The Impact of Mental Illness & Suicide

bipolar-blog

News of Robin Williams committing suicide saddens me a lot.  My heart goes out to his family.  I truly hope that Williams have left his family with a note or something to help bring closure.

Debtdebs wrote a post about Thoughts on Suicide which prompted me to write a post about Suicide and Mental Illness.

The news also brought a lot of memories of the time when I had to deal with my father’s mental illness.    It all started about 7 years ago when my father thought he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  It all went downhill from there.

Living with a family member with  mental illness:

Shortly after my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  I can still clearly remember the day when I got home from work, I found my mom holding a note written by my dad saying that he loved her and what he planned to do and left the house with his car.

That night, we all drove around the neighborhood, trying to find where he is.  My mom was sitting at home by the phone, hoping someone or my dad would call home.  I think it was the scariest night I have ever been through.  We finally found him at a nearby mall.  He later told us later that he was planning on jumping off the roof top parking that night, but lost the courage to do so.  I remember I convinced my mom that we need to send him to the hospital because he needs help.  It was then when the doctors diagnosed him with depression and hospitalized him for the next month.

Once my dad was discharged from the hospital.  He went on a spending spree: buying gifts for everyone who helped him and visited him at the hospital (we didn’t realize this was actually his manic phase until later).

Of course, his “happy episode” did not last very long because winter came along and he became depressed again.  This time, he was hospitalized for 2 weeks.

This became a never ending cycle: in the hospital; out the hospital.  He didn’t like to take his medication and often took it upon himself to stop taking the medication.  We had no control over his action whatsoever.  He was stubborn and tried to manipulate us into thinking he is “ok” when he actually needs help.  

I extremely disliked him back then.  Absolutely disliked him because I felt like he was manipulating and torturing my mom when he was depressed – getting her to do this and that for him.

It was really difficult for me to see him depressed – manic – depressed – manic.   He was was father.  He was suppose to be the “strong” person in the family, but he wasn’t.  He wanted everyone and everything revolved around him.  He is the most important. I always disliked his “ME ME ME” mentality.  He always taught us not to be selfish and always be happy.  I was disappointed that he couldn’t do what he taught us.

I know that people who are depressed “can’t help” that they are depressed, but it was really hard for me to accept that my father “can’t help” what he was feeling and that he couldn’t “snap” out of it.  I always felt that I was manipulated by him.

I thought my father would be strong enough to lead our family when my mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  Boy, was I wrong. 

When we broke the news to my father that mom was terminally ill, he did NOT take it well at all.  Instead of being by my mom’s side to help her through her treatment.  He became depressed again!  I remember I was so disgusted by him.  It was then when the doctors diagnosed my father with bipolar disorder – due to his manic / depressive episodes.

I remember the day we hospitalized him. I saw him lying in the emergency room bed looking pretty pathetic, talking gibberish, and for some reason, I burst into tears in front of him when I saw him in this state.  I was surprised at my reaction because I thought I didn’t care about him anymore. I was just really surprised  and heartbroken to see him in  the state he was in.  He looked me right into the eye and he started crying too and tried to use his blanket to cover his head so I wouldn’t see it. Looking back, I think he was just sad he couldn’t be the father I thought he would be.

I have to admit, I did blame him for my mom’s sickness.  If we weren’t all so focused on him  because of his depression, we would have paid more attention to my mom’s health.

After mom passed I couldn’t bring myself moving back into my father’s house.  I was living with the Husband at that time already and my siblings were also living on their own as well.   I couldn’t live under the same roof as my father as he affects my emotional well-being a lot.
I was emotionally exhausted by him. 
I couldn’t deal with his mental illness.  Instead, my siblings and I visited him often (we live about 10 -15 minutes away from my father).  We encouraged him and praised him how well he was doing.  We tried to help him setting up his bill payments (my mom took care of all the bills and household stuff so he had absolutely no clue what he needs to do).
The Suicide: 
After mom passed, we hospitalized my father twice before he took his own life.  My siblings visited my father the night before he took his own life.  They didn’t see or feel that something was wrong with him. I was going to go with them, but I was frantically trying to finish writing my paper before I take off for my honeymoon.
The day my father took his own life, I remember I was thoroughly was annoyed when I got a call from my sister saying that my father was missing.  I thought he was just pulling an attention-seeking stunt.  I remember telling my sister that I didn’t have time to go check up on him after work because I needed to finish up my work before I take off for my vacation.
At around 8 pm, while I was still at work, my sister called and I heard her crying on the phone.  My heart stopped and I knew something was wrong.  Either she found my father hurt or something terrible.  It took her a couple of minutes before she was able to tell me that she found my father in his own bedroom: he killed himself burning charcoal with all the windows and doors closed.
Once I heard the news, I was in my “no emotion mode” and was trying to figure out what I needed to do.   I remember sending a quick email to my supervisor informing her of what had transpired.  I called the husband to let him know what happened and to tell him to meet me at my father’s house.  Once I got into my car, I realized my hands were shaking.  I tried to calm myself down so that I can drive to my father’s house.
By the time I got home, the police and the ambulance were there.  My husband and my sister’s boyfriend were there.  I walked into the kitchen and I saw my sisters in tears.
Then I saw the note my father left us.  He left us a note saying that he loved us and that he missed our mom  and he couldn’t deal with his depression anymore and wanted to to find a way out so he just want to end it all. 
I still haven’t shed one tear at that time.  The police officer came over to me and asked if I want to see my father.  I was hesitant.  My sisters eventually went to the bedroom with me and I remember myself getting angry.   I was angry at his stupidity.  Questions were forming:
  • Why did he do this?
  • Why did he kill himself?  He had such a good things going for him? Why? Why? Why?
  • Did we not love him enough?
  • Did we not give him enough attention?
  • What is he thinking?
  • Why did he pick that date?

It was not until the police left when I burst into tears.  I don’t remember if I burst into tears because I was really really angry at my father for taking his own life or if I was really really sad that he took his own life.

Moving Onwards:

I attended a conference a couple months ago and it talked about mental illness in a workplace.  The speaker was a person who had taken her own life before, but she was lucky because her family found her and rushed her to the hospital. When she came around to my group to see if we have any questions,  I couldn’t help myself  asking her: Why did you take your own life?  What was going through your head?  Did you think about your family?   She answered: I wasn’t thinking right, I was not in the right frame of mind.   I don’t know if her answer brought me any comfort though.

I also realize that no matter how many times friends have tried to comfort me saying “it’s not your fault that he took his own life”; I will always still think it is partly my fault because maybe I could have done something MORE to prevent it; or maybe I could have gone visit him the night before with my siblings and I COULD HAVE detected that something was wrong with him.  

To this day, those questions still haunt me.  I don’t think I will ever forget that day.  I don’t think I will ever forget the time living with him and dealing with his illness.

So for those who are currently dealing with depression or mental illness, please think of your family members.  No matter what your family say or do, they love you and would NOT EVER EVER want to see or hear or know that you’ve taken your own life.  

~ The Money Pincher ~

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6 thoughts on “The Impact of Mental Illness & Suicide

  1. It sounds like you and your siblings were all very supportive of your father. Mental illness is very selfish and consequently very frustrating for the family members. Even myself, who has experienced episodes of depression, finds it difficult to cope with other family members too. Thanks for sharing your side to dealing with manic-depression. It seems like a no win situation, but it’s important to maintain boundaries to keep yourself healthy as well. When it ends in tragedy, all we can do is forgive them and know that they did the best that they could and so did we.

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