health

'This is the life I've lived after my dad took his own life when I was 10.'

It’s a pain that never fades.

Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

Firstly let me say being a child of suicide is something I hope none of you ever have to experience. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, even my greatest enemy (if I had one). Unfortunately this is the life I’ve had to live since I was 10. These were the cards I was dealt through no actions of my own. I had no choice but to accept it as reality, because it was. I’ve lived this life every day since June 11th 1995 when I found out my father had died.

child of a parent who committed suicide
“I wouldn’t wish this experience upon anyone, even my greatest enemy.” Image via istock.

I’ve actually been able to quite successfully go through life without many people knowing that dad committed suicide. I always dread the “what does your dad do?” question because then I have to come out and tell people he’s dead. The common response to this is “Oh I’m sorry, how did he die?”. Sometimes I lie, but sometimes I tell the truth. Most people recoil in shock and wish they never asked when they find out its suicide. Others want to know how he did it. I get there’s a certain level of curiosity, but discussing details about how my father killed himself isn’t high on the list of conversations I want to have with people. Especially those who aren’t my closest friends. I’ve mentioned his suicide on here before, but I’ve never once mentioned how he did it, and I don’t intend to, because it doesn’t serve a purpose bringing that out in a public arena. And to be honest I already re-live that in my head continuously even though I wasn’t actually there when it happened. I don’t need the reminder.

There’s no point in me judging what he did. He’s not here to defend himself. It’s not going to bring him back and it won’t change anything. I’ll never have the answers I want so I’m not going to compound the hurt by adding anger on top of the pain. No point rubbing salt into my already deep wounds. But boy do I wish he’d never done it. That one single decision that he made has had a profound affect on my entire life.

I had to deal with kids teasing me

When I first returned to school straight after it happened all the kids in my grade had been told what had happened. The resident bully decided this was great ammunition to tease me even more than usual. The first day I went back I was greeted by her in the corridor pointing and laughing at me saying (really loudly) HA HA your dad killed himself! She probably didn’t understand the gravity of the situation at 11 years old, but that’s not really an excuse for her behaviour.

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Want more? Try: This is what depression feels like. (From someone who’s lived it).

I live with subconscious guilt

I wasn’t there when dad died (thank God), but I used to constantly wish I was. Because if I was there I keep thinking I could’ve stopped it. I know it probably wouldn’t have made any difference and I know it wasn’t my fault, but there’s that tiny part of me that wonders.

I made bad choices in past relationships

I honestly think I allowed myself to be in a controlling relationship because I craved a male authority figure. I didn’t have any male attention or a dad to build up my self confidence when I was growing up, so when my ex husband came along I lapped up the attention. Even though it was a very toxic type of attention.

child of a parent who committed suicide
This is Toni Welch. Image: supplied.

I fear everyone is going to leave me at any point

I have the hugest fear that the people I love are going to up and leave me at the drop of a hat with no warning. Whether it be through an accident or of their own choosing, I’m always worried that when I’m happy its all going to be taken away in an instant. Because that’s what happened before.

Related content: The most deadly epidemic ravaging Australian schools isn’t about drugs.

I’m a control freak and limit risks

I’m working on trying not to control everything and go with the flow more, but my natural tendency is to want to be in control of what happens. That way I can prevent bad things from happening – at least that’s what my mind thinks. I deliberately limit risks so I don’t put myself in situations where things could go wrong, however I’m also trying to work on this. I put off doing my V8 hot laps for months because I was scared something would go wrong, but in the end I did them and had an awesome time.

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I live with an anxiety disorder

I’m not sure if its a direct product of dad’s suicide or if I developed anxiety because of what happened after, but I have finally been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. I always overestimate the likelihood of something bad happening and at the same time underestimate my ability to cope with it if it did happen. I’ve most likely had it for years, but I’ve never seen anyone about it until I was diagnosed with PND. The stress of having a new baby pushed me over the edge and my anxiety peaked and started to affect my ability to function on a daily basis, so I sought help. Since then I’ve learnt a lot of ways to help cope with my anxiety and I really wish I had of sought help years earlier instead of accepting that was how my life was.

I always go over the what ifs

What if dad didn’t die?
Would he like T?
What if he was in bub’s life?
How would her life be different having a granddad?
Would I feel more loved if he was still around?

Pensive mother
“What if dad didn’t die?” Image via istock.

There have been a few positives to come out of the situation though, if you could call them that. Going through such a traumatic experience at such a young age taught me a lot of life lessons. Lessons I probably wasn’t ready to learn yet, but I learnt them none the less.

Knowing that things could change in an instant means I don’t take anything for granted. I’m grateful for everything good that comes my way. I appreciate the small things. I slow down and really enjoy life and try to live in the moment as much as possible. I appreciate every. single. moment. I get to spend with bub and I tell her I love her every chance I get, no matter how busy life gets.

I wouldn’t wish my life experience on anyone, but if there’s one thing I can pass on to others it’d be to make sure you slow down and enjoy life. Laugh, smile and spend time together. Make beautiful, happy memories. Because one day you’ll hold onto those memories so tight and be forever grateful that you made them.

This post originally appeared on Finding Myself Young.

Contact Lifeline: 13 11 14, Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800 or the Salvation Army 24-hour Care Line: 1300 36 36 22. You can also find help on the Headspace website here

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