The Bipolar Bum

Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.

History Repeating Itself – How a friend’s death can be two triggers at once.

#bereavement #grief #bipolar #trauma

dad

 

I got word that one of my riding friends died of a massive heart attack yesterday night.  This would be bad usually, but the situation left in the wake of this tragedy hits close to home for me.  He is survived by his wife and two step-sons 11 and 12.

 

It was only last week that Clive had been out riding with the boys I left back in the U.K, apparently.  I don’t doubt that he will have been resplendent in fur-lined bomber jacket and flat-cap at a jaunty angle suggestive of exactly the kind of cheeky chap you were dealing with.  I can hear his lightly accented, husky voice laughing and tossing banter at all within range between drags of a Malboro.  If not dishing out mockery he was often given to quiet, almost scholarly contemplation of the hind end of any women present.  Clive knew who and what he was.  He neither needed to explain or apologise.  Clive was an old-school vagabond who’s bawdy fashion sense was only outshone by his loving, warm character.  Clive always made me feel good, despite his obvious suspicion and consequent discomfort that I might be homosexual.  Not a fan of skinny jeans and his understanding of the male identity was as old as the hills. That the world is now short of another “Clive” is tragic beyond description.

 

Twinned with the sadness I feel about Clive’s passing is the razor sharp, bitter memory I have of when my dad died.  I was 13 and he also died of a massive heart attack.  I remember my (considerably large) family all being present in the morning following the heart attack and one of my uncles who had obviously drawn the short straw coming to tell us that dad wouldn’t be coming home from the hospital.  The news was preceded by “I think you know what I’m going to tell you” and that has always stuck with me.  The ‘grit your teeth and crack-on’, matter of fact-ness about it.  There wasn’t going to be any messing about.  We had my mum and sister to look after.  I let my younger brother do the crying while I tried to take it all in.

 

My dad shared some traits with Clive but he was more blunt and bombastic, his love of women probably also exceeded Clive’s.  I only saw him cry once, after a huge angina attack that had led to the only argument I ever heard him and my mum have.  I’ll admit, it was terrifying.  One of the few clear memories I have left of my dad was of him on a hospital bed, eyes close to bursting with tears, apologising in private to me.  In retrospect, the thing that makes the most sense is that he was terrified that he’d permanently damaged my view of him.  Stupid man.  He couldn’t have done it if he’d tried.

 

There isn’t enough space in the interwebz for this post to be about the details of the loss of my dad.  In the context of posting here, my mind very quickly steers me towards thinking of Clive’s step-sons and what they’re feeling.  I remember the cataclysmic shift in my perceptions and beliefs when my dad was suddenly absent.  Couple that with the hero-worship that I gave to the man’s-man, strong, fiercely independent, bread-winner caricature that the memory of my dad became and you have a potent recipe for a nihilist with a permanently over active sense of emasculation and inferiority.  I still can’t live up to the standards I assigned to what I know of my dad, I don’t think any adult could.  The values I gave him were seen with the eyes of a thirteen year old, sheltered boy.  My dad was Atlas’ big brother, just like everyone else’s dad.

 

With the benefit of hindsight I think in a couple of decades it will be unusual and unacceptable to other people that we didn’t get bereavement counselling automatically from the national health service.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone in our family knew it existed.  Had we known about it and, had the counselling quality been high enough, someone might have known to watch out for symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and the like following a trauma so significant.  As it is, it took fourteen more years before the suspicion of my illness came to fruition.  There STILL isn’t a provision for automatic bereavement counselling for minors in the U.K as far as I’m aware.

 

I intend to write the letter to Clive’s survivors that no one wrote to me.  If I could go back in time and speak to the boiling personality-soup that was the teenage H&J I would explain that his life wasn’t ruined (something they forget to tell you) and that it is VITALLY important he speaks to someone about what he thinks is happening and how he is going to proceed.  I have the best incentive to be that person for Clive’s step-sons, but I am on the opposite face of the planet.  I’ll give them my skype address but I don’t honestly expect them to call a stranger to talk about this sort of thing.  I can only hope, if their circumstances and situation are the same as mine were, that they take my letter at face value and act on it accordingly.

 

Pretty shit end to the week, really.  Someone out there is probably having the worst day of their young life.  Through my own diagnosis and the hard times that went with it I’ve not wished I was home, in the embrace of my family.  To know that someone over there might be having the same day I had after my dad died has meant, for the first time since leaving England, I’ve caught myself wishing I could teleport back there temporarily.  There is probably more than a little bit of this that I see as a do-over for how I behaved when my dad died.  I would save someone else the trouble of finding out for themselves how NOT to act.

