Adolescent years aren’t easy and they can be made all the more difficult with no one to talk to, yet Maya reflects on her mum’s gift of speech during challenging times. In this Issue IV Heirloom: ‘My Family and I’ series our Creatives share personal insights into their lives.
: Maya Wallis
When I was told the theme for the next issue was ‘Heirloom’ I replied saying “omg that’s fab, can’t wait to write something!!!!”. However, the reality was that I was thinking something along the lines of ‘shit, what does that mean? What can I write/create for this theme?’. I was completely stuck and put off writing this article for as long as I could.
I started to investigate what the word ‘heirloom’ really means through definitions and synonyms etc. But I still remained completely and utterly stuck. To make matters worse time was ticking on and the deadline for this piece was approaching.
I would try to write an article but nothing was working, I then tried to draw illustrations, work with film, work through photography but I just ended up on the sofa, with a cup of tea, watching trash TV and feeling sorry for myself.
“PLEASE, IF YOU COME TO MY HOUSE DO NOT BRING UP ANYTHING TO DO WITH ENGLISH LITERATURE”
I started to panic, the deadline was only a week away and I had absolutely nothing. I got out my notebook and went online and I scribbled down the definition of ‘Heirloom’:
‘A valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.’
As I was doing so my mum walked into the room and started chatting away about the hidden theme of some new crime fiction book she was reading. This lead to a rather long discussion about crime fiction in general, which lead to her talking about the adaptation of crime fiction books into film, which lead to a whole new discussion about the film industry and so on until I realised she had been talking for about an hour and I still had nothing down for nocturnal.
“THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SUBJECT TOO AWKWARD, TOO RUDE OR TOO PERSONAL”
However, thanks to my mum being the most chatty person I have ever met (please, if you ever come round to my house do not bring up anything to do with English literature, trust me she will talk for hours on end), it sparked an idea. The most ‘valuable object’ my mum has given me is the gift of speech. This is my heirloom. There has never been a subject too awkward, too rude or too personal that I have not been able to share with my mum.
It was this ability to talk and share things that helped me during the last couple of years. I have, as long as I remember, suffered from different forms of anxiety. My anxiety disorder has shaped my life in rather odd ways. From just simply overthinking, to full blown panic attacks at Thekla, to even controlling me to such an extent that I have had to put my shoes on in a particular way. This anxiety disorder has caused me many spells of depression, doctors appointments, embarrassment, medication and even an eating disorder.
“IN SOME WAY MY MUM WAS MY THERAPIST, ONLY SHE PRESCRIBED CUPS OF TEA AND A GOOD GOSSIP – SHE UNDERSTOOD TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH WAS IMPORTANT AND LOOKING AFTER IT WAS A PRIORITY”
Yet talking to my mum about how I was feeling, what was worrying me, what things filled me with dread, helped more than I can put into words. My mum in some way was my therapist, only she prescribed cups of tea and a good gossip. She understood talking about my mental health was extremely important and looking after it was a priority. She wanted me to take ‘ownership’ of it and not be embarrassed about my illnesses and encouraged me to talk about it. It was this family heirloom of speech that honestly helped me in my own recovery and I cannot thank my mum enough.
1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems yet we still don’t talk about it enough. This taboo around the subject is something that can prevent someone getting the help they need. Communication is something that brings us all together and helps us form relationships, so why should this stop over the subject of mental health. I urge everyone to pass down the ‘heirloom’ of speech, to reach out and just talk to someone, whether they are struggling or you are. Through my experience of mental health I’ve discovered that discussion is key in recovery: it helps you to not feel so isolated and trapped in a disorder, it makes you realise how much people care, and, in some circumstances, that people have been through what you are going through. It can honestly help save lives.
Maya Wallis | @MayaWallis