Trigger warning- this article talks about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.)
Visualize the most important person in your life standing before you smiling, happy. I’m guessing that it makes you feel warm inside, a fuzzy feeling that you only get from them, nobody else. You love them so much. Focus on this for a moment or two. Savour it. Now quickly visualize a huge fire, roaring flames flicker close to your face. Everything you had ever hoped for them burns right before your very eyes. No more happiness for this person ever again, no. It will be difficult for you to visualise this They now need desperate help, but every time you try to scream out for it, a cold hand springs up and covers your mouth. The years pass so quickly. Your loved one is suffering day in day out now but all you can do is watch helplessly as they get worse and worse. The things that you had hoped to do together now seem very unlikely. You now just spend the remaining days of their life looking after them, checking on them, making sure that they are actually alive and not lying face down not breathing on the floor without anybody even knowing. No coffee shops. No cinema trips. No shopping. Nothing. They just simply exist, trapped in a house unable to do much for themselves. It’s heart-breaking, it’s draining, and it’s sucking the life right out of you. They often tell you that they are sick of being in pain, sick of not getting any help and just want to die, kill themselves, finish it, or, in their words, ‘escape the darkness’. You break down into tears. All you can do is watch as your loved one grows older and older and older but at the same time the pain they are in is getting worse and worse. Time is running out. You feel so angry towards the authorities, you feel bitter and robbed of your loved one. Robbed of precious memories, experiences. You know deep down inside that they may die before you. The word suicide lingers on the tip of your tongue, on your lips, on your mind. It plagues your daily thoughts. When you ring them to check on them, their phone is often switched off and you just wish and wish to yourself that this isn’t the time that they’ve gone through with it. It feels like they are a ticking time bomb, they could just go at any minute. Gone forever. Coffin lowered, never coming back. You know full damn well that it didn’t have to be this way. Your loved one could have had a decent quality of life if people had listened, did their jobs and actually helped. Welcome to my life 24/7, brace yourself.
I have written various articles about my horrific childhood so will not fully repeat everything that is already published, however, for the people reading my work now for the very first time, I will go through the basics so that you can get some context. I grew up alone with my father as my mother suffers from serious schizophrenia and was in and out of mental health hospitals, I’ve only met her once in my life. At the tender age of twelve I got dragged away and put into secure mental health services were, day in and day out, I got tortured psychologically and sexually. I was sent around the country like a parcel, denied an education, then spat back out into the community with very little support. When I actually got the courage to ask for support in the community I was demonized, sent to court by NHS mental health services and given various criminal convictions for simply asking for help. They called me a ‘nuisance’ and accused me of ‘wasting services time’. They classed the bloodstains on the carpet, blood spray on the wall, and a cut wrist as a waste of everybody’s time. My life meant nothing to those people and never has done. This has heavily traumatized me. I have been involved in a serious conspiracy to criminalize me that I am still heavily trapped in. I mention this because, whilst all of this has been going on my father has been immensely struggling too and also getting no support.
For most of his life, my father has struggled with his mental health. He suffers from serious suicidal depression, agoraphobia, anxiety and other things. He is also addicted to prescription medication such as codeine, diazepam, lorazepam and related drugs. He was prescribed this medication in the mid 1980’s following a suicide attempt. He told me that in the early 1980’s to the mid 1990s he had a proper mental health team, was able to speak to a psychologist and when he felt like he was getting really unwell, was able to voluntarily admit himself to a mental health hospital for respite. My father also worked for a short time as a psychiatric nurse, just throwing that into the mix. Unfortunately, all of these services have gone now, they were sold off by Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government to create expensive housing developments, hotels and what not, things that they could profit from. People’s lives didn’t come in to it. ‘Care in the community’ was promised but this never materialized. The people that were the most desperate and in need of long-term, or, in some cases, lifelong support were simply put into bed and breakfasts or in flats on their own to rot, suicide was inevitable, but this is the ‘system.’
My father had a scary, abusive childhood that has seriously traumatized him. He has spoken about running away from home lots of times because he was abused and felt unsafe at home. His learning disabled sister died at age fourteen of a serious health condition. His mother died of cancer when she was 67. None of his remaining family members (his father, his brother, his cousins) speak to me or him. We have both shared the same feelings of feeling ‘the outcasts’ of the family because we have mental health issues. He has attempted suicide twice, both nearly dying. As a result of these suicide attempts, he has a destroyed liver and pancreas as well as other physical disabilities. He also served in the British Army for a year which he sometimes talks about, often graphically, which makes me very uncomfortable as you can tell he is having some sort of flashback when he does, everything about him changes; his voice, his eyes, his whole demeanor and he honestly looks possessed, poor man. When I was a child, we did do some things together like go to the cinema, go to the beach, meals out etc but sadly I don’t really remember many details as my memory has been affected by trauma. Whilst I was locked up in secure services my father didn’t receive any specialist support and this broke my heart when I found out. To have your own child locked up hundreds of miles away from home being subjected to abuse that was obvious but never discussed and not knowing when or if they are going to come back, must have been so painful day in and day out for him. He told me that he often broke down in tears and could not bear to look at my bedroom. I hate mental health services for not supporting him during this time.
