A Mother’s Addictions ~ A Child’s Dilemma


When I was four years old my mother went into Middlesex hospital in London for a spinal fusion. She was there, lying in bed, in a big plaster of Paris cast, for four months. I remember vividly visiting her from Cambridge, and watching the nurses try to help her with the itching, by using knitting needles to gently insert at the top or bottom of the plaster of Paris cast. I missed my mother terribly back at home, and spent my lonely time composing little songs for her on the piano, with such names as “The Hospital Song”,  “The Cherry Tree” and so forth.

My mother was the most beautiful, talented, intelligent, loving mother anyone could wish for, and I loved her more than anyone or anything in this world. But she was sick. First, she’d hurt her spine doing gymnastics as a teenager in boarding school, and so was always in pain. The spinal fusion was designed to help with that, using bone grafting to ease the pain. Perhaps it helped, perhaps not, but all I remember was my mother always seemed to hurt, and would call out to me to rub her back every morning as it was stiff. I would do this happily, dutifully, though my little arms and hands would get tired quickly. When that happened I would ask for help, and somehow, miraculously, my hands would get very warm and I would sense a light coming through me and spreading out from my hands into her back. She would always say she felt better then, and we would both go about our day. On reflection, my mother did always use an electric blanket all through the night, which is terribly bad for anyone’s health, and makes our bodies hurt far worse due to the antithetical electrical current moving through our tissues, disrupting the body’s innate healing power. We heal mostly at night, so this choice, although the warmth felt initially good and soothing to her, was a devastating decision.

But there was more. I would notice that my mother had many pills in the cabinet above her sink, that was curiously in her bedroom. When she would get sad as she lay in bed, and cry a lot, I would feel her pain, though I didn’t understand it. I would encourage her to come outside with me and go for short walks, to receive the healing beauty of fresh air, Mother Earth, the lovely gentle moving waters of the River Cam, and especially the sunshine. (Which you grab hungrily whenever you can in Cambridge, England!). I would observe her taking all those pills morning, noon and at night, which, with the evening alcohol quotient was not a pretty mix. And I would innocently dare to speak up, saying “Mummy, if you didn’t take so many pills I think you’d feel much better”! But she wasn’t listening to me, only to her doctors’ seemingly cavalier advice.

I watched my mother slowly yet steadily give her power away to her doctors, those she was somehow subliminally trained to trust, and ultimately to Big Pharma. It was scary to witness this persistent erosion of her wellbeing. My dad was a well known doctor and professor of medicine at Jesus College there at Cambridge University. He couldn’t handle her mood swings and declining health, so left our family when I was just 11 years old. Only three months after I’d left home to live in boarding school, the Royal Ballet School, to be groomed for a career as a professional ballerina. That was devastating to say the least. Then, when I was 13, I remember a singular conversation my mum and I had that still gives me chills to remember. We were making her big queen bed, standing one on each side, when my mother looked at me and said “I have something to tell you”. I stared at her and responded immediately with “I know what you’re going to say”. “No, you couldn’t possibly know” she retorted. Suddenly I started weeping and said “You’re going to tell me you’re going to marry Dr Sills!” She was completely stunned. “Yes”, she replied affirmatively, “Yes, I am going to marry Dr. Sills.” “Don’t do it, he’s not a good man!” I sobbed. To no avail. Her mind was made up. Our family doctor, who was the busiest, most renowned GP (General Practitioner) in Cambridge, was a man I had never liked – he gave me the creeps in a way I only understood much later – and he had a hold on my mum. I think she viewed him as her saviour. And yes, he had easy access to all those drugs.

As time went by, my mother became worse and worse, seemingly in her mind especially, though we now know of course that the body and mind are intricately connected. I do remember she always seemed to be complaining of tummy ache and diarrhea. Now there’s so much fascinating connection that’s being made between the gut brain and the head brain. I was never allowed to see her medical records, but for sure, bi-polar was one of the diagnosis’, and later, as she got more addicted to Pethidine (an opioid pain killer, used prevalently in the 60’s and 70’s especially), paranoid schizophrenia was added to the diagnosis list. I remember vividly the night she was found wandering through the fields near our home, totally naked. I remember also the many nights when she would scream and her husband would inject her with the narcotic, and she would suddenly go all strange, limp, and be totally “out of it”. It was only when I saw “Lady Sings The Blues” about the life of heroin addicted singer Billie Holliday, when I was 16, that I really understood unequivocally, what I had been witnessing for so long. My mother was a heroine addict, and my odious stepfather was the, oh so close, legal dealer… the unrepentant pusher.

The most recurrent theme was her persistent crying, and saying she didn’t want to live anymore. It’s devastatingly hard to hear the threat of imminent suicide by your caretaker when you are a child, but all my focussed energy was spent trying to make her feel better, happier, and hopefully to suffer less. It never really worked. Or only for very temporary moments in time. These were the moments of normalcy that were balm to my soul, when we would laugh, play games, watch a film together.

