An Ocean of Happiness I Cannot Baptise Myself In.

Tags

, , , , ,

Do you like the title of this post?  I hope you do or that, if nothing else, it has pricked your interest enough for you to read on.  But I want to make it very clear from the ‘get go’ that it is not one of my lines or a statement of my own construction.  (Although it could very well be.)

It is instead a line from a ‘button poem’ written by Sabrina Benaim and you can ( and I truly hope you will) view her reciting this poem in the YouTube video below.

I sat at my desk this morning just flicking through my Facebook page and came across a video about a homeless man who was given money to buy himself stuff but who then, instead of simply keeping it, used that money to buy food for others.  (You have probably already see it as I believe it went viral and got a lot of media attention.)

Anyway, once that video had finished, I noticed another one which caught my eye – the Sabrina Benaim one entitled ‘Explaining My Depression To My Mother’ and I decided to click on and watch that.

I love all things ‘arty’ and write poetry myself and since the subject matter was mental health/mental illness it was of course of great interest to me.  And I am so glad that I did watch it and I am delighted to be able to share it with you now.

Depression – the subject of the poem (and that which Sabrina was trying to explain to her mother) – hits those of us who experience it or duffer from it in different ways.   And trust me, although I am a Christian with a very strong faith, I know only too well just what havoc it (and indeed other forms of mental illness) can reek in a person’s life.

I also know, first-hand, just how confusing it’s presence (in a believer’s life) can be to other Christians.  And indeed the conversation which Sabrina has formed into her poem is not unique.  And it is perhaps because of my faith that that one line – which I have used as the title of this blog – leapt out at me and resonated with me so clearly.

Of course, my mind – which all too often behaves like a four year old being set free and unsupervised in a candy store (sweet shop), running all over the place grabbing and unwrapping and devouring things – has already started to take me down a whole plethora of different thought processes and deliberations as a result of the poem and indeed as a result of that one line.

But that (exploring those thought processes and trying to bring my mind back into line) is something I will attend to once I have finished this post.  But to give you some idea of said thought processes here are just a few of them:

“Can one baptise one’s self?” “Does such an ‘ocean of happiness’ even exist?”  “Is faith meant to give us happiness?”   “Is ‘happiness’ even the right word or is it ‘joy’ that we need?” “And indeed what are the differences?” “And hey, even with that ‘joy’ do we experience, are we meant to experience, oceans of happiness?”  “Does anyone truly experience oceans of happiness?”

Of course all of those (and trust me there are many more) are linked to my faith and not the purpose or focus of Sabrina’s poem.  But isn’t that how our minds work?  Often taking things – the actions and statements of others and making them, shaping them, filtering and receiving them, in a way which is personal to us?

So I close this post (and wander off to my mental journey of deliberations and reflections) with the video of Sabrina reciting her poem (And I commend and thank Sabrina for her bravery in making and publishing it, or allowing it to be published) and I invite you to comment on what it said, how it spoke, to you…

 

 

Advertisements

Beyond The Baubles

Tags

, , ,

complete baubles

I wonder what Christmas means or (given that it is now December 29th) what it was like for you?

For me personally Christmas is usually a time of conflict and duality.

Conflict and duality which comes from a) my heart-felt desire, as a Christian, to celebrate the Saviour’s birth (and yes I know it didn’t really happen at this time of year or on December 25th – but this is the time of year and the day when a lot of mankind chooses to celebrate it and I am ok with that) against b) the other side of me which is that I really am very uncomfortable around people.  And Christmas is one of the times of year when there is a great expectation that we will spend time with others.

Normally I choose to, and can usually get away, with spending Christmas on my own and pretty much not (apart from church services and buying immediate family members presents etc) even really acknowledging it’s existence.  (How’s that for earning extra Grinch or Scrooge points?)

And yes I am fully aware that some folk will be horrified at the idea that someone would actually want to spend Christmas alone pretty much ignoring it’s presence.  But to you folk – who I am sure are good folk with legitimate concerns – all I can say is try to look beyond your own experiences and all the tinsel and baubles and try to imagine what it is like for those of us who suffer from mental illness and for whom social gatherings really are uncomfortable, even threatening.  And try, if you will, to imagine just how much additional stress or pressure such a festive holiday full of expectations can place on us.

bah_humbug_anti_christmas_penguin_cartoon_postcard-r27cd1fe9e7c74dc4b2d2b397656f790d_vgbaq_8byvr_512And the truth is that I am by no means against Christmas, nor indeed am I a Grinch or a Scrooge – although I admit I do do a very good impersonation of both.

Actually I love Christmas.  I just recognise the fact that I just don’t do well with the additional pressure that often comes with it.

And this in itself poses us (those of us with mental illness and who do not do well in social situations) with a problem.  Do we simply refuse to get involved and seek the familiar sanctuary of isolation?  Or do we venture out of our comfort zone – our personal safety bubbles – and get involved as others seem so intent on having us do?

This year (unlike previous years) I relented and accepted the very kind invitation of Sinead – a friend from church and my carer – and went and stayed with her family for a few days over the Christmas period.  And in fact I even agreed to accept her and her husband’s invitation to stay an extra night.

And in the interest of honesty and objectivity I have to admit that I really did have a lovely time and that none of it was ‘too much’ for me to handle.  And I make that statement not only in testament to Sinead and Tony and their family and how loving and caring they are, but also as an encouragement to others (who may have similar difficulties as me) and to say that sometimes it can work and can very much be worth while.

That is not to say that there weren’t associated difficulties.  All of which I accept came from within me and none of which being as a result of anything anyone else did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say.

I find that I am mentally exhausted at the moment.  Quietly dealing with the voices and the internal dialogues whilst trying not to negatively impact anyone else’s Christmas can (I assure you) be very draining.  During the day – with the activities and conversations and even the distraction available in the company of others – I found that I was very much able to cope.  But at night time, when alone in my room – the mind had a field day and did what it could to sabotage it all.

And additionally, when I returned home, the very first thing I wanted to do was to keep everyone else out.  And additionally I have an extreme need (or perhaps it is just an extreme desire) to completely isolate for a while.  Something which I was aware of even before I came home, and so decided not to even attend church yesterday.

And yes I recognise that isolating it not a good thing and again I want to emphasise that none of this is as a result of anything anyone else did or said and that I do truly believe that it was worth it.

baublesBut that can be the nature of mental illness can’t it?

Even when we feel we have achieved some victory, some progress over it, it can come back at us with vengeance. Even trying to rob us of what achievements or victories we may have just had.

As I said, I am extremely grateful for the Christmas I was able to share this year and I really did enjoy it and have a lovely time.  And I am convinced that it was totally worth it.  And I would encourage others to think very hard about actually trying to reach out beyond the comfort zone.

But we need to do so being very mindful that there is no doubt a cost involved in this and that we (both those of us with mental illness and those who are caring for us, or encouraging us to go beyond our comfort zones) have to be very careful.

outside-comfort-zone

Comfort zones are not always a good thing.  And I will even go as far as to recognise and acknowledge that sometimes they are a very unhealthy thing.

BUT, I do so in the strict understanding that I also know – from very real first-hand experience  – that sometimes, just sometimes, our comfort zones are an absolute must if we are to survive.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and the encouragement to have stepped outside of mine this Christmas.  But with the New Year festivities fast approaching, and the way I am at the moment, I am also very grateful that my comfort zone is still available to me 🙂

If there was one thing that you would have me learn from your battle with mental illness, what would it be? – QTAPWMI Day 30

Tags

, , , ,

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,

Daddy.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you sometimes feel guilty for having a mental illness? – QTAPWMI Day 29

Tags

, , , ,

It is the penultimate day within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge that my daughter set me.  And I have to admit that it has come around so very quickly.

DD 29

Hi Honey,

Your question this morning is a very interesting question.  And the rational part of me wants so very much to answer, “No, of course not.  I have no control over whether or not I have mental illnesses.”  But the more realistic and honest part of me can’t allow that answer to stand alone. Because the question asked was “if I ‘sometimes’ felt guilty for having them” and the truth is that yes ‘sometimes’ I do.

But guilt is a very complex thing honey.  And additionally, guilt is, I believe, the cuckoo of the emotional world.  Often laying its eggs where they do not belong. So I think my answer requires a little more explanation…

In truth it is generally less a case of my feeling guilty for having mental illness and more a case of my feeling guilty for the effects that those mental illnesses often have on my life and on my relationships – especially on my relationships with my loved ones.  “After all”, the dialogue goes, “it is my mind, they are my mental illnesses, and therefore – to some degree or another – I am responsible.”

So yes generally it is more a feeling of guilt over the results of my mental illnesses and even over whether I did anything to bring that particular episode of poor mental health on.  Or didn’t do something to prevent it.

And of course, again in the rational – the detached and clinical – is the realisation that the very nature of some mental illnesses is the inability to control them and thus the outcome of them.

But it is here where a basic conflict lies.  Do I accept this fact, and thus defeat?  Or do I try to live beyond my mental illnesses and to try to control the potential effects and thus the outcome of those illnesses?

Isn’t this a difficult area for those living with, or caring for the sick or the disabled?  That delicate area of trying to encourage someone to live beyond their illness or their disability, whilst at the same time recognizing the challenges or limitations caused by that illness or disability?

But I am my own worst critic honey.  And often the love and understanding that I would automatically afford others, I fail to afford myself.  And whether this results from the voices or from those darned critical internal dialogues, the result is the same.  Yes, when things go wrong I get very frustrated at myself, very critical of myself, and yes I therefore often feel guilty.

“Did I fail to recognise the signs that my mental health was slipping?”  “Did I fail to do something to stop the decline?”  “Did I do something to induce or increase the decline?”  “Could I have, should I have been stronger?”  “Couldn’t I have stopped myself from…?” “Shouldn’t I have…?” “Why didn’t I…?” Are all thoughts which flood my mind after a bad episode.  “After all”, the dialogue goes, “it is my mind, they are my mental illnesses, and therefore – to some degree or another – I am responsible.”

And yes honey I do see, that whilst in some circumstances those questions can be legitimate, there are also dangers and also injustices within those thoughts. And I also recognise that so many of them stem from or flow out of the very mental illnesses which we are speaking about.

But when they reside in your head, when they resound through the voices, when they are echoed by unsympathetic, accusatory or critical onlookers, they are so hard to come against.  So very hard to rid yourself of.  And as I said above honey:  “Guilt is, I believe, the cuckoo of the emotional world.  Often laying it’s eggs where they do not belong.

So yes honey, I do sometimes feel guilty for having mental illness and I do often (even more often) feel guilty for the results of my mental illnesses.  And yes honey sometimes I could have done more.  Sometimes I could have done better, when it comes to managing my mental health.  

And no honey, I never want to stop trying to do more, to do better in this regard.  But what I do need to do is to try to be forgiving of myself, more understanding of myself and of my mental illnesses. And honey, to be more loving towards myself.  Just as I have always tried to encourage you not to take ownership of that which does not belong to you, I need to do the same.  And honey, I need you to help me do this.

With all my love.

Dad

Do you think you will ever have really good mental health? – QTAPWMI Day 28

Tags

, , , ,

I have just dragged my weary body out of bed. (No small achievement today I can assure you) Washed, dressed, made a coffee and taken my morning meds.  And then I looked at today’s question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge which my daughter ha set me.  “Do you think you will ever have really good mental health?”  And I have to be honest, right now I would settle for good physical health what with this flu-like thing that I have.  But I am determined to blog today 🙂

DD 28

 Good morning honey,

Thank you for your question today.  And I promise to try to make today’s answer somewhat shorter than yesterday’s 🙂

Your question this morning poses a very interesting consideration. “What constitutes ‘really good mental health’?”  Is it, for example, the total absence of any mental illness or is it, let’s say, where mental illness is present but presents no noticeable effect on a person’s ability to function?

And this is a very interesting and relevant point honey.  After all, there are a number of medical conditions that a person can have which simply do not cause any hardships in the course of that person’s life.  

As you know, Matthew is technically a haemophiliac but thankfully the type of haemophilia that he has should never cause any hardships in his life.  Does he therefore have really good physical health or does the existence of this haemophilia mean that technically he will never be able to say that he has really good physical health?

And of course the answer is that it all depends on your definition of ‘good physical health’ and on your perspective.  And the same therefore applies to mental health, doesn’t it?

My brain or my mind, does not function the way that your brain or mind, indeed the way most people’s brains or minds, seem to function.  But that does not mean that I do not have days in which – to all intents or purposes – you would ever know it.    And on those days I consider myself to be experiencing good mental health, even though I know that my mental illnesses are still there.

And I am fairly sure that if you took a poll of all the people who knew me, some would be surprised to know that I even had mental illnesses.  This being due to the fact of my level of interaction with them already being small and as a result of the fact that when my mental health is really bad I tend to isolate and so they would not have been exposed to that aspect of my life.  

And honey there are, are there not, lots of folk with mental illness who – thanks to medication and treatment – lead perfectly normal lives and who would probably tell you that (thanks to those medications or treatments) they do generally enjoy really good mental health.

So, in answer to your question.  If you had asked, “Do I think I will ever be cured of my mental illnesses?”  I would have to admit that I am not so sure that, this side of heaven, I ever will be.  Although as a Christian I, of course, can never rule out the possibility.  But do I think I will ever have really good mental health?  Yes I do think I will have it, and indeed have had it.  It is just that for me it comes in small doses and only ever now and then.  

So honey, since this is the way that it is for me, the way I see it the important, the real question here is not about having really good mental health, it is more about having a really good attitude towards the mental health that I do have.

With all my love.

Dad.

