I will begin by telling you a bit about my background; from my family and childhood to growing up, and the challenges I’ve faced along the way. I know that everyone’s story is unique, and that everyone deals with different things in different ways, but I just want to give you some idea of where I’ve come from, and also share with you my journey forward as I embark upon the next stage of my life, and continued recovery from depression. I will also tag and include on this page any future posts relating directly to myself.
I was born and grew up in Bristol, in the South West of England. For the first six months or so of my life, I lived in a womens’ refuge with my Mum, as she had moved out to escape my alcoholic father. Obviously I don’t remember anything about this part of my life, but my Mum did tell me that a woman tried to steal me from the hospital instead of taking her son! Luckily my Mum saw what was happening and rescued me, otherwise my life story could be quite different…
At about seven months old, I moved with my Mum into a two bedroom flat, in an area on the outskirts of Bristol. It was a bit of a run down, poor area, but my Mum made the flat as full of happiness and love as she could. When I was 3 1/2, my baby brother Daniel was born. I remember quite vividly going with his Dad to the hospital to visit him, having him put on my lap in the big chair, and telling my Mum that he was good and I would look after him and play with him. As we grew up I stuck to my word, making up all sorts of games to play with him; from schools to spies, and pirates to pop stars. We lived five minutes from a really huge park with woods and a museum and a little castle you could go inside and climb to the top of. We had picnics, and played outside with our friends, and watched all the kids TV shows on our four channels. We walked to primary school every morning (sometimes I skipped) and then walked home up the really, really big hill every afternoon. (The hill isn’t really that big, but to a little kid it was a mountain!) Overall, my early childhood was pretty happy and nice. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, we managed to have a lot of fun, and we always knew how loved we were by our Mum. She had broken up with my brothers’ Dad before he was born, so it was just the three of us, until she met her new partner Steve.
Even at a young age, I loved to read, write and make up stories. I remember once when I was about seven or eight, I won a contest in my school for the story which I wrote. As far as I recall it included an Alligator, an ambulance and S Club 7. All through primary school I had quite a lot of friends, and used to put on little performances in the playground, which all the kids would come and watch. I was pretty popular, and didn’t have a lot of worries.
Throughout this time, I saw my father on and off at weekends. He was supposed to come and get me every other Friday for the weekend, but he often couldn’t make it for various reasons, which my Mum said were all made up. When I was about six though, he came to get me one day and ended up having an argument with my Mum. He walked out, and that was the last time I ever saw him. My Mum received a letter, which basically said he wasn’t coming to get me again. A couple of years later another letter arrived; this time from my step mum. It simply said “Jennifers’ dad has died, you can tell if you want.” (Or something to that effect, I was eight my memory is a bit hazy on the details.) I think I had the rest of the week off school, but then things pretty much went back to normal for me.
Looking back, I realise that I didn’t fully feel the impact of my Dad dying because he had hardly been there, and I could barely remember when he was as I was so young. I definitely built up a picture of him in my head after his death which was much better than I’m sure he had been in real life, but as a kid that was simply my coping mechanism. It wasn’t until recently that I really began to understand and explore the impact it has had on me growing up.
About a year later Steve, who had been part of our family for about four years, died from cancer. It was an illness he had been battling even before my Mum met him, and sadly in the end it won. He was definitely much more of a father figure to me than my own Dad, and I think his death probably affected me even more so. However, I took my usual coping mechanism of simply blocking it out and not letting myself feel anything much about it after a few weeks.
That pretty much covers the main events which happened in my childhood, looking back now I realise that I actually repressed a lot of stuff emotionally, and I think the reason for that is I saw how much my Mum gave up for my brother and I, and how hard she was trying to bring us up in a (mostly) single parent family with not a lot of money. I didn’t want to burden her with any of my own worries, so from a very young age I learnt to get on with things and do my best to look out for my family. This turned out to be both detrimental to my well being, but also fairly useful as I got older in helping me cope with a lot of stuff.