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it might have been us

The people in this photograph are neither me nor my mother.

My mother was diagnosed with cyclothymia.

All the family was dragged along in cycles of depression and fits of anger whose heights could last for days.

The disease lasted years and its cycles too.

I learnt the pain of objects which break on the skin, the sound of body against body, the fear of slammed doors and obscene words.
I understood that life had to be the hard way​, the same she had been brought up.

The loudest always take the stage.

As soon as I could, I went far from it all. I took decisions not meant to the best, but simply the ones which put more distance between us.

Far being safe.

The people in this photograph are neither me nor my mother. But had it not been for your pain, your illness and unfortunate events, it might have been our picture Mum.

Devoid of all the pain, it might have been the two of us riding on the same bus. Us going places, smiling with an identical smile from our umbilical bond. With the broken glass swept up and the pain salved, we would have been safe, wherever, together.
I know you wanted us to be this way.
You wanted to know how to love.
Instead, it was only ever me – alone – on every bus.

Now, when you are old and your anger has burnt out and you cannot remember your own pain or mine, I hear you say, from out of nowhere, ‘We were too poor to buy a beehive cot for you.’

I look into your anxious face, searching for the well of anger and illness into which my childhood had fallen. But it is no longer there.

I move your hair off your face, take your hand and offer a broken smile.

It is ok, Mum.
I love you.

It’s all okay.


The husband and wife team behind We Speak Your Heart are published and prize-winning writers. As well as being irretrievably in love themselves, they have a deep respect for human dignity.

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