Ps. How’s that for being shorter than yesterday’s answer ? 🙂

How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you? – QTAPWMI Day 27

Tags

, , , ,

Friday morning and these flu symptoms are still kicking my butt.  But at least I managed to get some sleep last night.  So this morning, complete with early morning coffee, meds and glucose tester I am determined to get some things done today.  Including answering today’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge which my daughter has set me.

DD 27

Good morning honey,

Of the last three questions – this one and the previous two – which have all been directly connected to each other.  This one is the one which is probably going to require the longest and most complex answer.  And I recall mentioning, in my last answer, how I would explain more concerning your question yesterday, within my response to today’s question.

The reason for this was that ‘how you love me’, and ‘how I allow you to love me’ are very much related and will and do very much therefore have a bearing on each other.

So let’s establish some basic facts that I feel we will both easily agree on.

The fact that you love me is clear.

The fact that I love you is also clear.

The fact that I have mental illnesses is also clear.

And those three facts are clear and cannot be denied.  But from then on it all gets a little complicated doesn’t it?  Hence your questions.  None of the last three questions – this one and the previous two – question whether we love each other.  What they question is the way in which that love does or is allowed to show itself.

And it is here where my mental illnesses come into play.

Throughout my answers to these questions, indeed throughout this blog, I have often referred to different alternate worlds, different alternate realities, which are created by my mental illnesses.

I have, within that analogy, tried to explain how you and I both share a common world, or a common reality – when my mental health is good.  But how there is an alternate world, an alternate reality, which you and I cannot share and which I experience when my mental health is bad.

And of course how true or relevant that is, is directly dependant on a sliding scale according to how bad my mental health is at any given time.

Weather HouseWhen I was a young boy, my sister went away on a school trip – to Austria or Switzerland, or both, I really don’t remember.   But amongst the gifts that she brought home for us all was a small wooden ‘weather house’.

It hung on the wall in the hallway of my family home for years and consisted of a little wooden house containing two little figures at either end of and joined together via a little pivoted platform. (see picture)

In good weather the little lady came forward and out of the little wooden house, and in bad weather the little man came forward and out of the little wooden house.  And since they are connected on either end of a pivoted platform the further the little lady came outside of the little wooden house, the further back into the little wooden house the little man went. And of course the opposite was also true.  So the further out the little man came the further back in the little lady went.  And naturally if the little lady was halfway in the little wooden house and halfway out of it, so too was the little man.

So if you consider those two states – the one outside of the little wooden house as being one world, one reality, (the world and reality you and I both share).  And the other state (within the little wooden house) as being the world or reality created by my mental illness – you will have a better understanding of how it works.

Because putting it into the most simplistic of terms, this is how it does work with my mental health. The more prominent, the more dominant – the further ‘out’ my mental illnesses are, the less prominent, the less dominant – the further ‘in’ (to that alternate world or reality), I am.

And this therefore means that very often what you are dealing with – and therefore what or who you are interacting with or more importantly trying to love – is directly dependant on who (or what) is more dominant at that time.

And this is an important factor honey because it effectively changes your question from the fairly simple “How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you?” to a far more complex “How do you think your mental illness affects the way you allow me to love you, or are able to allow me to love you?

And honey it really is so vitally important to me that you can understand this and also that you know this.  Because all wrapped up in the question of my not allowing you to love me, is a possibility of your experiencing a level of rejection or lack of trust from me.  And honey I so very much want for you never to take ownership of those feelings or thoughts as they aren’t true.

So, if you can grasp the fact that my mental illnesses affect my ability to even be me, and thus my ability to allow you to love me, then that removes so very much of those potential feelings of rejection or those potential feelings of my not trusting you.

It really is so very hard to explain honey, and I apologize if I have made a mess of explaining it.  But I really do hope that you can at least understand some of what I am trying to explain here.  Because the next part is even more important and even more complex in so many ways.

How far or how deep into that other (mental illness created) world or reality I am, indeed even how quickly or traumatically I entered into it, will not only have a direct bearing on how aware I am of the reality or world you and I normally share, but also on how I view that shared world or reality.

I think what has to be remembered here honey, as hard as it may be to understand, is that paranoia is a big part of my mental illness.  And this can totally corrupt the way in which I perceive or view people.  The fact is that they either don’t belong, or I don’t want them to be a part of my mental illness created world or reality.  They are part of that other (shared) world or reality and my mental illness created world or reality is telling me, convincing me, that not only do I not belong in that (shared) world but that you do not belong in this world.  Additionally – since this alternate mental illness created world or reality is full of confusion, pain and torment – my love for you desperately wants to keep you out of this alternate world or reality.

I hope that this makes sense to you honey?  And I hope that it hasn’t upset you too much.  An honey I so very much want you to hold on to the positives and the hope that really is there despite all of this.

I said earlier that how far or how deep into that other (mental illness created) world or reality I am, indeed even how quickly or traumatically I entered into it, has a direct effect on how I perceive our normal shared world or reality.  But honey they also affect who I am and how I react within that world.  So with love, with gentleness, patience and understanding and with care it is possible to bring me out of that alternate world (or reality) back into our shared world or reality.

And honey that love, that: gentleness, patience, understanding and care is so very important.  Remember that to me, in my mental state and alternate reality, your shared world is scary.  My mind is telling me that I don’t belong to your shared world and sometimes I am convinced that not only have I already messed up, but that I cannot cope or possibly won’t even be able to survive in that world.  

And honey I really do recognise that keeping; gentle, patient, understanding and loving can be such a difficult thing for a loved one who is so frustrated with what is happening and really doesn’t fully understand.  But what you have to remember is that any anger, any frustration, any stress that you display actively works against my wanting to come back to that world.  And additionally, and very importantly, it changes you from being someone reaching into my alternate world to contact me into someone invading my alternate world in order to attack me.

OK.  Honey I am extremely mindful that this has already been a very long answer to your question.  But it really does mean so very much to me not only that you have some understanding of what happens to me when I have an episode, but also that you understand that any reluctance or seeming lack of trust on my part is actually my mental health and not me or you and thus not a rejection of you.

And there is something else that it is so very important that I say before closing this answer to today’s question…

In our shared world – our shared reality, I love you so very much and I trust you completely.  You are my child, my daughter, and I want so very much to be here for you and to show my love to you.  And yes honey, even when I am falling into that alternate world – that alternate reality, I love you and I trust you.  But as I fall into that alternate world my ability to love you, to be there for you, even to recognise you starts to decrease and to fade.

By opening up to you now.  By sharing what that other mental illness created world is like, I am demonstrating my love to you and my trust to you.  But even more than that honey, I am trying to open that world up to you and to allow you to find a way into that world and to find me.  To find me when I am so unable to find, to even want to find a way back on my own.

My mental health affects the way I allow you to love me in many ways when I am in our shared world honey.  I have, for example, had to accept that I can’t always be there for you and that there are also times when I need for you to be there for me.  I have had to open up and admit my weaknesses and my inabilities.  Something which comes hard to a dad.  Well, certainly to this dad.

But. as I hope I have explained, my mental health also sometimes affects my very ability to allow you (or anyone) to love me. And honey, at times like these it isn’t about my allowing, it is about my needing.  And it is about your simply having to take control and to do what is right for me.  Even and especially when I don’t understand or know what is right for me.  

With all my love.

Daddy.

How do you think your mental illness affects the way I love you? – QTAPWMI Day 26

Tags

, , , ,

Well it is 4 in the morning and these flu symptoms are really kicking my butt and making sleeping so very difficult.  I had a flu jab on Monday and apparently having the symptoms for a few days is quite normal.

So, since I am awake and having a coffee, I thought I would check out today’s question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter set me…

DD 26

Hi Honey,

Well, I actually think this answer is going to be quite short compared to all my other answers.  And not because I am incredibly tired but because the truth is that I really don’t think that my mental illnesses have a great influence on the way that you love me at all really.

And if I am being honest I think I will have more to say in respect of tomorrow’s question.  (Which I happened to glance at when I was looking at the list of questions to see what today’s question was). As I really do think that how I allow you to love me is far more relevant to our relationship – when it comes to my mental illnesses – than how you love me is.

That having been said I would like to take your mind back to those first few times – after you had been away for so long – when you and I sat and discussed the old days and when I opened up more about my mental health and how my mental illnesses had impacted all of my relationships.

I explained to you how I had kept so very much of my mental illnesses from everyone most of my life until my breakdowns – when of course I could hide them no more.  And how by keeping them secret – even though I thought I had good reason to do so at the time – it had done a lot of damage to a lot of relationships, including our relationship honey.

I remember your commenting, during those conversations, how certain things that happened at the time somehow made more sense now that you knew the background of mental illness behind them.   Something which of course you could not know at the time.  

And Honey, I also remember laying in my bed after those conversations and thinking to myself just how foolish I had been to hide this all from you and how much different things may have been if I had opened up about my mental illnesses a lot sooner.

And that is important and very relevant in respect of your question today.  Because I truly do believe that had you been able to understand things better – had I given you the information that you needed in order to understand those things better.  It would have changed the complexion of things and thus how you were able to love me or indeed how you understood my love for you or the ways in which I was or wasn’t able to show it.

And so that is one way (probably the only way) in which I believe my mental illnesses have affected the way in which you love me.  And whilst I fully accept that it is more the secrecy surrounding my mental illnesses which affected this, I cannot rule out the fact that part of that secrecy was probably as a direct of my mental illnesses and the way that they made and make me think sometimes.  Of course a huge part of it was also down to the stigma which was even more present and attached to mental illness back then than it is today.

But honey, the fact that my mental illnesses are now very much out in the open does without doubt afford you more of an understanding and thus a different perspective on my thoughts and statements and actions.  And this without doubt changes how you are able to love me now compared to back when you were not aware of them.  And to some degree that also changes some of the roles that you have to take on within your love for me.  

But as I said above, I think it is probably more appropriate if I speak about that in my answer to your question tomorrow. (Friday).  And so I am going to end this answer to you now honey.  But not before I say one more thing, not only because I really want you to hear it but also because this is an open blog and because I am very much aware that others who are in a similar situation to us Could be reading this post…

You are of course much older now honey.  Your life-skills are much better and your life-experience much greater.  So too is your understanding of things.  And I have been so very touched and so very blessed by the way that you seem able not to let my mental illnesses affect the way that you love me too greatly.  And honey I am now so very much aware – looking back – that even all those years ago I could have shared more with you, opened up to you more about my mental illnesses, and that actually you would have understood or at least done as much as you could to try to understand.

Mental Illness can do so much harm to the way that we see ourselves and the way that we perceive how others see us.  And this can drive us into an attitude of isolation and secrecy.  But as much as that approach may seem the best course of action, experience has taught me that it really isn’t the best course of action.  And I am convinced that if there is a glimmer of hope that our family would understand and not judge and/or reject us as a result of our opening up about our mental illness then we owe it to them to try.

Of course I am acutely aware that some families react extremely badly to mental illness and so I do advocate caution. It really does depend on the family and the family members themselves.  But if your family is loving – as you always have been honey – then I would encourage thinking very clearly about trying to trust them and affording them a chance to understand and to help.

Always know that I love you honey, and that I will explain more tomorrow (Friday) when I answer that question.

With all my heart.

Dad.

 

 

 

 

How do you think your mental illness affects the way you love me? – QTAPWMI Day 25

Tags

, , , ,

Day 25 in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me.  Let’s see if I can actually get this one posted this morning without having to shelve it and come back to it.

DD 25

Good morning Honey,

Well this morning’s question from you is another huge question, when we really think about it.  And again, the idea or possibility that my mental illnesses could affect the way I love you is not something that is pleasant to think about.  

I think that for many years now there has, generally speaking, been an automatic expectation for there to be a natural love-bond between parent and child and between child and parent.  Although it could, I think, easily be argued that the level of expectation decreases as the child gets older. 

And I would also have to say that I also feel that that expectation seems to have changed even lessened in more recent years.  And I am not sure that this is such a good thing.  Although I do to some degree understand where it comes from.

But the idea that my mental illness (or anything else for that matter) would or could affect the way that I love you is somewhat uncomfortable – even disturbing – to me.

And yet I am a realist by character and indeed do try to be objective – even when I may not like the suggestion.  And the fact remains that whilst in my heart I want so very much to hug you and then to look into your eyes and tell you that my mental illnesses could never change my love for you, I know that whist this may be true in essence it isn’t always true in application.

Does it affect or remove the fact that I love you?  No not at all!  But does it sometimes blind me, cloud my vision, distract me from that love?  Or affect the way that I am able to – or do – show my love for you?  Yes sadly it does honey.  And for that I am truly sorry, although I also recognize that all too often this is totally beyond my control.

In previous posts within this blog and indeed within previous answers within this challenge that you have set me, you will have read how I have spoken of my seeming – as a result of my mental illnesses – to almost exists within ‘different worlds’ or ‘alternate realities’.  The world (or reality) where my mental health is good and the worlds (or realities) where my mental health is bad.

And within that picture I have often remarked how when in one world (or reality) I seem – depending on how far apart they are – unable to reach out into, or even to see, the other normal world or reality which you and I generally share.

And honey I do not describe things this way in order to separate myself from or to deny that my mental illnesses area part of me, but simply to try and explain what happens when my mental illnesses take over.

Honey, I can tell you with absolute conviction that within the world or reality that you and I share nothing could ever change or remove my love for you. And that whilst it is true that sometimes things get in the way of my being able to show that love for you – geographical locations, pressures or work, other commitments etc – that love always remains true.

But I also have to be honest and realistic and to admit – with great sadness – that in my other mental illness created world, in my other mental illness created reality, and depending on how deeply into it I have slipped, no one from our shared world seems to exist in my awareness.

