Of course I did settle in to school eventually and I made some friends there too. But one Friday afternoon, when I was 6, my Mum didn't pick me up from school, it was the Nurse who usually came to visit my Granny who lived with us. She took me home, took me into the kitchen and gave me some paints and told me to stay there. Later that evening, I sneaked out and up the stairs, I could see my Mummy lying in bed, lots of grown ups around her. I scurried back into the kitchen and waited, quietly.
It turned out my Mum had had a massive stroke that left her completely paralysed. She went into hospital and the next time I saw her it was Christmas Day and I didn't recognise her.
She was left severely disabled but my Father brought her home for us to care for her. My Granny went into an nursing home and promptly had a heart attack. I didn't know at the time but my Father knew then that he would never have old bones. I was what we now call a 'young carer'. Everyone told me to be good, to be good for my Mummy and Daddy. So I was. I was dutiful. I didn't have a tantrum, I didn't cry if I had to go to someone else. I didn't ask questions that might upset people.
Three and a half years later my Father went into hospital and he didn't come home. His funeral was on my Mother's birthday so I spent that day in the hospital with her to keep her company. A week later our house was put on the market and I was at boarding school. Be good, do your best, don't upset anyone.
By the time I was a teenager I was acutely aware that I was different. Now I know it was depression. Now I know what I should have been told, how I should have been allowed to behave, what I should have said. I eventually spoke to a teacher about how I felt, my teenage journals are full of advice to anyone reading to talk to someone. I'm so grateful to that wonderful teacher, she absolutely saved me.
Talk to someone.
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