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This morning, I have followed my usual early morning routine. Just as I do most mornings. Woken up, went and had a wash. I then got dressed, made a fuss of TJ my dog and then went and made a cup of coffee. I then collected my retrieved my morning meds from where I keep them all and along with my coffee came into my study.

I then checked my blood sugars, took my meds and sipped my coffee as I went through my emails. And having done so I then checked out this morning’s question set by one of my daughter’s in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that she has set me.  And I have to be honest here, the implications of this morning’s question hit me very hard…

DD 6

My Darling Daughter,

I have no idea whether I have just woken up in a particularly melancholy mood this morning, or if our conversation yesterday afternoon has left me wanting so much for you to be home right now, so I could hug you and be there for you. 

But I do know that when I read the words, “Why do you pull away and isolate from me, when your mental health is bad?” The words which really leapt out at me, were “Why do you pull away from me?”.  And I have to tell you honey, that they touched my heart so very deeply and have really impacted me.

And that is not a bad thing honey.  As you know, I truly believe that we all – regardless of our age, or who we are, or of any mental illness – need to have our actions, behaviors and thinking challenged at times.

But the picture in my mind – yep, here comes those mental images again – of me actually pulling away from you, saddens me so very much.  And so the very first thing I want to do is to apologize and to say how very sorry I am honey.

I would hope – and to be honest with you I have just spent the past 10 minutes or so reflecting on this – that folk who know me, and especially my children, would say of me that I am not a selfish man.  And that I genuinely do generally put the needs of others before myself, when I am able.  But I don’t think I have ever, really and truly, fully considered how my ‘pulling away and isolating, when my mental health is bad’, affected others.  And that bothers me.

Actually, that isn’t exactly what I am trying to say.  It isn’t ‘exactly’ true.  You see, I have considered it. In fact I have frequently considered it. I just don’t think I have considered it properly or healthily or from the right perspective. (If that makes any sense to you.) 

I have, I think, always seen my isolating as being a good thing for you and for others. As well as being a good thing for myself in some ways.  Or at least the lesser of two evils – so to speak. 

Honey, don’t you only have to read my answer to yesterday’s question to see that?  But the words, “Why do you pull away from me?” which leapt out at me from your question this morning, changes the whole complexion, the whole perspective of my actions and my approach.

[And before you ask, or send off a concerned message or email to me. And so that you don’t sit worrying about this.  No, I am not going to sit fixating on this or beating myself up over this honey. Or allowing the internal and external dialogues to latch onto this and repeatedly hit me over the head with it.  (We both know how I can do that sometimes).  And I really do think that my mind is in such a place at the moment where I can process this healthily and where I can try to simply build from it.]

I said in my answer to your question yesterday, that I do try to protect you when my mental health is bad.  And I also admitted that I do also try to protect myself at the same time. I then also admitted that I really shouldn’t to do that and really needed to try not to do that.  And if anything, your question this morning has emphasized that to me.

[Hm.  I wonder if you purposefully put these two questions together for that reason? Or if their being together simply reflects either the importance of this to you, or your thought processes on this?]

But I digress.  And either way, the need for me (and possibly others like me, to see that when we – seemingly for all good reasons within our mind – withdraw and isolate from those we love. In the hope of protecting them from any ‘fall-out’ (or damage) resulting from our mental illnesses. We are in fact pulling away.  And that it can and often will, to some degree or another, be viewed by them as our ‘pulling away’ from them.

And honey that truly has become more apparent to me now.  And I am so grateful to you for asking this question. (And, actually, all the questions so far.)  And I do want for you to know that I really am sorry for any hurt that has been caused as a result of my doing this. 

But honey, I mentioned earlier that it gave me a chance to see, and reflect on, my doing this from a different perspective – from your perspective.  So honey, in order for us to both benefit from this challenge process.  I need to also offer you the chance to see (and understand it) from my perspective as well…

In my answer to yesterday’s question I talked about my mental illnesses being a wide often raging and fierce and intense river which can sometimes separate us.  Within that, I made the statement, “And honey, at times like that – when that river is so wild that all I can do is to try to stop it from bursting it’s banks and flooding and destroying me.  The very thought of you being anywhere near that danger is so alien, so counter-intuitive to my love for you, that it just does not bear thinking about.”

I truly meant every word of that, honey.  Actually, every word I have spoken [or typed] in all of my answers.  But I need for you to try to put yourself in my position within that picture.  I need for you to try to see and understand what it is like when all you can see – when all you can think of and when all you can feel – is that raging river rising and the banks of that river bursting.  And that current and those waves coming towards you, threatening to consume and destroy you.

And honey I am not typing those words or painting that picture just for dramatic effect.  That is truly what it is like sometime, and I need for you to try to understand what it feels like to watch that happening all around you.  And to know that you are losing control.

It really is so very hard to accurately give a good picture of what it is like sometimes honey.  And part of the reason for that is that, in truth, this can happen in a number of different ways.  For a number of different reasons.  And at a number of different speeds.  And I so wish that my ability to communicate what it is like was better.

That river – my mental illnesses – is constantly there with me and along side me.  A lot of times it is fairly manageable. And whilst always flowing close to me, it seemingly poses no note-worthy issues or immediate threat or danger. 

Other times, I feel like I am gradually slipping or sliding down it’s banks towards it.  And how far down or how quickly I am sliding understandably impacts my ability to react.   And yes, at yet other times, instead of me sliding down towards it, it seems to be rising up it’s banks towards me.  And then, honey, there are the times when suddenly, seemingly instantly it rages up and envelopes me.

Honey, all of these are true descriptions, true pictures of the way that river – the way my mental illnesses – affect me.  And I hope that in all of those pictures you can see how; the level of threat or danger it poses, the level of control I have or don’t have, and indeed my ability to consider others and especially those I love, varies.

And I truly hope that you can, from those pictures, also see and understand how sometimes (and yes I emphasize and freely accept that it only sometimes) it is not me pulling away and isolating from you when my mental health is bad, it is my mental illnesses pulling me away and isolating me from you.

Honey.  I have just re-read this answer to you and a thought occurred to me…

When we first discussed the possibility of going through this process – when we came up with this challenge.  We decided to do it openly on my blog, instead of privately between just the two of us.  And we did so not only because we felt it would help me carry on blogging but because hopefully, in the process, it might help others.

One of my concerns, (and I am not sure I voiced it during that conversation), was whether or not by answering publicly it would effect how personal I could be in my answers to you.  But I figured that if I needed to add anything more personal to an answer, I could do so in any follow-up conversations that we had as a result of my answer. So far I haven’t felt that I couldn’t answer anything as personally as I wanted to.

I realize – in re-reading this answer to you – that I started it with the words, “My Darling Daughter”.  Honey, I did that in response to how this question impacted me and because of my need and deepest desire for you to truly know that you truly are my darling daughter and how much I love both you and your siblings.

I hope, so very much, that this answer has demonstrated to you how much your question has made me think.  And how it has afforded me the chance to see and try to understand things from a different perspective.  From your (and others) perspective. And I hope that my answer has afforded you (and perhaps others) a chance to see and try to understand it from my perspective. (Although perhaps you already have, and I have simply added to that).

And honey, I hope – I hope so much – that perhaps my answer has gone some way to repair any damage that has already been done, and/or to bring some healing to any hurts already felt.

With all my love.