My mind has been in a strange state for quite a while. I’d be lying if I said I was suicidal, but the thought of suicide keeps cropping up. It’s more of a call to me to understand death properly and maybe come to terms with what happened with my father’s suicide when I was 8 years old.
I will be 48 next birthday, so this time next year it will be 40 years. I remember it was spring or early summer. I’m sure that I could find out the exact date because he was relatively well known and it was in the papers at the time.
His act was never intended to hurt anyone. This is the irony of it all. He thought it was for the best – what pain he must have been in, poor man. It beggars belief. Recently my darling son helped me discover that if I am rejected it makes me fly into a rage. Now I know to try and catch hold of it. I think that this is because of the pain that still resonates after all this time and shapes my personality.
I fell out with my sibling because of this, my anger got away from me. There was a whole lot of buried stuff from more recently, say 30 years, that I had forgotten about – because it was embarrassing and humiliating to remember it – and suddenly it was important, then their carping and constant criticism made sense. I was rejected, in a calculated and very clever way. I responded with this unknown rage, a bad bad bad idea, and we can no longer communicate. This makes me feel terribly sad, a dear friend reminded me that this life is too short for this stuff. But my sibling manipulated me into giving them what they wanted – they are much cleverer than me, but what use is it?
All I have left of my father, at least directly, are some silver cuff links with a fish motif. He was a psychiatrist and wrote some books that were classics in their day. They were later brought up to date by a colleague and became Fish’s Outline of Psychiatry and some other titles that escape me now but I have my mother’s copies of them on a shelf somewhere.
He was a good man and did his best. My mother told me that one of his patients had said to her how much he had helped. But in those days, 1968, there was no proper treatment for manic depression. The modern drugs that everyone gets worried about did’t exist. Depressives would eventually do themselves in unless they were watched very carefully, and of course his position as Professor made it hard to insist that he went into hospital under supervision during his final days. We no longer remember wards full of people with catatonia and other distressing conditions because the drugs stop it happening.
I did’t get his intelligence. I am quite clever but not in his league. Not sure that I care about this very much. It did’t do him much good. Nor my sibling.
The lesson he taught me:
First you must learn to love and forgive yourself before you can love anyone else.
I paid a high price for this knowledge and now try to live by it every day. Now I am aware of the unconscious rage it no longer controls me. Just makes my tears flow.
If anyone gets a little comfort from these words – good.