By Alicia Gould
To give you a bit of background, my Dad (now 66) lost his father at an early age and in very sudden circumstances and from that moment life for him became incredibly difficult. Being, now, the only male in the house (my grandma and my Dad’s sister being the other two members of the household) he had the pressure of having to look after everyone and being the “man of the house” .He went out to work and probably didn’t have a “normal” childhood after this. In his 20s he became very ill and was diagnosed with what was then known as “manic depression” (now known as bipolar) and he battled with it throughout meeting my mother and throughout my younger life and there were moments throughout where he had the most awful suicidal thoughts. He struggled to work and his boss at the time, who knew nothing about mental illness nor was bothered to even take the time to learn about it, gave him such a hard time about taking time off. Probably to the point where this would have been classed as bullying. This illness was rarely spoken about during these times.
My Dad was hospitalised a couple of times, but being so young my memory of this is a little hazy. I remember him being in bed at times and crying every so often and relatives coming and going but not much more from that point in time. I knew that he was then under a psychiatrist and they put him on medication.
Throughout the rest of my childhood he was pretty stable, only having a blip every now and again and these were generally lows. He threw himself into work, taking us on holidays, socialising with friends etc. I couldn’t have asked for a better father and I had no worries about him until I grew up. This time at home was happy and it’s a time I look back at with some very fond memories, a time I look back at when (and I really hate using this term) my Dad was “normal”! I do also remember the odd trip with him to the hospital as I got a bit older to see Dr Green. The best psychiatrist he has had to date. A real gentleman and someone who my Dad really trusted and relied upon. It was him (as well as the medication) who really, I felt, made my Dad better.
As I reached my 30s this was the turning point and things started to change dramatically. My Dad had a major relapse. The worse I had ever seen. He had been stable for so long and his medication had been keeping him going but unfortunately the Lithium that he had been on for years was starting to have a negative effect on his kidneys and the doctors made the decision to take him off it. He was hospitalised. This was the first time as an adult that I had stepped foot inside a mental health hospital.
I remember walking through the doors of the hospital and then having to ring a bell to be let into the ward as it was under lock and key. That alone was pretty scary. There were of course other patients in there also, many of whom didn’t know what day it was and one particular patient screaming every so often. The whole experience was a lot to take in.
I walked in that day so so scared of what I would see, what state my dad would be in and how I would hold it all together. When I say that visit was horrendous, it really was and the image of it plays on my mind a lot. I was meeting with my Dad and a psychiatrist (my mum and a nurse were also there too).
When I saw my Dad he looked awful, he was shaking and pale with tears in his eyes. “Im going to die” he kept saying over and over again. I went over and held his hand as I didn’t know what to say or do and looked at the psychiatrist in the hope that he might have some answers.
I had never seen him in the state that he was in before and I really hoped that I would never see him like that again. He really believed that he was going to die. He was that low!
As part of his therapy he had been asked to write down his thoughts and feelings and present them to his physciatrist. The Dr asked if it was ok to read them in front of me. My dad said yes and so did I, however I wish I hadn’t as I wasn’t prepared for the suicidal thoughts that I was about to hear. I felt sick. I sat there not knowing what to do and feeling like I was about to just break down. I couldn’t though as I had to be strong for him. I couldn’t let him see that inside I really was struggling. The Dad that had held us together for so many years, my rock, the person I had turned to for anything and everything was falling apart and I honestly felt like his whole mind had just gone and I didn’t know how it would ever come back. That day I left the hospital with my mum and literally didn’t say a word all the way home. I needed to process it all.
I remember going home that day and just feeling like I’d lost my Dad. I knew he was there physically but mentally he definitely wasn’t and I was so so terrified that he had gone forever.
Thankfully he was put on new medication and he did start to make a recovery and I’m so grateful to the doctors for helping him. Since then he has had quite a few more blips. Mainly highs which have been so hard to handle but I will tell you about those in my next blog…