I know how much you resent that I don’t keep you informed of all that is going on in my life. But the fact of the matter is, I have good reason for not talking to you about the heavy stuff. You see, unlike Mum, I think you lack an understanding of my condition. You get impatient with me, and the people who are being paid to help me. You get frustrated that you, as my Dad, are powerless to do anything but sit by and watch me hurt. And you get angry because you think I could be ‘trying harder’. I don’t blame you for any of this; these are all justifiable emotions in a father whose daughter has spent the best part of the last decade at war with her own mind. But the thing is, Dad, that all of these things boil away under your skin, and every now and then you lash out at me. This is what stops me from communicating properly with you; I can’t cope when you adopt the ‘cruel to be kind’ approach and tell me ‘I look like shit’ or compare my troubles with those of an Alzheimer’s patient, who is (according to you) more deserving of care and attention, because ‘they don’t know any better’. There is enough stigma surrounding MH, without being persecuted in my own home, by someone I love.
I realise that you find Emma the easier of your two girls. Despite the constant grief she gives you (you’re now renovating her second home in 5 years), and the cheek, and the frequent mood swings (borne of being born in 1986, a Gemini and a middle child). Despite all of this, you prefer her company to mine. Because she’s upfront, you know what she’s thinking and she knows how to push your buttons, make you laugh helplessly just when you think you’re about to come to blows.
I don’t hold this against you. I know you never know what I’m thinking, and that you find me difficult to be around; I find me difficult to be around! But I want you to know that I wish things could be as they were when I was young. I have so many fond memories, Dad. I remember when you used to give us £1 each on a Saturday morning, with which we could either rent a video or buy a comic. I remember how excited you used to get as we packed up the car for a family holiday every Summer, and the amount of hard work and overtime required from you and Mum in order that these holidays might take place was never lost on me. I remember running around with you and Paul, playing football. I remember when, once in a blue moon, you would take us to MacDonald’s, and then on to the cinema as a treat (you never spoiled us). I remember Sunday evenings when, in the manner of a production line, Mum would oversee the bathing and then dispatch us, one at a time, to the living room where you would be in charge of the hairdryer.
So, although we are at odds a lot of the time now, I want you to remember that it wasn’t always this way. And I want you to come to terms with my condition (as I have to), because I’m pretty sure there is a way forward from here. Things may not return to exactly how they were, but we haven’t finished with the memories, Dad…and, for what it’s worth, I love you.