Content warning: This article contains content which some readers might find triggering.
In the months after he wrote a suicide letter, I used to stay awake quite late and with my door wide open so that I could listen out for Dad.
I remember joining him downstairs in the early hours following Thanksgiving night – we were both ‘getting a glass of water’ (mine was probably just so I could go down & check on him). As I waited my turn for the sink I noticed a tablet box in his dressing gown pocket. I know I asked if he was ok and gave him the chance to open up to me, but I felt so guilty afterwards that I hadn’t questioned him more vigorously about it. But he was always taking his medication at night time, and would get back up after going to bed to do so because he’d forget to take it, so I’d thought it was just that. When you’ve lived on edge & remained constantly alert for over two months, it unsurprisingly starts to slip at some point.
Just remember you’re only human.
It was difficult getting a balance at times between checking Dad was taking what he needed to be, but also remaining trusting and not patronising by taking his independence away and feeling like you were treating him like a child. I never knew if there was a right thing to do and what option would do less damage to his condition at the time! You can often end up having an exhausting battle with yourself over trying to work out what’s for the best.
I remember waking in the night to a slight commotion in the hall. Dad had admitted to Mum he’d taken an overdose of paracetamol. I felt the following:
▲ really angry with Dad for the first time during this whole thing, and also myself for not preventing it happening
▲ heartbroken for the pain and desperation Dad must have been feeling, that I’d never fully comprehend but wanted to be able to take away for him
▲ confused because it felt like the previous attempt 6 weeks prior to this one was a long distant memory that we were moving on from ?!
▲ frustrated that I didn’t know how to fix it all
▲ exhausted from having the flu and only an hour or so of sleep
▲ alone – although Mum had been an incredible support, she had nothing left to give at this moment and it was a time I wished more than anything that I had siblings
▲ hopeful that maybe now we’d be taken seriously and offered more help
There is only so much you can do. It might never feel like it’s quite enough, especially in this kind of situation, but please do not blame yourself.
It was my turn to take Dad to hospital. The amount that Dad had taken was enough to cause toxicity (usually resulting in liver damage), and even death! I honestly thought this was it. I wanted to take all of Dad in, memorise everything about him and his face, just in case it was. At the same time, I couldn’t, because if this was to be it, well I couldn’t face having this as my last memory of him.
I have never seen anyone look so pale, frail & scared. Dad was petrified of losing his sight, and had been since issues with his eye pressures arose back in the summer. He kept telling me, so desperately full of fear, that he couldn’t lose his sight, that he’d rather be dead than not be able to see, and that if he ended up in jail he wouldn’t survive if he didn’t have his sight, and that he just wouldn’t be able to bear it – signs of the paranoia and psychosis creeping in.
I reassured him as best as I could that
no matter what happens to us physically or wherever we end up in life, we can always get through, adapt and make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in.
I remember he had been so adamant he’d go blind during that period that he almost managed to convince me that he might, to the point where I didn’t know anymore. My main concern in that moment was just making sure he survived through the night and that he knew he wasn’t alone!
I think one of the scariest and most heart-breaking things you can experience as a child, no matter what age, is seeing your parents so very afraid of something.
Having just read the Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein, I did the only thing I could think of to do in that desperate moment – I tried to channel my inner Gabby & utilise all of my spiritual training. But I remember desperately thinking, ‘How can I let go & accept this?!’ ‘How can I surrender to this situation & let this be?!’
So I took a pen & small notebook out of my bag and wrote a scribbled, but none-the-less heartfelt, gratitude journal with one hand, while holding Dad’s gently but firmly with the other. I listed all of the things I was grateful for and tried to really feel it, because in all honesty, it felt like the only thing left that might possibly save Dad that night.
Always find or keep hold of hope: It’s the only thing you have control over in the most desperate of situations.
I couldn’t really care less about much else other than Dad surviving, but I scrimped & scraped and focused as best as I could to remember & find things to care about & be grateful for.
One year on, finding enjoyment in each day is still a real struggle for Dad and he is on medication for both the psychosis and depression, which I think scares the both of us, especially when you have to trust professionals who might not necessarily have your best interest at heart like you do yourself. Mum & I are still recovering from the trauma and exhaustion caused on our own mental & physical health. All on top of the rest of the world still carrying on and throwing more things at us that we might not feel so well equipped to handle right now. If everything could just stop for a year or two while we recover and get back to our A game!.. No?… Just a thought.
But, although it often feels like a long dark tunnel most days, it’s certainly an improvement on last year, and there are plenty of good things to focus on.
I might not be American, and gratitude should be felt all year round, but I often like to recognise the tradition of giving extra thanks on Thanksgiving. With that in mind, and one year on from the anniversary of Dad’s second suicide attempt, I know that there is a lot to be thankful for. Today I’m taking Dad out to the cinema, he has his computer class in the afternoon, Mum has one of her craft fairs where all her incredibly talented & wonderful sewing is loved, bought & appreciated, and by pure coincidence I just happen to have plans to see 3 of my best friends.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental health illness and could be at risk of suicide Help Is Here
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