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Sandy Jeffs' story

Sandy Jeffs' story

Sandy Jeffs' story

‘We played happy family’…


Sandy Jeffs has lived with schizophrenia and all its moods for over thirty years. In the poetry below, she writes about her experiences of violence in her family.

Sandy is a community educator who speaks to school, university and community groups about what it’s like to live with a mental illness. She has been published widely and is a prize-winning poet whose writing has been concerned with madness, domestic violence and the humorous antics of women who play midweek ladies’ tennis. Sandy is the author of the bestselling Poems from the Madhouse (1993, 2000, 2001), Loose Kangaroos (co-author, 1998), Blood Relations (2000), Confessions of a Midweek Lady: Tall Tennis Tales (2001), and The Wings of Angels: A memoir of madness (2004).


We played happy family

presented ourselves as normal

sanitised our image

deluded ourselves with lies.

Something was rotting in our family.

Playing happy family

was a full time job.

Going to school

with the screams and punches

playing themselves over in my mind

while pretending to be happy

was a killer.

Something was rotting in our family.

Mum stayed indoors for days

powdered her bruised face

nursed her battered body

sent me on messages

made up excuses.

He brought her cups of coffee

pretended nothing had happened.

Something was rotting in our family.

Yet still I pretended to be happy.

In the end my heart watched

in dazed disbelief

while my family rotted

knowing no one could smell the stench.


Crazy Woman

Crazy woman looks back

on her crazy life

in that crazy home

with her crazy parents

doing crazy things

yet no one thought them crazy.

Crazy woman sits huddled

with her crazy thoughts

and crazy voices

talks crazy words

to the crazy people

and everyone knows she’s crazy.

Crazy woman wasn’t always crazy

and wonders in her crazy mind

why she went crazy

and sees crazy shrinks

while her crazy family

drove everyone crazy.

From Blood Relations, Spinifex Press, 2000

  • If you are in danger call 000 or contact the police in your state or territory.
  • For confidential crisis support in Victoria, information and accommodation please call the safe steps 24/7 family violence response line on 1800 015 188. If it is unsafe to call, email
  • For confidential phone help and referral in Australia, please contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line.
  • For free information, support, and referrals for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex, asexual and queer Victorians and their friends and family call Rainbow Door on 1800 729 367 or text 0480 017 246 or email
  • For support for men, call Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491.