Well it is Thursday morning and one of those grey mornings. It is also one of those mornings when you get out of bed and within minutes start to question whether you actually benefited at all from having been in bed last night. (I am sure I am not alone in this experience.)
But, the truth is that I spent a great deal of yesterday sorting out old files, and cleaning and tidying both my spare room and my office. And the truth is that in that I no doubt did too much and so my body is letting me know that today.
But it is a new (albeit somewhat grey) day and I have my early morning coffee made, my meds taken, my blood-sugar level tested, and I am all set to answer today’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that I am doing.
Good morning Honey,
Well today’s question is one which I have often considered myself. Not only in respect of my mental health but also my physical health. And possibly not in the same structure or way that you have asked it. But certainly in ways such as; “What if my mental or physical health worsens and I can’t cope or be there for the kids?”, “heck what if it (or they) worsen and the kids have to step in and do more?” “Do I want to put that on them or be a burden to them?” or (more recently) “Is there anything that I can do to improve my mental and physical health? After all, what about baby Alfie? Don’t I want to be there for as much of his life as possible?”
Actually honey, there is a whole stream of questions that my mind sometimes throws at me in respect of; my mental and physical health, the future and the family. And – since the purpose of this challenge is for us to be more open and to communicate more about my mental health – there is a whole stream of negative and harmful thoughts which my mind and the dialogues throw my way in respect of “not putting off the inevitable” or of “prolonging the hurt”. But honey, that is all part of my mental illnesses and sadly come with the territory.
Of course, on the good days – the rational days, the days when hope reigns supreme – my thoughts are far more constructive than they are destructive. I can – in the context of my physical health – look at such things as; all the weight I have been able to lose, the fact that I am slightly more mobile lately, the fact that I am now taking my meds properly, and generally eating properly, and see that actually since my physical quality of life is improving – a great deal of which being down to the help of my carer Sinead – then perhaps the potential length of my life has improved.
Even in the context of my mental health I do have days when I can be more positive than negative, despite the dialogues which go on inside (and seemingly outside) of my head. Days when writing seems to come more easily or fluently. Days when I am able to study and pray and worship more. Days when I am able to consider a subject without the little man in my mind seeming compulsively intent on throwing tangent after tangent or distraction after distraction at me. And days like this do give me hope for the future.
So yes honey, this is a question or a subject which I have frequently considered in the past. And one which I will no doubt continue to consider in the future. But one of the reasons for that is that it is a subject with so many imponderables, so many unknowns. And we both know how my mind seems to love pondering on the imponderables.
That having been said honey, there are certain factors which, whilst still to a large degree being unknown, remain a constant truth through-out all these unknowns. One such major factor being that how my mental health effects our family in the future is directly dependant on how my mental health affects me in the future.
And within that constant truth there is therefore a responsibility placed on me to do my best to try to influence or control the way it affects me. Because my mental health, how I act or respond to it, has a direct impact, or has direct influences, on our family and our relationships. And again, on the good days, the rational days, the hope reigns supreme days, I know this.
And I think you only have to read through my answers to our last two questions – the one about the past and the one about the present, and how my mental health has affected us – to see this.
Likewise, and I add this purely by way of objectivity and in order for us to have a comprehensive response, how the rest of the family influences or impacts my mental health and acts towards me will also have a bearing on this.
But what I can tell you – within this response of “ah well there are a lot of unknowns here aren’t there” – is that I am hopeful for a our future honey. And I hopeful, on this – one of those ‘good days, rational days, hope reigns supreme days’ day.
Whilst always aware that my mental illnesses were there and that there would be days when I could not possibly control their effects on me. I have always, when able, tried never to give in to my mental illnesses. Never to give up fighting to have as ‘normal’ a life as possible, and to never stop trying to limit the impact or influence they have on our family.
And whilst I know that there will, no doubt, be days in the future (as there have been in the past) when such thoughts are a million miles away from my mind. And when simply surviving is all I can cope with or think of. I am determined always to limit the potential negative effects my mental health can have on our family.
And I have to tell you honey. Because it is true and because I have always tried to acknowledge the achievements and good things you kids have done. The fact that you are asking these questions and are trying to understand more. Increases my hope for the future in respect of how my mental health will affect our family.
But honey this challenge is all about honesty and openness. It is all about facing the big questions and the little questions. All about facing the difficult and uncomfortable subjects as well as the easy, comfortable subjects. And so – in order to be honest and open and comprehensive in my answer – I also have to include the really difficult and painful to think about spectre of my suicidal thoughts.
And here again I stress that today (so far) seems to be a good day for me, in respect of my mental health. And that whilst I do have things gnawing away at my mind and bothering me today, I do seem able to write fluently today and do feel positive. But we have to be realistic about the way my suicidal thoughts are a regular feature of my mental illnesses and thus do factor in this consideration of the future.
As I sit here writing this to you, those suicidal thoughts are not present in my mind and seem so far removed from me. And fortunately honey they are not something which are a constant. They are more like an unwelcome frequent visitor to my thoughts. But they do visit and do try to have such a huge impact on me, and so are a very real consideration here as we talk about the future and how my mental health will impact me and thus us.
But honey, that fact is that I am still here and I am still able to write this to you and despite their regular visits and the amount of impact they have tried to have on me in the past I have, by the grace of God, always managed to fight them.
So honey, I am hopeful for the future. And I am hopeful that my mental health – whilst no doubt having some effect on our family – will not have to negative effect on our family in the future. And honey I have that hope mindful of the difficulties which often present themselves as a result of my mental health. So it is, I assure you, a real and rational hope.
And honey I am going to end my answer here I think. But I want to end saying something from my heart and which needs to be said, because I always try to acknowledge when you all do such wonderful things…
The hope that I have for the future. The hope that tells me that my mental health will have less of an impact on our family, has grown so much as a result of your asking these questions and being willing to try and understand more.
So thank you honey. Thank you for being willing to ask these question. For being willing to understand more. Thank you for being willing to see and understand my mental illnesses so that you can separate that which comes from them and that which comes from me. Thank you honey for giving me more hope for the future.
With all my heart,