We are brought up to believe our parents will always be there for us. But we get to a point where we can look after ourselves. It’s at this point, in our relationship with our parents, that things change. And whilst I always thought my parents would be there for me (and I’m sure if I could get over my fear and told them the truth, they would be to an extent) there comes a time when you start to realise what’s best for your parents, what is gong to upset them and what they really need to know and sometimes not telling then things is actually better for them than telling them everything.
I have never considered my parents old. Earlier this year my cousin got married. I met an aunt, I have never met before who flew over here for the wedding. She’s 10 years younger than my dad. Looking at pictures I took on the day I’m really starting to notice how much older my dad looks, and it’s not just him. My mum too. They are both almost 60, and inevitably people change, it’s hard to notice the passage of time on people you see so regularly. I’m not naïve enough to think that they will be around forever, I know they won’t, but leading them to believe I’m happy and doing ok is a big deal to me. Whilst I am sure I am far from what they wanted from their offspring, Leading them to believe that I am happy is at least something I know they can feel good about and I hope it helps them to think they did a good job because my depression isn’t their fault and I wouldn’t want them to blame themselves for it.
I think my parents both suffer from terrible mental health problems I think my dad is severely depressed, I think my mum suffers from some form of anxiety and I honestly think Asbergers syndrome. Whilst this environment may have contributed to my own mental health problems, I don’t believe it is the cause of them. As a child I wasn’t allowed to play in the street until I was 10, my mum was convinced I would get hit by a car or taken by some weirdo. When I was invited to people’s sleepovers she would make excuses for me. Which in a way I’m thankful for because I didn’t really want to go, I didn’t like people. But whilst that was her anxiety, part of it was mine to and I don’t know who’s influenced who’s really. She would bribe me out of going to parties by buying me toys. One time we went to 3 different cities to buy a specific Pokemon toy that she was used to bribe me to not go to a friend’s birthday sleepover. My dad is fairly indifferent to pretty much everything, he is not an alcoholic, but he does have at least one drink every day. I believe he is severely depressed and has been since before I was born. He is very silent. I worry about my dad. Every Sunday he will drink a bottle of wine in the afternoon and sleep all evening/night. He smokes a lot. But they aren’t the things I’m worried about. Im worried that one day everything will get too much for him and he will hurt himself and make it look like an accident. My dad is a very smart man. He won’t change. I don’t expect him to, but as a family who rarely discusses their feelings. It’s sad to think we all suffer from such horrible mental health issues.
My parents have been brought up to believe mental health conditions don’t exist. It’s a generational thing I guess. When one of my cousins died of cancer aged 20 a few years ago, his older brother attempted suicide. I found out through my grandparents, My mum and I had gone to visit them one Sunday. “He tried to commit *suicide*” suicide was said In one of those whisper/mouthed ways. They spoke of how it wasn’t fair on my aunt and uncle who had already lost one child, or the family who were still dealing with my cousin’s death, “how could he be so selfish?” they said. I didn’t say anything at the time, I was 18 and struggling with my own mental health, I did not want to give the impression that I wasn’t ok or that I too was going to be “so selfish” But my cousin was obviously going through a very difficult time, he had lost his brother. And I know now that in that moment when you want to end your life, you don’t consider the feelings of your entire extended family, you just want the pain to stop. Maybe he wanted to see my cousin again, and was thinking about the afterlife, my family is religious, I personally am not. Or maybe even worse, he felt like it should have been him, he should have died and his younger brother should have been ok. I would understand those feelings because when my cousin passed away, I felt (and still do) that if someone in my family had, had to die it should have been me, the one who wasn’t happy, the one who has nothing going for them. My cousin was judged because my family didn’t understand mental illness and instead of being supportive they never spoke of it again. They covered it up as a “moment of weakness” something he did in an emotionally unstable bout of “insanity”
From what I can assume from stilted, hushed conversation I have overheard. My youngest aunt was once put on antidepressants briefly, a few years ago. My family talked about like it was some kind of weakness, like she was being “silly” because she had everything going for her, a husband, children, a nice house, a job. They weren’t sympathetic. In fact they pussyfooted around her for a few months and avoided asking her if she was “ok” almost completely. This all happened at least 10 years ago and I don’t have any particularly vivid memories about it besides the lack of empathy my family showed.
But it’s things like this that truly scare me about telling my family anything about my mental health problems and that is a truly sad state of events. I know enough about mental health to diagnose more than my immediate family, my grandmother is quite clearly depressed. But as they don’t believe in the “weakness” that is depression they won’t acknowledge it. My family is not the most emotional, my family isn’t particularly supportive or open about anything. It’s a difficult environment to have been bought up in. I have never felt comfortable talking to anyone in my family and I thought that was down to my Aspergers, but writing this I have realised that it is more than that, it’s just an unfortunate series of circumstances that I have to live with.
The Elephant in the Room