In my mid teens, my father lost his license, and was also made redundant from his job as a newspaper designer. Financially and emotionally this was tough for the whole family, particularly my mother. We had all had enough of dad, and conflict was high. Dad at this time tried a number of other ways to cope and deal with his depression, including a failed attempt at religious cure. The removal from work, away from a social drinking environment, the importance of having a license – and finally realizing he could lose his family, in some ways was a good catalyst for him to stop drinking.
Initially, his anxiety and sadness were worse, however were more expressed – he would cry often and became more anxious and fixed in his obsessive behaviors’ and phobias. As a teenager, this would drive me crazy, as he would have stuff everywhere – but would become stressed out if we moved something. This was very hard with two toddlers in the household, and shielding them from this. I think he worked hard in this time to make a new life and new meanings for himself – and the dad I knew was very different than the dad he became for his younger boys.
As a teenager in a country town, I never identified myself as a carer – it was a fact of life and something that I was very ashamed off. My mother said we should never talk about our problems, that is was our own business – she is the most resilient person I know! I remember being really frightened that they would judge my dad, my family and take us away – that people would point and say my father was strange. Strange that the fear of this was as strong as the fear that he would expose us through suicide.
My elder brother just went along as if nothing had happened, never talking and never opening up – even after helping me to disarm dad when he tried to suicide in his bedroom – he just clammed up. For me, school and work and my beloved brothers were my source of pride – of certainty in a world that seemed uncertain.
There were also some particular teachers, who gave me important endorsement, who said I would do well in life – that gave me hope to look beyond and believe I could move beyond this. I am endlessly grateful that they noticed when I seemed down and spoke to me as an adult with capacity – offering important adult role models that were consistent and kind.
I think times have changed – and I would hope that young people today would have a name for their role and their experience, would be able to break the stigma and silence and ask for help.
Note: Not her real name.