The truth about me
BecomingB a mum revealedr so much...
As I ran into the kitchen after playing outside, I went to grab a chocolate biscuit.
‘No, Abbie, you’re not having one,’ my mum Wendy told me. ‘Why not?’ I screamed. It was 1988 and I’d just turned 7, but already my temper was becoming unmanageable.
‘You won’t eat your dinner,’ she said.
Most children would walk away, defeated and stroppy.
But instead of leaving it there, I went into a rage.
Yelling, thrashing, punching Mum.
Later, she was black and blue.
This wasn’t a one-off – I regularly acted up.
‘I’m going to jump,’ I told Mum one day as I stood on the edge of my bedroom window.
Sitting in the garden, she had a friend round.
She ignored my attentionseeking threat, so instead I threw a shoe out of the window to scare her.
Hearing her scream sent a shiver up my spine – she really thought I’d done it!
Mum was constantly at the end of her tether. Anything could set me off. I’d be playing happily, then the tiniest thing would happen which sent me into an overwhelming fury.
I was in and out of care when Mum struggled to
cope. Who could blame her?
As I got older, I found I struggled myself.
Why did I have such violent outbursts and why was I so depressed?
Mum took me to various doctors, but they all assumed I was just a naughty child.
As I grew up, my rage never dwindled.
Wanting to get answers, I went for private treatment. I described my symptoms and my behaviour to a psychologist.
After tests, he diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder is a long-term pattern of abnormal behaviour – which normally shows through unstable relationships and emotions.
He arranged cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but coming to terms with the diagnosis was hard.
The stigma, the shame.
Mum still felt awful, too. ‘I should have got answers years ago,’ she said, blaming herself unfairly. While the mood stabiliser they gave me had no effect, a year and a half of therapy really helped. ‘It’s like the dark clouds are clearing,’ I told a friend. Another ray of sunshine came when I gave birth to Phoenix in 2007. ‘He’s so beautiful,’ said Mum. Dark hair and a gorgeous face – he was our little angel. Then, when Phoenix was 2, I started to see a scary change in my boy. ‘Stop that,’ I’d say as he threw his toys across the living room. To begin with, I just thought it was the terrible twos – but after a while, I knew it must be something else. He often lost his temper. And when he did, I’d recognise that look in his eyes, and know how he was feeling. When Phoenix was 4, Neo was born. And by the time he was 1, he was the same. Short-tempered, angry, upset at the slightest thing. Out of control. Just like I’d been. In 2011, I met Stuart, now 47, and three years later, we married. We were head over heels
Why did I have such violent outbursts?
in love – but I took my rage out on him, as well.
‘You don’t have to stay,’ I’d tell him over and over again when we argued and I lashed out at him.
Placid and caring, he never did.
He just understood, and helped me to get support.
Then, at 5, Phoenix was diagnosed with ADHD.
‘We think Phoenix has autism, too – he’s showing signs,’ said a worried teacher.
‘We need to get help – for both of them,’ I said to Stuart when Neo was 2.
We were referred to a paediatrician.
It wasn’t easy to get it confirmed – months went past without so much as a referral letter.
Meanwhile, life was as hard to cope with as ever, for me and my boys. So I rang up the National Autistic Society.
I told them about the boys, as well as my history.
‘Are you sure you don’t have autism, too?’ the woman there asked. ‘Women are often misdiagnosed.’
What? Had I been living with a wrong diagnosis this whole time? Looking into the symptoms, we realised that it fitted everything | I suffered with – the severe mood swings and depression.
‘Was this the answer all along?’ I asked Stuart.
In 2015, I had a screening for Asperger syndrome and was diagnosed.
It was nice to finally understand who I was and why I am the way I am.
They also diagnosed Phoenix with autism and Neo with early signs of autism, too. Apparently, there’s a strong genetic link. Mum cried when I told her about our diagnosis. ‘I knew I wasn’t a bad mother,’ she said as I hugged her. And as a mum to kids with the same condition, I finally understood how she’d felt. But now both of us know not to blame ourselves. Living with autism can mean very dark days, especially with two children that have it, too. I wish there were more support groups for children with autism – we find it hard to do things as a family as the kids get over-stimulated. But having a diagnosis is a comfort. At last I finally understand who I really am.
Stuart – so understanding
Genetic link Neo and Phoenix have also been diagnosed