Chapter One – Rosemary’s Back-story.
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what has ‘caused’ my depressive illness. After talking with my husband and one with of my sisters, I have resolved to write about some experiences which may play a part in having reoccurring depressive illness.
To some this may sound like unnecessarily revisiting experiences which cause pain, but many years ago, during a course of therapy, I was advised to do this, my therapist at the time explained that I needed to let it out and after trying several approaches, talking and drawing amongst them, it seemed that ‘writing is my thing’.
So here goes, Chapter 1.
There are so many memories from my childhood which are not happy, I remember being anxious, frightened, lonely and confused. My mother, Rosemary, had physical and emotional problems having been seriously ill, and experiencing emotional turmoil herself as a child, but these things were not spoken of, it wasn’t the ‘done thing’.
So although my mother plays a big part, as a mother would, in my formative years, I am aware that the easiest thing for me to do is to lay the blame at her door. This is unfair, we are complex beings, all of us are a product of our upbringing whether we perpetuate what we experienced, learn to live our lives differently because of it, or something in between.
My Maternal Grandfather, Robert, was born in 1900, and Maternal Grandmother, Rose, was born in February 1901, they married in 1925, Mum was born in September 1930, the youngest of three children, her eldest brother was born in August 1927, and the second brother in 1929.
My Grandfather, a Merchant Seaman, was a veteran of the First World War, serving on HMS Cyclops in Scapa Flow. When he had served his time in the Navy, Granddad came home and commuted to London where he worked for The Bank of England. Unusually, for people of their working class status, my Maternal Grandparents were able to buy their own home in Elm Road, Dartford, Kent.
As a former Sailor, Granddad was on the Armed Forces Reserve list. When The Second World War broke out he had been called up early and served on HMS Antenor, one of six armed cruisers deployed to the East Indies Station in Calcutta, where he contracted Tuberculosis. My Grandfather was sent back to the UK and discharged from the Navy to be cared for at home, he died of TB when my Mum was just 10.
I remember my Nan talking about the difficulties she had working to support her family, she worked hard in a variety of jobs to keep their home and provide for her children. I believe my Mum needed emotional support after the loss of her father which she did not get, my Nana not being given to open displays of affection or empathy, but then this was not unusual for the time.
Sadly, my Grandfather had left an unwelcome legacy, Mum had contracted TB at age 10, and the severity of her illness required treatment at an isolation hospital. Mum told us that my Grandmother only visited her once or twice during the months she spent in hospital, as a young child this must have been heart-breaking. Mum’s older brothers had also contracted TB but were not so badly affected, nonetheless they would have needed my Nan to care for them.
Sparsity of transport to the isolation hospital, which as the name suggests, was miles from anywhere in a rural village – Lenham, in Mid Kent, would have made it difficult for Nana to visit my Mum. It must have been awful for her, to be away from family and friends in a small Cottage Hospital, an experience we would all prefer not to have.
Mum began work at age 14, as an Apprentice Court Dressmaker at Marshall & Snelgrove in London. She was employed to re-work clothes, updating them to more fashionable styles, she would have loved this had she been able to continue with it, but unfortunately her illness as a child had repercussions. Mum contracted Scarlet Fever with complications developing Rheumatic Fever, also a serious condition, which took its toll leaving her unable to cope physically with the travel from her home in Dartford to London each day so she was forced to give it up.
When she was well enough, Mum worked for Burroughs Wellcome & Co, a pharmaceutical company, at their factory in Dartford where she worked until she left when she was expecting the birth of my oldest sister, born in September 1953.