am very much in, the reality that having a child would be unsafe for both me and said child; makes me feel better about my decision to not pursue something that has already been taken off the table. My focus is now on imagining and realising a new life  more suitable for me.

Yes, being child free was not my first choice – in spite of this my choices now as a child-free person are limitless.

 


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Essay by Charlotte Farhan

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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Inner Child – Art, Poetry and Philosophy by Charlotte Farhan

Inner Child - By Charlotte Farhan
Inner Child – By Charlotte Farhan

 

Inner Child 

by Charlotte Farhan

I abandoned you my child within,

they said you had grownup,

convincing me of my mortal sin,

forcing me to split and breakup.

You hid – undiscovered for a long time,

I forgot about you – putting childish things aside,

although I would hear you at bedtime,

telling me our stories – leaving me horrified.

For what they did to us they must be evil,

or maybe they too are hurt inside,

with all this pain and upheaval,

maybe their inner child had died.

I feel you clawing at me inside my chest cavity,

weeping and screaming – asking to be set free,

is it you or I that acts with such depravity,

would you burst from within me just to be an escapee.

I shouldn’t blame you for hating me,

for I am but another bad parent,

however trying to hide from reality,

not wanting to be called aberrant.

You inhabit my mind and body,

controlling me in order to make me see,

requiring me to embody,

all that was lost at sea.


What is our inner child?

It is the child state that exists in all of us, which never disappears – we assume as we get older this younger self vanishes, but this is illogical. Yes, we are changed over time by our experiences but do we “grow up”? Or are the ideas of childhood, adolescents and adulthood merely symbolic of societies need to compartmentalise us into accepted groups, in order to sell specific products and life style choices.

Before the 17th century childhood did not exist as a concept, in fact children were considered “incomplete adults”. However in the west, English philosopher John Locke was one of the first to describe the stage before adulthood and change the perception toward children in general. With Locke’s theory of the tabula rasa – meaning “blank slate”, he believed we as humans are born “brand new”, a mind which is a blank canvas ready to be painted on. With this he urged parents that their duty was to nurture and guide their child toward adulthood. With the rise of the middle class and puritanism within the early frameworks of capitalism – a new family ideology was formulated as an ideal for an individuals salvation and the protection of the “innocence” within children.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau once described childhood as a:

“brief period of sanctuary before people encounter the perils and hardships of adulthood”

However for the poor this separation between childhood and adulthood was not attainable. Industrialisation saw children as a viable workforce and rejected that a “childhood” was precious and that their innocence needed to be protected. With the separation between the poor and middle classes becoming more apparent in the late 18th century and with reform being discussed, the idea that all children needed to be protected became an important issue, from the 1830’s onward the campaign eventually led to the Factory Acts, which mitigated the exploitation of children at the workplace. From this point the notion of childhood saw a boom in children’s literature and toys, leading us to where we are now , where childhood is seen as a sate that not only exists, but that our development is fundamental to us being functional adults, with compulsory education and more and more done to protect children from harm, childhood is now rooted in our identities as a society.

So how does this all relate to our “inner child”?

This notion and brief history explained above, further illustrates that the concept of being a “grown up” is adaptable. Our inner child is part of us – it… is us. We never “grow up” we evolve as a human through life stages but our mind is our own and doesn’t get switched through each birthday, it adapts to circumstances and learns – but we don’t lose our child within.

In fact the most adult act we can take is to parent our own inner child. Because contrary to what Rousseau states, childhood can be full of perils and trauma and without the experience we gain from living through the stages, most children are not able to protect themselves from abuse, neglect or abandonment. Which means this trauma is taken on and carried into their adulthood – often causing an individual to become mentally ill.

This is caused not only by the acts of unfit parents and abusive adults around the child, but it is also due to societies need to separate each life stage in an individual – suggesting only children cry, have tantrums, are unreasonable or selfish and so on… When in fact these are general human behaviours with no age restrictions. Yes children test boundaries and display these behaviours – which are perfectly acceptable in order to navigate societal norms and etiquette. However when a child is abused emotionally, physically or both, they often do not get to have these learning experiences and testing of boundaries, leading the child to mimic adult behaviour in order to survive. Which is why later in life when the child is able to move away from their abusers and try and function in the world these behavioural traits often arise again and again, playing out the scenarios in which they were denied at the “appropriate age”.

This is not something I know due to my degree in philosophy and psychology – this is me, I am a pseudo-adult. As if my body were a ship, the captain of my vessel is at times a 4 year old me, an adolescent me or the me who sits and writes this to you all. It took a long time to understand that I was steered by different parts of myself, but once I understood this my self management became easier.

With no children of my own and being the product of bad parents – from abuse (sexual, emotional and physical) I am probably thought to be the last person who would know how to parent my 4 year old self and 15 year old self. This is arguably true – however the first steps are listening to the children who have been through trauma, we know a lot on what not to do.

The rest is love…

References: 

Vivian C. Fox, “Poor Children’s Rights in Early Modern England,” Journal of Psychohistory, Jan 1996, Vol. 23 Issue 3, pp 286–306

“The Life of the Industrial Worker in Nineteenth-Century England”. Laura Del Col, West Virginia University

Ariès, Philippe. Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

Brown, Marilyn R., ed. Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002.


