Well, I have reached day nine in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge set for me by one of my daughters.
And having seen the subject of today’s question I already know that I am going to struggle a little with my answer. But, you can’t always just face the easy or pleasant things in life and the truth is there is often just as much benefit (often times more benefit) in the difficult questions as the pleasant ones.
So here goes…
But before I do answer today’s question a thought occurs to me. I know that this is a challenge set for me by one of my daughters and thus is a very personal thing – although we decided together to do this publicly here on my blog. But if any reader wishes to comment, please feel free to do so. The more responses and experiences shared the better.
So that having been said, here is my response to today’s question…
My Darling Daughter,
Well, as I am sure you already guessed, given the fact that I looked at this morning’s question last night – as we were saying good night to each other on the computer. This question has been on my mind and my heart all night.
And yes I know I am a little silly for checking out the question just before bed. But hey, my being a little silly isn’t new to either of us now is it?
So here is the result of lat night’s and this mornings reflections on your question…
I have decided, for perhaps obvious reasons. That the very first thing I would tell you – in my answer to this morning’s question was about a promise that I made to myself when we decided to do this challenge openly. And that promise was that no matter what the question or the subject I would always do my best to be as open and as honest as I could be in my answers. Doing so, wherever possible, with as much love and sensitivity as I could at the time. And that promise applies both to the pleasant or easy questions and the difficult and less pleasant ones alike.
And so, because of that promise, I am not going to try to fudge or sidestep your question in any way and my answer is, I assure you, both sincere and accurate to how I see things.
The plain simple fact honey, is that it would – I believe – being extremely unlikely, even extraordinary, if you had never done anything to make my mental health worse. Because the reality is that it is virtually inconceivable for anyone – with whom I am in close or frequent contact – to never do anything to make my mental health worse.
My mental illnesses so very often make such a possibility either extremely improbable or totally impossible. Because, when my mental health is bad, even when it is declining, it can corrupt and distort the most innocent and natural of things. Or more accurately my perception of them. That honey is all part of both the paranoia and the over-analyzing that constantly goes on within my mind.
For example, and this may seem completely ridiculous to many, even if someone makes a typing mistake and puts a rogue or accidental exclamation mark at the end of a text message, that can (and, trust me, has done) bug me for days. Conjuring up all sorts of weird and very not so wonderful thoughts for me in the process.
That is, of course, on top of another way in which mental illness can affect people and does affect me, which is to magnify or intensify thoughts or feelings which are common to a lot of us.
And I mention those things because I really don’t want you to over-react or take ownership of any undue concern or any guilt over what I am going to tell you next. Which is my answer specific to ‘one thing that you do which makes my mental health worse’.
Honey, if I had to choose ‘one thing that you (sometimes) do and which makes my mental health worse’, it would be:- When you are so obviously bothered or concerned about something. But don’t seem to want to tell me, or able to tell me, what it is that is concerning or bothering you.
And, like I said honey, I really don’t think that my being impacted by this is exclusive to me as a parent with mental illness. I would think a lot of parents would feel that way. It is just that my mental illnesses magnify and intensify the impact of this in my own mind.
As a father, I have never forced any of you to talk about something which you didn’t want to or weren’t ready to talk about. And that is because I fully believe that..
a) you have a right to your privacy,
b) you have the right to process things on your own, should you wish to.
c) sometimes we all need to process stuff in order to get it to a point where we can talk about it.
d) I have always trusted you all to know when you needed to, or should, come to me about something.
e) I am very much aware that the day will come – hopefully a long time from now – when I am just not around anymore. At that time I will just not be able to be there for you. And so, it was important to me, as your parent, that you developed the skills and had the freedom, now, which enabled you to process and cope with things on your own.
But honey, that doesn’t mean that it is always easy to sit back and watch you being concerned or bothered. Some things just don’t come very easily for a parent. Even when your child is fully grown and even when you know that it is the right thing to do. And I think it is difficult for any good parent when their child (adult or not) is obviously bothered or concerned about something and not able, or willing, to talk about it.
But I really do want you to understand that this, in itself, is not exclusive to me as a parent with mental illness. It is, as I said, just heightened for me as a parent with mental illness. The plain simple fact is that the paranoia which I experience, plus the over-analyzing which my mind seems totally incapable of stopping, simply magnifies and intensifies this in and for me.
And honey, I am fairly sure that, if you think about it, there have probably been times when the boot has been on the other foot – so to speak. Times when you, as a daughter, have simply known that things haven’t been right with me, and yet I have not come to you or talked about it.
And yes honey, I know that I have probably all too often repeated in my answers, something which I have said in a previous answer. But that something, in this case, is just as relevant and just as important in my answer now as it was in the answer to that question. And that is “Never take ownership of that which should not belong to you.“
Honey, you have every right to your privacy and every right to decide what you do or don’t talk to me about. You are an adult and a very capable and competent young lady. So no accepting any guilt or feeling bad as a result of this answer please. Those feelings do not and should not belong to you as a result of what I have just shared.
Your question required me to come up with ‘one thing that you did which made my mental health worse’, and trust me honey, coming up with something was not an easy task.
The fact is (and I always want you to remember this honey), that I am your dad. And you are part of both my life and my heart. And because of that I am bound to sense, or to realize, when something isn’t quite right with you. It is only right and fitting that I do so, because of my love for you.
But honey, a parent’s love for their child, and a child’s love for their parent, should always be a gift and a blessing. And should never be allowed to become either a burden or an obligation. Because the minute it becomes either of those things – in either its presentation or its reception – it has started to change it’s very character and started to stop being love.
Honey. you are who you are. And you have every right to process and deal with things however and whenever you need to. And in the rational, in the objective, I fully know that and fully believe that. But my mental illnesses are just not very good at allowing me to be rational and objective sometimes.
So honey, I want you to know and to understand that – even in this one thing that I have come up with and shared with you. It is far less about what you do to make my mental health worse, and for more about my mental illnesses reacting to that thing in such a way as to make my mental health worse.
With all my love,