My dad has depression
Do you know what it's like living with someone who has depression? Flora always thought her family was perfect, until her dad got bipolar disorder.
Sitting in the hospital, our lives had hit a new low. My dad was the patient and he wasn't just getting a check-up - he was having his stomach pumped. The man who brought me up had just tried to kill himself. And I was left wondering how things had got so bad.
Something is up
My dad has always been my hero. He worked hard to make sure my brother and I had a happy upbringing. At weekends he was always taking us to the park or swimming. He also had a great relationship with my mum. On the outside nothing seemed wrong with our little family.
However, when I turned 11, I noticed changes in his personality and he stopped being the happy-go-lucky dad I knew. Instead of organising fun trips out, he'd stay in front of the TV, drinking wine and sleeping. I remember asking him what was wrong on our yearly holiday to Devon. He explained he was simply unhappy and there was nothing I could do. After hearing that I cried for nearly two weeks straight - I felt so helpless.
As years went by, dad's mood declined and his behaviour became more erratic. I came home one day to find him cutting up his socks with a knife. It may sound funny but I was scared. What was happening to my daddy? He began fighting with my mum, really intense and hate-fuelled arguments. Some days he would threaten to kill himself.
Despite all this, it took years before anyone took action. No one in our family had dealt with this sort of behaviour before - we didn't know what to do. Being a naïve teenager, I genuinely thought I could make him better by being kind and talking things through. It didn't help. The final straw came when my dad made himself a noose out of a belt. My mum called a private mental health centre and a group of psychologists came to the house. After a series of sessions they diagnosed dad with Unipolar, a form of serious depression. He was given antidepressants and counselling. We hoped this was the help we were so desperately looking for.
I wanted to save my hero, but I was only sixteen
We waited weeks, hoping the medication would kick in, but nothing changed. In fact, it made him worse. Some days he couldn't leave the house, and would stay in bed with the lights switched off. Other days he would have fits of energy, talking over people and interrupting conversations. His prescribed sleeping tablets gave him nightmares about being set on fire. He screamed in the night, waking up the entire house. My brother moved into his own flat and I felt so alone. I wanted to save my hero, but I was only sixteen.
I put all of my efforts into trying to counsel him. My marks at school began to suffer but I didn't care. As my father's misery got progressively worse, he made a drastic move. He swallowed a whole box of Valium and washed it down with red wine. My mum found him unconscious in his room and called an ambulance. The doctors said if we'd found him any later, he could have died. That was when we really hit rock bottom.
After recovering in hospital, my dad underwent another series of intensive psychological tests. The doctors re-diagnosed him with Bipolar, a unique form of depression that causes patients to be high and erratic for periods of time and then low and lethargic for others. It all made so much sense. Our family was angry about the initial wrong diagnosis, but relieved to have an explanation.
On the mend
Over the past two years, dad has received continuous counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as taking the right medication. It was a slow journey and he has had a couple of relapses, but, with help, he's returning to his old self again. Realising that the way he feels is simply a chemical imbalance has improved his outlook on life. He regrets putting his family through such messy times, but we constantly reassure him it wasn't his fault. We're just glad to have our old, happy dad back.
It's weird to think only a couple of years ago, I was in a hospital hallway, waiting to hear if my Dad would live. Now as a family, we're rebuilding our lives. I just wish we'd found the help he needed sooner. Bipolar is a serious disorder and it's important to know the symptoms and know how to get help. I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this. My family was nearly blown apart - don't let the same happen to yours.