The Sound of Cicadas - PhMuseum

The Sound of Cicadas

Annette Ruzicka

2018 - Ongoing

It's the third time mum's been admitted to hospital with an episode of her bipolar disorder. I am the only family here that can care for her. Her shame about the illness means no visitors but me and my time as her carer is clouded in sadness, stress and exhaustion.

On the first night of her admission, I noticed the cicadas start to chirp for the first time this summer. This reminds causes a memory to resurface - of mum on our old veranda having a beer. There is a sense of loss at this memory as mum as I know her is gone. She can come back though and for this I feel fortunate.

But this is not a project about a person's struggle with bipolar disorder. What started as a carer's journal has evolved into an overwhelming desire to address the stigma. Because this time, I have encountered two things. One - the utter ignorance and stigmatisation by her own family and two - the misinformation around certain treatments, such as electro convulsive therapy.

With the current royal commission into aged persons care I feel the time is now to contribute.

So I would like to share with the world the experiences of the family, the real person behind the illness and address the toxic and dangerous stigma associated with mental illness and treatments thereof. I have only just begun this journey but the need to be heard is now.

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  • Where we begin. A panicked phone call from mum at 5.30am, she has lost control and is spiralling into another severe depressive episode, I rush to her house & from there we head to the nearest emergency department for psychiatric triage. Her house is left in a state of unwashed dishes and will remain this way for the next two months.

  • Mum is admitted into the locked psych ward of the nearest public hospital that has aged persons mental health services. It’s an awful place, it just is. This system is underfunded and neglected. But it’s the only place where she will be safe and can recover. The guilt as her primary carer is overwhelming.

  • The repetition and smells of these halls are almost too much to bear sometimes. I never quite know what state mum will be in once I reach the end. It’s exhausting and monotonous.

  • The lighter moments. I visit mum every day and thank goodness for the friendly local wildlife. They provide a welcome distraction.

  • Christmas Day 3am. She’s back in the emergency department of a public hospital. On Christmas Eve she exhibited physical symptoms that the psych ward could not treat. So she was shipped to the nearest hospital. In all honesty it was the hardest Christmas Day I ever had. But here, I was just relieved she was finally resting.

  • Constant driving. To the hospital, home, mum’s letterbox. The road can sometimes be comforting or punishing, Today was the former. Mum’s journey continues also, but she is getting there.

  • What happens to potatoes when left unchecked. We have just returned to mum's and the mere sight of the house and it's state is overwhelming to her. Sometimes patients can get institutionalised in the system and going home is more stressful than one may realise. A whole new journey begins.

  • Daily tasks. Mum is set to just a few tasks a week. A simple thing like washing clothes can often be hard to undertake and overwhelming. These undies stayed outside for a week. Lucky it was summer and there no rain!

  • Self-portrait. Staying at mum's after an ECT (electro convulsive therapy) treatment. This form of treatment is still stigmatised but it has worked wonders. While mum has a snooze I wait for the local possum to turn up. I'm sure my love of animals stems from her.

  • Mum on the mend. I am amazed at the impact of this treatment. It's the first time she has agreed to this treatment and I am stunned at how effective it has been. If anyone wishes to challenge this treatment I will gladly engage in this conversation. Her family included.


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