I reached breaking point one Monday morning in January. It had been a very difficult weekend. I had not had an uninterrupted night's sleep in weeks and I was desperately tired. The terrible thing is that I broke down in front of my kids. I told them, ‘I just can't take this any more. I have to go'. Can you imagine how scared they were?
I planned to leave there and then, once my two older children were off to school, and I had waved off my younger daughter Natasha on the school bus. But thinking that maybe I had one last hope, I got the Learning Disability Helpline number through directory enquiries. I told them that I just couldn't go on, that nobody would help me and I was leaving home.
Natasha is eight years-old and has profound and multiple learning disabilities. In some ways she is like any other girl her age. She loves to be around the family, being read stories and playing with her favourite toys. We all love her very much, but she also has needs that are above and beyond what any family can provide without the right kind of help. Natasha needs help with everything. She uses a wheelchair and as she gets bigger, she is getting harder for me to lift. She has lots of health needs. She is prone to chest infections and has epilepsy. She needs regular physiotherapy because one side of her body is weaker than the other and she is tube fed. She needs care and attention all the time and on top of that, we seldom get a whole night's sleep.
What makes me so angry is that I had been telling people for years that I needed more help, but nobody was listening. Just after Christmas we went to Natasha's school review. Natasha had been ill for over three weeks and we were pinning our hopes on getting some help sorted out at the meeting. All the agencies were there, Social Services, Education and Health, but we came away with nothing.
Only my close friends and family knew what it was doing to me. They helped as much as they could, but you can't carry on under that kind of pressure forever. It seemed utterly impossible to convince anyone else that I needed help. They thought I was coping, because I tried to keep my home tidy and my children were clean and went to school. The final straw came when I hurt my back lifting Natasha. I physically and mentally just could not go on any more. I had finally reached breaking point, that Monday morning in January. And finally somebody was listening. Why did I have to completely break down before I was taken seriously?"