As so yes honey, that does have such an influence and effect on how I am able to love you or to demonstrate my love for you.  It is as if my whole concentration, all of my efforts need to focus on my simply existing, simply coping and yes, at times honey, even my simply surviving,

But honey this brings me to something else that I have said in my answers to your previous questions.  Something which it is so very important for me that you understand.  And that is that the need for you to see the difference between the ‘me’ and the mental illnesses. ‘I’ the ‘me’ will always love you and will always want to show my love for you.  But the mental illnesses love and respect no-one (including me) and when they take over everything changes.  

And of course I don’t always instantly fall crashing into that world – that reality. Sometimes it is more of a gradual ‘slip, sliding away’ or a gradual take over by my mental illnesses.  And I think I probably explained that better in my answer to your fifth question within this challenge.    

I think what I trying to say to you honey, is that the ‘me’ who is your father absolutely loves you and absolutely desires and will always absolutely try to demonstrate and show my love for you.  And that my mental illnesses can never and will never change that. But, and here is the crucial thing honey, what my mental illnesses can and often do do is affect my ability to be ‘me’.

And by affecting my ability to be ‘me’ they automatically affect all aspects relating to ‘me’ and thus all of ‘my’ relationships.  And that honey, is why I have always been so blessed by your ability and willingness to look for the me within my mental illnesses and to not take ownership of anything that comes out of or from my mental illnesses.

Honey, I am really not sure if that answers your question adequately.  But if it has done nothing else than to let you know how very precious you (and our love for each other) is to me, then it will have achieved enough.  

And perhaps honey, if you can grasp or understand just how important you and that love are to me, how important so many of my relationships are to me.  You will both understand my reaction of withdrawing or isolating when my mental illnesses start to take over, and the fear or dread that I immediately experience when I realise that I have been through an episode and that damage could potentially have been done to them.

With all my love,

Dad.

 

 

 

If I was the one who had your mental illness, and not you. What would you want me to know? – QTAPWMI Day 24

Tags

, , , ,

Well, despite having only just finished and posted my answer and response to  yesterday’s question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge which my daughter has set me.  I thought – having now looked at today’s – directly related question – and since I have inadvertently already answered it within my answer yesterday, that I would post a short additional answer to today’s question…

DD 24

Hi Honey,

Well as I explained in my introduction above, it seems that I have already answered today’s question within the answer that I gave to yesterday’s question.

And that is OK.  It is I think natural given that these two questions were so closely related and given that I try to look at each question individually each morning.

But honey for some reason I just need to answer a little more and to expand on what I said in my answer yesterday.  

I am not sure if this is because last night at church we completed the last of our three-part bible study that we have been looking at.  Which focuses on the 1) Father-heart of God, 2) Being a child of the Father, and 3) Sharing the Son – loving one another.  Or whether it is because the thought of you having mental illness instead of me has just impacted me so very much.

But honey what I truly want for you to know is just how precious and how special love is.  And how life is so very much worth living as a result of that love.  No matter what else is going on in our lives or our minds.  I am so honoured and so blessed by the love I have for you and from you and so honoured and blessed to have you as my daughter.

I wish so much that you were home right now and that I could simply hold you or to just spend time with you and to know, to see for myself, that you are all right.

I think that all too often the pressures of life, and lots of other things, can and do get in the way of our taking time (and I am speaking generally here and not just of you and I) to value each other and to reach out and love each other.

So yes, additional to the answers applicable to today’s question that you will actually find in my answer to yesterday’s question, I  would want you to know more than anything else that you are loved and life is worth living.

With all my love.

Dad

 

 

If I was the one who had your mental illness, and not you. What would you want to ask me? – QTAPWMI Day 23

Tags

, , , ,

Monday morning and I am up fairly early as I have a busy day today but really wanted to blog and to publish this post before I went out.

I am, as I mentioned yesterday, aware that my mental health might be slipping a little and so I am keen to keep to my routine as much as possible.  And I am keen to answer today’s question from my daughter in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge…

DD 23

 

Hi Honey,

Well I have to tell you that I am not liking today’s question very much 🙂

Don’t get me wrong honey, it is a good question and one well worth asking.  But I think that for any good parent the thought of their child having mental illness instead of them is never a good thought.  And nor should it be.  Even if you are all grown up now and so very competent and capable.

But, as much as I don’t like the thought, it is a question that you have asked and so it is a question that I will answer.

I think honey, that I would want to ask you so many of the questions that you have asked me – or at least variations of them.  They are so insightful and so relevant.  And can easily be adapted to make them relevant to a parent-child relationship rather than a child-parent relationship.  So yes honey, so many of your questions to me would also be the ones I would want to ask of you.

Additionally, I would, out of my love for you, need to understand your mental illness or at least to try to.  When did it start?  How did it start? How does it present itself?  How does it make you feel?  What medication are you on?  What therapy or support are you receiving?  There are so many questions and I recognize that some of them you may not be able to answer or may not even willing to answer.  And honey I would need to be so very careful to recognize my own needs in this and not allow them to ride rough-shot over your needs.

Additionally my initial urge, my initial reaction would be to want to ask you every day, “How are you doing?”  But then I am very mindful that this could get tedious for you and might, at times, make you feel as if I didn’t trust you or didn’t think you could cope.  Which of course is not the motivation behind or the reason for the question.  But trust me, sometimes it can seem like that if someone repeatedly asks you the same thing.

And then there are the deeper, longer things I would want to ask you.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that I would want to ask of you…

I would want to ask you to try, with all your might, never to see yourself as ‘damaged’ or ‘worthless’.  And yes honey, mental illness – and also the way that some people react to it – can sometimes lead us towards that kind of thinking.  

And never to take your diagnoses on as your identity.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many folk I have known who have done all they could to live beyond their mental illness until the day they were given a diagnosis.  And it is as if from that point on they simply accepted that this is who they were and so seem to live out the label they have been given. 

I would want to ask you to do your best to keep communicating with me.  And to allow me to try to keep communicating with you.  No matter how hard things may get.  No matter how dark things may seem. I would so want for us to keep communicating with each other.  And so I would also want to ask you to allow me to always communicate with you.  I really do believe that this is so important honey.  And my experience is that this can be the very lifeline that saves us from ourselves sometimes.

And that brings me to the last and most important thing that I would want to ask you honey…

And that is for you to do your very best – no matter how hard things get or how dark things may seem – to try to always remember and hold on to the fact that you are my daughter and that I love you.  

I would want so very much for you to accept my words when I told you that although mental illness can sometimes change how we see ourselves and others, indeed how we are able to experience or accept that we are loved.  You truly are and always will be loved.  

And honey I would always try to love you as much in the worlds and circumstances that your mental illness may at times present, as I love you outside of those worlds.

I know what mental illness can do – well partly at least – and I know that tragic effect that it can sometimes have on relationships.  I also know – first hand – how it can completely corrupt the way we see ourselves and also on the way that we perceive others as seeing us.  

But honey the presence of Mental Illness in your life doesn’t and never would stop you from being my daughter, from being my child, and it would never stop me from loving you.  Even if it does sometimes make that love harder for you to feel or feel me to express in a way that it reaches you. 

One of the things that you have always done honey, and which has always blessed me the most. Is to see me your father and not just the mental illness or even a man with mental illness.  

So I would want so much to ask – if you were to have the mental illness instead of me – that you try always to know that I will always see you, my precious child, and not just the mental illness and not just a young woman with mental illness.

So those are the questions that I would ask you honey.  But I will also tell you this honey.  The question I will always ask our Father in heaven is that this scenario never comes to be and that you never have to face mental illness.  And I give thanks that you haven’t had mental illness. 

With all my heart.

Daddy.

(For those who are really observant, yes I did start this post by saying it was Monday morning and that I had a really busy day today but really wanted to blog and to publish this post before I went out.  And yes it is now Tuesday morning and I am only just now getting to publish this post.  Apologies for that.  Whilst I had intended to finish and publish this blog post before I went out yesterday morning, other things got in the way.)

 

What are some of the things that you do which affect your mental health positively? – QTAPWMI Day 22

Tags

, , , ,

Well it would appear that my mental health has been declining a little of late, and I hadn’t noticed.  Sometimes that happens and the first I became aware of it was when a thought came into my head that actually I hadn’t written anything on this blog – or more specifically that I had stopped answering my daughters questions within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that she had set me.

As I say, sometimes that happens and I lose huge chunks of time when I seem to simply zone out and function without really functioning properly.  I apologize for that and, now that I am aware of it, I can keep an eye on it.

I can also, of course, get back to answering my daughter’s questions…
DD 22

Hi Honey 🙂

I think, given the subject matter of this question, that this answer is probably going to be fairly short.  

But first please accept my apologies for the delay in answering it.  I think I explained the reason for this in my introduction above.  But I do want to apologize for not having answered this sooner.  And I also want to assure you that it is by no means down to any lack of interest on my part.

So, the above having been said, to answer your question.

I guess quite logically, the answers to the question, “What are some of the things that you (I) do which affect your (my) mental health positively” will be the opposites of those things which I do that affect my mental health badly.

And these would be…

Keeping my home neat and tidy wherever possible as this directly impacts my mental health.

Pacing myself. (Or rather trying to learn to)  Trying not to do too much at once.  Taking regular breaks etc.

Socializing more.  Getting out of the house, going into town more, shopping, attending church events and meetings.  Sinead (my carer) is a wonderful blessing in this respect.  She often encourages me into going out and this really does help.

And then of course there are additional ones – not directly or conversely linked to those I mentioned in my answer to your last question.

And the first of these would be routine and structure.  I find that having a routine and a structure to my day, and thus my week, is so helpful for my mental health.  It really affords me a good baseline from which to function.  It also, as is the case I mentioned within my introduction, affords me a fairly good and quick indicator when things start to slip with my mental health.

Additionally it limits any potential damage and affords a better foundation for recovery and repair after any episodes.

And so those would be the main “tangible” things that I do and which affect my mental health positively.

And then there are the less tangible or noticeable ones but which are also so very important.

Having and maintaining – wherever possible – healthy and positive relationships.  I actively avoid relationships which are too demanding or which are controlling or negative by nature or content.  And I think that this is an important one for all of us, regardless of any mental health issues.

There are in life, folk who seem to want to control us or whose input into our lives seem, in the main, critical or negative.  This has a negative effect on us and can be extremely draining on us.  This means that we are faced with three basic options.  1) Allow it to continue – thereby enabling or empowering that behaviour, 2) Try to change it – thereby addressing and improving that behaviour, or 3) Walk away from it – thereby removing the harmful effects of that behaviour.

Personally I always first try to consider if I have caused or am causing that behaviour.  I then try to understand it and see if I can help in any way.  Sometimes this behaviour is ‘learned’ or appears necessary to the person doing it.  And if I cannot then sadly sometimes you just have to walk away in order to protect your own mental health and often other relationships as this kind of thing can be quite cancerous in nature.

What we take in to our lives.  What we expose ourselves to. Can have a very real impact on us honey.  And so, because of my mental health issues, I am – as you know – very careful about this with regard to most things.  The kind of music that I listen to, the medications that I take, the food that I eat – although I admit that is a recent addition to my list.  The kind of television programs that I watch and when I actually watch them.  The books that I read.  The kind of websites that I visit and even the blogs that I choose to read on a regular basis.

And I am not only talking about morals or this being done as a result of my faith here honey.  This applies generally across the board and especially in respect of my mental health.  But and this is important honey, the absence of any mental health issues does not remove our need to be cautious here.  I think if a lot of us were to seriously audit and consider what we expose ourselves to and to adopt a healthier approach to this, we would be a lot better off.  

For me personally all of these things are important.  And I would also add a couple more things which I do and which affect my mental health positively…

Writing – my books, my poetry and my blogs.  All provide me with a creative outlet.  And also afford me a way of processing and communicating what is happening to me.  Additionally they afford me with a sense of purpose and a way in which I can live out my faith,  Whilst I am very keen to ensure that this blog for example focuses on Mental Health and Mental Illness, I write it not only for my own sake but in the hope that it will help others.  And helping others is, after all, a key aspect of my faith.  

My art – Drawing, sketching, painting, sculpting (although I don’t do a lot of sculpting nowadays) are again all creative outlets and again afford me with a way of expressing myself, a way of communicating what is happening with me. And they seem to bring joy to a lot of people.  And I really am blessed by that.

So there you have them honey.  Some of the things (actually the main things) that I do which affects my mental health positively.  I hope that answers that question for you and I hope that others will get something out of this answer too.

And honey, I know that I haven’t included my faith – going to church, praise and worship, studying my bible, or praying etc. – very much in my answer.  And as you know these are all extremely important to me and yes they all very much bless me and affect my mental health positively.  

But as I said above, I am keen that this blog focuses on mental health and mental illness and is not incorrectly thought of by others as just a way in which I can evangelize or spread my faith.

Again, I am sorry for the delay in answering this question honey.  I am aware that my mental health has slipped slightly over the past few days and I am trying to address that and to keep an eye on it.

With all my love.

Dad

 

What are some of the things that you do which affect your mental health badly? – QTAPWMI Day 21

Tags

, , , ,

Day 21 in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge which my daughter has set me and it has dawned on me this morning that I am nearly at the end of this challenge.

I feel that I have been challenged and also gained so much through doing this challenge and I am so grateful for the questions which have been asked each morning and I am looking forward to today’s question…

DD 21

Good morning honey,

Well now there’s a question which I think isn’t going to be that easy to answer.  But I will certainly give it my best shot.

And I think that I would like to start my answer by high-lighting and explaining something which I believe is true for a lot of us who experience mental illness or poor mental health.  And that is that sometimes the things that we do which affect our mental health badly – we do because of our mental illness or poor mental health.

Likewise, very often the lines between our periods of good mental health and our periods of poor mental health can be blurred.

