Up until a few years ago, I found it incredibly difficult to talk about my dad. I guess losing him the way I did, at the age I did, opened up a whole new world to me; a world that I had no idea how to cope with.
At the age of 11, I’d barely witnessed death let alone anything to do with mental suffering.
My way of getting through it? I bottled every little bit of heartbreak, anger, guilt; every little bit of my dad into my glass bottle brain, threw said bottle brain into my stormy sea of thoughts and pretended he didn’t exist in the first place. I’d shy away from family orientated discussion, I’d awkwardly laugh his death off like it never really bothered me; all the while I was secretly eating myself alive on the inside.
For a very long time he was the unspoken rule, the elephant in every room and the face that haunted my brain when the lights turned off at night. He was my little dark secret, my ‘shameful’ past and he was the topic of discussion I’d never dare to bring up to my family or friends.
He was always a thought, a distant memory, but never a conversation.
Pretending the man that shares half of your DNA, the man that genetically made you in the first place… pretending that he didn’t exist was never going to work out. I started to lose friends, boyfriends and people I cared about through sheer inability to open up and smash my little glass bottle brain.
Today marks #TimeToTalk day. I completely agree with the concept but there is one thing I must say. Talking about mental health cannot be confined to a single day. As we sit waiting for that one day to come around, more and more people like me are going to lose the people they love to mental struggle.
Finding the courage and the common sense to talk about my father’s death has brought me closer to so many people, it’s helped me in more ways than you could ever imagine and it’s made me feel closer to him than ever. By opening up I’ve found support, I’ve found answers and I’ve opened my eyes to what suffering my father was actually going through.
I used to think he was selfish. That what he did to me was the worst thing a parent could do. He broke my heart but he also made me into the strong, open-minded young woman I am today. My father possessed so much strength, so much love and so much courage, all the while he saw himself in a completely different light. It’s okay to talk about him now.
Mental health will only be stigmatised if we make it that way. Talking about things is the first step to beating it. Waiting for that one day a year, that needs to change. Every day the calendar should mark #TimeToTalk day. Every day we lose someone to suicide. Every day someone is struggling with mental demons. Every day there should be a conversation about mental health.
Let mental health be a conversation for today, for tomorrow, for next week and the week after. I can’t help but think if my father had let us in, if he had spoken to us, he’d still be with me 12 years later.
Someone is there to listen every hour of every day, the week, the month, year; please remember that.
If you would like to talk to anyone about bereavement or other things, please contact Meic, the national information, advice and advocacy helpline for 0-25s in Wales. You can contact Meic by phone (080880 23456), text (84001), instant message (www.meic.cymru) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) between 8am and midnight.
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