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Birthday Week Reflection

I don’t talk much about my family (other than mentioning the hubby and kiddos). Some of that is because I value their privacy. Some of it is because there are some parts of my family that are hard for me to talk about. Today would have been my dad’s 67th birthday. (Both my parents share my birthday month, and my dad shared my birthday week!) On Friday, I'll turn 41. That will mean I have lived to be a year older than my father will ever be.

My dad was a doctor. He was the smartest person I've ever met. He could do calculus level equations in his head. He was brilliant, but he was also a natural with people. It is a rarity to be both a natural genius and also naturally good with socializing. He could mingle with anyone; it didn't matter where you came from, your race, your ethnicity, your income. None of that mattered to my dad. He saw each person for who they were. He was funny, so funny. He always had a joke, and he was always the life of the party. He was the best storyteller. He would make up bedtime stories, and they were always epic. My love of fairytales and reading is partly because of his parenting. (My mom too.) He was my hero, and I put him on a pedestal early in life. I was a daddy's girl, through and through.

But as I grew up, there was another side to my dad. He wasn't always happy and funny. He could be verbally mean. He was not happy. And this affected our family in profound ways. I felt like I had to be the perfect child, straight A's, in every activity, popular, pretty, perfect. I thought if I was good enough, he would be happy. I was young, and I didn't understand that my dad suffered from a mental illness. In the 1980s and 1990s, no one spoke of this. It was stigmatized. Prozac had just come out when I was in elementary school. People in therapy were considered "crazy."

When I was fourteen, my dad committed suicide. I found his body. It's something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. I still suffer from PTSD. I only recently was able to go to a gun range and fire a gun, because guns scared the shit out of me. I still get teary-eyed when I see a little girl with her father. I have so many triggers. I did go to therapy. In fact, my mom took me to a therapist the same day that I discovered my father. I admit, that therapist wasn't the right one for me, but it did help some. I was able to find a soulmate in my husband who had been through a very different traumatic situation. We were able to share a bond over being forced to grow up because of trauma that even adults can't understand. And that helped. I met other friends in college who also suffered from mental issues, just like me. I didn't know that suffering a trauma or being genetically related to someone who had a mental illness, meant that I too, could suffer from mental health issues. As a kid, I didn't know that my constant stomach aches were because of anxiety. I didn't know that my profound sadness as a teenager was likely depression and PTSD from my father's death.

I now know that. I now take anti-anxiety meds. I now don't have stomach issues like I did before.

I even made my pen name to honor my dad by making it a variation of my maiden name. It took me a long time to forgive him. I still have days where I get mad at him for what he did. I still have days where I cry inconsolably, because I miss him so much. I still have days where I think, dad would have liked something I did or saw. And I still have days where I struggle with my own mental health.

So, I pour my heart out to you all today, because I want you all to know that if you suffer from a mental illness, you aren't alone. There's so many of us. Reach out to someone, anyone. Because you are important! You are loved! And you matter! You may think you don't, but I promise you, you do!! If you ever need to talk, email me! Friend me on social media! Because I understand;

I'm alongside you in your struggles!

XOXO, Sarah

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