By that I mean that, for those of us who experience fluctuations within our mental health, sometimes it is hard to define when the fluctuation or change has actually started taking place.  And because of this it is often difficult to distinguish between things that we do and which affect our mental health badly and things that we do – which affect our mental health badly – but which are in themselves resultant from our mental health already declining.

I hope that makes sense honey?  And I promise you that this is not a cop-out from accepting responsibilities for my own actions.  You know that if anything I am over-critical of myself when it comes to my actions.  And that there have been many a time when I have gotten angry or frustrated at myself and you have encouraged me to be more forgiving of myself and more understanding of the fact that sometimes my mental illnesses cause me to do things that I shouldn’t do, or to not do things that I should do.

The above having been said, there are without doubt certain things that I have done or still do and which do affect my mental health badly.

Hiding, not communicating, withdrawing and isolating would of course be right up there.  I had spent most of my life hiding my mental illnesses and it is a hard habit to break. And whilst I am now fully open about my suffering from mental illnesses I am not always very good at communicating when I am actually struggling as a result of them.

Very often I will hide the fact by totally withdrawing or isolating, or I will steer conversations or change conversations away from such a subject.  And I think there are many reasons for my doing this.  Perhaps previous experiences with someone has already taught me that that person isn’t a good person to share such things with.  Perhaps I am still trying to process stuff even to a point where I do feel able to discuss them.  Perhaps I am concerned about how the other person is and don’t want their becoming aware of my current difficulties to get in the way of their sharing theirs.  And of course their is always the thought that folk will get tired or fed up of me sharing when I am struggling.  

I am trying to improve where this is concerned honey and I hope that you can see this.

Another thing which I sometimes do and which does affect my mental health negatively is in keeping my study/office and my home tidy.

I have learned over the years that the neater and more tidy my study or home is the healthier it is for my mind and my mental health.  And indeed one key indicator to the state of my mind is the state of my home or office,

And it would seem that the more cluttered or disorganised my mind is the more cluttered or disorganised my desk or study or home becomes.   But here again honey I really don’t know which comes first?  Although I am, of course, willing to accept that sometimes I could push myself to address this and to thereby slow down the rate of descent of my mental health.

Another area – which yes I accept would be a very big one – which I could address and something that I do which affects my mental health badly is doing too much.  And certainly my poor physical health is also a huge factor here.  

Very often – in the desire to help or to be there for others – I will take on too much.  And likewise I will often do too much at once and not pace myself properly.  The way that my physical health works is that although I often feel and think I am doing OK and coping when doing things like housework, physical exercise etc., the minute I stop my body just crashes and I am in a huge amount of pain for hours.  Which often means that I am not able to rest properly or to sleep properly.  Which of course has a knock on effect on my mental health.

Additionally I then get frustrated and angry at myself for ‘yet again’ not pacing myself.  And this also has a knock on effect on my mental health.

I can tell you honestly that this week has already been a very busy week and that I am in so much pain with my knees and legs today.  Predominantly because I have done too much and that this led to a very painful and unsettled night.  And whilst I did manage to force myself to have an extra 40 minutes lay in this morning, I was still up before 8am when actually there is nothing that I really absolutely have to do today and I should really be laying in bed with my legs elevated and resting.

But somehow laying in bed resting just doesn’t come easily to me.

So there you have them, and I think honey, that they would have to be the main things that I do which affect my mental health badly.  Although I am sure that there will be others.  Over-thinking, over-analysing, being too self-critical, taking onto myself the blame when things go wrong and when actually someone or something else was at fault.

But as I said above honey, sometimes it is very hard to know which things are in and of themselves directly resultant from my mental illnesses and which therefore I have less control over.

And honey I am sure that there will be things that you are aware of and which you wonder if they are affecting my mental health badly.  And if there are things on your mind or heart honey, please do feel free to talk to me about them.  Sometimes we need others to lovingly, gently challenge on on these things and sometimes we do need people to remind us of things and to hold us accountable.

I hope that al, answers your question honey,

With much love.

Dad 

I sometimes hear others putting labels on you. How does that make you feel? QTAPWMI – Day 20

Tags

, , , ,

Day 20 in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge set for me by my daughter.  And this I think is going to be a difficult question.

DD 20

My Darling Daughter,

Of all the questions that you have asked me thus far, I think this one has generated the most immediate response or reaction within me.  

Not only because of the social injustice that all too often goes along with the applying of labels – especially when it comes to mental illness and mental health, but also because it involves you, one of my children.

Not that I think that you cannot handle it honey.  I know you well enough to know that you can indeed handle these things.  And, knowing you, that you will set people right if the label is inappropriate and you think it is worth doing.  But I think every worthwhile parent would be concerned to think that their child or children was hearing potentially harmful or unjust stuff about them.

And that statement in itself, having just typed and re-read it, does cause my thoughts (as so many things do with my mind) to go off on an interesting tangent…

Nowhere within your question have you even indicated that those labels – which you have heard people putting on me – were in anyway negative.  I have simply assumed that they are negative and inappropriate.  And I have done that, I think, because that is what so often happens when it comes to mental health or mental illness.

And isn’t it so very tragic that this should be the natural assumption or conclusion reached when someone mentions labels in respect of mental illness?

The plain simple truth is honey that you kids probably know me better than any other person on earth.  So I am confident that you will have, by now, formulated your own opinions of me and are more than able to filter out any wrongful impressions implied or applied as a result of any labels that people choose to put on me.

But of course, part of the reason for that is that you are now all adults.  So I have to be honest with you honey, part of me wonders if you have witnessed some of these labels being applied earlier in your life.  And I wonder what their impact would have been then?  Perhaps when you didn’t have the life skills or maturity to look beyond the labels or to be able to filter out any that were not justly applied?

See that’s the thing about labels isn’t it.  We  all too often simply accept them and so they all too often stop us looking or thinking any further.   Unless of course that label happens to peak our curiosity – perhaps because it seems to be misplaced or perhaps because it is a new label and we don’t recognize it.

And how do we know that they are wrongly applied unless we look further, unless we look beyond the label?  Unless we actually take time to consider or to see what is within that thing or within that person who is being labelled?

And here’s the deal honey. There is no single label that you will ever find which will adequately or comprehensively explain all that is within me, or within you, or within anyone else for that matter.  So when it comes to people, even if the label fits, it will never be enough.

As you know, I have three canisters next to my kettle.  One is labelled ‘Sugar’, one ‘Tea’, and one ‘Coffee’. And those labels are adequate and applicable because almost always (unless I have had a particularly bad episode and filled one of them with something else) whenever you go to one of them you will generally always and only find in them what the label on the outside indicates you will find.  The labels in this case are not a bad thing and they serve a purpose.

But people aren’t like that.  No matter what label we apply – banker, teacher, sales-clerk, pilot, plumber, electrician, mother, father, son, daughter – they are never enough to adequately or comprehensively describe the person behind the label. 

Honey, you are my child, my daughter.  But you are so much more than both of those things and so much within these things…

You are; my child ( well my grown-up child), my daughter, a friend, a confidant, a soul-mate, a joy, loving, kind, considerate, compassionate, caring, a delight, an encourager, an inspiration, a blessing, a strength, a hope, a comfort, a happiness bringer, a frustration bringer (well sometimes you are 🙂 ), a hope bringer, a laughter bringer, a peace bringer, an emotion generator, a contentment giver, a challenge and a challenger.

In so many ways you complete me, and in so many ways you draw more out of me, and in so many ways you inspire yet more to come. But honey even with that long list of things that you are to me, it still seems inadequate and incomplete.  

Why? Because there is no label that can adequately or comprehensively say all of those things or express who you are to me.  And no label which can adequately or comprehensively include all of those things as well as what you are to your husband, your friends, your work colleagues, etc. etc.

So how does the fact that you sometimes hear people putting labels on me make me feel?

It makes me feel kind of sad honey.  Sad for anyone who thinks that by sticking a label on me they can adequately or comprehensively describe me.  And sad for anyone who sees or hears that label and who doesn’t take time to look beyond it.  

And sad if this happened at a time when you were not able to see and know all of these things and if they caused you any kind of distress.

With all my heart,

Dad.

What parts of your mental health do you think I would like to change, and why? QTAPWMI – Day 19

Tags

, , , ,

Well it is Tuesday morning and I managed to get a good night’s sleep last night and am so grateful for this.  Sleeping is something which doesn’t come easy to me, and so when it happens I really am blessed.

And this of course means that I am all ‘keen-eyed and bushy-tailed’ this morning and very interested to see what today’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge will be from my daughter…
DD 19

Good morning Honey,

Wow!  Interesting question and one which is in some ways a huge consideration.

I think a natural immediate reaction to a question like, “What parts of your mental health do you think I would like to change, and why?” would be to answer, “Well all of it, and because you love me.  Why wouldn’t you want all of it to change?”

But then I am suddenly drawn back to the question and the wording of the question.   And my thoughts ask, “Is this actually an applicable answer to the question asked?   Would you want all of it to change? And indeed is this really what I am being asked here?”

After all, the question posed is not, “Do you think I would like you to be totally healed of your mental illnesses?”  And perhaps to that question the answer is a foregone conclusion.   But this question is more specific isn’t it?  This question seems to acknowledge that my mental illnesses are and will be a part of my life and to enquire, “given that mental illness is part of your life, which ways do you think I would like to change how it impacts or affects you?”

And that not only takes a little more thought honey, but it also places me in a thought process that asks, “Which aspects of my mental health and the way it impacts or affects me, do I feel causes you the most concern?”  And I have to tell you honey that for a father to know that he is causing his child – even an adult child – concern is not a good thought.  But it is a question which, I think we should ask ourselves if we have both mental health issues and children or loved ones.

And I guess my first answer would have to be the obsessive thinking and over-analysing.  Because honey, I think that you know that this is probably one area in which my mental health has the most negative impact on me.  It often affects my joy, my peace and my ability to sleep.  And all of those things then of course have a knock on effect.

Another part of my mental health which I think you would probably like to change is the suicidal ideation which often forms part of my mental health.  And this of course would be perfectly natural because although I have, by the grace of God, always managed to survive such times, it does perhaps pose the biggest threat to me and thus to you kids.

And perhaps the last part that I think you would like to change is the way that sometimes I am suffering but don’t tell anyone and still don’t talk about it.  How – even though I really am trying to improve in this respect – you are left knowing that something is wrong but not actually knowing what it is.  And Honey, I really am trying to get better at this and to be open and honest and to communicate with you when I am like this.  But there is, I think, a conflict here. As your father I want to be able to cope and to not cause you any concern, and yet I do have to be aware that sometimes my not telling you – so as to not cause you concern – actually causes you concern because you know something is wrong but don’t know what it is.

So yes, honey, I think they would be my main three/four parts of my mental health which I think you would like to change.  But here is an interesting consideration honey, in respect of this question it really isn’t about what I think you would want to change, it is about what you actually do want to change.

And perhaps this question is a good place to start and to open a dialogue on this?

What do you think honey?  

Because how I see my mental health impacting you kids and how my mental health actually does impact you kids, could very well be two entirely different things.  

And perhaps also, and this really is a very real possibility, part of how my mental health impacts you kids results from my not having explained the reasons or the influences behind the way my mental health impacts me in that regard,  

And perhaps by our talking about it will not only afford you with a better understanding of how it is affecting me but will also give me a different way of seeing it?

Honey, I really hope that all makes sense and I really hope that within all of that I have been able, at least in  part, to demonstrate to you just how much I love you and how important to me both your question and the way my mental health impacts you kids are.

With all my love.

Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To me you are just my Dad, but how do you think others see you? – QTAPWMI

Tags

, , , ,

Ok. Well, in the spirit of openness and honesty I have to admit that I have cheated a little and actually typed this post out last night, although I am publishing it this morning.

The reason for this is that although I really enjoy waking up each morning and answering that day’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge which my daughter set me, I have a very busy day today but didn’t want to miss publishing my answer.

So the above admission having been made, this morning’s question was…
DD 18

Hey Honey,

Well I am pretty sure that whilst there are some who see me as ‘Dad’ and who are not my immediate family, most do not see me as Dad.  So at least that is a start in my answer to your question.

But actually honey I have to admit that I am really bad at judging how people see me. Sinead ( my carer) along with others, have sometimes commented how much people seem to like me and enjoy my company.  And I have to be honest this always comes as something of a surprise to me.

I also think that different people see me in different ways.  And I think that, as with all of us, a lot of that is dependant of how I am around them.  And indeed what aspects of my character I am able to, or sometimes willing to, show them.

For example:  As you know I am leading Bible Study at church for three weeks – starting from last week.  And I have to be honest and admit that I did wonder (on reflecting on last week’s study) if some of the folk attending last week’s study had seen a different side to me than they usually saw.

Not because of anything that I am intentionally doing, but because it was a new environment and a new role for me.  And so I am bound to be a little different than I am in other environments or roles.  Being in a leading role, along with the subject matter that we were studying, means that I have to do a lot of sharing on a subject which I am passionate about.  And so hopefully that passion would have shone through whereas, for some in attendance, perhaps passion is not something that they would ordinarily associate with me.

Likewise, I am fairly sure that folk who read this blog could have formulated an opinion or image of me which would be very different from the one which they would witness face to face.  Because whilst I truly believe that with me, what you see is what you get, and whilst I don’t consciously seek to create images or be a certain person to people, blogging – even though I do it openly and in my own real name – does afford a certain amount of anonymity and thus afford a certain amount of freedom.  Freedom that we might not have or feel when communicating in person.  Plus, of course, I am a lot more confident with the written word than I am with the spoken word.