As I grew into my mid and late teen years I visited my mother many times in psych units around England. I remember vividly how they were such frightening places for me to visit, where people would suddenly lunge towards me, as if they wanted to strangle me right there on the spot, as I walked down the hallways towards the visiting area. Mum had quite a few ECT treatments (Electroconvulsive Therapy) whilst in these hospitals, and each time she returned home she resembled less and less of her true self. She lost huge chunks of memory, and was strangely demure, listless, silent and alarmingly absent from life itself. It was incredibly scary to see my once-upon-a-time bright, brilliant, warmly loving mother become a deep shadow of her former self. And all along the way I felt so incredibly powerless. So terribly, frighteningly impotent.

Of course there were seriously manic phases too. I think one of the scariest things was when she started sleeping with a big kitchen knife under her pillow. When she would accuse me of strange things like stealing her gold chains from her jewelry box, I would lie in bed at night thinking “she’s going to forget who I am one night and take after me with that kitchen knife”. I started dreaming of her chasing me around the garden wielding that knife. I knew then I would have to leave soon for good to safeguard myself.

I would observe my stepfather being “bought” by the pharmaceutical companies more and more. Not only was he given all sorts of free drug samples, during visits from the drug reps, but he would go on countless trips to Switzerland and Hawaii, all on the behest of big Pharma. He was predictably becoming more and more of a drug lord to his gullible patients, which were plentiful. And of course he gave my mum pretty much any drug she asked for. He even gave me prescription drugs when I would ask him. As a full on, very ardent ballet dancer, training and dancing with the Royal Ballet, I would ask him for diuretics and laxatives that you couldn’t buy over the counter. He’d give them to me readily, no questions asked! Coupled with not eating or drinking for days and days on end, it’s amazing to me, looking back, that my kidneys and intestines function so very well. It could’ve been quite a different story.

Also, with the growing body dysmorphia that so many budding ballerinas suffer from, when I was 17 I recklessly decided I wanted to get my breasts cut off, as I felt they were getting in the way of my dancing. My boyfriend was totally unhelpful, saying “do whatever makes you happy”… not what I needed to hear! Then I told my step-father, and rather than talking me right out of this ridiculous idea, he immediately set me up with a plastic surgeon. This man eventually agreed to do the surgery, after first trying to persuade me that my body was perfect and I shouldn’t do it. (It’s true I was a perfectly proportioned 34B). I remember his warnings, such as I wouldn’t have any feeling in my nipples (as they’d be false ones) and that I wouldn’t be able to breast-feed. And my rapid responses “I don’t care about sensation, and I don’t want children anyway as I’m going to be a professional ballerina”. So passionately, determinedly unhealthy. Luckily my mother stopped me from this loveless act, as I was under the age of 18, when I would be emancipated and allowed to decide for myself. We had the worst fight over the phone that we had ever had. I remember her saying “I won’t let you be butchered” and my furious retort “I’ll be in that hospital having this operation performed on my 18th birthday!” Of course, by the time I turned 18, my opinion had entirely changed, as it is wont to do at this delicately malleable age. This blocking from my mother was the best thing she ever did for me, what a great blessing! I am forever grateful… somehow she saw the darkness of the misuse of power that our doctors had, in the face of our ignorance, for once. Because I was her daughter, she had a little distance I guess. But never, to her great misfortune, could she see this for herself.

My stepfather left my mother when the drug addiction, that he had so willingly supported, and subsequently her ever increasing errant behaviour, all became too much for him to stomach. In the end, my mother, whom I loved so so deeply, spent the rest of her later years in a special care facility, on who knows how many psychotic and tranquilizing drugs. There was one egregious suicide attempt when she threw herself off a massive cliff in South Devon, but landed on a little lip jutting out from the side of the cliff. It had been raining and so she landed unconscious in the soft mud. A medical helicopter had to rescue her, hoisting her up to safety with a harness. She had two broken ribs and hypothermia as a result of this desperate attempt to end her life. I was living in America by that time, pregnant with my first child. It was so shocking to think she didn’t even wish to meet her grandchild. When we spoke over the phone, I simply told her it was an absolute miracle that she survived, and that it clearly wasn’t her time to go. She may or may not have agreed with me. I’ll never know.

My father told me once, when I was about 20, that I would probably develop mental illness, like my mother, as it was “hereditary”. I was so furious I could hardly see straight, and told him in no uncertain terms “How dare you give me that prognosis! I will NOT become mentally ill!” Yet, being a Doctor, his words held a lot of weight to me even so. To that end, after a career in ballet with the Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet, I vowed to learn about protecting my own health naturally without drugs or allopathic medicine. And to help empower the world with anything useful that I found out. I thought that perhaps, just perhaps, I could save some other little girl somewhere from suffering over the suffering of those she loves. A girl who might’ve been close to witnessing the slow, disconcerting deterioration of her beloved mother, due to being treated as a lab rat by the medical profession; but whose family could now be educated on a better way.

This thought has driven me to learn and teach about self care through natural health methodologies for the last 40 years. Teaching keen awareness and solid techniques for cultivating true health has become a driving passion in my life. May we all remember “First, do no harm”. The medical profession and Big Pharma especially need to take this Hippocratic oath very very seriously. May we find our way back to real common sense in how we take care of our Divinely given bodies, minds and spirits.  Besides which, it’s the only way David can possibly fight Goliath… give people the keys to cultivate and maintain their own radiant health, so the world in general will no longer need to be frightened and bullied into the ugly quagmire of sick care and perpetual drug use. We can do it. I absolutely know we can. And we will.

Many blessings,



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