I’d like to welcome our first ever guest writer, Hayleigh Karr. I asked people on Twitter if they might be able to write articles on men’s mental health. I was looking for different perspectives on this topic. Hayleigh was the first one to get an article to me. Please read her article below regarding her father’s depression:
My father is a hardened man. His skin is as thick as leather from countless hours in the searing Australian sun and he has a layer of distrust and anger that is crack-free from countless broken hearts and disappointments. He has always been a hermit- only ever coming out from the comfort of his home for survival basics; work, food and cigarettes. He bought a house in the middle of nowhere and on the top of a floodplain that can never be built upon just so he wouldn’t have to see any neighbours. His dream is to retire and be left completely alone, aside from the occasional call from my sister and I. It took me a long time to recognise his depression as he has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule that he absolutely lives by. I’ve watched him abuse drugs, alcohol, and prescription painkillers all my life. He finds comfort in silence and revels in being isolated. To the outside world he is charismatic and joyful- I’ve never met a person who doesn’t adore him.
When I was diagnosed with depression; however, I noticed that when I was on my lows, he matched them perfectly. He completely got it. He was the only one who understood when I cried because the idea of getting out of bed physically hurt me. I remember once when I was about six, he told my sister, who was ten at the time and battling the concept of sadness that there was a moment that he felt so sad he wanted to end it all, but that he stopped himself because of us. He told us that we were the only reason he tied himself to this earth. I was shocked because as a six-year-old the only time I had ever seen him upset was when I had done something naughty and needed a smack. I had never seen him cry or pout or show any level of unhappiness. I suppose that as a child you ignore social cues and little comments that would otherwise suggest a sinister mental health issue.
Underneath his layer of thickened skin and even thicker distrust, he has bone structures made of glass. So fragile and so weak, it’s a wonder they don’t break under the immense pressure of his mind. I’ve only ever seen those glass bones break twice. The first was when my cat died. They’d had her for longer than they’d had me. She was fifteen years old and he couldn’t make it to her last minutes because his boss wouldn’t let him go early from work. He cried, and then drank rum. The second time I was reading him a piece I wrote on my blog before living with him, and he cried. The next day he drank rum. His way of dealing with emotions is by not dealing with them at all. He bottles things, and then explodes in a rage or walks off somewhere alone. It’s things like that which I ignored as a child, and now that I live through a fraction of his hurt I see the cracks develop and see that there’s pain underneath them.
When I was younger I saw my Dad as Superman. I couldn’t believe that anyone could ever be as tall as him, or as fast, smart or strong. He was the epitome of what a perfect man should be. Now that I’m older I see my Dad as Superman because he fights harder than any person I’ve ever met. He has issues which make his everyday life a struggle, it’s an uphill climb day in, day out; and he doesn’t always come out on top. I know he’s broken, hurt and vulnerable. I know he cares too much about things that will hurt him, but only because those are the things he loves and despite all his broken hearts and dreams he still believes in happiness. My Dad is superman because life has thrown every harmful thing his way and he knows that just getting out of bed on any given day will amount to a lot of hard work and pain, yet he does it because he’s kicking depression’s butt. My Dad has depression, but depression doesn’t have my Dad. Thank you kindly for reading,
6th May 2015