28 years later

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My parents met 28 years ago today.

My mum had travelled 100 miles up north from the capital to celebrate May Day with her friend, who would become my godmother. They went to a restaurant, where my dad was celebrating with his colleagues.

He was 23. My mum was 33.

“Had I known he was so young, I would’ve had nothing to do with him,” my mum said. “I can’t remember how he exactly got away with it. You know how your dad is. I think he just approached the question very diplomatically without actually giving a real answer.”

By the time she did find out about the age difference, she was already in love. They were together for three years before getting married, two months before I was born. There was no reception, the only witnesses were my dad’s mum and a couple of colleagues.

I once asked mum why she was wearing such an ugly frock after seeing their wedding photo.

“Because I was too fat to fit into anything else,” she replied.

Both my parents came from backgrounds affected by mental illness. Mum had basically become a mother to her two younger brothers aged fifteen after their mother died from suspected suicide. Their dad, who my mum thinks now should have been diagnosed as bipolar, had deserted the family years earlier.

And my dad’s story I’ve already told in my post ‘Sirius.’ He was given up for adoption because his birth mother was unable to look after him due to her schizophrenia.

Maybe that’s one reason why my parents understood one another.

Both my parents have also experienced depression. Mum suffered from it before she met my dad, and recalls how she was unable to get out of bed for months. Thankfully, she made a full recovery.

My dad got ill with depression when I was about nine years old. My only memory relating to this is coming inside and trying to show my dad a butterfly I had caught with my net before releasing it again. He was in bed even though it was in the middle of the day, the curtains were drawn and I knew he was awake but he wouldn’t reply. Mum soon came in and gently led me out of the bedroom, saying that dad was ill.

Thankfully he also made a full recovery. Mum encouraged him to go to the doctor’s, he was prescribed an antidepressant which he took until he was well enough to come off it.

Due to all of these reasons, mental health has always been discussed in my family openly. My parents have always been honest and open about everything, including my uncle’s bipolar disorder, my biological grandmother’s schizophrenia and rampant alcoholism on mum’s side of the family. Once I became unwell, they could draw from their own experiences to support me.

Not everyone has the luxury of their parents understanding mental illness so well. I can’t even imagine how horrible it is not to have the support or understanding of your family. You can overlook anyone else’s attitude, but not your family’s. Even though you can make a successful recovery without it, it’s something that you can’t ignore. I can only imagine how hurtful it is.

My parents have supported me to the end of the earth in every decision I have ever made. They have always encouraged me to do as I see right, and I have their unwavering support in writing this blog. They taught me that respect is never self-evident, you earn it with your deeds every day. I was taught to see a person as such, not as an authority that you’re supposed to be afraid of. To be humble but never humiliated. Those two people are to blame for the mouthy and cussing smartarse you see before you.

No matter how much shit I get for talking about uncomfortable things with my own name and face, their endorsement is the only thing I’ll ever need.

My family is quite a stoic one. Maybe it comes with being Finnish. We hug a lot but we never kiss and rarely say things like ‘I love you’. We know it anyway. Even though we are on different sides of Europe at the moment, we speak on the phone every day and are very involved with each other’s lives.

I can’t even imagine how hard my illness has been for them both. Parental concern made even more difficult by geographical distance. When I told them I tried to kill myself, it must’ve been absolutely heartbreaking, because there’s absolutely nothing they could’ve done about it. Still they have never accepted apology from me. Because they say there’s nothing to forgive.

“Is everything going to be ok?” I asked my dad one time while we were talking on the phone when I was in hospital.

“Of course I worry, as a parent,” he replied. “But listen, I haven’t thought even for a half a second that you’re not going to be ok. I’ve never had a single doubt. You’re my daughter, and there’s nothing you can’t do.”

I will be eternally grateful to my parents. Not only because of their support and love, but for also showing me the right way of handling mental health issues. With openness and honesty, calling spade a spade without shame.

My parents would find a post like this soppy. That’s why I’ll just finish with saying: I’m glad you two met.

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