My Sister had a Monkey.
“My Sister had a monkey”. Grandmother, a woman in her 80s at the time, made this announcement to my wife and me while accompanying us and our daughter, on a family day trip to the zoo. Our daughter, Emma, who was about 10 at the time, took the announcement in her stride. My wife was stunned. Whilst I, on the other hand, was not entirely surprised.
Early experiences of poor mental health.
My mother left my father and an abusive relationship while I was just a small boy. Some of my earliest memories are of them fighting. When I say fighting, I am not talking about a shouting match, although there was plenty of swearing and insults flying about. No, I mean fighting as in my father struggling to hold my mother off while she tried to smash his head in with a poker. Clearly, this violent situation could not continue for long and with the breakup of my parent’s marriage, my grandparents were awarded custody of yours truly and they became my legal guardians.
At first, I relished the peace and quiet that my new home life provided.
However, although both my grandparents were loving in their own way, they were not really equipped to deal with a young child. At that time, my grandfather was still working, and I was left in the care of my grandmother when not at school. Spending each day with my nan, as I called her, it was not long before I noticed some unusual aspects to her behavior.
Mood swings and psychotic episodes.
She was prone to mood swings and often exhibited paranoid tendencies.
Nan would walk about ranting about “them!” Apparently “they” were talking about her behind her back, saying all kinds of horrible things, and generally trash talking about her. She would go into rages against this unseen enemy. These could last anywhere from several minutes to an hour or so. Eventually, she would settle down and “normal” service would be resumed. Whilst I did not understand what was going on, even at that early age, I did realise that this was not regular behaviour.
As the years passed, my nan’s condition seemed to settle down. Her paranoid outbursts became less frequent. However, she was prone to mood swings and periods of depression until the day she passed away.