There is a campaign happening in Australia right now to raise awareness to the fact that “The single biggest killer of men aged under 45 is suicide”.
In 2014, 4623 men took their own life in Australia. That’s 12 men every day, 1 man every two hours! 41% of men who contemplated suicide felt they could not talk about their feelings.
Yesterday I was going through some of my old writing pieces and I came across one I wrote when I was 15. It’s amazing for me now to relive the effect suicide had on me and my family, but more importantly for me to understand that I am proof you can completely free yourself from the effect suicide and depression has on you and your life…
Innocence to Adulthood…
When we go through something as a child we lose ourselves. We lose our sense of who we are, or what we are supposed to be. A child’s place is with its family. It’s a safe place of innocence and security. A child can wake each morning without recognizing that the toughest decision they may make that day could be as trivial as what cereal to have for breakfast. They say that no-one holds onto their innocence forever and that at some stage in our lives we essentially ‘grow up’. But who says when that happens? Who says what makes it happen? And who decides what we become after the innocence in us dies?
When I was five years old I fell out of my favorite climbing tree and broke my wrist in three places. Not a seemingly massive event but to me it signaled the end of that time where I thought I was indestructable. From that day on every tree that I attempted to tackle I did so with a new degree of trepidation.
At the age of eight, I discovered, to my shock and dismay, that my father was Santa Claus. Santa wasn’t real. I know this is a stage that every child must face, and as expected this new-found reality brought about a great disappointment. My childlike imagination was already beginning to fade.
At nine, having not put two and two together, I was shocked to witness my father once again playing out my childlike fantasies. This time he was the Easter bunny, and I awoke on Easter Sunday to the sight of him suspiciously hiding eggs around our front lawn. I should have guessed that if Santa was a hoax then Easter bunny was fairly unlikely, but yet again I was hit with a disappointment unlike the youthful ones I had previously witnessed.
When my sister left for boarding school I was 10, and for the first time in my sheltered little life my family circle was separated. When we sat down for evening meals there was no-one there to mirror my look of disgust over the broccoli on our plates, and there was no-one to argue with over who got that all empowering control over the remote. I felt a new loneliness that I did not see coming, particularly since I had often wished that my sister did not exist, and had sworn on many occasions that I would hate her forever.
But the biggest shock in my life came when I was just eleven years old. I realize now looking back that despite the events I have just mentioned my innocence at this stage was still very much in tact. I still believed with whole conviction that I was safe, that my life was lived in a cave of security and I would remain always sheltered from the harsh winds of the outside world. I knew that bad things happened. I was aware of the death and disease in the world, but I like most children that age, believed whole heartedly that those things ‘didn’t happen to us’.
That’s why I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t recognize the signs because I wasn’t looking. When he began to fade, when his mind began to go, when he could no longer look me in the face. I didn’t see it, or I didn’t register it. I saw what I had always seen. My father a vision of strength and perfection, of power and of love. When he got sick I do not know. Perhaps he was always sick. Perhaps the depression had eaten away at him for years but like the fact that the family farm was going under, or that his brother was bullying him to the point of worthlessness, he had hidden it from me, determined to protect the innocence that he saw in my eyes. That childlike hope that he no longer had that things would always work out. When I look back on those last months I see what he had become. Things I hadn’t, as a child, dared to recognize. He was thin and tired and he couldn’t work. Sometimes I think he even found it hard to be around my mother and me, it was as if it hurt him, as if he no longer deserved to be in our presence.
In the days before it happened he said little things, but nothing to trigger any suspicion. Comments like ‘you are the only thing that is keeping me going’. But the most vivid memory is of the night before. He came to my room to kiss me goodnight which he never usually does. He breathed me in so deep, and hugged me for so long. I remember actually thinking ‘will he ever let me go?’. Well he did let go, and little did I realize he wasn’t saying goodnight to me, he was saying goodbye.
My father shot himself the next morning while I was at school. I was called out of class in the middle of maths; certain that I was in some sort of trouble because I was being taken to the principles office. When I saw my aunties face I knew I wasn’t in trouble. Her eyes were bloodshot red, and she, like my father, could not look me in the eye. When she told me I just wanted to run. I cried immediately without knowing why or where the pain was coming from. But it was pain, actual physical pain. My entire body hurt with an agony that I had never felt before in my life. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t stand, and I couldn’t maintain a single thought. I just hurt. My dad was gone. A massive part of my self had been stripped away and I hadn’t seen it coming. I didn’t just lose my dad that day, I lost my innocence, and the immense pain awoke something within me, that hereditary connection I had with my dad’s death, a gene that had so far been dormant.
Depression set in when I was 14, and with it came a pain and an uncertainty that brought fear to everything I did. My doctor said I was under a pile of shit that I couldn’t see out of. I was trapped in a world of darkness and I began to see why my father had felt he had no way out.
I believed with sole conviction that he had died because of me. Not directly of course, but I was certain that had I been good enough, had I been worth living for, he would not have done what he had done. I was convinced that I had effectively pulled the trigger that day because I was not a daughter that my dad considered worth staying for.
Any trace of childlike innocence I had was most certainly gone. But I didn’t fear the world, and I didn’t fear disease or death. I feared myself. I had become my greatest enemy and I still couldn’t see out from beyond that pile of shit.
It’s been years now and still I struggle with my own convictions. The belief that I don’t deserve a life because I wasn’t good enough to save one. The belief that what I have put my mother through will haunt me forever. And above all the terrifying fear of myself. The immensely terrifying pain that I know I can put myself through.
I live now with the knowledge that I have lost all traces of my innocence, that the person I was before my father’s death is well and truly gone. But that’s not what torments me. I struggle now with what I should go back too. What part of me is the person I am and what part of me is the person I have become. I got depression at a time when a child’s life begins to change anyway, and now I am left drifting between the child I was and the person I would have otherwise become…
That was 15 years ago, and I am now the most grateful, lucky, happy, person, who has certainly found herself, and knows who she is and what she wants from life.
Portugal helped a lot, horses helped a lot a lot!!
Reading this is not to dwell on the past, but to realise that no matter how far down you go you can come back up. All the way back up! I wish my father knew that, and I also just wish that someone, and this has happened before, will read this, and write to me, or talk to a friend, or tell someone what they are going through. Just one person, and it makes it worth the while…
Only 20% of people know that suicide is the most likely cause of death for men age under 45. Let’s show men across the world that �#�ITSOKAYTOTALK�…
If you need someone to talk to and don’t feel comfortable talking to your mates, head to:
https://www.headspace.org.au/ if you’re under 25.
Alternatively head in and see your GP. Mental illness is treatable and more common than you think!