You Know the Face, But not the Person

This is the story of how i lost my Dad. it’s quite a long post and happened a fair few years ago now, so some parts maybe quite hazy but i will do my best to explain it, and the thoughts that started my first ever down ward spiral into the world of depression.

it is 1998, the year before my GCSE’s i am about to turn 15 and my brother 9. we lost our paternal Grandfather to cancer in the February,

Dads mental health declined quite rapidly at this point, his third marriage to the ‘other woman’ had ended the year before, he moved into his bungalow in Beck Row, and me and my brother were spending more time with him as a result,

in the March dad tried to OD’d on the anti-depressants that he had been given by the GP his paranoia and anxiety was extremely high, unless myself or brother bought him coffee for instance he wouldn’t drink it, he was usually fairly clean anyway but i noticed small differences in his bungalow, such as cling film over his chopping board, (looking back i can see this is some form of OCD i have this tendency too) he always had to have a box of tin foil near by and me & brother had great fun making hats out of it to wear, and guns and other fun stuff, again looking back i can see his rationale had dipped some,

he thought everyone was out to get him, i remember one morning in March mum got a call from his work saying he hadn’t turned up for 3 days, so mum reported him missing and he was found living rough in a car in Felixstowe, he had very little knowledge of how he had gotten there,

the second OD he took mum and nan requested that he was sectioned so that an assessment could be done of his mental health, the assessment took place but he discharged himself as the section was never put in place. this was at the beginning of April of 1998.

next time i saw dad he popped his head around mums back gate to see if she was available to talk, my younger sister then only 18-19 months old was running her ragged and she wasn’t able to stop and talk, my nan i think was on holiday, which Aunt and Uncle had arranged to give her some space since Granddad had died, as an extra special surprise they redecorated her bedroom for her too come back too also.

April 16th i *think* was a Wednesday i was poorly i hadn’t gone to school can’t remember what ailment i faked that day to be honest. the police knocked the door with my aunt, all went into the kitchen, i remember this being unusual because mum believed that we should know the truth about pretty much everything and made sure we were included, it was noted somewhere that giving mum too much info was not a good idea, as she was *too* honest with us.

i could hear hushed voices above the program i was watching, Sister was napping and i was keeping an ear out for her, brother was in school. i could things like, ‘he used to take the kids to the park there’ and ‘they think he’s tried to do it again’ and could hear over that my mums voice slightly higher ‘how/what do i tell the children?’

mum and aunt went with the police to the hospital, mum asked me too look after sister and said she would be home before mark came out or she would arrange for Granddad to pick him up from school and look after him until she got back.

i spent a busy day playing with sister and i think mum returned around 4ish she busied herself making our dinner, Spaghetti Bolognese, whilst waiting for my brother to be dropped off, we ate our meal, and mum said she needed to talk to me and mark about our dad.

i watched mums face twist and pain etch across her face whilst she tried to find the right words to say to me and my brother about the days events, mum explained to us that dad had attempted to take his life, they suspected at sometime around dawn as it was getting light dad had cut the hose from his tap in the back of his bungalow, taken aunts car which he was repairing rather than his own, driven from beck row to Exning and sat just outside a play park he used to take me and brother too and attempted to kill himself from the fumes of the car. she then explained that she didn’t know what kind of person if any we were going to get back. Dad was being sent to Poole in Dorset to be put in hyperbaric chamber to try and attempt to reverse some of the effects of the Carbon Monoxide.

after that conversation i do not remember much of the 3 weeks that followed, my brothers birthday passed in this time, no idea of it, i remember ‘snap shots’ of things i did, i shaved my hair off got told i looked like a lesbian, not sure why i remember that, i ran away from home, i blamed everyone for the fact that my dad had been taken away, i screamed WHY? over and over, i briefly remember mum discussing with Granddad that she knew the person that was coming back if any was not the same person, when she saw dad in the ICU they opened his eyes as part of the checks, and his eyes were a different shade of blue, i guess that is something you get from sharing a life with someone for almost 16 years in one form or another. i completely lost the plot, i snapped out of this trance like state on what would have been his 40th Birthday May 4th, it was the day we were told that dad was being sent back from Poole to Die as there was nothing more that they could do for him there.

