Post No.: 0025
This is a temporary change in tone. In this post I want to talk a little bit about my own early background.
The very first time I stuck a knife to my chest was when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t know any differently at the time so I thought that suicidal thoughts were normal. This type of occasion happened a few times for me around that age, with a blade ready to plunge into my body as I sat on the floor with my back against the white radiator upstairs in the bedroom that I shared with my older brother, crying in private, with a rucksack half-filled with the intention of possibly leaving home if I didn’t end my life there and then. In this rucksack, I always packed my cuddly/plush toy dog. This tan brown toy dog with a dark brown muzzle and a little red tongue sticking out was already tatty by that age but he probably saved my life because he gave me something to hug when I needed it.
The reason for those tears was because I had a harsh and tyrannical father who was judge, jury and executioner. Without trial, without care for evidence, his word being final, I was made the scapegoat for whatever went wrong e.g. missing money or broken things. Sometimes I did do something wrong, but these ‘wrong things that deserved a violent caning’ included things like eating a packet of crisps from the shop, or even slices of toast instead of plain bread for breakfast(!) I had my natural left-handedness literally beaten out of me so I’ve been right-handed ever since. I wasn’t really a terrible child – I was an A*, Distinction, First Class with Honours with no truancy and no detentions (except whole class detentions) kind of student at school, and a generally upstanding citizen. But at home with my father, I was treated as, what felt like to me throughout much of my youth, a regretted child. If I did genuinely do disobedient things at home then it was only because ‘I might as well do the crime if I was going to do the time anyway’. ‘Normal’ life at home for my siblings and me was equivalent to what my peers would’ve regarded as being grounded (e.g. working in the shop, no pocket money, not being allowed out much to play with friends after school), so if that was ‘normal’ then any punishments logically had to be much harsher for us.
My own family, friends and teachers at the time never knew about my suicide ideations or episodes of depression because I hid them well. No one knew. Well I was raised to be seen not heard, plus my father had the attitude of beating me even harder and for longer the more I cried (in front of him), so I was conditioned to hide my pains from others, from the public, starting from very young. I barely vocally talk on a regular day even today – but I write.
I couldn’t help but cry at times when young of course. I remember crying a few times in Primary school – not because of anything that had happened at school but because of what had happened at home. A teacher caught me once and called my parents to come in. My oldest sister went instead. But I said nothing about the truth, and everyone left assuming that someone at school was bullying me. It’s not that I’ve never been bullied at school but all I ever got outside of the home was merely verbal and I could always handle anyone. No one at school ever got to me, ever made me consider skipping a day of school on purpose, ever got me to sulk or go to a teacher (put another way, as an adolescent and adult, I had and have never felt trepidation using public transport around midnight on the weekends to get home from the city centre on my own) – but what I got from my father was physical, and psychologically he was supposed to be my father too, and psychologically where it happened was supposed to be my home. He made anyone else’s attempts to hurt me seem pathetic. At the time, I would’ve preferred Darth Vader as my father.
School time actually became like my escape, not least because I wasn’t allowed out of the house most of any other time. I think my siblings and I were kept largely at home because my parents didn’t want to worry about us getting into trouble, either because of what we could’ve done or because of what others could’ve done to us due to the rife culture of racism at that time and place. But that didn’t really help my social development at that age.
The police officially cautioned my father once after he threatened to strike another person’s child, apparently with a blunt implement (which was my father’s style most of the time – although this particular tool was not the usual one he used against me, it was a bicycle chain fastened to a wooden handle as a grip, but the police couldn’t get independent verification that such a thing was what was brandished and they didn’t find it). At the time I thought ‘what a wimpy, wussy racist to whinge to your mother about it – you were only merely threatened to be hit, and only once, for something you long deserved’ because he was a persistent nuisance to our shop at the time. But looking back, my father got away with a hell of a lot more mental and actual physical violence behind closed doors that I for one had never spoken about to anyone outside of my immediate family until recently. There was no counterbalance of warmth from him when things were fine, when everyone was fine, either. There were never even any casual initiations of conversations or humour from him – just either orders or reprimands. My mother was neither a problem nor a solution; her strategy was to stay out of the way of my father.
My father passed away from cancer when I was in my late teens. But that was not the end of the story of my experiences with depression and suicide ideation. That’ll be for another post though. Neuroplasticity means that early life experiences are more crucial, affective and impactful in shaping us than later ones, even though now as an adult I can relatively more legally freely do whatever I want compared to when I was a child. It’s best to start right than try to change later because we know it generally gets progressively harder to change when we’re older, albeit it’s not impossible.
I’m sure you can imagine these memories aren’t easy for me to bring up, or indeed probably easy for anyone to read. It’s hardly cheery dinner table conversation. Well, whatever has happened or not happened in my life, I’m obviously still standing (okay sitting down and typing at this specific moment!) and this blog itself is a big part of what I hope is a fresh start and bright horizon to my life – a part of a true healing process that I hope will last. Although you might have already figured out my real name, I won’t officially disclose any more of my personal information just yet but if I can make it then I want to show people that no matter how bad life has been, life can restart again at any age for absolutely anyone. (I’m in my 30s at the time of posting – nowhere close to a mid-life crisis yet in my opinion and I keep myself fit – well I suppose how can I have a mid-life crisis so soon when my life has only really just restarted?!)
Now I don’t pretend that I was the unluckiest child in the world ever – not even close, because I look at e.g. refugee children today. And I want to make it crystal clear that I have long forgiven my father. I still pay my respects at his grave. Not good enough excuses but he probably faced great stresses that he displaced on his family (my siblings received similar treatments from him too), and I don’t really know how he was raised either. My parents didn’t have it easy, they worked hard and I appreciate the good things they’d done for us. He tried to provide for his family in tough and prejudicial circumstances, and tried to raise us in ways he thought was best. But I may continue to write about some of my formative experiences in future posts because there are lessons to be personally learnt that could be of significant value to others too. We shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand, plus the only failure is not learning. As of the time of writing, I’m still not in a rush to become a parent because I still want to learn as much as I can about parenting before being a parent – when I one day hope to become a father myself, I will not only be much better than my father but the best father I can possibly be.
I’ve always been quiet so my own family never noticed the difference between me being quiet because I preferred it, and me being quiet because I was suffering in silence. I suppose I’ve been quiet all my life partly because I have had such episodes of what I now know are depression from a very young age. Even when older and having learnt about depression, I intentionally protected my family’s feelings by hiding my depression and suicidal thoughts from them so they didn’t know. This did at times create tensions though and made my episodes of depression worse as they occasionally judged my life. But I’m okay with, am still with, always was with, and likely will always be with, the rest of my family, despite these ups and downs – well who’s got an absolutely perfect family eh?
I still somewhat struggle to talk openly about my depression in face-to-face situations (or any situation) and this post signifies a major step for me. If you suffer or have suffered from depression then you are hardly alone and I hope you can find the courage to speak out to anybody in any way you can. One option is via the Twitter comment button below, as just a small start, if you want. I’d like to get to know your stories too.
Woof and meow.
(Furrywisepuppy and Fluffystealthkitten will be back next time!)