for better mental health

My father and my mental health

Thursday, 18 June 2020 Catrin

This Father’s day, Catrin* from West Wales blogs about how her father supported her with her mental health, and how she is managing since he passed away.

Content warning: This blog deals with the subject of abuse.

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Throughout my life, my dad has been my hero. As a child, I was abused by my mum’s partner. I felt unloved by my mother and I didn't want anything from anyone apart from my dad. Cuddles, love, to feel like a child that didn't have to struggle with all this abuse. My dad was the only person who gave me that.

As I hit my teens I was so consumed with hatred for my mum. I just didn't listen to her anymore, and that's when I had to see a child psychotherapist to get help and support and to talk to someone that knows and believes victims of sexual abuse. I had to talk to someone. I was feeling hate and anger and was tired of being ignored and blamed. It was about time I got everything off my chest. I told my dad and he believed me. I could talk to him about it and I moved in to live with him. I was still scared that my mum’s partner was still out there and that I never knew where he was. I had panic attacks and nightmares about him. I had counselling and although it was traumatic to talk about it, it felt right to get help and support. My dad was always there to support me.

My dad would always hug me and talk it all through to help me calm down.

When my anxiety was really bad, or I was having panic attacks, my dad would always hug me and talk it all through to help me calm down. He always had a way to reassure me that nothing like that is going to ever happen to me again. He always knew how to make me smile and laugh again. He would tell a joke then tickle me until I had a smile on my face. His favourite things to cook were a good old fry up or Spaghetti Bolognese, always with homemade meatballs. Sometimes we would go out to town to buy stuff, have a Chinese takeaway and watch films. We would cuddle on the sofa and remember all the good times we’d had together.

In 2006 my dad passed away. It upset me so much that the only person that protected me had gone. I loved him with all my heart. Birthdays, Father’s day and Christmases come along and it hurts as he’s not here to celebrate with. I've always felt guilty about not going with him when he died, but I know he would not want that. I know he would want me to be happy. I've always turned to him for help and advice. This Father’s day, like every other, I will go to his grave and I tell him that I love and miss him. Whenever I go to his grave I still talk to him about what's on my mind and what I've been doing.

After my dad’s passing, I saw a grief counsellor who specialised in dealing with my loss and hurt. It started to help me deal with all the emotions I was feeling. They told me that it was normal for me to feel so sad and angry and that it was linked to what happened to me for years and years. The best advice the grief counsellor gave me was to remember my dad with all the happy memories we made together. To think about all the advice and help he gave me. When I remember all the happy times, I have a smile on my face and a warm cosy feeling in my heart. I even laugh out aloud sometimes. My counsellor told me to always believe that I was, and still am, loved by my dad and to try and make him feel proud of me.

Now, when my mental health is bad, I try to remember the advice my dad gave me.

Now, when my mental health is bad, I try to remember the advice my dad gave me. He told me to always try to be happy and never let anything or anyone cloud my smile. He always believed in me and told me I was an amazing person with a heart of gold. I try and keep those words in my mind when things are really hard, and they have been really hard.

Seven years ago, I collapsed of a heart attack and ended up in hospital for two and a half months. I was diagnosed with left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy (lvnc) so I had to take things easy. I was feeling anxious about starting again in life and the anxiety and depression kicked in really badly. I was anxious about going home and worried about it happening again. I was feeling alone, upset and worried. At times I could barely breathe. Even then, I tried to think about my dad watching over me and looking out for me. It feels so comforting. I know it sounds weird (and at times upsetting) talking about this, but I know he is with me and he wants me to be happy.

I've had so much help and support to get to where I am today, I'm so truly happy and grateful but I'm not a 100% yet. I’m getting there slowly. I have a diamond of a partner who can help me and say the right things when I'm having really bad days. He deserves a medal. It's going to be a long journey but I know my dad is with me at every step. This Father’s day I will be especially thinking of my loving, caring dad with a smile on my face and glass raised to him.

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