 

So help me write this letter.  If your dad died suddenly, and you were sending that letter back in the time machine : what would be the most important advice in it?  I want to hear from you.  If you’re a Bereavement Counsellor or support worker in the north of England near York – I’d LOVE to be able to give you an address right now.

 

All the best,
H&J

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21 comments on “History Repeating Itself – How a friend’s death can be two triggers at once.

  1. allineedisamustardseed
    30/05/2014

    I don’t know what I would say, but I am confident that you will do this with sensitivity and well. You are offering the boys something that not many others can, or would. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marie Abanga
    30/05/2014

    Hi H&J,

    You are a friend now and l am so hopeful for my brother now because of all what l am learning. Come on men, how do you keep a blog or write so well and live sort of ‘normal’? I have to get more in touch with you maybe by email eventually. I really wish a lot for Clive’s boys. I haven’t lost my dad yet, but l lost much more closer: my daughter-maybe the only l will ever have. It hurt so bad, l remember hiding under the bed. I battled the trauma for 6 good and straight months. Now it is every now and then. I remember not wanting ‘solace’ from any woman or man who hadn’t lost a child. What could they possibly tell me. I hated having to go to church and hear a priest talk about how to grieve a child. WTF, so simply, write to those boys and tell them how you understand because you were once in their shoes. In fact, while your feet out grew those shoes, the shaky foot prints followed you to this very day. Yes as you say, maybe if you had gotten a letter from a ‘real’ someone back then, who knows…

    Cheers, Marie author of my Unconventional loves

    Liked by 1 person

  3. drheckleandmrjibe
    30/05/2014

    Hi again,

    I live anything but ‘normal’ right now 🙂 Abandoning trying to live a ‘normal’ life has been the reason that my stress levels have lowered to manageable levels.

    I’m gutted to hear that you lost your daughter. I cannot imagine anything close to it and I won’t insult you by trying.

    Thanks again for the encouragement, Marie.

    All the best,
    H&J

    Like

  4. headgamesptsd
    30/05/2014

    I am sorry for your loss and I am sure that if Clive could he would think for the support you are offering to those he left behind.

    Like

  5. glenn2point0
    31/05/2014

    Coincidentally, I just referred to my Dad in a post There were many things left unsaid between my Dad and I, but I was there the day before he died and my presence let him know that I loved him. I wasn’t young when he died, as he was in his early 70’s so I don’t share your experience.
    But what to say to Clive’s children?
    Well, the reality of death. From when we are born we are going to die. And that the part between birth and death, life is what matters.
    Make the most of it and don’t be a bystander.
    If someone looks like they need help they ask them if they are okay.
    Say the things you want to say to the person while they are alive and don’t leave it until their funeral, when it’s too late for them to hear.
    Remember the good times and don’t dwell on the anniversary of his death.
    Focus on developing the positive triggers not the negative ones.
    And remember that he was just a man like us all.
    And that like us all he was imperfect, even if we did not see the flaws.
    Sad things happen in life and we learn to deal with them; it builds our resilience.
    Honor his memory but don’t mourn him for the rest of your life.

    Like

  6. lifehelps
    31/05/2014

    Hello, H and J.
    First of all, I’m sorry you lost your father at such a young age. I’m sorry, too, that you didn’t get the help you really could have used.
    If you can share some comfort and empathy with these boys, you will do a couple of wonderful things:
    You will give them help you didn’t get
    You honor your father and theirs.
    I disagree with the person who says not to mark anniversaries of people’s deaths. You’ll know if you don’t need to do that. But what I ask is, how can or do you honor your father? Is there something about him that you especially admired, that you carry forward?
    Personally, I believe that we are blessed when we can honor others, whether they are here with us or gone, and when we honor ourselves.
    While you are writing letters, write one to your father…and perhaps one that he might write to you.
    Peace and comfort to you.
    Hannah

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      31/05/2014

      I can’t honestly claim to know my dad well enough to know what he’d write. Only what I’d like him to write and the knowledge of that is something that burns a hole in my happiness so I’ll refrain from doing that last letter 🙂

      Thanks very much for the well-wishes and the words of encouragement!

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

  7. dokter es
    31/05/2014

    6 months ago my dad died of a heart attack, too. I had to stay for more than 2 months in the cold with beeping monitors room until he died. Now, I come back to that beeping monitors’s room because I am a resident in the same hospital.

    It was a sudden heart attack, my father survived for 2 months before his heart gave up. He was the only man I loved and the thought of losing him was unbearable. Now, I’m still trying to patch myself up inside, I have a long journey ahead. I loved him and will always will. It’s the thought of he’s pain-free right now that put me at ease.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Each of us have our own storm. From outside or inside. I can’t tell you to stay strong because you had already stayed strong and keep going. I can’t tell you to do your best because you had already did your best and still doing it. There are so much words that can’t reach you, I know, just shake off that lonely smile and believe that you’re not the only one who’s trying to recover from a storm.

