Hi, I have my English speaking exam this Tuesday and I’m worried that right now, it’s not distinction tier. It sounds a bit choppy, not very sophisticated and I haven’t used many similes. Could someone please give suggestions how to improve mine to get a distinction? Btw, when there is a ‘…’ that means there’s a word or sentence I need but can’t think of. Advice would be much appreciated!
I would like you to put your hand up if you knew that 1.3 million people in the UK have bipolar disorder.
And I’d like you to put your hand up if you knew that one in ten of those people are parents?
If your hand is still limp by your side, I don’t blame you. Truth be told, if I didn’t do this research, then neither would I.
In the past, black and white movies would have us believe that all there was to mental illness was straight jackets and screaming men with shaved heads thrown into asylums and labelled as crazy- or it was a subject not to be discussed.
But upon reading this book as a child, my eyes were opened to the stark reality
My name is (my name), and I’d like to talk about how the book The Illustrated Mum raises awareness about mental illness in parents.
Main Body, Part 1: Explanation of Book
The NHS definition of bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from 1 extreme to another.
But before I read this book I was unaware that so many families can be affected by mental health issues. Growing up, I or any of us could have had several friends with mentally ill parents without even knowing.
This story takes place through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl called Dolphin, her 13-year-old sister Star, and their mother: Marigold.
Marigold is a colourful, and wonderfully creative single parent; who loves her two daughters, however, sometimes due to struggling with her mental health she is unable to be the parent her daughters need.
Marigold is called The Illustrated mum because she has several tattoos on her body, she is impulsive and spends money that she doesn’t have.
She often has a new tattoo whenever there is a milestone in her life and her tattoos commemorate these occasions, such as she has a Dolphin tattoo on her arm to celebrate the birth of her daughter. This is not to say that Marigold does this because she has bipolar, but because it is her way of expressing herself as an individual.
Main Body, Part 2: Explaining the Mum
In her best of times, she is a loving and gentle parent who always puts her children first such as fun times spent baking together, and in her worst of times when her illness gets the best of her, she loses the ability to properly take care of her children. In the worst cases, she overcompensates with actions smothering her good intentions
On one occasion she left her children alone to fend for themselves without realising her actions were impacting their safety and well-being.
In turn, this led to the children becoming more like the carers in the relationship by worrying about their mother. Marigold is not selfish but her actions may come across as self-centred unintentionally due to her illness.
It’s clear that Marigold wasn’t a neglectful parent; in fact, she was unwell and needed medical help.
Marigold rejected help in the past as she feared taking medication and having treatment would completely change the person she was. As a matter of fact, estimates show that roughly 80% of bipolar patients refuse to seek treatment due to fear of being perceived differently by peers, family and work and the many negative associations that ties onto mental health like a rope.
Believe me when I tell you that the stigma that hundreds and thousands of bipolar patients face is as harmful as ripping their life apart because it does. In Marigold’s case, it almost did.
Main Body, Part 3: Impacts of the mother's actions
For in her worst depressive episode, she painted herself white trying to cover her tattoos and in a moment of panic, her daughter Dolphin calls an ambulance and Marigold is taken into a psychiatric unit.
Can you imagine being 10 years old and having to call an ambulance knowing they would take your mother away from you?
Can you imagine, knowing that with your mother gone you would have to leave your home and be taken into the care?
With no one else to look after them, the children were both put into a care home. It creates a strain on the family’s relationship so thin that it’s almost broken.
However, the children visit their mother in the hospital regularly and all hope that when she comes home they will be able to mend their relationship and become a complete family with the right support.
Main Body. Part 4: Ending of the Book
And it’s by this area of the book, right at the end, Dolphin and Star finally learnt that their mother had bipolar disorder.
Before reading this book I didn't know what that was. And neither did Marigold’s children.
It was only when it was explained that it was a mental disorder: that her children were stunned, for there were no straight jackets, no screaming men with shaved heads. But a mother trying to get better for her children.
So why is this so important?
Not only did this open my eyes to the reality of bipolar disorder, but as well many other children’s minds.
This disturbingly real story acknowledges questions that children who are reading the book with a bipolar parent might ask themselves, “Why does Dad get so sad sometimes?” or, “Why does Mum sometimes act a little strange?” The Illustrated Mum answers these questions without sweetening the answers if too sour but instead answering said questions head-on by destigmatising uneducated views without normalising them. Destigmatising these views it makes mental health an easier topic to discuss and makes feel it less shameful for those who are mentally ill.
And if you’re still unsure of how to understand bipolar disorder, then think of it as waking up to a beautiful summer's day, ready to go outside and have fun and tackle the world and do anything and everything!
And then suddenly, without any warning, a huge thundercloud hides the sun, and you don’t feel like doing anything, even getting out of bed, because there’s no point if there’s a rain cloud following you everywhere.
This is why Marigold and so many other mentally ill parents SOMETIMES struggle to care for themselves and their children. They are not irresponsible or selfish people, but…
If we as a society could educate children at a young age about the reality of mentally ill parents, we can destigmatise the judgemental views. The views that believe that it causes them to be completely irresponsible, dysfunctional and dangerous and that their children should be taken away. It is only in a few instances, when, for example, due to stigma mentally ill parents may be afraid to seek help, they may be unable to fully care for their children and Marigold is an example of those few parents.
Another thing we could do (rephrase to sound formal) is if you find out that one of your friends or a family member is struggling with a mental illness or disorder, the best thing you can do is listen to their situation, support them, validate their feelings and spend more time with them.
But if you find yourself in a situation where you discover that you are mentally unwell (rephrase that to sound nicer), then I suggest giving The Illustrated Mum a read. Who knows, it may just help you understand yourself that little bit more.