Father's Day - Peanuts, Birds and Music

It’s the third Sunday in June – that makes it Father’s Day. I can remember a lot of Father’s Days, usually involving a family get together of some sort and some peanuts, bird books and music. My Father has always been difficult to please, but peanuts, birds and music have always been his soft spots.

For the best part of the last year my Father has been in an institution because his mind is failing him. In his state of confusion (
he was a professional musician) he thinks he has a gig there that he is not fulfilling and he lives in fear of being kicked out and apologises to us daily for his worry, his inability to do the gig and his condition.

Today as a family we will try to bring even a tiny bit of joy to his anguish.

Mental illness is something that not many of us know much about. If I think back on the part of my Father’s life I was exposed to, I can see his illness clearly was there for a very long time. We saw it as a short temper, a difficult personality, a perfectionist that couldn’t be pleased - and we navigated around it, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

My Father was aware of it too. His library is full of books on calming the nerves through martial arts, food choices, and meditation. Even with all of the reading and experimenting, he never really made the connection that it was his physical body making him feel that way, not his life. So he kept busy. When he was busy he was able to get away from the ruminating thoughts, the torture of anxiety, the self loathing.

Unfortunately the thoughts won and now we are unable to care for him as a family. There have been several suicide attempts and eventually the institution was our only choice.

If you know someone struggling with a personality disorder, mental illness, depression, panic and anxiety, it is critical that you begin to understand what drives their behaviour and forgive them for it. Forgiving is the first step to healing for all parties.

If you are suffering, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move toward a healthier place. I’m not a huge supporter of pharmaceuticals and given the choice personally I would NOT go that route, but understanding what is happening in the body, even just understanding how
chronic stress feels and affects you – will take you miles closer to being able to manage its affects. The biggest point being it is not your surroundings making you feel that way; it is your body and its coping mechanisms.

With clarity brings choice – and there are many ways to combat stress including life choices, food choices, yoga, volunteering, surrounding yourself with positive, optimistic people that truly care about your well being, limiting time with people who drain you, orchestrating a paradigm shift to positive thinking – in effect training your brain to let go of thoughts and feelings that have no value to you in real life.

If YOU are suffering, let me be the first to forgive you for your condition. If you know someone suffering, go to them, forgive them, love them and find help for them.

To all of the men out there who have taken on the role of mentor, guidance counsellor, coach or provider to anyone on this fair planet, Happy Father’s Day. May we all have the strength and coping mechanisms to overcome the stress of the world and to remember the most important things. For me today those would be the peanuts, the birds and the music.

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