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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Perhaps I wouldn’t have written this blog had the circumstances been different. Last week was the second anniversary of my mother’s passing and Sunday was Father’s Day. Even though it’s also two years on, I’m still coming to terms with my father’s death and the discoveries I made about him after he died. So when an old school friend posted a photo of Goodmayes Hospital in a facebook group, I mentioned that I had been there for treatment. When prompted, I admitted that I had tried to commit suicide at the age of 18.

This is not common knowledge – my wife is one of the few people who know the truth about this – but if revisiting this event will help someone else then this blog has a purpose.

I have made mention in various other blogs of my childhood. It wasn’t a happy one. My frustrated father was physically abusive; my controlling mother, psychologically so. By the time I could have had a relationship with my older brother, he had left home. I spent some years being bullied at school on a daily basis. The result was an awkward youth with few social skills – I certainly didn’t know how to make friends or retain the few I had. That came much later. I was also prone to dark moods and outbursts of uncontrollable temper that continued until three years ago when I finally sought professional help.

I didn’t start going to a youth club until I was 16 and a year later I had my first real girlfriend. Eight months on when her younger brother had his barmitzvah in June 1974, I was invited. What happened that evening is somewhat sketchy but a black mood came over me and I went home early.

To understand what happened next, you have to try to put yourself in my shoes. I had few friends and I had just been a major source of embarrassment to my first girlfriend and her family. In that state of mind it’s not surprising that I’d had enough.

With my mother, I’d hardly had a good role model for treasuring life. A few years earlier I’d hauled her out of a gas oven to save her; she suffered from depression and often spoke about taking pills to end it all. She remained that way throughout her life. After she died, I found a large stash of painkillers hidden at the back of a drawer.

I remember mixing Veganin with red wine and trying to swallow it. It was so bitter that I retched. Instead, I swallowed the tube of painkillers, washed them down with the bottle of wine, laid down and passed out.

Somehow I woke up next morning. I shouldn’t have. I’d overdosed on painkillers mixed with alcohol. I really shouldn’t have been alive. I remember how disappointed I was at waking up. When I got up, I couldn’t balance. It took many hours before I could.

I must have spoken to my girlfriend about this because it got back to my parents. After seeing my GP, an appointment was made for me to be seen at Goodmayes Hospital, a mental hospital in Redbridge, and my father came with me to the first visit. I was intelligent enough to know that if I told the truth there was every likelihood I would be medicated or detained so I lied. I played down the events and said it was just a cry for help. Trust me, it wasn’t. After a second visit I was discharged.

Over the years, depression has hit me so hard at times that I have fallen asleep praying that I wouldn’t wake up. I’m not sure to whom I would have been praying as I’m an atheist but perhaps that reinforces the mental turmoil and anguish I went through.

It hasn’t always been like that. Having learned Reiki and meditation to counter the pain of being weaned off hormone replacement steroids 15 years ago, I tried to follow one of the five Reiki principles: “Just for today, I will not hold on to anger.” Sometimes I succeeded, often I didn’t.

What finally drove me to seeking the help of a professional counsellor was a typically pointless argument with my son that I had instigated and the realisation that unless I did something I ran the risk of ruining one of the most important relationships in my life. And that was on the back of over 30 years with my wonderful wife who has put up with sheer hell from me at times.

The three months I spent with the counsellor changed everything. She unpeeled my life like an onion, layer by layer, and got to the root of my continual anger. Although my parents both died within six months of the counselling, and I never really rebuilt my relationships with them, I bear no malice to either of them. My anger towards them has fully subsided.

If you have read this and any aspect rings alarm bells, do these three things:
1. Find a counsellor. It might take a few attempts to find the right one for you but it will certainly change your life for the better.
2. Apologise to those you’ve hurt. They will appreciate your honesty.
3. Reconcile your differences with those you love – before it’s too late.

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There’s a first time for everything. Your first wedding anniversary. Your first child’s first birthday party. Completing a year at your first job. Events that are memorable for all the right reasons. But not all such landmarks are happy ones.

My father died on 5th April last year. Losing a parent is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through but for me it’s exacerbated by having an almost photographic memory. I remember every moment from him being hospitalised last February until his death two months later. Being told he had terminal kidney cancer and the interminable meetings regarding continuing healthcare, all the way through to being told that the general doctor had misdiagnosed the cancer and that my father could go home – and him dying in that hospital bed three days later.

Every day I relive another episode. Asking why the word ‘cancer’ wasn’t mentioned in his continuing healthcare notes, arguing with the oncology doctors, repeating verbatim what I had been told about the tumour, insisting on further scans and then the final realisation that there wasn’t a cancer. Seven weeks. Seven painful, wasted weeks.

As my father died very late at night and without warning, I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. I had to wait 13 hours before being able to see him in the mortuary. No one can prepare you for the sight of a dead person let alone your parent but it gave me the opportunity to get some degree of closure. Writing this now starts to bring back the weight of emotion I felt at the time along with the clearest of memories of how he looked. Had I not known he was dead I would have thought he was sleeping. It was the most peaceful I had seen him in many years.

I also relive my mother being taken to the same hospital with a chest infection, being in the adjacent bed when my father died. Her delirium and refusal to take medication. Being told late one Monday night that she probably wouldn’t survive until the morning. She did. I even managed to get her into a care home where she lived for just five weeks until passing away last June. I have the reliving of those memories to look forward to.

There has to be some balance, some better moments to remember. Like my last conversation with him when he praised me for working with children, something he had never said before. And finding out three weeks after he died that he had been made a knight of the national order of the légion d’honneur. As a proud Frenchman he would have appreciated that. I received his medal and showed it to my mother at my last meeting with her before she died. The ladies around her were really taken with his award but my mother’s delirium had returned and she barely acknowledged it.

Reliving all these moments has taken its toll on me. I have lived under a black cloud of depression for the past month or so, unable to share what I feel with anyone. I have to accept that nothing I can say or do will make any difference to what has gone but has the very real risk of damaging the relationships that remain.

Yes, there is a first time for everything and over the next few months I will have to relive both of my parents’ deaths and their funerals. What I hope is that when the anniversaries return next year, the intensity will have started to fade a little.

First published on Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/vic-lennard/first-anniversary-blues_b_9483004.html

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