And this puts me in mind of a statement that someone made not so long ago at a men’s breakfast meeting at church.  When discussing the need to share more as men of faith, one of the guys commented that I do sometimes tend to sit aloof from everyone after church on a Sunday morning.

Of course he wasn’t to know, or to understand, that I do find social situations quite taxing and difficult sometimes.  And likewise he wasn’t to know that I probably seem that way because when my mental health is bad I do find that environment quite noisy, claustrophobic and uncomfortable.

I am also reminded of a time – many years back now – when I was standing next to a lady at a rehearsal for a Christian concert.  I was part of the organising team just as this lady was.  And whilst I can’t say that I knew her well, we had known each other for some years and both attended the same church.  The guest band were on stage rehearsing and doing a sound check and she and I were simply stood side by side listening when all of a sudden she turned to me and said, “Kevin, I am really sorry and I don’t know why this is, but sometimes I am really scared  of you.”

LOL I had no idea where that had come from.  I had never had a cross word with her and never even disagreed with her.  I have no idea if it was my size – she was a shorter lady – or my mannerisms or indeed if it was something in her past and I simply reminded her of someone. 

I guess honey, the point I am trying to make is that sometimes we simply don’t get a say on how people see us.  And so all we can do is be true to who we are and at the same time be sensitive to other people’s needs.

I am convinced that I will be seen in different ways by different people and that a great deal of that will be as much about who they are as it is about who I am.  

To some I will no doubt be seen as a loveable rogue, whilst to others I will no doubt be seen as a grumpy old git (an image I particularly like to foster).  Yet to others I will be seen as someone passionate about his faith, whist to some I will be seen as just some guy who comes to church.  And likewise to some I will be seen as a guy with mental health issues whilst others will be totally oblivious to my mental health issues.  

And in the same way honey, some folk – when I pass them in the street – will simply see me as a fat guy with a walking stick.  Whilst others will look beyond what they first see and perhaps see a guy who is ill and struggling with his weight as a result of this but at least trying to do something about it.

I hope that all makes sense honey.  I am not sure that I am really thinking that clearly tonight and when I am feeling a little fuzzy like this I always doubt the clarity of my thoughts and thus my blog posts.  But even so honey, there is I think something well worth remembering here….

We can show or give of ourselves as much as we want, but if someone has a preconceived perspective, that will to some degree colour and shape what they are willing or able to see.  And the same works in respect of what we are willing or able to see.  So in order to see the truth about someone we must be willing to look beyond what we first see, allow our perspectives to be challenge and open ourselves up to find beauty and goodness in the most unlikely of places or the most unlikely of people.

I love you with all of my heart honey,

Lots of love.

Dad

Ooops! Guess who saved to draft instead of hitting publish this morning? Sorry honey. I am publishing this now.

Which of your traits and personality would you like me to avoid having and why? – QTAPWMI Day 17

Tags

, , , ,

Sunday morning and I am off to church soon.  But I am up early enough to hopefully be able to respond to this morning’s question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me.

So let’s check out this morning’s question…
DD 17

Good morning Honey,

Another very interesting question.  And I wonder – since this is the opposite of yesterday’s question, if I am going to find it easier or harder to answer today’s question than I did yesterday’s?

I think one of the difficulties which can sometimes arise when someone has mental illness is establishing which of their thoughts or actions even which of their words are resultant from the mental illness and which are simply part of them.  Indeed, I have often reflected on and written about the probability that mental illness doesn’t always introduce things to a person sometimes it simply magnifies or intensifies stuff which is quite common or normal.

And if this is possible is it not also possible in respect of character and personality traits?  Which therefore opens up the consideration that actually a personality trait or character trait which we do not like, we might only dislike as a result of it’s increased presence or frequency of presentation, rather than disliking it completely.

There are, I think appropriate or acceptable levels of certain character or personality traits and most definitely inappropriate and unacceptable levels of them.

For example, I once worked with a guy who tried to see God’s hand in all things and who also tended to see the bright side to most things.  As a result of this he would often preface any statement with the words “Oh Praise the Lord!”

And whilst on the face of it, seeking to see God’s hand in things – for a Christian such as he (and you and I) is not unusual and is indeed a good thing.  And trying to think positively and see the bright side of things is also not such a bad thing.  But sadly, I think he took it a little too far..

“Morning Fred. (I have, of course, changed his name.)

“Oh Praise the Lord!   Good morning Kevin. Great to see you!  How are you today.”

Is not to unusual or weird a conversation.  But… 

“Oh, I am a bit down today Fred. My Father died this morning and he wasn’t a believer.”

“Oh Praise the Lord!  I am sorry to hear that.”

Is very definitely a strange mixed message and entering the weirdness scale.

Likewise, a friend is someone who is interested in you and who cares and wants to know about your life.  And being friendly, being interested in others, – having that character trait, is a good thing to have.  But take that a bit further, to the point where they care to the point of obsession and want to know and even control every little aspect of your life and that becomes just weird and dangerous.

And I say this because when it comes to one of my character traits which I would definitely want you to avoid having – my analysing and over-thinking absolutely everything – I would like you to have (and in fact you do have it) but to a much lesser level.  I really do believe that some analysis and thought over things is good.  I just don’t think the level at which I do it is good.

The way in which I analyse and think things through often means that I am able to consider things from most sides and that I am able to find potential resolutions to conflicts and solutions to problems.  (Of course, admittedly, my Aspergers often kicks in and I often don’t see or I discount other points of view – as their being illogical, but that is all part of Apergers.)

But the fact is that I think things through and analyse things that have happened to such a level that it affects my sleep and often means that I am still analysing something days – even weeks – after it has become insignificant and or irrelevant to anyone else.

And this flows over or impacts another of my character traits which I would love for you to have (and which again you do have) but to avoid having to the level that I have it.  And that is in respect of being thoughtful and considerate of other people’s feelings.

To be considerate of other people’s feelings and how the things that we say or do may impact other people’s feelings is a wonderful thing honey.  But being over-sensitive to their feelings and over-sensitive to how our words or actions may affect them, can be a recipe for disaster and can destroy our confidence and leave us walking on egg-shells around people.  

Thankfully I am not yet at that point as nearly all of my over-sensitivity comes after the event and is directly linked to my over-analysing and over-thinking everything. Every night before I sleep (which is probably why sleep doesn’t come soon or easily to me) my mind will replay the conversations and events of that day and take me off in all sorts of what if’s or alternative possibilities on what has taken place that day.

And trust me honey, if there has been any point of conflict, any point of disagreement, any point of contention or any point whatsoever where I may have caused someone else discomfort or offence, my mind will lock onto it, and pull it to pieces and analyse it for days even weeks.

So yes honey, they would have to be the two traits which I would like you to avoid having.  Over-thinking and over-sensitivity to the needs of others.  But only in the ‘over’ part 🙂

I hope that all makes sense honey.

Love you always,

Dad.

Which of your traits and personality would you like to pass on to me and why? – QTAPWMI Day 16

Tags

, , , , ,

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.

Choose one thing that you would change about your mental health if you could. And why? – QTAPWMI Day 15

Tags

, , , ,

Day 15!  Which means that we have reached the half-way point on this journey and I can honestly say that, whilst some of it has been very difficult, I am so grateful to be taking this journey and to be doing one of with my daughters.  And I am so grateful for all of the questions she has set me in this “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge.

And I am keen to see what today’s question is.  So let’s check it out…
DD 15

Morning honey,

Your question for me this morning is an intriguing one and one which I have personally considered before.  Honey, I have to tell you that all of your questions so far have been spot on and have really helped me to look again at my mental health, how I manage it and the impact that it is allowed to have or that it sometimes has regardless of what I do.

I have to be honest here and admit that my immediate thoughts, on reading your question, were to question which ‘one thing’ when removed, would afford me the greatest benefit.  That question then very quickly led to the question, “Hm. I wonder if there is one thing which – when removed – would automatically lessen the presence or impact of all the others and thus send me into a life of good mental health?”

But then my mind asked the question, “Should this be all about me?”  Shouldn’t it instead be about the impact that my mental illnesses have been allowed to have on others?  Could the answer be what my heart would want?  Which would be that the one thing that I would change about my mental health, if I could, would be the way in which I have allowed it to impact my relationships with all of you in the past.

But then honey, is that really addressing and answering the question in the way that it is meant?  And would I be, in giving that answer, coping out from actually considering the question in the here and now, so to speak?

You see the fact is that I do so very much regret the way in which my mental health has been allowed, primarily by me, to impact you all.  And I do so very much regret the damage that it has done to other relationships in the past.  And this is not just because that has been a principle consideration of the last three questions.  In truth I often sit reflecting on my relationships with you kids (and others) and my mental health always comes into those reflections.

And yes, there is the alternate approach that I could take to this question.  To list the ways in which my mental illness does affect me, and thus does affect my relationships and therefore others, and to select one of those.  And to select one of them.

Things like; the struggles I have with my memory, the crippling sense of hopelessness which sometimes comes over me, the distorted perceptions, the over analysing everything, the suicidal ideation, the tendency to isolate, the endless tangents and distractions and side journeys my mind takes me on, the compulsive thinking and fixations on the smallest of details, the self-harming, the inability to focus at times, the inability to study at times, the inability to worship at times, the negative thoughts, the internal and external dialogues which are constantly there, the sleep deprivation caused by so many of the above…  And the list goes on and on honey.

And in truth honey it is difficult to know which one of the above list (if any) would bring the most benefit to me and thus to others.

And in truth honey the thought which remains the strongest in my mind is the way in which my mental health has in the past been allowed to effect my relationships. (With you kids especially).  And accompanying that question is another question, “Does something (one thing) in my mental health have to change in order for there to be a benefit here? Of am I not being shown – within this whole consideration – that actually I do have the power to change things?  Not in respect of the past and how it has effected you kids.  But certainly in the future and how it affects you kids from now on?

And honey that is the answer that I am going to settle on.  Because not only is it an answer which satisfies the thought processes of my mind in this question, but it also echoes the desires of my heart.

The one thing which I would change about my mental health if I could, and the one thing that I am determined to do my part to try to change, is the way my mental health effects my relationships, this family, and especially you kids.

And I truly mean that honey.  But as much as I mean that and as committed and hopeful I am of this being achievable, I do have to – in the spirit of honesty and objectivity – point out that it isn’t all down to me.

I am, as I have said before, so very grateful for these questions and I am so delighted and blessed by; your asking them, seeking to understand, and being willing to open a dialogue about my mental illnesses and my mental health.  And I cannot even begin to describe how much your doing so has raised my optimism for the future.  

But honey you are just one of my children and some of your siblings have very different approaches to my mental health.  For this change to have the most benefit, the most success, that willingness to ask questions, to seek to understand, to open a dialogue about my mental illnesses and my mental health, needs to go beyond just you and I.

So there you have it honey.  My answer to your question.  I have to be honest, it is not the answer that I thought I would end up with, when I first looked at the question. But honey it is, as far as I can see, the only answer which satisfies both my mind and my heart.

With all my love,

Dad. 

 

 

 

 

How do you think your mental health will effect our family in the future? – QTAPWMI Day 14

Tags

, , , ,

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.

DD 14

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.

Imponderable

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,

Dad.

reactproact

 

How do you think your mental health effected our family in the past? – QTAPWMI Day 13

Tags

, , , ,

Well it is now day 13 and I have already got so much out of doing this “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge. And I hope that those of you following this blog have also got something out of it also.  For those who are new to the blog, you can find out more about this challenge by clicking on the link in red above.  But basically every morning I answer a question – set by one of my daughters – to me about my mental illness.

So let’s have a look at today’s question…

DD 13

My Darling Daughter,

Having only yesterday answered your question about how I think my mental health effects our family now.  And, if I am honest, having felt that answer really didn’t say very much.  I am pretty sure that my answer to today’s question will be more complex and far more difficult to write/type.

Actually, it has to be said, there have been times – within the journey that we are taking by doing this challenge – when I have seriously felt like not answering a question so openly here on this site, and emailing you the answer instead.  And honey,  I have to tell you, that this is one of those times when a private answer in email seems so much more preferable.

But we made the decision and commitment to do this openly and publicly and I want to respect that decision.  So here goes.  And I apologise right from the start if anything I tell you causes anyone any distress or discomfort.

If I am totally honest with you honey, I cannot think of a single time in my life when my mental illness have not in one way or another affected my relationships.  Especially my relationships with my family.  Be it in my earlier life – with my birth family, or later in life with the family that was created by my marriage.  And yes honey there are of course, similarities in the ways that my mental illnesses impacted both of those families. Or at very least my relationships within them.

One of the most fundamental, tragic, harmful and damaging ways in which my mental illnesses have affected me is by almost totally removing my ability to believe that I truly belong.  And honey I so very much want for you not to be saddened by what I tell you here.

But my mental illnesses have always caused me to feel outside of, disconnected from, alienated, and somehow partially but intrinsically removed from nearly every relationship I have ever had.

And actually you only have to scan through previous posts on this site (or through my poetry on the poetry site) to see how this has been a common theme.  In fact, I did a whole series of posts (on this site) entitled “Of Roses, Walls and Towers…” (which you can find by going to the relevant ‘Contents M-Z‘ page’)  all of which looked at this isolation and at relationships.

Honey it (along with other stuff) has even impacted my faith and my ability to fully see myself as a child of God.  And interestingly this is something which I mentioned in Bible Study group at church on Monday evening, since I was leading a study on the Father-heart of God.

As you know honey – because I came clean about it and we discussed it – I had done my best to hide my mental illnesses for most of my life.  And, as you know, I did my best to hide it from you kids right up until but a few years ago.  But of course in hiding my mental illnesses I was also hiding the reasons behind some of my actions or my behaviours – behind why I was often distant from you kids.  And even though I had noble and well intentioned reasons in mind in doing that, it simply caused you all to find alternative reasons. Reasons that sometimes so very wrongly told you that I didn’t care for you or love you.  Or that I was disappointed in you or unhappy with you.