but Dad didn’t die, i think he spent about 18 months at Addenbrokes, and i visited him 3 times in that time, and i have not seen him since, i get pictures from time to time, and i have not opened the last two i received.

i remember it was a couple days after my 15th birthday when i made the first trip back to see Dad and initially i was excited to go see my dad, mum had warned me that he was not like he was but i was 15 and what did she know.

when i stepped foot into the foyer at Addenbrokes, i started to feel a bit scared, i didn’t know what i was coming into and i didn’t (still don’t) like hospitals, and i became rooted to the spot scared to go forward but not wanting to walk out either, mum chatted me around and i made it to the ward where Dad was. the best way i can describe what is felt is i knew his face, the shape was the same, his eyes were still blue, but i knew i did not know the person that stood in front of me, and that scared me shitless!

this person was walking around in a shell that looked like my dad, but i was not my dad, he did not remember me, or my brother, he could talk some simple sentences, told me he had 6 daughters, my dad could not handle the ONE he had, he didn’t even remember his name or who his own mum was or even my brother.

i heard mum talking with his doctor about his progress and what they though prognosis might be and if there was any chance that dad would recover and i remember the words very clearly as it is not something you would expect a doctor to say.

he said mum, it would have been kinder to your children and his mother had he been left an extra 2 minutes, he will not get better, and he would never remember us due to the irreversible brain damage

i only saw the shell of my dad 2 more times after this i found it disturbing and hard and emotionally draining.

in the year that followed i turned to shop lifting, attention seeking on any level, i also became a carer to my mum and helped to raise my sister whist my mum was undergoing the first of many operations.

i passed my GCSE’s not brilliant grades but then they bumped me down to the bottom in everything as they did not think i could cope, i passed on to college got a psychiatric nurse, had been popping Prozac for around 8 months at this point when i had this urge to thieve the nearest thing to me, which was a 10p pack of haribo. i was caught, arrested, and stranded in BSE

i couldn’t explain why i had stolen them only that part of me had told me too, i gave my statement and was given a caution,

2 days later trying to explain myself to my social worker that the only thing i could put my finger on as a reason was i had just come from a 1-2-1 session and we had gone into depth about dad, and that i thought that was the reason behind what had happened, to which my social worker, i remember her name and the way she used to brush her hair with her hair clamp she was the reason i hated them for so long she turned to look at me and said Kelly what a childish thing to say! don’t you think you should be over that by now.

i didn’t say anything then, but remember thinking ‘how can you get over something which hasn’t reached a conclusion?’ how can you find closure in an event with no ending? ‘how did she expect that you can just shut a door when someone is only half way through it?’

took the first of 17 overdoses that weekend, remember the darkness and the happiness as i fell asleep dreaming of time with my dad again and remember sobbing as i woke up to my stomach being pumped.

a very dark 3 years followed, i became promiscuous, favouring older over the younger, had a miscarriage, lost another child at 17 weeks gestation, got beat up, going pillar to post to post to pillar, moved out of mums for 4 months in to a terribly abusive relationship, miscarried again, moved back into mums,

then i had a small beam of light in my life, i passed my NVQ’s in food prep and cooking, i got a job, i felt steady for the first time in quite a long while then had a night out met a bloke, had a one night stand and 9 months later i had a beautiful baby girl, my oldest daughter is special to me in so many ways, she was my consolation prize when i was just starting to find myself again. she was born at the end of May with my mum by my side, and she gave me the single most important reason to live

4 months later i met back up with her father by chance in the street, we started dating we got married 2006, and 5 more babies followed after that and10 years later that man is still my diamond rock, i stopped taking any medication for my depression on the 20th June 2004 the same day my daughter found her first steps, and up until March this year, i managed the good the bad and the ugly un-medicated

My dad still thrives today he is in a brain rehabilitation centre in Birmingham, he got to meet Princess Margret a few years back when she officially opened the building my dad was in, he has constant 1-2-1 care i choose to not get too many updates but the last i had was that he was in nappies day and night sat in a corner a majority of the time exposing himself to nurses. i will probably never know the why he felt the only way to solve things was to take his own life,

And i often find myself referring back to what the doctor said with regards to the extra 2 minutes and think what if?


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