I miss my dad.
A year ago today my dad passed away after taking his own life.
That day, I’d never seen him more at peace.
He wasn’t the perfect father, and I wasn’t the perfect son, but he loved me and I loved him, at the end of the day that’s all that matters. Everything else is just the noise of life.
For years my dad told me that he was a strong person, he told me how he’d had a difficult life, but it was only recently that I really started to understand what that meant.
He’d been fighting mental health issues for a long-time, and while I was aware of it, I was never quite aware of the severity or the battle this entails. Which was his choice, he chose not to tell me, most likely he didn’t want to change my perception of him. It wouldn’t have, but I don’t think he wanted to risk it.
I’m very lucky to be able to say that I can only imagine the kind of fighting he did constantly over decades, it must have been exhausting.
He really was a strong person, and his life had been difficult. Just in a way that took me a long time to understand.
It’s only recently that society has begun to accept people talking about their mental health issues, and it’s still in it’s infancy.
You can’t yet get away from the feeling that sometimes mental health is seen by some of society as a weakness.
We all have mental health issues to greater or lesser degrees.
What’s the answer?
Why should there be an answer. I don’t think there is one. We’re human, nobody’s perfect and nobody ever will be.
I don’t believe it’s about finding an answer. I don’t believe you can ‘change’ or ‘fix’ someone’s mental health.
What you can do is make sure they understand it’s not a form of weakness, there is nothing to be ashamed about, that nobody will look at you differently and that, in fact, it’s part of you as a person.
Your mental health is what makes you who you are, and understanding that, embracing it and learning how to cope with being you is what I believe should be done.
I don’t believe that the first stop should be pills. At one point my dad was on so many pills he had an entire cupboard shelf in the kitchen stacked with them, each one countering effects of another.
Each pill contained side-effect information along the lines of…
Can cause severe anxiety and depression.
Correct me if I’m wrong, and I may well be as I’m certainly no doctor, but if you’re giving someone with anxiety and depression a pill to combat it, and it’s side-effects can cause the thing you’re trying to solve, then we’ve got a lot to learn.
Yes, they may work for ‘most’ people, as I was once told. And for those people that’s brilliant.
But what about the others, the people who get the side-effects and can’t say they’re feeling worse because they were already having those emotions anyway.
The truth is we don’t truly understand why some people have much more extreme emotions than others. We don’t truly understand how the brain works and, until we do, there will be no answer.
So let’s start looking at a society that’s making more and more people have these extreme emotions. Our so called advanced world can’t be that advanced if we’re creating such difficulties for people.
Instead, just maybe, by focusing on removing the cause we can prevent the need to find a cure.
It’s ironic that yesterday, a year to the day after my dad died, I finally got the date for his inquest hearing. That means by the end of the month I’ll be able to get his death certificate.
You can’t help but think “could I have done more”. I know I did.
The truth is, I don’t think I could have. I don’t think that anybody could have. It was a decision that I am certain he took many years over, and was completely at peace with.
And I have to respect that and be at peace with it myself.
Which I am.
But that doesn’t stop me missing his phone calls, his opinions, his humour and his company.
I do, and I always will.
After my dad died I wanted to do something, so I reached out to a number of mental health charities to see how I could contribute and help others.
Without fail, when they found out I wanted to do something practical instead of just giving them money, all communication ceased.
So instead I’ve decided that I’m going to honour my dad in a different way.
He was a prolific writer. Some years he wrote as many as four manuscripts. But he never got published.
This year I’m going to choose one of his manuscripts, edit it and publish it.
If I can’t find a publisher then I’ll do it myself.
Maybe some people will read it, maybe they won’t. But he will have a book published which will be there forever for people to read, enjoy and think about.
And that, I know, he would have loved.
Michael Wilding (son of David Wilding)