And honey I cannot even begin to adequately explain, or to adequately tell you, how deeply sorry I am for that. And for the damage that it did to our relationship for years.  And yes also to other relationships within the family.  To everyone in this family and to my marriage itself.

I recall so vividly the numerous times when I came home from work.  Work that I spent so much time at not only because of the demands and pressures placed on me, but also because the more time I spent there, the less time I was at home and thus the less chance of any of you finding out about my mental illnesses.  And I would simply stop at the front gate and stand looking in through our front window at Matthew and his mother playing together.  

And times, even before that, when you were at home and Matthew was but a baby, and I would stand in the doorway to the lounge and watch you three talking, or playing, or joking around and again I saw in my mind that I didn’t belong as part of you all.

Times when I would be so totally over-whelmed with a deep conviction, a deep feeling, that I simply didn’t belong as part of that picture and that you would all be so much better off if I simply wasn’t around.

And honey I don’t tell you that to upset you, or to make you feel bad for me.  I tell you that because it was those deep feelings, those deep thoughts, and the voices that echoed through my mind, through my pained confusion, telling me that I didn’t belong and that I shouldn’t be a part of those pictures – part of the very family unit which of course, in reality, I should be part of – which have caused so much effect on our family in the past.

Honey, I know that you kids have been upset by the way my marriage ended and the way that  I was treated within that. But honey we also have to accept – as bad as the behaviours and actions of a certain person were – that even that was, to some degree or another, resultant from my mental illnesses and the way they affected me and thus all of you.

I can honestly say honey, hand on heart and without any doubt in my mind, that the single most harmful way in which my mental health has affected our family is how it (and my response to, or management of it) so very often stole me from you all and consequently all of you from me for so many years.

It is funny honey, funny ironical not funny haha, since I have so many issues with my memory how easily vivid recollections come to my mind of such times as the Christmas morning immediately after my breakdowns.

The Christmas morning when Matthew was but 9 years old (you were not at home for this) and how desperately he wanted and needed his father – who had effectively not come out of his bedroom for months – to have Christmas dinner with he and his mum.  And I will never forget the look of joy on his face when I entered that kitchen that Christmas Day dinner time.  Nor will I ever forget the look of pain, hurt, confusion and disappointment on his face when but moments later – having erupted with frustration, confusion and anxiety – I walked right out again.

Likewise I don’t think I will ever forget the words he spoke to me when, a few months after his mum had left us, I asked if he regretted his decision not to go with her but to stay with me and to look after me.  “No. Never!” He answered resolutely. “I have finally got my Dad back.”

And honey – again I am saying this because it is relevant to the question and not in anyway to cause you discomfort – I don’t think I will ever forget the conversation that you and I had – not that long ago now – after your having been gone for so long. When you shared with me how all those years ago you had felt as if I was pushing you away, or had stopped caring about you. Something which simply wasn’t true and which (albeit admittedly along with other things) kept us out of each other’s lives for years.

The truth is that there are many ways how my mental health (and indeed my physical health) has effected our family honey.  But of all of them, I believe that, the secrecy, the confusion and the resultant wrong conclusions and decisions, and my not being able to fully show my love for you kids – the children I loved most deeply – have been the biggest and the saddest ways.

Honey, I said at the start of this response that I felt that my answer to yesterday’s question didn’t say much really.  And I said at the end of my answer to your question yesterday that I was “sure that I will have other thoughts on this question. And given its direct link to tomorrow’s question (yes, I admit it, I already sneaked a peak when checking out today’s question) I will probably cover more of this tomorrow.”  And I was right honey.

Because honey when I look back at how my mental health has effected this family in the past, and I consider how we all approach it now and what little effect it seems to have on this family now. I am so very grateful that so much has changed.  That is not to say that there still isn’t some previous damage which needs healing.  But I am so very grateful that we are, at least, on the way to that recovery.

With all my love.

Dad.

Reaching Worlds

How do you think your mental health effects our family now? – QTAPWMI Day 12

Tags

, , , ,

My second post of the day!  To be honest I am taking a break from tidying and re-organizing my study.  I have just changed to fibre broadband – which resulted in both the installation of a new telephone and DSL socket and a new location for my new router.

I am also awaiting delivery of a new printer.  So taking a break seemed logical 🙂

And so to today’s “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge question set by my daughter.

DD 12

Hi again Honey,

I think that today’s question is a very relevant one for anyone who has both a family and mental illness to consider.

And of course there are three main factors in considering how mental health effects a family…

1) It depends on how bad the mental health is.

2) It depends on the structure and closeness of the family concerned, and

3) It depends on how those two things interact.

And I think that these are important factors to be remembered both by me – in answering the question, and by you (or anyone else) in reading my answer.

Because the fact is that, in our particular situation, our family is geographically all split up. As you know, now that you are all adults and have stared your own families, I live alone and thus the family’s contact with my mental health is far more limited than it would be if we all still lived together.

Of course, this can also make it a lot more difficult for you all when I am going through  difficult times or having a bad episode.  Because your all not living here means that the ways in which you can respond are limited also.

That is not to say that I think my mental health does not affect our family at all.   Because I am sure that it does.  Although I would imagine that just how it affects you all is something which I don’t always get to see.  

For example, I am sure – and it is totally understandable if there was – that there would, in the past, have been a number of text messages or conversations – specific to my mental health – going between you kids which I am not aware about.  And, as I say, that is totally understandable.    

So honey please know that I am at least aware that it does, at times, cause you concern.  And honey I would also like you to know how grateful I am that you do have each other to talk to about these things.  Because I am very much aware, that not all of you are willing or able to talk to me about them.

But I think honey, that purely as a result of you all being older and living away from the family home now, my mental health has a much lesser impact than it does for other people and their families.  And honey I am so very much aware that there are families who have split apart and/or which have isolated and shunned each other purely as a result of mental illness. And I am so grateful that this generally is not the case in our family.  (But having seen the question for tomorrow – I will come back to that when answering that question.)

Which, I think, brings me to the last part of my answer…  

And that is to say that it is entirely possible – and perhaps my answer demonstrates this – that I am blissfully unaware of just what effect my mental health does have.

Certainly I have, in the past, experienced (or felt that I have experienced) a reluctance on the part of some of you, and even an out right refusal on the part of one of you, to discuss my mental health.  And honey, I am sure that you have each had good reason for this.  But it does limit my understanding of the impact my mental health has.  And honey perhaps that is the motivation behind that reluctance or that refusal.  So as not to concern me or worsen my mental health. That of course doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still concern me.  And I have to be honest honey that reluctance and that refusal does often make it was rather than better.  But isn’t that often the way of things?  Things which we do with the best of intentions actually having the opposite effect?  And aren’t I also sometimes guilty of the same thing? 

So there you have it honey.  I am sure that I will have other thoughts on this question. And given its direct link to tomorrow’s question (yes, I admit it, I already sneaked a peak when checking out today’s question) I will probably cover more of this tomorrow.  

Again, I am so enjoying these questions and the follow-up comments and conversations honey.

With all my love.

Dad.

Sure of You

Do you find it difficult to talk to me about your mental health, and if so why? QTAPWMI – Day 11

Tags

, , , ,

Day Eleven of the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge set for me by one of my daughters. And I have to be honest here, it is now 11pm and I am totally shattered after a very long sleepless weekend.

And yet I so want to keep up with this challenge and to not let it slip. In truth, no one will mind if I don’t answer today’s challenge today. But it is on my mind.

And at this point my daughter – the one who set the challenge – messaged to check up on me and insisted that I went to bed. So, if you are reading this and are a little confused as to what I have just written it and the fact that it is now technically day 12, it is because I got sent to bed. LOL

DD 11

Good Morning Honey,

Well it is now morning (about 7am) and I have to tell you that I actually managed to get a proper night’s sleep for once. I have my coffee sat next to me, and I am looking forward to the day – even though I know that it is another busy day for me today.

So I thought I would try to answer yesterday’s question – which you wouldn’t allow to answer last night (pout) – and then, perhaps a little later, to look at today’s question.

So what about yesterday’s question…

I think the whole subject of talking about our mental illnesses can be one which a lot of us struggle with.  And yes, honey, there have been times when I have found it difficult to talk to you (and your siblings) about it.  But honey that has not always been because of you. Sometimes – very often – it is because of me.

Having mental illnesses – or more specifically the way in which they affect me – often frustrates me.  And so, in many ways, when my mental health is good I guess I just don’t want to think about them or to be reminded of them.  And of course,  when my mental health is bad, I often can’t discuss them.

Additionally, and just as importantly, I think that there is a kind of conflict here.

Whilst we want and often need folk – especially our loved ones and those closest to us – to understand and acknowledge that we have mental illness (and thus sometimes this makes us do things and at other times stops us from doing things). We don’t, I believe, want to be identified by that mental illness, or its effects on us. 

And likewise, (and I can only speak for myself here) I so very much want to have as ‘normal’ a relationship with you, and to be treated as ‘normally’ within that, as possible.  Although I really dislike that word.

And then there is the way in which having mental illness – and again the things it does, or the way it makes us react or behave at time – impacts on those we love and care for.

I think that because I see how it can affect and impact those I love, I am sometimes reluctant to discuss my mental illness as I don’t want to be thought of as copping out.  Or trying to distance myself from or my failing to acknowledge my responsibilities in what has happened.

And yes, honey, there is also the, ‘how can you understand what I myself don’t understand – so there’s no point discussing it really’ kind of thought pattern that can sometimes go on inside my head.

Honey, all of these things can go towards my finding it difficult to discuss my mental health, not only with you but with anyone. But there is something else which I think it is important that we acknowledge here, honey….

And that is that I truly believe that sometimes we don’t want to discuss our mental health because past experiences have taught us that discussing it, is just not a good thing and just doesn’t end well.

Times when we receive responses like…

“I really do think you just need to snap out of it.  Everyone has problems.” or,

“Look, I know you have mental illnesses and yes that must be really tough on you.  But they aren’t going to go away and no amount of talking will change that now will it?”  or,

“Look, can’t we talk about this some other time?  I mean, it’s not like your mental illnesses are going any where>”

And how about those times when the person you have discussed it with, uses it to make you the target of their jokes.  Or then goes around telling everyone what a freak you are.  Or times when something you have said is then later thrown back in your face later.

Honey, all of these things can go to making it difficult to talk about our mental illness.  And it is perhaps worth mentioning that because mental illness can often intensify or magnify feelings or reactions. Having to deal with those things which I have just mentioned can be so incredibly difficult and they can have such a damaging effect on the mental health that we are trying so hard to keep stable.

All of these things – and of course the age old social stigma attached to mental illness – can lead as person with mental illness to be reluctant to discuss it honey.  And all of those things have probably – in some way or another – contributed to why I personally sometimes find it difficult to discuss my mental health with you or with anyone else, for that matter.

I have spoken before in my answers about the sense of separation, even of alienation, that mental illness can bring to a person.  And honey that is very true and so very real.

But honey, look at where this question came from.  It came from a desire for you to know more.  A desire to actually discuss my mental illnesses, to understand my mental illnesses in a positive and informative and healthy way.  And I have to tel you honey, that this is so precious, so encouraging to me.

So, “Do I find it difficult to talk to you about my mental health?”  No.  I used to.  But then you reached out and opened up a communication about it.  And I could not even begin to express just how much that means to me.

With all my love.

Dad.

If you had to choose just one of your mental health conditions? – QTAPWMI Day 10

Tags

, , , ,

Day Ten and having just checked this morning’s question in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge that my daughter has set me. I cannot even begin to imagine how I am going to choose or even how to answer the question…

DD 10But here goes…

My Darling Daughter,

I have to tell you, and I think it is worth saying – right from the outset.  That I am really struggling with this question. And I really don’t know how I am going to answer it.

I think it was worth saying and right from the outset, because there is every possibility, in my struggles with this question, that those struggle will show in my answer. And so I am apologizing for this in advance.

My main struggle with this question is that the very thought of wishing any of my mental illnesses on someone else is so alien to me.  And the idea of wishing any of them on any of my children,  even grown up children as you all are now, simply doesn’t bear thinking about.

Honey, it is so completely counter-intuitive to me, to want any of my children to suffer even if it is for just one day. And trust me, a lot of parents will tell you how hard it can be at such as times having to take your child to the doctor for inoculations etc.   Even though you knew that the suffering would be short and that it would benefit your child in the long run, it still wasn’t easy. 

And yes I know that you are all grown up now and that you would only have that mental illness for but one day.  But would you?  Would that really be the end of it?

Honey, I am convinced (and trust me there is enough evidence to validate this conviction) that sometimes we can experience things in our lives which open doors in our mind which can be so very hard to close.  For example, there are several mental health conditions which are trauma linked.

Likewise, I personally know of at least three people whose mental illness had presented itself as a result of trying non-prescription/illegal drugs when they were younger.  One of them doing so only once.

The mind is an incredibly sensitive thing and we are all unique.  And we all process and handle things in different ways which to some degree or another are unique to us individually. 

And because we are all unique and process and handle things, what if you were to have my internal dialogues or even the voices?  What if having those voices you responded in a totally different way to me and actually did as they suggest and seriously hurt yourself or even take your own life?  Or what if in the process of trying to cope with having them you inadvertently walked out into traffic?

Honey, please understand that I am by no means suggesting that you would not cope as well as I do.  It is just that whilst we do know how I cope – which after all is not very well at all at times.  We don’t know how anyone else would cope until it happens to them.  It is too big an unknown.

