mental health

Forever My Dad

I remember reaching my hand up to grab onto my dad’s pinky finger as we walked. I looked up at him and his loving smile. He always had an unconditional love for everyone. He had the biggest heart.

My family was not perfect. There were dark times in my childhood but I blame it all on mental health being something that gets swept under the rug. I held grudges but then worked through them when one day it hit me that hurt people hurt people. My dad had a lot of pain in his soul. He drank. There was that side of him that was hard to be there for but we never gave up on him. We just told him that we love him.

People told me to cut him out of my life but that was not the conditional love that he showed me. I never wanted to lose him one day and have our relationship end on bad terms. I knew he loved me and that he was just hurting. I couldn’t live with myself knowing he passed away wondering if I loved him. So I kept him in my life, even when it was difficult. I never gave up on him.

He will always be such a big part of who I am. My entire life he made me take vitamins. He made breakfast on the weekends. He had nicknames for everyone. He called me Miss Lu, farty pants, baby cakes, love bird. When he said hello, he said “hi-lo”. He loved animals and talked to them in a funny voice just like I do now. He loved adventures and road trips. I get my deep wanderlust bug from him. He has taken me all of the country while the fresh air poured in through the car windows and music blasted on the radio as he sang along. My first camera was his Pentax k1000. He loved deeply.

I will never forget that side of my dad and I have forgiven the other side of him. Just one hour before he passed, I asked the nurse why he seemed like he was fighting so hard to let go. She said in her 13 years of experience, it’s usually because they want to know everyone will be okay. She advised that I talk to him one last time.

I told him that I love him so much, that we all will hold on to the good memories. I told him we would be okay and that it is okay to let go, to find peace.

“I will always be your baby girl and we all love you so much.”

An hour later, he let go.

He may no longer be here but he is always going to be my dad and I will always love him. He used to tell me, “I love you more than love.”

A little piece of my heart it gone.

Health, mental health

Drunk Dad and Mental Health

Father’s Day is not always the easiest day for everyone. Some have lost their father and some have had an absent father. It can be an emotional day for many.

Today is a day that I think about my dad, who has his phone turned off so that his kids can’t call and wish him a happy Father’s Day. The last time we spoke was the previous week. I make sure to keep in contact daily but lately he forgets and sends hateful messages my way. When we spoke last week, everything was fine at first. As he drowns his mind in his fifteenth can of beer, he turns into a broken man. His self-hatred consumes him to the point of misery.

My dad gave up on himself years ago. Each year that passes by, his mind and body transform more and more. Once a lean, handsome and charming man to an overweight and grimy shell. He never made it to my wedding and he can’t even make it to the end of his driveway.

In Eric Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development, Generativity vs. Stagnation is when a person between the ages of 40-60 either volunteer, raises children, mentors or contributes to society; generativity is finding your life’s work and meaning. If you fail to accomplish this stage, you reach stagnation. Having little connection with others, lack of self-improvement and no motivation can be qualities of stagnation.

As my father transitions from that stage, into the next stage, I realize he is clearly coming from stagnation. The next stage is Integrity vs. Despair, from the 60s till the end of life. Reflecting on your life at this age, you feel a sense of accomplishment or failure. My dad lives in a state of despair. People in this stage feel as if their life is wasted.

Though my dad has children and family who love him unconditionally, he takes his misery out on those he loves. I know when he calls me the worst names imaginable and repeatedly tells me that he hates me, that really he just hates himself. I know that he is a hurt man that feels hopeless with no answers. Maybe he carries regret for the years he was not sober; years went by where we lived with a growing pit in our stomach of what the night would bring as he sucked the whiskey out of his mustache. I believe he is a prisoner to his own mind and body.

Though he damaged my brother and I throughout our lives, we still remember our sober dad. We remember the road trips, Sunday breakfast, camping trips and his great laugh. He has always been a Jekyll and Hyde. His soul felt the sunshine and other days he felt cold darkness.

I blame everything on the ignored mental health crisis that no one talks about. I blame it on alcohol and how it can poison an unstable mind. I blame it on the world for looking the other way while others suffer, because they don’t understand. As this elephant sits in the room, crushing others, we pretend to be fine.

My dad lies on his disintegrating bed, drinking his sixteenth beer as his body gets sicker. His hate burns in his belly while he curses life. I don’t know how long he will be around but I already grieve idea of not having a father. I grieve that he won’t let anyone help him and that we have to watch him slowly kill himself from afar, while his lasts words are that he hates us.

We just respond, “I love you too.”