I’m pretty sure there’s a statistic somewhere which states the ratio of people who suffer/face a mental illness of some sort. Today I want to discuss one of the most personal aspect of my life. If I ever build the courage to post this then go me…
This isn’t my story, it’s my dads. He has suffered from a mental illness called Schizophrenia for the past 29 years. Now the common misconception of this is illness is that the person in question has traits of Jekeyl and Hyde, it’s sort of like that but there’s so much more to it. When growing up me and my sisters would see my dad behave in a completely different manner to all the other dads. We never really spoke about it to each other. But my mum sort of just drummed it in that our dad is ill and things are just different for us and we mustn’t compare our lives. What the illness was I never really knew or understood until I was in my teens and was able to research it. Schizophrenia is an illness like all other mental illness in terms of effect. It can vary anywhere from severe to mild spectrum and can have different symptoms for each person. I can only really speak about what my dad goes through on a day to day basis and how we as a family help and deal with it.
Throw back to when I was 9 years old
I am an extremely light sleeper, the sounds of the lightest footsteps would wake me up. When I was 9/10 I have early memories of my dad waking up at 3am going downstairs to open the door because he thought the doorbell rang. After opening the door and realising that there’s no-one actually there, he would go back upstairs and into his room. This process would repeat 6/7 times throughout the night and each time he would get more and more frustrated swearing louder and louder each time he went up the stairs. I used to pretend I couldn’t hear and try my hardest to fall asleep, I assume my sisters would do the same, we were all scared because we never really got what was happening.
When I was around 11, my first day of secondary school, dad was walking me to school and I could hear him muttering to himself, I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying, but at the age of 11 I felt so ashamed and embarrassed. Funny that now I feel ashamed and embarrassed of feeling embarrassed. I used to tell my dad to walk 10 steps behind me so that he wasn’t walking with me and nobody knew he was my dad. At the time it didn’t occur to me that regardless of him walking 10 steps behind me, people would be able to recognise that he is my dad because we obvs have the same features. duh. In year 9 I remember a boy from my form class in school asking me if ‘that was your dad walking behind you’ I tried to pretend that I couldn’t hear him and he continued with ‘he was talking to himself.’ I just put my head down into my book and ignored him. For a few years I carried on with life with resentment as if it was his fault.
My dad suffers from a range of symptoms, the main ones are, hearing voices/noises, seeing things, getting angry/agettated quickly, he feels claustrophobic.
Imagine when you’re trying to fall asleep and all you can hear is doorbells ringing / people talking. He’d often come into our room and shout at us for talking – when nobody was saying anything.
Through-out all of this my mum looked and still looks after my dad. Reassures him, keeps him occupied – and with any person who suffers a mental illness there are good days, bad days and some really bad days. It all just depends.
Where has this come from? The doctors still haven’t been able to pin-point it. The closest they’ve got is to assume it’s a side effect to some medication to when he lost his memory 31 years ago (that’s a whole other story)
Is there a cure? Not really, therapy helps but its all about learning how to manage it as opposed to getting rid of it.
Having a mental illness is shit. It makes you feel trapped and I’ve seen it first hand. The best medicine for it, is having a strong support system, for my dad it was his family. We are his support system. To reassure him everything is and will be okay.
Yes I was ignorant and selfish when I was little. The older I’ve got the more I appreciate my dad and his illness. Because of him I’ve become patient, understanding and empathetic to a whole new level.
If you suffer from a mental-illness my biggest advice would be to surround yourself with positive people, people who will listen and understand you no matter how crazy you may think you sound. Someone non-judgemental and just re-assure yourself that no matter how crap you’re feeling now, it will get better. Contrary if you are around someone who suffers from a mental-illness, all they need from you is confirmation. Confirmation that you will be there for them no matter what. Confirmation that you are trying to understand what they are going through.
I’ve let you into probably what is the most personal part of my life. Lets make it count…share this story. You never know who it may help.