Today, I wake up with a pit in my stomach. I feel sick. 365 days ago my dad was still alive, but only for a few more hours. I never knew just how fast a year could go by. Or how slow. Sometimes it seems like everyone is moving on in their lives but I’m just standing still in that moment of time when I lost my dad. Most times, I feel like I have no right to be so grief stricken. See, the thing is that my dad and I didn’t have much of a relationship for the last ten years before he took his life. He was no longer the dad I had grown up with. He had made decisions, big decisions, that I didn’t agree with. And for that reason, along with the fact that I’m stubborn as hell and have zero communication skills, led to ten years of hardly any speaking.
I grieve for the man that was my father for those first twenty-one years of my life. A man who had an energy that could light up any room. He was stubborn, had a temper, horrible at communicating, but he was charismatic as hell, made everyone feel welcome, and was the life of any party. I think many of my best and worst qualities come from him. When I was young, my mother (an absolute amazing woman) and I butt heads constantly. We couldn’t be more different. She couldn’t really understand me just as I couldn’t understand her. (Let it be known, that now later in life, I appreciate her for everything she is and does!) But my dad, he GOT me. Because I was really just a mini version of him. He was my best friend. I remember one night shortly before we were told that my parents were going to be divorcing, my dad sitting on the couch chatting with me and he asked me, “would you love me no matter what? Even if I screwed up?”. He was crying. And I said, “of course!” and hugged him with tears in my own eyes. I had seen my dad cry a few times. Always had something to do with my sister and I. We always knew that we were his world. So it was painful to see. But we brushed it under the rug, not really wanting to discuss feelings. I wish I knew then what I know now.
After my parents divorced, it was hard to watch the decisions my father made. Priorities changed, he changed, my world changed. So I just stopped speaking to him. For a while he still made an effort, but eventually that changed too. He was lost, but I thought he was the adult and he should know better. I said nothing, I let my silence do the speaking for me.
Fast forward to the month or so prior to my dad’s suicide. He hadn’t called me for my birthday in June, which was just another let down. One I had become used to though. But towards the end of July he tried calling, and those calls continued. Along with text messages. They were apologies. Apologies for not calling on my birthday, apologies for not being there, saying he would love to walk my down the aisle someday. For some reason, he kept referring to TJ as my fiancé. I never picked up, I never texted back. Until three days before he took his life. For some reason, I finally decided to respond. All I said was that I was fine and there was nothing to talk about. I never heard from him again. I now live a life full of regret. I should have saw the signs. I should have picked up the phone. Maybe, just maybe if I had called him back he wouldn’t have thought he had to end it all. I wouldn’t wish the feelings I am left with on my worst enemy. They are all consuming and sometimes make it unbearable to breathe.
But I AM still alive. I AM still here. So I cannot spend all my days and thoughts on what could have been. Maybe, my story will help save someone else. Since I couldn’t save my own dad. I learned much later on after my dad was gone that it wasn’t his first attempt at suicide. Not his second, or his third even. His first attempt was back when I was twenty-one. Not long after my parents split up. It was back when we were still on speaking terms. I got a call that he was in the hospital so I rushed up there from work. He had a black eye and was laying in the hospital bed with someone assigned to just sit there and watch over him. His liver had started to fail because he had taken an abundance of meds along with alcohol. So he was on suicide watch. But he said that he hadn’t been trying to kill himself at all. He just got into a bar fight and took too many ibuprofen while drinking and lost count. I was young and naïve and he was so convincing. Plus, no one else in the family seemed like it was anything more than that either. Sometimes, there are many signs that people are depressed and suicidal. They’re crying out for help, and we just ignore those signs. Please, make sure you pay attention! Better to be over cautious then filled with regret.
Yesterday I received an impossibly sweet and encouraging text message from a dear friend from work, Genevie. She was actually the first person I saw after seeing the awful RIP Facebook post on my dads wall in my newsfeed that let me know he was gone. I hope Genevie doesn’t mind me sharing her text, this is a little from it, “I’ve seen you grown more confident and more open. You have made yourself available to those who need help with depression, instead of dwelling in it. I’ve seen you get stronger and more versatile in your speech in articulating your thoughts and feelings. And you continue to make steps to being healthy all the way around.” I’m not sure I can fully express what this means to me. To know that someone out there has noticed. Not just noticed but pointed it out to me, because sometimes it’s hard for me to see. I’ve been working on speaking up and speaking out. Thank you for noticing.