    Like

  8. Kitt O'Malley
    31/05/2014

    So, so sorry for your double loss.

    Like

  9. spiritbabycomehome
    31/05/2014

    I am sorry about Clive’s death and the young lives and wife he left behind. I am also sorry for the Pandora’s box if may have opened for you.

    It seems to me that what you know best is your story. You are an expert on what not to do, why and how. You also know now that a good bereavement counsellor could have made all the difference. And you knew Clive in a way those children will never know him – imagine if you had a letter from the enlightened Clive in your father’s life, how that might comfort you now and in the time before now – and trust yourself (without trying too hard to get it all right). I would tap into those places if or when you can and write from your heart about them.

    I say this from my own experience so it may not fit yours, take what does and leave the rest. I lost one of the most important adults in my life at age 10. He was not my father but lived with our family and to my brother and I was more our dad than our actual father. I watched him dying over the course of three days because he wanted to die at home (he didn’t). I sat with him and could not really understand. I remember the call to my parents from the hospital a few hours after we had come home from seeing him there for what became the last time. My mom had emigrated with him and they had known each other forever. I learned more about him as an adult before my mom died but my brother (one year older than me) and I so wish we knew more. A letter would have been so helpful.

    As a non-sequitur, I really like that you include your art in this blog. Sending a hug and warm wishes your way.

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      01/06/2014

      Hugs and warm wishes, you spoil me! 🙂

      Thanks very much for coming and taking the time to write your comment.

      I’m sorry to hear about your own difficulty and loss. There aren’t any polite words that do the situation justice. I can only hope that the bitterness of the memory fades and that you can look back and enjoy the memory of your friend through the sadness. It’s the best hope I have for myself – I don’t think that kind of grief ever fades completely.

      Thanks a lot for the advice, especially about not worrying about getting it 100% right. Everyone’s situations and relationships are different, so all I can do is give the advice that would have helped me.

      Thanks a lot for the comment. I really appreciate it.

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

      • spiritbabycomehome
        02/06/2014

        You are welcome, but I’m just mirroring back what you know in terms of any advice. You have found your voice and the courage to look back with some perspective. I hope it helps you offer something from your heart to Clive’s surviving family.

        I stopped back to thank YOU. Had you not drawn my attention here, I might not have listened to the voices in my head that needed expression – voices from my own past. Thanks to the nudge, I’ve now done them some small justice in my own blogging-therapy journey. I owe you my gratitude. And continue to wish you well.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. thoughtation
    01/06/2014

    It’s not often that I read stuff, that gives me goosebumps, especially when it’s from someone I believe to be a man. More importantly though, it reminds me about my hatred-hatred relationship with Statins and the possible consequences for my little Maya. I am glad your Blog exist despite the fact that it probably exist, because of you BP.

    Like

    • drheckleandmrjibe
      01/06/2014

      Thanks a lot for that. I too believe that I’m a man, most of the time.

      My parents ran a business together and it had two vans. My mum used to have to get in one van and chase my dad down some mornings and force him, under pain of a verbal evisceration, to take his tablets. If my dad had been less resistant to medicine and medical treatment in general it might have made a huge difference to all of our lives.

      I’m glad that you’re glad. Now get chewing those Statins down!! 🙂

      All the best,
      H&J

      Like

      • thoughtation
        01/06/2014

        Man! That’s a relieve. I thank you for your advise. Like all things, they require some thought my Blogtarian friend, thus I need to think about it.

        My more immediate concern is navigating through the city which has a much greater chance of death then… Oh you know what I mean.

        Like

        • drheckleandmrjibe
          01/06/2014

          I getcha, Bloggeur De La Ville.

          Which city are you going to have to fight your way through? Where are you?

          H&J

          Like

          • thoughtation
            01/06/2014

            I am in Sydleyyy. Tonight’s mission is ‘VIVID’. Given that this event has possibly contributed to one death, the probability of risk is significantly greater than previous years. I can only conclude that it is not a risk free event. Thus the use of taking Statins tonight is not justified, as the risk of death by going to the VIVID event is greater then the probable benefit in me taking Statins, to prevent a Coronary Event.

            Like

            • drheckleandmrjibe
              01/06/2014

              I’ve not been to Sydders yet. I’m up near Cairns in QLD. The event looks banging, I hope you enjoy it, sans coronary event!

              All the best,
              H&J

              Like

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This entry was posted on 30/05/2014 by in Self Analysis, Stable, Toon and tagged , , , .
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