Fast forward to now and my father has sadly gotten so much worse. He has moved away from the area and is now living in a council bungalow for over 50’s, retired people. He lives as a recluse, maybe going out once in a month to collect his medication prescriptions, get some bits and bobs from the shop, that’s about it. I remember when he first moved in to the bungalow he used to socialize fairly often in the local pub but he tells me that these days just feels unable to get out of the house, he really does need support for his panic and agoraphobia. He says he feels suicidal every day and that I’m the only reason why he stays alive, as he feels that it would destroy my life if he ended himself. This is gut wrenching to hear, knowing that my father is in such much pain. He has warned me that one day he will tell me the date of his suicide, so I can prepare. It’s something that I’m constantly on edge about. I can never relax. He often switches his phone off and goes out of touch for short periods of time, 3 days to a week sometimes goes by before he replies to messages or even switches his phone on again. During this time I worry that he has killed himself, as this would definitely traumatize me to a point of no return, he’s told me that he would tell me beforehand but it’s always a sickening worry.
My father is sadly trapped in the system and me, his own daughter, has to watch painfully him being denied any help and get worse and worse. It’s torture. My father has spoken to so called ‘mental health services’ various times about wanting to see a trained psychologist but nothing has come of his cries for help. The cycle is that his GP refers him to a drug and alcohol center called Renew in Hull which then assess him and say that they can’t work with him until he receives proper mental health support, so then refer him to ‘Miranda House’ an inpatient psychiatric unit that also does outpatient appointments. These people then say that they can’t work with him because he is on medication and since they aren't specialists, they can only work with him once he is off medication so he then gets referred back to Renew. He just goes round and round in circles. It hurts me because I can see and feel his hope being worn away. The problem is that there is no specialists anymore, or the ones that are, work in the private sector due to the cruel NHS ideation of been giving just '6 sessions and thart's your lot'. 6 sessions with my Dad wouldn't scratch the surface. I have recently spoken to a GP from his surgery about my concerns (after months of trying to get ‘permission to discuss his care’) but they have simply told me that due to all of the cutbacks getting a specialist or psychologist is very difficult. So, in light of this, I made a fundraiser to try and get my father into private specialist therapy. Thanks to all of the donations I have successfully raised £135 towards it. Again, any spare coins would be appreciated, but I know that the current DWP benefit system is forcing people into poverty so don’t feel obliged. Here is the link - https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/please-help-save-my-dad/comments
UPDATE- With help I managed to raise £195 towards my father's therapy. Thank you so much!
Sadly this has become the norm these days, the most desperate people in need of serious help get deliberately forgotten, left to die. Or, in my case, punished for asking for help in the first place. Every week I read horror stories on the internet about people being sent home from psychiatric units that go onto kill themselves only a few hours or minutes later. People are ringing mental health crisis lines that tell them to jut ‘relax and make a cup of tea’, the system has fallen apart and I want to do something about it, not just watch everything around me fall apart.
So, how do I actually cope with knowing that my father is suicidal and will probably end his life? Well, the answer is that I simply do. It feels like I’ve already lost him and I don’t feel he is of much support to me now, he is aware that I feel like this. The truth is that I am propping him up, keeping him hanging on to the smallest thread of fight left in him. I am used to the fact that he can’t visit me due to his agoraphobia. I am used to the fact that he often doesn’t call, text or email. I am used to the fact that we don’t go anywhere nice or do anything fun. I am used to just visiting the same house and having the same morbid conversations. I’ve prepared for his death by distancing myself psychologically, focusing on other people for my main emotional support. This may sound harsh but it’s the way that it is. On a brighter note, my father is an extremely educated man, with three degrees. He is a man with a thirst for learning and education. I thank him for giving me the beauty of having an appetite for learning. My father is also a very calm, peaceful man who doesn’t see a person’s colour or sexuality but a human being, the way I think. I also thank him for this, for raising me to be open minded and non judgmental as, like Frank Zappa said; ‘A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open.’ I live by this quote.
I feel that the NHS mental health services have completely destroyed my life, taken away everything that I ever wanted due to criminalizing me, robbed me of my childhood, robbed me of having quality time with my father and left me to rot.
I am fearful of being more stern on the phone or in person with my father’s GP with the fear that they may arrest me for being a ‘nuisance’ again, but, I love my father dearly and will do what I need to do to keep him alive. But, at the end of the day, it’s my father’s choice whether to end his life or not and I wouldn’t love him any less if he did. I would understand. I will end by saying that no matter what happens I will continue to fight, campaign and inspire. I will continue to fight for better mental health services for the rest of my life so other people don’t have to grow up without a father like I had to.
Thanks for reading, Michelle.