Post No.: 0058
This is another more personal post. I will more or less follow this post on from the last personal one I wrote for Post No.: 0025.
So my father wasn’t the best father I could’ve had for my mental health but he was the only father I had and the only father I knew. When he was first diagnosed with lung cancer, it was a shock because he didn’t smoke, at least in my lifetime or at least at home (I did later learn that he did apparently smoke for a bit when he was much younger though).
Now when he was getting treated in hospital but progress wasn’t good, I saw a different side to him. Whilst he was miserly, draconian and intransigent before, this realisation that his life was potentially going to be cut short seemed to make him re-evaluate his life priorities (as it frequently does to people who are faced starkly with their own mortality). He hinted about his plans for us as a family if he got better; what we might get that wasn’t a strict necessity, where we might go to on holiday or what we might do that wasn’t just work or being cooped up in the house. This more-balanced person seemed to be the father I was always looking for!
But then within about only six months from his diagnosis of cancer, he passed away. I was in my first year away at university throughout this time. At first it was shock again, this time about how quickly he seemed to deteriorate then pass away. Then it was enormous personal guilt that I had stayed away at university near London rather than spent those last few days with this ‘potentially new father of mine’. I didn’t have a car at the time to make weekend visits easier and I thought he and I could hang on for literally a week or two more until the summer break.
I went back to university the following academic year, and ultimately finished my course (it was a degree in Industrial Design), but it overall wasn’t a good time for me. Being there for me was always associated with not being at home when I could’ve and maybe should’ve been. University is supposed to be a time and place of being free and having fun (well at least partly) but I just wanted to concentrate on completing the course then getting away. I don’t regret not giving up and getting the grade I wanted but it seemed to have come with some cost. Looking back with more learned eyes on the signs, that was an episode of depression for me. I was mentally burning myself out. Maybe I could’ve been another university statistic, although I never got as far as actually concreting a plan to take my own life during that particular episode of depression. That episode was characterised with more of a numbness than an acute sorrow or desperation.
I also suffer from a mild form of OCD, but which gets worse the more stressed I am e.g. the need for even numbers of things, checking things multiple times (e.g. doors, switches) and starting checks from the start again if interrupted halfway, thoughts of incomplete tasks that keep me up at night, and perfectionism. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. It’s nowhere near as bad as for some sufferers I’m aware of, and sometimes for me it’s a benefit to be organised and to care to do the best job I can do, but during times of heightened stress it gets unrelentingly intrusive and wastes my time and efforts. Maybe you can detect some of these signs in my posts when I go on for a little longer on a point than I possibly need to – that’s not to patronise you but to satisfy my own perfectionism, which I know I’ll never technically reach ‘perfect’ on anything I ever do but I’ll try hard to. I also don’t like lending things to people, not because I don’t trust others but because everything of mine has a place and everything must be in its place. This in turn means that I don’t like people dumping stuff in my spaces without consultation because this messes up the tidy organisation of these spaces.
So when judging other people’s behaviours – maybe it’s not personal towards you and they just have a level of OCD. (Do note though that different sufferers can express idiosyncratic manifestations of their symptoms e.g. not all OCD sufferers care about even numbers.) As I say though, for me, it’s only really a problem when I’m stressed so there are plenty of times when I’m less bothered about satisfying any compulsions. But depressive episodes are generally such times of stress. You want the acute but temporary kind of stress, not the chronic kind such as during depression.
Completing my university degree was a huge relief, albeit I felt seriously mentally drained. But pretty much straight afterwards, I did something I perhaps urgently needed to do – a couple of friends and I circumnavigated the world on a post-university trip that lasted for a few months. We visited Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and USA on a kind of part-backpacking, part-campervan-and-car-road-tripping holiday. All of these places were amazing for the soul but I think Japan was particularly incredible and unforgettable for me. I was very fortunate to have had the chance to go on such a trip to save my health at the time. These few months were the most mentally-rejuvenating and liberating consecutive few months of my life (let’s be positive and say so far eh! I’m probably due another such adventure somewhere, although I currently have no money and I’m concentrating on this blog for the moment).
So I do have some ambivalent thoughts and memories of my father – some angry, some upbeat, some sad, some indifferent. These thoughts and memories cannot be denied or forgotten but he has been forgiven. These memories have never ever been repressed – I just never wanted to talk about my father whenever my family or anyone else brought him up.
Well I was ready for life after the death of my father and university. But life still had twists and turns for me to come regarding my mental health. But that’ll be for another time. Please don’t worry too much – I’m obviously still alive and mentally fit enough to write this blog, for instance. In fact, as this blog has been steadily building, I’ve been feeling more and more connected and with a higher purpose, which is beneficial to my life narrative and health. Although as of writing this post I’ve yet to promote this blog – partly due to tentativeness and self-doubts about whether anyone would care or be interested – I am writing every post with my readers and future readers in mind. Even if it’s only one person in the world who will be or is regularly following this blog – this blog and I are nothing and no one without you. Although it’s not been a linear journey so far and I still have good days and quite bad days, I feel that overall my mental outlook is slowly on the way up, and I have to absolutely thank anyone who is reading this blog for that. <3
Again, if you suffer from depression or any other mental health issue then you are not alone and I hope you find the courage to talk about it to anyone you can in any way you can. I’ve still got much room to improve myself so we’ll build our courage together. All major universities across the world should really now have dedicated and confidential mental health support services (if not then this is something that must change). I’m not a doctor or counsellor but you can also make yourself heard and listened to via the Twitter comment button below.
Woof and meow.