I remember those tablets you used to have, the ones you didn’t want me to see you take. I remember your mood swings. I remember when you were tired and stayed in bed. I remember when you used to go for long walks and I’d worry where you were. I remember feeling your pain. I remember being worried. This all happened in my early childhood. But what are my earliest childhood memories? What do I think about when I think of this time together?
I have memories of laughter, of silliness, of building, running, dancing, playing, colouring and singing together. I remember you working a long shift to come home and play dolls with me when you looked like you needed to sleep. I have memories of trust and love for you. I remember the excitement I had to see you come home. We had so many special moments, things that are only ours; nicknames, phrases, songs, movies, jokes and more… There are memories of cuddles and conversation, of bedtime stories and places we visited. I’ve lost count of how many times a day I heard you say you loved me or were proud of me. Those are my childhood memories.
You see I didn’t know you were struggling with depression back then. I didn’t know the reasons behind the frustration and anger I could sometimes sense in you; anger and frustration that you never showed towards me, then or at any point. I look back now and realise the times you looked lost, the times you looked pained or teary. I can see how much effort the smallest things must have taken. Now I too have fought depression I understand everything. I can see the same actions and emotions that you displayed that I have done so myself. I know what it’s like to feel a burden to loved ones and not want to upset them with your own struggles and negative feelings. I know the power of cuddles and laughter and why they happened daily even though you must have felt numb inside like I have done. I know what it’s like to want to be alone. I know now that you will have worried if you were upsetting me, ruining my fun, not being a good enough dad. But that’s the whole point. I am your daughter, you are my dad. That is all I needed from you. I needed you to be dad and you were.
After working with children I know the unconditional love that a young child has for their parents. Even parents that I looked at and thought ‘you’re child deserves better.’ In their child’s eyes they were still god-like heroes. They are all they know and with this in mind simply being there to love and care for them puts you in the very top spot of their heart. But you did more than just be there. You did more than just be a biological father. That’s why you need to know this…
I loved my childhood. I loved the way you always have been with me. I have always at every point of my life had love, admiration, respect and trust in you. You have always been the reason I laugh so much, why I take myself so lightly and why I learnt to be calm, respectful and caring. You have always given me a sense of pride and achievement in our relationship and in myself. I have always been proud of you. You were the best comedian, teacher, singer, guitarist, artist and much more because I saw you as amazing.
I didn’t understand back then that you were depressed. All I knew is that you were my hero and my best friend. Now that I know now I see you as even more of a hero. You were struggling but you did your best for me. No matter what you had to deal with you put me first. Yes you were grumpy and moody and at times didn’t want to play but all dads do that. Even the dads with the easiest and happiest of lives, in fact some of those don’t try their hardest to play, to laugh, to pay attention, what’s their excuse! But you didn’t use depression as a reason or excuse to not be there, you just tried your best. That’s all any child wants, a dad that tries to do right by them. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to always be strong and you don’t have to always get it right. Make mistakes. In fact your very weaknesses taught me compassion, sympathy, empathy. They taught me to care. They taught me to give hugs and do nice things for people. I learnt from you how important it is to make others smile, the way you made me smile. Your mistakes made me see you were human. I didn’t judge you on them or hold them against you.
I can see now that I was your strength, the reason you got up on a morning, the reason you worked so hard to keep your job, the reason you put yourself second and the reason you kept going. I am ever grateful and honoured to have been loved so much that I gave you that strength and hope.
Mental illness may have affected you but it wasn’t you. Mental illness is not your personality, it is not your values, it is not your mood; it is an illness. For every depressed dad out there you have a right to recover and take care of yourself for your own sake. You are ill and your focus is to get better. You have a little one that believes in you, that loves you and needs you. Make them the reason you carry on. If you ever feel that you can’t do it for yourself then do it for them. You are their whole world and they will forgive any moments you felt like you weren’t ‘being dad enough.’ You may feel as though they are missing out but you are teaching them what life is all about. Teach them that dads cry, dads struggle, dads need help, dads need a hug and dads can become sick but that doesn’t stop the love they have for their child. It takes a real man to do that. In fact it takes a real dad.
Your Proud Daughter
Creator of: http://notjustdepressed.blogspot.co.uk