If you feel you need to explore your inner child or are already aware but need some guidance here are some helpful links:

 Working With Your Inner Child to Heal Abuse

Healing the Child Within

7 Things Your Inner Child Needs to Hear You Say


And if you are struggling with any form of mental illness please follow these link for support:

Sane 

Mind 

International Crisis Lines


Please leave me a comment or get in touch for further details on my work by filling in the form provided:

This Little Girl – Art and Poetry By Charlotte Farhan

I saw a little girl and she was sat in the dark,

I watched her through a window as she sat there alone,

the little girl had a lighter and was trying to create a spark,

where her parents were – was still unknown.

 

I pressed my face up close to see into her eyes,

however her hair was like a veil,

this was an armour – a disguise,

you would only see her face in a strong gale.

 

This little girl put down her lighter,

she gently walked over to the window,

I felt eager to save her and invite her,

My aim to rescue – to become her hero.

 

We placed our hands against each others,

up against the glass – so close but so distant,

it was clear neither of us had been mothered,

the girl and I pulled away – becoming resistant.

 

Our pain was too engulfing – too present,

my shame swept over me – I stepped back,

the little girl returned to her torment,

the air became cold – the little girl faded into pitch black.

 

This Little Girl - By Charlotte Farhan
This Little Girl – By Charlotte Farhan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predatory Mind – By Charlotte Farhan – Art to End the Silence on Rape

Predatory Mind - By Charlotte Farhan
Predatory Mind – By Charlotte Farhan

 

Predatory Mind – By Charlotte Farhan

They – the predators, always in plane sight,
some think they emerge from shadows,
dancing with the devil in the moonlight,
alas most are under one’s nose,
most are known to you or I,
our Fathers, Brothers, partners, class mates,
hard for others to identify,
when others finally see – they deprecate.

They pretend to love you,
but they will push you down to dominate,
negating, hostile, broody – but we make do,
there is no other option with this mental state,
the predatory mind is here – locked in taboo,
memories are tombstones left to desecrate,
no open fields here – to run through,
left dangling on a hook like live bait.


 

Poetry and art by Charlotte Farhan, for any further details please fill in the form below…

 


 

Outsider Art – Unlocked by Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked - By Charlotte Farhan
Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

A pressure builds inside my head like a boiling liquid,
spilling out of me, the security lock has been breached.
The fear that anything could escape – this is unscripted,
witnessing my life – my credibility is impeached.


This illustration is of my inner turmoil spilling from my mind, when experiencing a locked in state from flash backs and psychosis as a result of having complex post traumatic stress disorder and psychotic depression.

As I get older the locked safe where my darkest thoughts and memories have been kept, since being very young; has started to erode with time. Rusty and old, the hinges are no longer able to hold it all in.

Since starting reliving therapy in 2014 there have been many disturbances to my treatment, such as the NHS only being able to offer 6 weeks and then leaving me worse than before, opened up and dumped.

Then last year I found a therapist which was able to offer a reduced fee (as we are on such a low income) all was going well, even though it was soul-destroying and painful and made me cry in those 6 sessions more than I ever had. Still it was a process and felt as if maybe I would be able to deal with the trauma of my rape and sexual abuse as well as all the other issues which had developed as a consequence. However this was not to be the case, due to my borderline personality disorder I ended up splitting my therapist in my mind and however much I tried, this could not be changed. From thinking “she is my saviour” to “she is trying to kill me”, which then led me to become dangerously suicidal. So having no real choice, the therapeutic relationship had to be terminated.

So I am left unlocked and wide open…


 

If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

My open letter to MIND – The mental health charity; Dear Mind, please help me!

Dear Mind,
 
my name is Charlotte Farhan and I suffer from C-PTSD, BPD and Psychotic Depression, from these illnesses I then suffer as symptoms other illnesses such as derealisation, agoraphobia, OCD, GAD, BDD and adult ADHD.
 
I have been in the mental health system since I was 12 and I have had many issues with malpractice, abusive care, neglect and unprofessional dangerous physicians treat me.
 
I have been told a few times and only just recently there is nothing they can do for me anymore, I am too severe and complex?
 
I have not been out alone for over 9 years and am housebound most days, I have no earning possibilities (however I am an artist and I run a non-profit with the help of others – this keeps me having a purpose) I have no family and my husband is left caring for me and is on minimum wage, I have no benefits as I can’t use the phone due to my illnesses (paranoia of being bugged) so can not get the forms, the forms hurt my brain so even if I had them I can’t fill them out without support.
 
I also have diabetes, chronic erythema nodosum and PCOS, which due to my mental illnesses I can not access any care for these. I can’t go to the surgery on my own when my husband is at work, it is closed by the time he returns, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to go at all I as I can’t always go outside, once a week is normally what I achieve but a lot of planning goes into this. And was told by my GP that I can not get home care as mental illness is not considered within this context. So I am left to die. No bloods being taken, no diabetic checks, no check ups on my chronic erythema nodosum which is getting worse, no care or rights for my PCOS so no care of rights for my fertility.
 
