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Over the past few days, I have been tidying and rearranging my study. De-cluttering being a large part of that process and I am delighted with the results.  So I sit this morning in a nice, tidy, clutter-free study,  Early morning cup of coffee at the ready, medication taken and blood-sugar levels checked.

Time to check today’s question from my daughter in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge.
DD 16

Good morning Honey,

Well honey, that is a very interesting question.  But I have to tell you that it seems to me that you already have a few of my traits and some of my personality.

Now I am not sure if that is such a good thing. LOL But I do already see some in you and, as you know, you and I have both commented on these before.

I also have to tell you, because it is worth mentioning here on this blog, that something very much related to this really struck me, a little while after you coming home after being away for so long.

And that was just how much impact and influence that we parents actually have on our children without our even really being conscious of it at times.

Honey, I think every good parent seeks to influence their children’s development and to do things like; setting them on the right path in life, teaching them right from wrong, establishing self-worth, security and confidence within them.  And yes of course I have tried to do these things as a parent.  But these are deliberate and intentional.  And because of this we are mindful of them and keep a check on them and how successful they are within the child.

But a child often learns character traits and personality from their parent or parents without either one really being mindful of it.  And so when it happens I think it often goes either unnoticed or unmentioned – apart from a casual comment here or there.

But your having been away for so long, and then returning home.  And your having similar character and personality traits to me really did demonstrate to me and strike me just how much we do influence our kids.

And I say that not in order to take anything away from you, or to blow my own trumpet, but because I think it is especially worth remembering when mental illness or poor mental health is involved.  And because I am just so grateful that so many of the negative things that I associate with myself and my mental health do not seem top be present in you.

And honey, I have to tell you that when it comes to parenting I am convinced that one of my principal roles has never been to raise you kids to be mini-me’s but to be the children and adults who you were always meant to be. To, within reason, allow you to develop your own characters and personalities, instead of forcing mine on you.

[And before you bring it up, yet again LOL.  No I am not saying that this means I should have allowed you to dye your hair purple, how you wanted to, when you were 15.]

But I need, I think, to turn to answering your question with specifics. And honey, sometimes it is difficult to think that any of my personality or character are worth anyone having.  But I recognize that as being part of my problems with self-worth and part of my mental illnesses and so I will share but two with you…

My sense of humour.  Perhaps not in exactly the same way as mine, but certainly to have one.  

I think this is such an important thing honey.  And interestingly enough the other evening I was flicking through the television channels and came across an old episode of QI on the Dave Channel.  During this episode (I think it originally aired in October 2006) Stephen Fry made a couple of interesting statements. (Actually many, but these two struck me.)

The first was this… He (Stephen Fry) asked, “What illness do British doctors now treat more than any other?  And of course there were the usual candidates offered up by way of a possible answer… Dental care, Cancer, Flu, An unidentified niggle, Pregnancy, Dermatitis.  But the answer was Depression and Stephen Fry went on to say that three million, one hundred thousand people suffer with this every year. Which is a staggering figure I think.

The second was during the ensuing conversation about depression both, bipolar and unipolar.  Sean Lock asked the question, “Do depressed people minded what you call them?”  (I really dislike the construct of that question) but Stephen Fry answered it in this way..

“Um, generally speaking not, to be honest.  One of the great advantages, certainly of manic depression, is sense of humour.  Kind of keeps you going…”

And honey I have to agree with him.  A sense of humour is so important and I have often wondered if, were I not to have my mental illnesses, would I have such a keen sense of humour.

So honey yes, one of the character and personality traits that I would want to pass on to you would be a sense of humour.

And the second character or personality traits that I would like to pass on to you is: Caring for others.

I truly believe that caring for others should be a character trait which we should always encourage in our children.  And I truly believe that we never always know just how much a little bit of caring – when shown to someone – can impact their lives.

Throughout my life I have tried to always be caring towards others.  And interestingly enough very often that sense of humour has featured in my caring for others.  Caring for someone really can be as simple as taking time to bring a little joy and laughter into their life at a time when things seem so dark and bleak to them.

There is often no greater way of demonstrating the value of someone then to take time to genuinely, lovingly, respectfully show that you care for them.    

And honey I choose ‘caring for others’ not only because it forms such a big part of my faith but because I have always as long as I can remember cared for others.  My mother often commented how, even as a kid, I was always bringing home ‘waifs and strays’.

So there you have them honey. The two main character and personality traits which I would like to pass on to you.  Of course I would also very much like to pass on to you my faith honey, but a) you already have your own faith and b) I am not sure it technically qualifies as a character or personality trait.

But before I close, there is something else I want to add to this my response to your question and which is specific to both a sense of humour and to caring.  And that honey, is to tell you that I already see so much of both within you.

You have such a wonderful and caring personality, such a good sense of humour and anyone who knows you can clearly see that.  I have said it before and I will say it again honey.  I am so very proud of you for the daughter, wife, woman you have become.  And I love you dearly.

With all my love.

Dad.

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