real life

'My mum abandoned me when I was just one. Now I take care of her.'

In short: I mother the woman who abandoned me when I was just one year old. 

She has drug abuse issues, schizophrenia and has been homeless for most of her adult life. Living on streets and in bus shelters, she says that it's safer than halfway homes and housing commission. 

I reconnected with her five years ago after a long time. She was living in a run-down dilapidated building in Port Kembla. The reunion was surreal.

The only way I was able to contact her was through one of the tenants. I have been to this house once before back in 2018. The area is old in style and there isn't much except one road with basic essentials, a servo, pub and some smaller style shops that barely seem open.

I parked out the front. A minute or two later, I looked up to see her at the front left corner of the car standing eerily still. 

She was wearing a long, summery flowing dress, and black sunglasses that covered a good portion of her face. Her hair had been dyed brown. It was long and was moving slightly in the breeze. I opened the door, got out and said hello.

Her facial expression lit up as I walked over to greet her and told her how nice she looked. 

She smiled and I noticed she had a full set of teeth. She must have gotten them done recently as she had none before. I didn't hug her, but we started moving towards the steps of her house. She wanted to show me inside and in her room.


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The place seemed better than her previous apartment and the one before that. It was cramped inside but had a big backyard — the grass was almost as high as the fence, though. 

She opened the door to her room and a smell I don't want to describe came wafting out.

She walked in and showed me her little space; she wanted me to stand in there. A tiny room that was filled with boxes and stacks of clothes with various objects piled from floor to ceiling. I felt the weight of my heart sink when my eyes scanned to an unmade single bed showing the outline of where she was sleeping every night. 

She started rummaging through two big half ripped rubbish bags and pulled out Christmas presents for me, my brother and sisters, wrapped in red Christmas paper that had been waiting there for years. 

I thanked her and told her that I would grab them later and for her to show me around the rest of the house because I was struggling so much with the smell. We walked into the dining area and she introduced me to another tenant and his son. 


I found out from him and the landlord that my mother had been drifting in and out of this living space for about eight years, (she suffers from a mixture of drug abuse and not taking her medication). "You've got to keep her away from alcohol". "She has never washed her sheets". The information was short, succinct and my mind went into overdrive. 

I walked out the back just to get some fresh air and suggested we go get some lunch. Just a typical day of pub, pokies, beer, ciggies, then home again. 

Image: Supplied.


A few months after my visit with her I received a phone call notifying me she had gone missing. She had also been refusing her monthly injections and the landlord stated she could no longer reside there and to clear her stuff out.

I decided to file a missing persons report and began discussions with the local mental health care team to allow clearance for her arrest against her will. The mental health care act had not been activated for her in this situation and they had no intention of putting this in place. 

What? Why? I started pulling my hair out. 

The police found her walking the streets in Wollongong among the meth addiction community and initially deemed the situation as "safe" so would not collect her. 

On the phone to the authorities, I was to to 'get her off the streets, otherwise she will be kicked out of her home where all her stuff is and she will have no access with a nurse to receive her injections. If she doesn't get her injections she will get hooked on amphetamines again and probably die'. 

The mental health care team finally got the act, activated. This was after I yelled at them saying, "If this is the best you can do then it's not good enough".

Police collected her and she spent the next two years in a mental healthcare facility.


In the first year I received regular abusive phone calls. She'd scream at me that I'd placed her in jail, that she didn'tneed injections and that she's sick. 

"You're a f**king b**ch," she'd yell at me. "You're not my daughter, f**k off."

Doctors, psychiatrists and behaviour support workers would contact me to discuss her condition but would never give me much to go on. 

Transparency of information became an issue. I felt helpless and frustrated. 

I turned myself inward and felt frustrated and helpless. 

I stuck it out though, and two years later, she finally got well enough to maintain a two-way conversation. Not long after that, I visited her with my brother and spent a couple of lovely hours, where she was over the moon to see us and proud to show us her room, having general chit chat in the side garden.

We got a family photo and I felt relieved that she was off the streets for a while.

It took a long time but we gained NDIS funding that needed the approval of the nurses and medical team to recieve. 

She now lives in a newly built home in a nice quiet suburb south of Wollongong and receives round the clock care and a lot of support. She calls me nearly every day. 

Image: Supplied.


I always end every conversation telling her that I love her. 

I plan to see her again for her birthday in March, pending the behaviour support team allow me access to her information before taking her on outings.

After everything we have been through, it seems I now mother the woman who abandoned me when I was one. She needs it more than I do. 

Feature Image: Supplied.