And so, within my mind, I cannot escape these thoughts, actually these fears.  That by your temporarily experiencing one of my mental illnesses, it could possibly open up other things. Or do no end of lasting damage. And honey I would never want that for you.  (Or for anyone else for that matter.)

And yet your question requires that I do consider this and do select one of my mental illnesses for you to experience.  So, if I have to select one, and working on the basis that at the end of it you would be perfectly fine.  Which one would I choose?

I think – providing that it would have no lasting damage, and providing that you would be totally safe throughout the process – it would have to be the paranoid schizophrenia.  Although I am still very much struggling with the concept of you having it – even for a day – and even then would prefer a much shorter exposure.

Which brings me to the ‘why?’ part of your question. And I think that there are a number of reasons for this.

If I am going to even consider something as counter-intuitive as this then I would want for the benefits of such an exercise to justify the risks.  (And yes I know this is only theoretical honey, but I have to come to terms with it in my mind, so bear with me 🙂 )

Of my mental illnesses, whilst there would no doubt be benefits from your experiencing such things as; the manic episodes, the emotional numbness or, the depressive episodes, there is a difficulty with this.

To fully understand what these are like, and possibly to get any real understanding of their impact or effect. Experiencing them for a day, would not (in my opinion) be enough.  You would have to experience the longer term effects.  The cycling that often happens. The continuous robbing of all motivation, enthusiasm or hope.  Things like that.

Whereas to experience, even for a short while, the inner and external monologues and dialogues, and the paranoia which is part of my paranoid schizophrenia, would give you a much more realistic or accurate understanding.

So there you have it honey.  My answer – as protracted and as confused as it may be.  And I apologize for that.  But honey, you have to understand the love that I have for you and just how difficult it was to even consider such a scenario.

I thank God that this is just a hypothetical question/ scenario honey.  And I thank God that you don’t experience these things.  But mostly, I thank God for you.

With all my love.

Dad

Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health worse? – QTAPWMI Day 09

Tags

, , , ,

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…

DD 9But 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,

Dad.

Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health better? – QTAPWMI Day 08

OK. Well I need to start today’s post with a bit of an apology.

It seems that something went wrong with yesterday’s post and either my computer, the WordPress system or I (and my money is on the I possibility there) messed up yesterday’s post and I had to repair and publish it earlier this morning.

So not only does that mean you didn’t get yesterday’s post, in the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge, until this morning. But you also get today’s post this morning/today as well.
DD 8

Hi Honey,

Well I have to tell you that there is so much that you do which helps make my mental my better. But before I go on to specifics in this response to your question, I really think it is important that we understand something which is very key here…

Remember my talking (in my previous answers) about my mental illnesses being like that wide river which sometimes suddenly rages and rises up?

Well honey the waters of that river – my mental illnesses – can become unsettled and even angered or enraged by so many different things. But when it happens suddenly because of something which has happened we call these things a ‘trigger’.

Of course, at other times there can be no sudden change or no clearly identifiable trigger and indeed it is a whole series of smaller seemingly insignificant things which appear to make the waters of that river rise up the banks towards us.

And yes, at other times it appears to be less about the waters of that river – my mental illnesses – rising up the bank towards us and more about us sliding down the river towards it.

Honey, I hope that you do remember my saying those things in some of my previous answers and I hope that they (or more specifically I) am making sense.  Because the key point which I wanted to make before getting into a specific answer to your question, “Tell me one thing that I do which makes your mental health better?” is this…

Sometimes – in fact actually very often – it is less about my mental illness where you can be of help and more about the things in general which you can help with and which, when they go wrong, can send me sliding and crashing into that river.

Honey, there are, without doubt, times when what I need is for you to provide me with some help, some safety net, some anchor, to keep me sliding further down that bank towards that river.

And honey you already do that so very much and I want for you to know that I recognize that and appreciate that.

I know of so many relatives and loved ones who feel somehow inadequate, some how ineffective because they don’t fully understand the mental illnesses of the person they love.  And yet if only they knew how much the everyday general support that they give helps then perhaps they would feel less inadequate, less ineffective.

Honey, never forget and never lose sight of just how much you do, and just how much your help and support in the ‘ever-day’, ‘normal’ things means to me or how it contributes towards better mental health for me.

I truly mean that honey, and I truly desire for you to know that and to take that to your heart.  And because this is an open response within an open blog, I truly desire anyone who is reading this and who experiences – in respect of their support for their loved ones – the feelings I have just mentioned, to take it to their heart and to hold onto it.

But honey, you asked me to ‘tell you one thing that you do which makes my mental health better’ and so the one thing that I have chosen – out of all the things that you truly do, is this…

You always manage to see and recognize and respect the me within my mental illnesses and not just to see or focus on my mental illnesses.

And honey you have absolutely no idea just how special, just how precious, and just how helpful that is to me and how much it helps me with my mental health.

Over the course of the past few questions, I have spoken so much about that river – my mental illnesses.  And I have done so in an attempt to answer your questions and to offer you a tangible picture (which you can easily relate to) as a representation of something which is intangible to you and which you can’t fully relate to.

And honey, I am very much aware that in that picture I have, for very good reasons, set a distinction between myself, and my mental illnesses.  But trust me honey, as accurate as that picture and that separation is, it doesn’t always exist in people’s perceptions.

But with you honey, no matter how far down that river bank I have slid.  No matter how high up that river bank those waters have risen.  You have always seen, focused on, and reached out to me. 

And even when those waters have burst their banks and have seemed to consume me, and you have had to take charge.  You have done so remembering that I am still your dad and have afforded me both respect and dignity.

So yes honey that is the one thing – out of all of them – that I have selected and honey both it and you mean the world to me.

With all my love.

Dad.

What positives do you think your mental illness brings to our relationship? – QTAPWMI Day 07

Tags

, , , ,

This mornings’ question within the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” challenge, which one of my daughters set me. Seems to be very interesting, and, at first glance, not too taxing. Which is a good thing.

So let’s see how my response actually shapes up…
DD 7

Good morning Honey,

Thank you for your question and thank you, after the last coupe of questions, for asking one which doesn’t appear, at first glance, to be too difficult or taxing to answer.

That is not to say that I didn’t like or appreciate your last couple of questions.  Because I really did honey.  I felt that they were very important and needed asking and answering.  It is just nice to now have a question which is a little less intense.  If you know what I mean.

So what about today’s question?

I think the first thing that I should admit to, is how difficult it can be – sometimes more so than others – to actually bring yourself to see anything positive about something which does so much damage.

Because that is what mental illness can, and often does do.  Bring so much damage – especially to relationships.

Not only because very often people fail to recognize the person behind the mental illness, but because so very often it is very hard to know which behaviors or actions belong to the person and which belong to the mental illness.

And honey just as this applies to the negatives, it also applies to the positives.  And so the truth is that so often it is hard to know which positives belong to (or come from) me (and of course you – although it is clearer with you) and which come from the mental illness.

And I guess, since I am being so open, I need to admit that all too often (and whilst I can only speak for myself here, I would suggest that others like me can relate to this) I all too quickly take ownership of the stuff which probably only results from my mental illnesses and which I would probably never do, if I didn’t have those mental illnesses.

But, that having been said, there are positives and so let’s look at just a couple of them…

The very first thing which comes to mind is that I believe that it has, in some ways, brought us closer.  Or at very least (and perhaps more accurately) provided an extra, different, way in which that closeness can show itself.

And I really want to share that with you and to let you know how I have been so very touched, so very blessed, by seeing a different side to you as a result of my mental illnesses.  And as a result of you being willing to and wanting and having to deal with them and the results of them.

Honey, here is I think a common recognized pattern in life.  Adult has child and becomes parent, parent provides for child until child is old enough to have own family.  Child (now adult) has own family and provides for them. And so the cycle continues.

Of course I am over-simplifying things honey.  And of course it doesn’t always happen that way.  Heck, nowadays a lot of children are becoming parents and they haven’t even reached adulthood.  But generally that cycle exists and generally within that cycle the adult child doesn’t expect to have to look after his or her parent for some time to come.

But that has not been the case with you and I honey.  Because of my mental illnesses there have been and are times when you have had to step in and to take on a caring, more responsible, even a pseudo-parental role at times.  And honey this has given me a chance to see such a strength and such a different side to you.  And that is a positive.

The second positive, which comes to mind, is that the presence of my mental illnesses has taught us, I believe, to look beyond that which we first see or that which we first hear.  Nothing is ever (or at least it is very seldom) as clear-cut or as simple as it may at first seem.

And so this has given us the need and the opportunity to discuss things more, explore things more, consider things more. And your willingness to do this, to not jump to conclusions, is a credit to you honey.

Honey, I said above that one of the difficulties with this question is that it is often difficult to know what belongs to (or comes from) me and what belongs to (or comes from) my mental illnesses.  And that this applies to both the negatives and the positives.

With you honey it is a little more clearer.  And whilst having to deal with my mental illnesses may have introduced you to new situations, new considerations, you have responded so very well to them and I am so very blessed to have you in my life.

Thank you, and I mean this with all my heart,  for all that you do honey.

With much love.

Dad

Please note: It seems that instead of publishing this post, as I had thought I had done, yesterday.  Somehow it got chewed up in the system.  This has resulted in my having to rescue the draft version – half of which was missing – and to repair and retype a lot of it.  So apologies for it not being published yesterday.

Why do you pull away and isolate from me,…? QTAPWMI – Day 06

Tags

, , , , ,

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.

Dad.

When your mental health is bad do you try to protect me from it, and why? – QTAPWMI Day 05

Tags

, , ,

Ok.  So day 5 and thus question 5 of the ‘Questions To a Parent With Mental Illness’ Challenge set for me by one of my daughters.  And this morning’s question is (as I believe all of them are) a very real and important question…

DD 5

Hi Honey,

As I sit here drinking my early morning coffee and reflecting on just how I am going to answer today’s question from you.  A couple of thoughts come to my mind.

The first thought is that this really is another very good question.  And actually they have all been really good questions so far.  Even the ones that have been a little difficult to answer.

And the other thought, that I had, was more of a mental image really.  (LOL You know how I get with my mental imagery.)

It was a picture of you and I on opposite sides of a wide river.  We wanted to get across to each other and so we chose a spot and both started building a bridge across to each other.

Your asking these questions (and me answering them), is very much like that, honey.

Building a bridge across to each other.  And I truly am so very grateful for this.  That is not to say that we aren’t usually able to be together.  But sometimes mental illness can be like that wide river and can separate people.

So, what about your question for today?
“When MY mental health is bad do I try to protect you from it, and why?”

Well the honest answer to the first part of your question has to be a “Yes. I do try to protect you from it.  And in some ways to also try to protect me from it, in the process.”  But honey, I am not trying to protect you from my mental illnesses – but more from any “fall-out” resulting from them.

Which of course brings us to the second part – the “and why?” part of your question.

I think that in some ways every good parent wants to try to protect their children from things.  Isn’t that what good parents do?  Try to protect their children from stuff that they really shouldn’t or they really don’t need to witness or to experience?

So part of the reason for my trying to protect you from my mental illnesses (or rather the ‘fall-out’ from my mental illnesses) is, I have to be honest, simply that. A father protecting the child he loves.

And yes I know that you are not a child any more and that you have every right to remind me of this fact.  (I can just picture you sat there reading this and saying, “But I am not a child anymore!”) And in truth you probably don’t need protecting from it all.  The fact is that you have grown to become a very strong and very capable young woman and you know, I hope, how much I respect you for that.

But honey, (as I mentioned in a previous answer to you) your not actually being a child anymore, doesn’t stop you from being my child.  Nor does it stop my desire to protect you.

So honey what I do want (and am trying) to say.  And please know that I mean this with all of my heart.  Is that my desire and my actions in trying to protect you from any ‘fall-out’ from my mental illnesses, is by no means a reflection on you or of my opinion of you.  No matter how much it must seem like that at times.

It is instead a reflection of my opinion (and indeed in many ways my experiences and fears) of the damage (the fall-out) that my mental illnesses can cause.

Mental illness – whilst it has been argued could also bring some good things (and I know lots of folk who would passionately dispute that) – can rob a person of so many things.

I cannot even begin to explain the feelings that I experience when I realize that my mental health has declined, or that I have been going through – or potentially going into – an ‘episode’.

Feelings of such things as – confusion, frustration, regret, despondency, and nervous anticipation are always wrapped up in an mental environment of fear.  Fear of both the known – based on past experiences.  And of the unknown – based on the reality of the loss of control usually experienced.

And so my need or desire to protect you (or anyone else) from any “fall-out” from my mental illnesses, stems from this and is, I think, understandable.

As I said, mental illness can rob a person of so many things.  Things such as;  control, comprehension, memory, focus, awareness, alertness.  And also things such as; dignity, confidence, security, happiness, and hope.  These are all things which affect the person who is experiencing that mental illness.  But the resultant effects of that mental illness (the ‘fall-out’ as I call it) can have such an impact on those around that person and those closest to that person.

It can affect their dignity, their confidence, their security, their happiness and their hope.  To name but a few.

Honey, I said above that I was not “trying to protect you from my mental illnesses – but more from any “fall-out” resulting from them.”  and this is absolutely true.

I mentioned in a previous answer that whilst some mental illnesses seem to have a genetic or heredity element to them, I had watched for signs and am fairly confident (although I can’t be 100% certain) that none of you seem to have inherited my mental illnesses.  And I am so very grateful for this.

And in truth mental illness is not contagious.  But that does not mean that it’s effects, and the resultant; behaviors, attitudes and statements, don’t have very real influences and a very real impact on others.

And we should never lose sight of that fact.  Nor of the fact that having to witness and to experience (and often to try to deal with) mental illness in someone we love, can – and often does – affect our own mental health.

