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Well it is 6 in the morning and I can’t sleep.  This darned flu is really kicking my butt at the moment and, since I can’t get comfortable any which way, I thought I would answer the last question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me…
DD 30

Hi honey,

Well this is the last of all the questions that you have asked me within this challenge and I have to be honest I am saddened that this challenge ends today, honey.  I have really enjoyed answering the questions in this challenge although many of them have been so very insightful and challenging.  So I really want to thank you for this challenge honey.  It has meant so very much to me and I hope that it has benefited you as much as it has benefited me. (Although I am fairly sure it has helped you from what you have said.)

So to answer today’s question. And honey I have to tell you that I have spent quite a while this morning, just wondering what answer I should choose, from so many legitimate choices, as my answer to today’s question.

But I have made my choice and it is this one…

Honey, if there was one thing that I would want have you to learn from my battle with mental illness it is that, “No matter what; illness, condition, situation or circumstance presents itself.  We should never lose sight of either the person or people involved in them, nor of their right to; respect, understanding, hope and love.  Even when that person is yourself.”

Mental illness can do many things to a person and indeed to the families of those suffering from mental illness. And indeed it can bring many challenges and yes even trials into their lives.  But if there is one thing that I have learned – both personally as someone who experiences mental illness and more indirectly as someone writes about mental health and who has worked in the field of mental health – it is how easily the mental illness (and its resultant behaviours or situations) can become the primary focus.  And I am convinced that this is always such a harmful things when it happens.

And isn’t this so often the case with so many things?  That the illness or the condition or the situation or the circumstance can become the focus and the person (or people) involved somehow get lost in it all?

Heck you only have to consider stigma (all forms of stigma not only mental illness related stigma) and how it works and where it comes from, and you will soon realise that within it the individual, the person at whom it is so harmfully and so unfairly aimed is always ignored, discounted, lost.   Look at all the prejudice and injustice in the world and you will see the same pattern there also. 

Honey, one of your questions within this challenge was worded something along the lines of, “To me you are just Dad, but how do you think others see you?”  And to be honest I don’t even remember how I answered that question.

But that is not important.  What is important (and the reason I mention it now) is that within that question you demonstrated that what you see when you see me – what you think of when you think of me, is not my mental illnesses but is the person, the father – the me – behind my mental illnesses.  And honey you have no idea just how much that blesses me.

At times, even in my own thought patterns honey. (And yes this is no doubt also directly resultant from and part of the mental illnesses themselves.) I can lose sight of myself, of me. And I only see the mental illnesses or their effects.  And this loss, this disconnect, from the person, from the individual, from the personal and the intimate, can have such a devastating effect honey.

So yes honey the one thing I would have you learn from my battle with mental illness is that,”No matter what; illness, condition, situation or circumstance presents itself.  We should never lose sight of either the person or people involved in them, nor of their right to; respect, understanding, hope and love. Even when that person is yourself.”

By seeing the person or the people involved.  By keeping our eyes on them.   We can offer; that respect, that understanding, that hope and that love which is so invaluable, so essential.  And in doing so we can break through all the debris, the fall-out and confusion.  We can reach the heart of the person – the people, involved and say, “no matter how things may seem, no matter how dark or dismal things may appear, you are loved and you are understood and I do respect you and there is hope.”

And honey, I want you to know, more than anything else this morning.  That this is something that you continually do for me, even without your realising that you are doing it.

That is the one thing would I have you learn from my battle with mental illness, honey.  And from it, the one thing I would want you to know – more than anything else, is that despite my mental illnesses, despite the fall-out and confusion and debris that they can sometimes bring, I do, always have and always will love you.

With all my heart,