Trigger warning: the following contains memories of child abuse and neglect.
I am an eight-year-old girl.
I feel uncertain most days. I am bullied at school. I have few friends. When I get home, my mum doesn’t ask me about my day.
She doesn’t ask me because she has been taken from me by two thugs called Orap and Stelazine*.
They covered her with a blanket and stole her away. It happens every time she gets ill. My dad rings my gran and they go into a room and whisper. The doctor is called. My mum goes to hospital and when she comes back, she is there but she is gone.
She is dead-eyed and mute. Her face is frozen in a mask. She is expressionless. Nothing I do or say meets with any reaction.
If she doesn’t take her medication, she becomes frightened. She is convinced the IRA are hiding out in the wardrobe, that there’s a gunman in the loft. It is the 1970s and there is a lot of news about Northern Ireland. The world is a scary place, and my mum brings it into our home with her whispers.
One time, I go into the kitchen to find her hunched over a cassette recorder. I ask her what she’s doing. She tells me she’s recording the voices she’s hearing, because nobody believes her.
My 44-year-old self knows how terrifying that must have been for her – to hear a whole crowd of people in your head, some of them terrorists… to experience what they say to you as real, to be frightened and alone with these voices because nobody listens to you when you warn them.
My eight-year-old self, watching my mother, feels frightened and alone.
I stop telling her about things. There’s no point. She isn’t interested.
She brings me food, she washes my clothes. Friends never come to tea. It just wouldn’t work. We watch television in the evenings with my sister and father. But there’s little conversation, and there’s no joy.
There’s no joy in our house.
And once a week, a music teacher comes to teach me lessons in our front room, and he puts his hand in my knickers.
He can tell from the way my mum is that she isn’t at home.
Halfway through the lesson she brings him a cup of tea. She always knocks. He’s usually finished by then.