And that (all of those reasons) is why I try to protect you from the fall-out of my mental illnesses.  And the fact that I don’t ever want my mental illnesses to damage or rob me (or you) of the wonderful relationship that I have with you. Is part of that self-preservation I spoke of earlier.

But honey, we also promised that we would, as far as we were able, be open and honest with each other. And so I really can’t end my answer to your question there.

I have, as your father, tried to teach you all the difference between ‘wants or desires’ and ‘needs’.  And the plain fact is that, in all honesty, as much as I may ‘want’ or ‘desire’ to protect you from my mental illnesses (and thus to a large degree try to isolate or hide them [or their resultant ‘fall-out’] from you) the truth is that I ‘need’ to stop doing that and I ‘need’ you to help me to try to stop doing that.

Sometimes, even though our intentions may be good and even though some of our reasons may be sound, we can – let’s be honest here – be our own worse enemy.  And yes honey, even this dad of yours gets things terribly wrong at times.

Of course, because of my mental illnesses, I can’t promise to always be open and honest about my mental illnesses and how they are effecting me.  Due to the fact that sometimes it is the state of my being in the grip of those mental illnesses which increases or induces the paranoia or the isolation or the depression  or the… (I am sure that you get the picture). 

But at those times when I am fully able to be me.  When I am outside of that grip.  When I am able to reach out and to share, I promise that I will try.

Honey, I started this answer by sharing two thoughts.  One of which being a mental image of us both being on opposite sides of a wide river but building a bridge to each.  And within that picture my mental illnesses were the river.

Although there are times when that river is there but not too much of an issue.  There are other times – when the river runs so fast and the current and waves so fierce and so intense – that building a bridge to you, at that time, is just not within my capabilities.

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.

And I need for you to always remember that love honey.

But having done so, please always feel free to remind me that, at times like these, you are a much better swimmer than I am.  And that at these times, the most important thing is not my desire to protect you.  But both our need to let you protect me.

With all my heart,

Dad.

When your mental health is bad, what can I do to help? – QTAPWMI Day 04

Tags

, , ,

Due to the fact that I am out early tomorrow, and likely to be out all day long. I have decided to answer tomorrow’s question – set by my daughter as part of the “Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness” Challenge – this evening.

So let’s look at tomorrow’s question…

DD 4

Hi Honey,

I remember beginning my answer to your previous question with something along the lines of, “Of all the questions you could ask me, or indeed have asked me, this is one of the easiest to answer.”

Well honey, the same can’t be said about this question LOL.  And I simply knew, even before I started to formulate my answer to you in my mind, that this was going to be a tough one. 

And I also knew that the very first thing that I wanted to say, within this my answer, is that because we are all unique, the exact way everyone’s mental illnesses or poor mental health presents itself is going to be different.  As is the way that they; handle it, manage it, cope with it, or even simply struggle through it.

Of course there will be some similarities experienced.  But, trust me honey, there will also be some things which are unique to that person and/or indeed that person’s circumstances of life.

And this is very important for me to say.  Firstly because it clearly explains that my answers may be right for me, but not for others.  And secondly because it also opens up the consideration that – due to our circumstances of life ever changing – the way in which our mental illnesses can present themselves – or indeed the influence or impact that they can have – can change.  

Because of this, as I am sure you can understand, there is no one single way – no super or magical approach – which is going to always help or always prove successful.

But then honey, I am pretty sure that you already knew that.  Just as I am pretty sure that my mental health often and pretty much continually fluctuates and that  some ‘episodes’ (and you already know about these) can be far worse than others.

Which leaves me with the question, “How do I – as the father who loves you, and who knows how very deeply you love me and want to help me – truly help you to help me?”

It really is such an incredibly tough question to answer honey.  But I can, I think (or at least I really hope) offer you some general answers.  Even if I can’t offer you actual specifics…

First and foremost – and this one goes out to every single person who reads this – Always remember that I never asked for these mental illnesses and I cannot always control the way in which they affect me.  So because of this it is essential that you always try to filter – in your own mind and heart – those behaviors, those actions, those attitudes and statements which are me and which are the me being influenced (even controlled) by my mental illness.

And this is essential in two ways…

The first way is because, although I love you with all of my heart, I am just not always able to love you with all of my mind.  And no matter how much I love you, my mental illnesses love neither you, nor me.  And they therefore have no respect for either of us. 

And this is important, because it (and thus also, at times, the me within the grip of it) will often have little to no filters – often little to no comprehension or understanding – when it comes to what it does (and thus I do) or how this is affecting you.

Honey, in my answer to the second question you asked me within this challenge, I made the statement, “Never take ownership of that which should not belong to you and never keep to yourself that which you should share.” 

And this is vitally important when it comes to both my mental illnesses and the resultant actions, statements, behaviors.  Because my love always belongs to you but my resultant; thoughts, actions, statements and behaviors sometimes will definitely not belong to either you nor indeed the real (mindful) me. 

Children and loved ones of those of us who suffer from mental illness can often face the almost impossible task of seeing beyond such behaviors and statements, and loving, and knowing themselves loved by, the person gripped within that mental illness.

The above having been said, I have always personally believed that although I suffer from mental illnesses, that doesn’t give me (and indeed shouldn’t give me) a total ‘free ride’, (doesn’t remove all my responsibilities) when it comes to my learning to try to combat those negative or unhealthy behaviors or statements which sometimes result from my mental illness.

And this brings me to the second way in which it is essential that you try and filter out – in your own mind and heart – those things which are caused by my mental illnesses.

Trust me honey, you cannot even begin to fully appreciate the amount of despondency, guilt, and even self-hatred, which those of us who suffer from mental illness can sometimes feel when we learn of some of the ways that we have behaved.  Or indeed some of the things that we have said, when we have been experiencing really bad or dark episodes of mental health. 

So turning these things against us – which I am pleased to say is something that you have never done – can be so harmful and so hurtful and so counter-productive to our mental health and the chances of recovery.

That is not to say that we do not need to hear to know about them, because I truly believe that we do.  But it is all about timing and approach and indeed the motivations behind making us aware of these things. 

Remember that statement which began, “Never take ownership of that which should not belong to you”?  Well the second part of that statement was “and never keep to yourself that which you should share.”

Again, I can only speak for myself here. (Although I am certain others will also experience this) But there is nearly always a point – when my mental health improves after a bad episode (no matter how bad that episode may have been) when I sit in complete fear of what I might have said or done during that episode.  What damage or hurt may have been caused.

So by your lovingly and carefully sharing those things which have happened and which are worth sharing, you can remove this fear and not only improve my chance of recovery, but also limit the chances of my immediately crashing back into another episode.

Ok, this is already a very long answer and there is so much I want to share with you.

The next thing which I wanted to offer – by way of things that you can do to help when my mental health is bad – is to encourage you to understand (and always bear in mind) that I may not always know my mental health is bad.

In fact, even when I do, I may be at that point where I am so frustrated at myself, so despondent, that any suggestion of help is interpreted as criticism or a reminder of my own weaknesses or my own inadequacies or perceived failings.

As hard as it may be to say this – for every good parent so very much wants to be just that, a good parent.  I have to accept that there are times when I will not be able to be that good parent.  In truth there will be times when I will not be able to be any parent at all.  Times when I will in fact be childlike.  If not in my actions (although sometimes that is one way my mental illnesses present themselves in me) certainly in my capabilities.

At times like these, you will need to not only understand that I not capable of being a parent to you, but that actually you need to become the responsible one (perhaps even parent-like towards me). 

Honey, at times like these I need you to love both me and yourself enough to take on the role you need to take on.  And in the process of doing so to try not to rob me of either my dignity or indeed freedom or ability to return to being your parent once my mental health has improved. 

So many times I have witnessed children limiting their parents ability to parent, not because they don’t want that parent to be a parent, but because they are trying to protect that parent or that parent’s mental health. And again, it comes down to never failing to share that which you should share.

Allowing a parent with mental illness to be a parent when they are able and yet knowing when to step in – even trying to find out when to step in, really can be very difficult honey, and I know that.

For example, very often (and again I am speaking about my own mental health here) despite thinking everything is and has been fine.  And despite giving you all the assurances that everything is fine.  Because I believed they were or are. I will suddenly become aware that something has slipped.  Something has gone wrong. 

Perhaps – and this is for me a fairly common one – I will get a call saying that I haven’t been paying a bill for some time.  And this, as you no doubt know, can truly unsettle me.  But it can also cause me to check other bills and other things and to suddenly realize that actually my mental health – although I truly thought it was fine – has been declining for some time.  And this, and the sudden realization that I have messed all or many of my finances up yet again, can send me hurtling into another episode. 

So honey, always feel free – and please do – (whilst remembering to afford me my dignity and my freedom to be your parent when I am able) regularly ask me about things like my finances.  And please do gently, lovingly and respectfully, (which I know you always do) push for me to check.  Instead of simply telling you what I think or believe.

OK.  Now I really am getting so very self-conscious of the length of this answer to your question.  So I am going to close this answer now, by saying something which is – to me – more important that anything else that I have said so far in this response.

I am very much aware that in my answers to your questions I seem to often be repeating things that I have said in earlier answers.  This was by no means intentional and I promise you I never sat here writing those things thinking “Oh good, I can use that again later.”  And I know that sometimes having a parent saying the same things over and over again can become monotonous, even tedious.

But honey truth, is truth and some things are so very important that they and stand being repeated.  In one of my earlier answers I made the statement, “that my mental illnesses sometimes (even often) robs me of the freedom and the ability to be the me (even the Dad) that I want to or should be.”  And I went on to say that, “I never want for my mental illnesses to rob you of the ability or freedom to be the you (even the daughter) that you want to or should be.”

Those statements are important because they emphasize this one single and most important truth and one which I never want for you to lose sight of.

Honey.  Everything I have said in this answer so far, has been about being able to see, to know, and to hold onto the me (your dad) that is often hidden behind my mental illnesses and the me so often caught up in and controlled by my mental illnesses. 

I know only too well that I can’t fully control or remove my mental illnesses ability to sometimes rob me from being the me (the dad) that I want to or should be.  But you can control it from robbing you of being the you (the daughter) you want to or should be.

And by doing that one thing – by refusing to allow my mental illnesses to rob you of the freedom and the ability to be the you (even and especially the daughter) you want to and should be, no matter how hard that may at times be, then trust me you will be the biggest help you could ever be.  And trust me honey, that is exactly what you have been doing so far.

With all my love,

Dad.

Do I Make Your Mental Health Worse? – QTAPWMI Challenge Day 3

Tags

, , , ,

Well it’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep.  And so, since my brain seems intent on not shutting down tonight, I thought I would answer question three in the ‘Questions To A Parent With Mental Illness‘ Challenge that one of my daughters has set me.DD 3

Hi Honey,

Of all the questions that you could ask me, and indeed those which you have asked me, concerning my mental health, this one is perhaps the easiest one to answer.  Because the answer is quite simply, ‘No, you don’t make my mental health worse.’  In fact you help to make it a lot better.

And I am not just saying that to make you feel better honey, or to stop you worrying.  The fact is that it is true.  And I want to demonstrate that to you in some way…

As someone who writes and blogs about mental illness and mental health, and as someone who reads other people’s blogs about mental health. I get to read and to hear about a lot of other people’s experiences, and of their lives, with mental illness or poor mental health.  And as part of that I also get to hear of some of the relationships, even the struggles, that others with mental illness or poor mental health have with their own families.  And these, I can honestly say, seem to range from being excellent to being tragically difficult.

You see, the fact is honey, that we are all unique and we all react to illness in different ways.  And we all seem to react to illness – especially mental illness – within our families in different ways.  Some folk are sympathetic and caring, some are detached and clinical and yet others are even dismissive and judgmental about it.

Think, for a moment, about some of the reactions in our own family to my mental illnesses.  You are all aware of it.  And yet some of you seem to accept it as just being a part of who I am.  Whilst others – or so it seems to me – never mention it and seem to never want to hear about it or to discuss it.

And I can understand that in some ways as, just as your question of yesterday indicated, there is always the fear that it is hereditary.  So, when my mental health is bad, it only goes to serve – to them – as a reminder that the potential threat is there.

I really do understand that, most of the time honey.  But, even so, I have to admit that it does sometimes hurt and does sometimes go to make me feel misunderstood or even unfairly judged and even, (and I am sorry to have to say this) rejected.

You, as these questions demonstrate, are willing to deal with my mental illness and are happy to discuss it.  And willingness to do so – in a non-confrontational and non-judgmental way – means so very much to me and helps me (and my mental health) so very much. And I am so very grateful for this.

Of course there are going to be times when something you say or do will seem to affect me badly, or to worsen my mood or my mental health.  But isn’t that true of anyone?  Isn’t it true that we all – regardless of the presence of any mental illness – say or do things which seem to impact or affect each other? 

That, honey, is normal.  And knowing that our words or actions seem to be having a negative impact or effect on someone, we try to address or correct that don’t we?  We either apologize or we explain ourselves.  Or we simply stop saying or doing those things.  

The presence of mental illness doesn’t introduce the need to be sensitive to someone’s feelings, it just potentially increases that need.

My mental illnesses, I freely admit, sometimes make me more sensitive and sometimes alter my perceptions of things.  So, admittedly, some things which seem extremely trivial or insignificant to you, are – as a result of my mental illnesses – not so trivial and not so insignificant to me.  But we both know that honey, and you understand that and deal with that so very well.

So trust me honey, you do not make my mental health worse and if anything you help make it much better. 

I hope that has answered your questions honey, and I want you to know that I am really grateful to you for asking these questions.  And for the conversations which are coming out of them.

I love you so much,

Dad.