I was fortunate enough to catch this moving and for me, heart wrenching account of Neil Morrissey’s life. I always had a soft spot for him, there is something about him that I identified with and now I know what. He spent a lot of his life lost, bewildered and not feeling like he belonged. He put on a great front, was a way-ward person, has abandonment issues and has had a sting of relationships, deep inside he was troubled. Now we see the softer, gentler side of a man, who for so long has been haunted by his past.
I spent my life feeling lost, but not knowing that is what it was, it is only now that I am begining to put the pieces together and realising that I never felt really like I belonged. When I did, it didn’t last for long, someone always came along and took it away. My mother left when I was 3 and a half, but long before that I had been seperated from her she had to work long hours and I had one nanny after another, four in total before I was 9 months old and it had a huge impact on my life and my feeling of belonging and connection, lack of it. My father was married 6 times and my mother was the second wife so I had a succession of step-mothers to contend with.
I felt, and still do sometimes bewildered and just put on a brave front and get on with it, that is getting less and less now and the reality of it all is hitting me, which I am finding pretty painful right now. Like Neil I was rebellious, had families I went to, to help me through. I have no real connection to my family now, and I still do feel very lost sometimes. There is so much unresolved crap that most of them don’t want to talk about that we just end up in our own little corners, doing our own thing, which I think is pretty sad.
Fortunately I have a son who I am close to and so we are begining again, which I am so grateful for. The pain and yearning in me is still there for my mother and a family that will be all together, but it is something I have to let go, as painful as it is. I also realise that we are building it for ourselves. That is a great thing to have.
In this moving two part documentary Neil Morrissey explores the reason behind why he was put into care at ten years old because of stealing and how that has effected his entire life. He visits prison, where 60% of the in-mates in the wing for young offenders have been in care. He talks to people who were in care and who still are in care and explores the horror stories of abuse that still haunt people’s lives 40 years later.
Neil describes how the way he coped with the situation of suddenly being taken from his family was he just got on with it and was never really encouraged to discuss his feelings, never explored what was going on for him, and that is how he has lived his life. On visiting a children’s home in Scotland, Lothian Villa, Neil finds a supportive environment for children in care, a far cry from most of the ones he is visiting and hearing about. The way they help people at Lothian Villa is to encourage the children to deal with their feelings of ingrained hurt, anger and distress so that they will no longer remain mad with the world, because they will unless the feelings are dealt with. He credits a lot of his fortunate experience in the children’s home to a house mother who was loving, firm and kind. However he did not learn to deal with his feelings, he says he ignored difficult feelings and made the best of it. He was one of the lucky ones by all accounts.
Most of the people he interviewed and indeed himself came to the conclusion that being in care had, in one way or another, had a devastating impact on their lives. Neil was put into care because his parents did not properly care for their children and he was caught stealing on a regular basis and he and his brothers were left to run wild, with few boundaries and were often left alone to fend for themselves at night with no parents there for them. How his mother could barely cope with the housework and how his father spent time at the working man’s club because his home was so dirty.
The people who suffer are the children, one way or another, from neglect, abuse or just that feeling of being unloved and without love and support it is so hard to make it in the world. I was a single-parent and often found it hard to cope, it was very hard. We lived on welfare and I was terrified to ask for help because I always thought that they would take my child away, because that is generally what they did if you were not coping as a single-parent. I knew that there were many women out there who were also not coping being a mother but they had husbands and family to support them, I did not.
I struggled on and it was only when I finished my degree I felt less vulnerable, for some reason I thought that if I was a single parent with an education they would look more favourably on me. Little did I know, I had depression which I was self medicating with alcohol, I had a mental illness which was at this point un-diagnosed and it was of course effecting me and how I was parenting. I was desperate for help. I now have such a clear insight into so many of the problems, people need love, support and encouragement, not punitive treatment, if parents are not coping they need support to help them cope. Taking children away from their family and their parents can leave long term damage and worse. If we were to look at things differently and support instead of punish struggling parents, we would be supporting the parents and the children and healing lives. I stongly believe that if you support the parents, you support the child, it is not rocket science.
Recently I spoke with two friends of mine, one from Africa and another from Turkey, interestingly they could not get their heads around the concept of adoption or children’s homes, for them, they had a community and a family who would help out so that if the mother was not coping or on her own for whatever reason, they would all chip in. It seems that this is a very British thing to do and it raises the question for me, why? Sadly I do not have the answer, but it is such a relief to know that this is as abnormal in other countries as it feels to me, it feels like an insane thing to even consider.
I read a great article by Andrew Mosley that about sums it up really, this is not the Neil Morrissey we have all come to know. I have to say, I am so grateful to see this side of him, it gives me hope. Hope that once you face the pain of your past you begin to heal. He has done a lot of good and spoken out for thousands of people who are still suffering, what a great way to use your fame.
He is also now in a committed relationship with his lawyer girlfriend Emma and says that he does not believe in dwelling on his past, and when he was in the children’s homes he always had a dream for a better life. I personally believe we have to go back and face our pasts and the pain that is there in order to move on, I am in the process of doing that myself and am looking forward to the life the other side.