Without going into much detail the last 12 months have been somewhat of a whirlwind. My relationship (which was abusive in nature) fell apart and I found myself without a home. My father passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and a short fight with bronchial-pneumonia and soon after I began encountering my own health problems. Soon after I landed my dream job of working on the equal marriage campaign within the Rainbow Project, I met someone new and I was accepted into Ulster University to study Counselling & Psychotherapy. Okay so maybe a little detail was needed but as I move into the next 12 months from when all that chaos started I find myself increasingly unable to find motivation or support within myself to get out of bed or to get through the day.
It’s no secret that I have lived with anxiety and depression, at times crippling, since the age of 16 and that over the last thirteen years I have found various methods of coping and readjusting my mindset in order to function and survive. But sometimes surviving just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to just exist as someone who has depression or who doubts themselves every single day. A soul needs more than the promise of tomorrow to keep going and lately I have found myself becoming more and more agitated by the knowledge that my father isn’t coming back.
Losing a loved one is always a shock and it’s always sudden, even if you know that it’s coming. I have been there several times before when I have lost friends and relatives but it’s a completely different animal when you are faced with the prospect of parting ways with a parent. When you’re a kid you think your mum and dad will live forever, that they’re invincible and that you’ll never have to worry because they will always keep you safe. When the day comes that you have to help them to the bathroom or feed them because they can’t feed themselves you learn to accept the fact that what you believed as a kid isn’t true and that slowly but surely you will have to say goodbye. I watched Parkinson’s disease slowly take my father away from me, my brother and my mother and it is an illness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It is sneaky, it is slow and it robs you of the person you love in ways and means that you didn’t think possible.
I realise now that I have been so demotivated and anxious about getting out of bed in the mornings because after dad died I only took a week off work and when straight back to it. Back to work, back to uni, back to the real world with no pause for breath in between. I threw myself headlong into the hustle and bustle of the equal marriage campaign (a job that I love) and into my college work with the aim of moving forward. I thought I was fine, that I was coping and that I was doing well for having just lost my dad but the truth was that I just wasn’t dealing with it.
Running away from my grief wasn’t a healthy way of processing what had happened but it doesn’t make it any less valid as a coping mechanism. What matters is that I recognise it now for what it was and understand that grief is not a five stage process or something that can be summed up in an Insta-Quote. It’s not true either that time heals everything. It still hurts every day, it just doesn’t hurt as much on the good days and it’s important to appreciate that there is no process to this, there is no tried and tested method for getting over the loss of a loved one. Grief isn’t linear and we each embrace it differently, just as we do with everything.
I have surrounded myself with a support network that I am incredibly grateful for, I have decided to take the time I need to process my grief and to be true to my own feelings. I came very close to burning out a few months ago and I forced myself to take a much needed vacation from the world for my own good.
I find it nearly impossible to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone, and often times I find myself crying at a song, a TV show that he would have watched, even something as simple as the smell of an aftershave or joke on the radio. Truth be told I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he passed bar for once when I visited with my mother and brother last summer. That isn’t how I want to remember him.
My father was my best friend, he was the strongest, kindest and bravest man I have ever known and I owe it to him to look after myself and to take pride in the fact that I am his son. My mental health has always been challenging and such a devastating loss is no small thing to comprehend. On the day he died I wanted to grab the nearest person in the street and scream at them. Why was the world still turning and living? My dad was dead. But it does and we have to carry on, too.
I know this post was a bit of a mess from start to finish but it’s one of the few things I’ve been able to write in the last year and I feel better for having done it. I hope that if you’re reading this and you have recently lost someone that you know you aren’t alone. There is support out there and if you don’t have anyone else you have me. We all have times in our lives when the clouds don’t want to roll away but it’s important to remember that the Sun is just behind the clouds, waiting to break through. Patience can only do so much to mend a broken heart from grief but enriching your life with those that you love (and that has to include yourself too!) and finding ways of coping with the next ten seconds, and the ten seconds after that will make it that little bit easier.
Thanks for reading x