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The Cycle of Trauma Caused by Insufficient Mental Health Resources

We all have that one story we don’t want to tell.

We all keep it a secret for whatever reason.

This is part of that story for me.

Before I say what I need to say, let me state one thing. The people I will be mentioning are not bad people. They, like many of us, were caught in a helpless situation created by a lack of help and education in our society. I do not write this to demonize them. I write this to give an example of why we need more mental health resources and how a lack of creates a devastating cycle. I’ll begin my story now. Hopefully one day I will be brave enough to share the rest.

My father is a hardworking man. He worked in order to give my siblings and me everything he never had. One day while at work, he had a heart attack. Not long after that he had another, and another, and another. He was forced to leave his job because of his health. His doctor said it was an aggressive form of genetic heart disease. It didn’t matter that he was in his 30s and in good shape. My mother was unable to work because she had lupus and fibromyalgia. My father began applying for disability and was denied. He became angry. He asked questions like, “What kind of a man cannot provide for his family?” and began questioning his faith.

We quit going to church. We had no money and were forced out of several homes. My father would yell at us for every little thing. He would have fits of rage and throw things. He would hit just because I allowed my face to react to something in a way he did not like. These were everyday events.

One day I came in from playing outside. I decided to go to my room which was further down the hall past his room. The door was open and I glanced in to see him sitting on the edge of the bed about to make a suicide attempt. “What are you doing?” I asked him. He just looked at me with the most heartbreaking look I’ve ever seen in anyone’s eyes. I have no words for that look. The memory of him sitting there still brings me to tears.

This was a lot for my 10-year-old mind to process. I didn’t say a word to anyone as I went back to the living room and sat on the couch. A few hours later my father was packing a bag for a stay at a psychiatric unit 30 minutes away. A week or so later he returned. He gave everyone a hug as he walked in the front door. When he got to me he just said, “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” I didn’t have an answer. Well now I am telling someone. I should have helped him but I didn’t. Luckily he found help. I tell this story now in hopes that it will help someone else.

Now, I apologize for everything I do and say. I apologize just for taking up space. I apologize for playing saxophone and playing it when others can hear me. I do not allow facial expressions any more. I do not cry in front of others for fear of “being given something to cry about.” I am always wrong and in the way.

I would tell you this is a result of child abuse. It wouldn’t be wrong, but let’s trace that line back further. It is a result of not being allowed to express thoughts and emotions in an emotionally volatile home. Why? My father was depressed and unintentionally took it out on us in anger. Why? He wasn’t taught healthy mechanisms for working through these things. He believed it was a bad thing to need help. He believed real men didn’t need antidepressants. Help was hard to find. Mental health was not talked about back then. Why? He wasn’t allowed those things growing up. He also grew up in an emotionally unstable environment. He was abused as a child as well. Why? His father was a veteran who was never the same after he served. Why? There were not many mental health resources for veterans or really anyone at that time. It wasn’t talked about. Why? Because who knew how to manage the effects of war especially if they had never been to war like their patient had.

Hopefully you can see the cycle. Hopefully I am more aware now and can continue breaking that cycle like my father began breaking it when he found help. Hopefully, before too long, people won’t need to “find” help. Hopefully it will be offered everywhere.

I dare you to tell someone. I dare you to talk about it. I dare you to bring it up even when it’s considered taboo. I dare you to say the words. Mental health. Depression. Whatever the words are to you please say them. It could save someone’s life.

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash