Read about the driving force behind why Amanda started the Head High program.
As a young girl, I just accepted my mum for the way she was, not knowing that she was different from a lot of the other mums. I knew that like her mother, she lived ‘off her nerves’ a term often used to describe mental illness back then.
Her mum, my nan, was agoraphobic and claustrophobic and I loved her with all my heart. It somehow just seemed normal in the later years of my nan’s life to chat to her about my day as she lay in her bed, (which she rarely left), puffing away on one of her 60 daily Senior Service – my how things change!
As I grew older though, my mum became more poorly, and things took a turn for the worse. I was a typical teenager I suppose, wrapped up in my own self-doubt, thinking no one understood me. My dad couldn’t help me as he was trying to buffer her daily suicide attempts as well as try and hold on to his job.
It’s funny , but at the time I thought he was weak, giving in to her , staying with her, not standing up for me, but now I realise that he loved her with all his heart and in fact he was very strong .
My mum drank heavily (two bottles of Cinzano a day – the Baileys didn’t count as it had cream in), and my dad buried her daily bottles in the garden. Added to this she was addicted to prescription drugs and basically anything that made her high and allowed her to escape.
My childhood wasn’t perfect, mum called me ‘girl’ rather than by my name and my brother ‘boy’ (I can’t remember what she called my little sister). I do remember that my brother and I had to sneak food from the freezer (which we laugh about now) or eat salad cream sandwiches or sugar on toast.
My relationship deteriorated with my mum (my fault I suppose), as my hormones kicked in and I didn’t get that my mum was so ill and yes, we did physically fight, and I did have to leave home for a while.
Mostly though I just felt sad and wasn’t sure why this was happening to me, nonetheless, I would kneel at the side of my bed and pray (like my mum had taught me to) so hard for answers which I usually found. ‘Keep strong’ a voice would come ‘let her have your jewellery if she wants it that bad’. Always my faith got me through, though in fairness I also prayed that my life would be short, and I prayed so hard not to live past 20. (Thankfully a prayer that wasn’t fulfilled)
I wasn’t perfect at all; I did go off the rails and to my regret, I did hurt people, but I learnt many things as I visited my mum over the years in and out of rehab, which I hope to share in the future.
All of this thankfully has inspired me to set up HeadHigh, a mental health charity, as I want us to be able to talk more openly about mental health issues, it really is nothing to be ashamed of. I want to help those who are less fortunate than myself, who don’t have faith or belief in themselves and just show them compassion and let them know they will get through.
One key event that we have set up is our Community Meal which is the last Friday of every month at the YMCA campus on London Road. It’s incredible how generous people have been with this project, especially the YMCA.
I know what it’s like to stand outside buildings alone, not daring to go in. So, the idea behind the meal is that anyone can join us for free, for good food and company, so please do let people know about it.
At the first event, I had no idea how it would go and feared that no one would come. Then I looked in the mirror, closed my eyes and took a deep breath, paused for a moment and trusted in my faith. People did come, and I felt very blessed.
We have also been very blessed with the monthly support that we get from other charities who have cooked for us such as Upbeat Communities and businesses/organisations who have sponsored, cooked or served such Derbyshire Cricket Club.
HeadHigh have many other events planned so please check out our website and do come and join us, but also let us know what might be helpful.
Most importantly let’s tackle the stigma that surrounds mental health and help all those suffering or impacted by these issues.
My mum died 11 years ago on April 13th.
In all my adult life I couldn’t bare my mum to touch me, and it was only we both knew that she was dying in a hospital bed that she took my hand in hers and gave me her hand to kiss, she then placed it on her cheek and smiled at me.
We forgave each other and ourselves.
My mum was beautiful, intelligent, loving, and troubled but I was just too hurt in her lifetime to forgive her. I share my story, and I started HeadHigh, in the hope that we can all understand mental illness a lot more clearly.