I am at home trying to survive hourly, I do not know how much longer we can live like this?
 
I am a very strong person, as I have had to be, but really I am not at all. Everyday I fight for mental health rights, so that I may one day be able to change this for me and others like me, which there are so many!!
 
I am asking your for help? I need you to help me get my voice heard so that I do not lose my battle, so that my husband does not have to carry this on his shoulders alone, so that all the people I have spoken to who are in my situation are heard.
We have no rights, neurotypical privilege is everywhere, we can’t survive without your help.
 
I have been struggling since I was an infant, I am a survivor of child sexual abuse, sexual violence as a teenager and sexual assault (which was in an adolescent unit) and both my parents have severe mental illness too, who I do not speak to due to their emotional and physical abuse, Mother with Bipolar 1 with mixed states and BPD and a Father with alcoholism and then alcohol induced psychosis, they have been in and out of psychiatric hospitals when I was a child. I was even left alone at 12 for many months whilst my mother was in a psychiatric ward, that was due to the fact she went private so social services were not alerted.
 
Please read this blog post and please let me know if I can share my story further? Maybe someone will help me? Maybe I will be able to live a better life or more managed life? Help me have the same rights as others!

Why is Severe Mental Illness left untreated in the NHS Mental Health Services:

 
I am desperate so have nothing to lose!
I hope to hear from you.
Thank you for your time xxx
 

 

To the truly Fatherless on Fathers Day – The abandoned and abused child

To the truly Fatherless on Fathers Day

The abandoned and abused child

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Today on Fathers day 2015 I have decided to acknowledge others like myself who have been abandoned by their Fathers, abused by their Fathers and find today so hard.

When I was younger I did not allow myself to think of my Father and the abandonment and abuse I suffered. Most of it was locked away inside a box in my mind, which had been locked, chained and buried into the depths of my psyche.

Since becoming older and now in my 30’s I find Fathers day excruciating. Now with social media you wake to a constant stream of praise for the Fathers of the world, with gushing sentiments of loved children, of family photos filled with blissful memories and declarations of “the perfect Father quotes”. Now I, in NO way begrudge these people and their memories, it is just the little girl inside me who does not understand why she did not get to experience this love, this relationship and bond? The adult me feels ashamed, excluded and that I am the reason for the the abuse and abandonment. So it is not something I wish to stop others doing it is just painful and makes “us” feel more alone and FATHERLESS.

 

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I remember waiting for days as a child by the letter box, waiting for a birthday card from my Father, asking everyday, “where is my birthday card”? Keeping this unbreakable faith that it would arrive, but of course it never did. This is a state I found myself in so many times when I was very little. When I grew up and became a teenager most people assumed my Father was dead as I always referred to him in the past tense. I found it easier to not correct people, I almost could fantasise that I had a wonderful Father and that he had just died, so he had not CHOSEN to leave me the choice had been made for him. But no my story was not this one. My story was more a horror film. I am not yet able to fully discuss what my Father did to me or the abuse my Mother and I had to deal with, but I can say that it was fuelled by a narcissistic personality and a sever alcohol addiction which led my Father to have alcohol induced psychosis. This is no way excuses him, but it does explain the level of abuse and harm.

 

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I still have so much work to do to recover from my childhood and there are certain things I shall NEVER recover from. But I try to remember that I am very blessed to be alive, to have my Mother who despite our difficulties has NEVER left me, I have an amazing husband who has taught me what a MAN is and how I can be loved by a man in a healthy way and for my amazing elected family filled with beautiful friends.

 

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All I would like to do with this post is to tell those like myself they are NOT alone and for those who were fortunate to have loving families and especially Fathers in this case, just spare a thought for us today, remember us the truly Fatherless are an enormous group of people who find TODAY very difficult. We do not wish for you to change what you do to celebrate your Father and that relationship, just spare a thought, let it remind you of how lucky you are or have been.

 

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We do not want pity either…

Do NOT apologise to us because YOU had an amazing Father, this is a slap in the face and makes us feel worse than we already do.

DO ask us if we are OK on Fathers day, this is not reserved for those who have lost their parents through bereavement, we matter too!

Do NOT ignore us as we have been ignored since we were children, remember us and extend kindness to us. Often the abused and abandoned are not approached for fear of saying the wrong thing or because it is uncomfortable or awkward, push past this. We have faced far worse and will appreciate it.

 

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But to you my fellow survivors!! TODAY I celebrate us! We did it without the love, support and care of our Fathers and we survived to tell our stories, to help others and to set ourselves free from our lived nightmare. Today we should do what ever we can to survive further. One day I hope to help others like me and educate people on the consequences for children who suffered neglect and emotional /physical / sexual abuse. But today I extend a hug and this post.

 

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Thank you for reading and if you need any support please follow these useful links…

NSPCC – Every childhood is worth fighting for

The Survivors Trust – Support, Advice and Information

Stop it Now – Together we can prevent child sexual abuse

RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization