The Secret Deafie is a series of anonymous columns written by different writers. This writer is not deaf, but was born to Deaf adults, and writes here about her experiences.
I am a CODA. I have always been the responsible one in my family, despite being the youngest. I have always felt it my duty to look after my parents.
It only occurred to me, once my parents separated when I was 15, that my mother suffers from mental health problems.
This presented in the form of her ceasing to eat and sleep. She became very thin and avoided contact with the outside world. It stopped her from doing quite a lot of the ‘normal’ things a Deaf person is capable of doing; going to the Deaf club, meeting for coffee etc.
I quit school, failed my GCSE’s, started full time work immediately and took on the financial aspects of running a home.
Her mental health issues stopped her from communicating with anyone, which I am sure you will understand was a huge barrier for somebody who is Deaf.
It was extremely upsetting. I saw scenes I’d never seen before.
After so many years of useless interpreters, social workers, advocates doing home visits for my mum, she slowly became a little better, but still very fragile.
I bought my dad out of the mortgage, paid my side of the repayments for several years with no support, no extra income and most definitely no support from my family at all.
Of course, mum had no idea what was happening at the time, no matter how many times I tried to go over how and why I was doing what I was.
I could slowly see my mum spiralling back into a bad state. I needed this to change and I knew it was down to me.
I arranged for her to have a mental health assessment on a number of occasions but to my astonishment, I was advised that she was fine.
I put the family home on the market to sell. We had viewings, but couldn’t sell the house. I could understand the reasons behind my Mum’s lack of support for selling the house – she was trying to keep hold of memories.
This struggle continued for two years until I ran away and moved to a shared house and paid rent – on top of paying the mortgage for the family home.
My relationship with my Mum fluctuated from being positive to negative, she became more distant, and I am still unsure as to whether moving away was the right decision.
My Mum was again assessed by mental health professionals and I was advised that she was okay.
The house was sold in 2013. I am working 4 days a week with Deaf people, which really doesn’t cover any of my outgoings, as we made a huge loss on the house sale.
I still am fighting Mum’s corner with her social workers, trying to ensure she can live independently and maybe, perhaps we can have the mother/daughter bond we never really had.
The reason I’m giving you this ‘sob story’ is because I know there are many CODA’s out there that have been or may be still suffering from being the ‘responsible one’.
I feel that although there are ‘workshops, awareness training’ for CODA’s, it’s not enough. Kids aren’t aware of what’s available for them.
There should be something done about the responsibility parents put on their kids through no fault of their own.
I feel so bad for the older generation of Deaf people because it’s just always been the way they work and I only hope there are people out there that have more information for us CODA’s to gather together regularly, share history, experiences and just generally off load.
After all, who else can we offload to? I only hope that this article helps people understand.
This isn’t even a fraction of what some people are going through and I want those people to know that other CODA’s do exist. You’re not alone.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave any comments/questions.
Read all of our previous Secret Deafie posts here: limpingchicken.com/the-secret-deafie
Do you have a story or experience you’d like to share? If you’d like to write a Secret Deafie column, just email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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