Alan's Mental Health: What Will We Do About The Bills?

A question which was swiftly followed by "I'll go out and get a job."

If you're a new visitor to the blog, or to the Alan's Mental Health feature, take some time to read this introductory post. It explains a bit of the background behind the posts.

In the early 1990's (either 1990 or 1991, I think - but I was young so I'm not entirely sure) my sister and I were playing in my bedroom. My mum came in and asked me to take my sister downstairs, and to stay in the living room until she told us to come out. My mum and him went into their bedroom and closed the door. Ordinarily if they were in there, we'd hear lots of shouting and noises associated with domestic violence...

Not this time though. It was quiet. Scarily quiet in fact. I still don't understand how, but I knew exactly what was happening. This was it. It was the end. My sister asked me "What's happening? Is everything going to be ok?" I explained that they were just talking and that everything would be fine. That was a lie of sorts, some things would be fine, and some things would not be. Either way, our world was about to change.

After what seemed like a very long time, my mum asked us both to come upstairs. When we went into their bedroom, he had obviously been crying, but there was very little emotion on my mum's face. I knew what was about to happen. "We both love you very much, and none of this is your fault. We've had a long talk, and we're splitting up. It doesn't mean we love you any less, but this is for the best." My mum's words were devoid of any real emotion, which I'm not sure if it was intentional or just the way it was. Regardless, she had basically told him to get the fuck out.

My sister was a little bit upset when he left. I'll admit I cried too - but not because I'd miss him. It was the first time I'd ever cried tears of relief, tears of happiness. I was glad he was gone. All the pain, violence, drinking, abuse - it would now all be over. My mum, me and my sister could be happy for the first time that I can remember. I remember thinking "Finally...!" and feeling so proud of my mum that she'd stood up against this vicious tyrant. She'd faced him, fought him and won.

As if from out of nowhere, my maternal grandma appeared. I can't remember if she was there before the quiet bedroom talk or she arrived after he'd left. Either way, there she was all of a sudden. Her face seemed sympathetic, reassuring, loving, and rather weary. To me, she seemed like a guardian angel who would look after my mum at this difficult time, because we were too young to. After a while, I asked "What will we do about the bills?" to which she replied, don't worry about that, we'll sort those. I quickly followed my question up with an answer "I know, I'll go out and get a job to help out." I don't actually remember this, but a few years ago she told me about what I'd said.

What did seem obvious to me though, was that I was suddenly the man of the house. It was my responsibility to look after my mum and sister, and to protect them from harm in anyway that I could. I needed to be there for them when they couldn't be there for themselves. When my mum was busy, I needed to be the big brother and keep my sister entertained. More importantly, if anyone were to try to hurt either of them, they'd have me to answer to.

I wasn't even ten years old.

It's strange, because that day shaped me forever. I am still the protector, the defender, the advisor, the sage counsel. If my family or friends have a problem, even if it's one that I can't help them with, they come to me for advice or to have someone in their corner. (Not my words by the way, it's just how people have described me over the years!) I never realised the origins of that until I wrote this.

Of course, being a child I was rather naive, and the pain, the violence, and the abuse hadn't gone away. It'd had just moved home...

* The photo is an older one than the events described in this post. I haven't got any photos of me from this time period. It's not relevant to the post. It's just me on the potty!

If you feel you need immediate help with your mental health, then contact one of the organisations below (click the logo for their website):
Samaritans (UK)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)

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