All My Worldly Joy

By Laura Richmond

A memoir.

Biography | Feminism
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All My Worldly Joy is Laura Richmond's intimate and compelling account of growing up in mental health services, and how everything changed when she became a mother herself.

All My Worldly Joy started out as the story of my experience of birth trauma and my admission to a psychiatric mother and baby unit together with my six-week-old son. I wanted to write the book that I’d needed to read in the midst of post-traumatic stress -- something I hadn’t realised that childbirth could trigger -- and in those long months afterwards when I simply couldn’t imagine that I would ever be anything but miserable. I wanted to share what I wished those around me had known, especially those who loved me and the midwives and doctors who were ill-equipped to help me when I was struggling.

But as I wrote this story with the support of everyone who has pledged so far, I realised that its meaning came from another, larger narrative. I’d struggled socially and emotionally since childhood. I was funnelled into mental health services early and spent almost twenty years there. I tried every medication going and everyone had different views about what my problem was. I spent time in hospital and became more and more desperate - even more so after my son was born. The stakes were so much higher once he was here: I didn’t want his life to look like mine. And as it turned out, his arrival was the beginning of a chain of events that would change everything.

Mental health campaigns are always urging us to talk, to ask for help, but the reality is that sometimes no-one - however qualified they are or however deeply they care - really knows what to say or do. The services we have are not always fit for purpose. So what happens then? I’d love for you to come with me as I retrace my steps through all of this - teenage years with a bipolar diagnosis, the decision to have a child after being diagnosed with a lifelong mental illness, the concept of ‘personality disorder’ and what it means; the ways in which trauma shapes us and directs us, and how we learn to trust ourselves as parents and as people. I’m aware this all sounds incredibly heavy (and it is unflinching), but there’s a lot of humour in there too, and it’s ultimately hopeful - a story of self-discovery, of purpose, and of profound love.

The title - All My Worldly Joy - is a phrase from a letter to Henry VII from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who gave birth to him when she was just 13. It was a difficult labour and nearly killed them both. Henry was her only child and she was devoted to him - “my son and all my worldly joy.” I came across her phrase whilst researching for my history PhD. At the time, I was writing it up with a sick toddler, on forty minutes’ sleep, and I was feeling pretty wretched. It reminded me just how much my life has been transformed, and of the thousand tiny joys my son brings me every day.

Laura will be donating 50 per cent of her profits from this book to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance.

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