'EXPRESSION LESSENS DEPRESSION' - MKRTuesday 4th Jul
This July, I am joining K’s for R U OK?
R U OK? is an Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation, advocating for individuals to have conversations with others.
The words R U OK? should not be used on just one particular day, or month, but should be an instinctual phrase spoken often. As a society, we are progressing towards breaking the shame of delving deep into our emotions and expressing ourselves openly and honestly to one another, but we still have a long way to go. We all need to continually encourage and assist each other, particularly males, in creating a world where feeling vulnerable and expressing emotion is encouraged, accepted and applauded.
I firmly believe,
"EXPRESSION LESSENS DEPRESSION" – MKR.
It is a rarity to meet an individual who has not been impacted by suicide in some way, as 8-9 lives are lost each day due to this cause in Australia alone (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2022).
My life has been scattered with suicide; losing friends, acquaintances, students, but most significantly, family members. I am striving to clock 80kms this July and raise funds for suicide prevention in memory of my great uncle, uncle and dad but also for all of those currently struggling with mental illness.
Please only read further if you would like to learn more of my life and particular segments which were directly altered by suicide. The person I am and the life path I have chosen to follow have undergone immense change and redirection due to the sudden confrontation of suicide.
My personal link to suicide began at just three months old. My uncle, mum’s brother, at age 30, took his life. As I aged, my mum would often make comment of how different behaviourally I was as a baby, a child, a teenager and even now as an adult; in comparison to my siblings. It was not until I studied Psychology, I came to realise this was due to that day, that pivotal moment at three months old, when mum learned of her brother’s death. While trying to deal with an encompassment of disbelief, grief, questionable regret and earth shattering heartbreak, mum had to nurture and raise a newborn, whilst also caring for a two-year old toddler - my brother, Andy. With no denial, mum was operating in survival mode and as a baby, with every feed, touch and hold, I was absorbing mum’s energy struck with trauma. I was not given the chance to learn and replicate adequate mental and emotional stability and that was in no way any fault of mum’s.
As an adult I reflect on my years of development and have significant memories of the inability to emotionally self-regulate. I was extremely sensitive and any relationship upset which involved glimpses of neglect, abandonment and/or a lack of clear communication would send me into a spin; it still does.
At age eighteen, I moved to Melbourne from my hometown of Ballarat and began a degree in Criminal Justice. I had a vision of working in the state Criminal Investigative Unit (CIU) or hold an investigative role with the Australian Federal Police (AFP); with a primary focus on assisting and protecting women and children. My home life had been quite turbulent throughout my upbringing and whilst hard to voice, I did struggle with a verbally abusive and unpredictable father. I grew up as my mother’s protector, often waking to violent episodes (most often alcohol fuelled), trying to do all I could to defuse the situation. My older brother would often remain asleep, to whom I would sometimes wake and my sister was too young to comprehend what was occurring.
My dad lived a stressful life, mainly because he placed so much pressure on himself to perform. He was a workaholic, never took time out and it was all in desperation to meet his parents stature; operating successful hotels and businesses around the Ballarat region. He also worked ridiculously hard because he didn’t want any of his family to go without, and we didn’t. My dad allowed us to live in a beautiful home, have the highest education and thrive in any extracurricular activities of our choosing. Dad would only step outside of work, once a year, for a 1-2 week family holiday and these times are some of my fondest memories. It was away from Ballarat and the world of hospitality to which we knew so well, dad was his true self and a phenomenal father with time and love to give.
The loss of my grandpa in February 2011, was a huge hit for dad, as he not only lost his father, but his business mentor and confidant. My dad carried the full masculine, bread winning persona and would never want anyone to know if he were struggling.
At the ten year mark of owning the Park Hotel in Ballarat, dad made the decision to step away. He had reached a stage where he was burnt out and not performing at his optimum, as a business owner/manager, husband or father. It took quite some time to sell the business and through the entirety of it being on the market, mum was apprehensive, as my younger sister Kayla was still completing school and they were financially assisting me through university and apartment rental in Melbourne. The business did in time sell however, but my parents remained the freeholders.
Dad took time to bring himself back to homeostasis before investing energy into a passion of his; gardening. Just through local advertisement, he would work around Ballarat undertaking garden maintenance and landscape work. As a family, we were excited, as we began to get ‘dad’ back. He smiled, laughed and loved more with us. In retrospect though, dad was dealing with a lot of inner demons. He went from spending 24/7 in the hospitality industry to self-seclusion in gardens, where his mind would have wired into an unhealthy reflection mode, to which he would have held regret.
During this time of a new way of life, my parents ran into financial troubles, to which they were not prepared. A leak in the hotel’s roof, lead to repetitive complaints and intense pressure to sort, with unfortunately a very slow reaction time from tradesmen. As well as an accident causing injury on the hotel premises, leading to astronomical costs because of the late renewal of insurance.
The final holiday dad went on was to Noosa for my aunty’s 60th birthday in 2011. He was quite reluctant due to the financial situation he had found himself in, but with mum and Kayla’s encouragement, they boarded a plane. I wish now I had taken that trip and placed study and work to the side, but stories of his time still warm me. In Noosa, after some convincing, Dad rented a jet ski with the other males in the family. Upon returning to the boat, he excitedly spoke of the dolphins swimming beside him as he skied; to which no one else witnessed. Strangely, I feel dad knew his life would soon end, as my uncle mentioned a bypassing comment he made after coming back from the water, “you wouldn’t be dead for quids, would you?” Maybe he was trying to convince himself that life was worth living for these shining moments.
Mum and Kayla upon reflection, said dad was quiet on the journey back to Victoria, but didn’t delve into questioning him too deeply. I received a phone call on the weekend he was back, which was a rarity and again, upon hindsight spoke volume. We discussed how my life was going and how proud he was of me for pursuing my dreams. Each member of my family ends a phone call with a “goodbye” and a “I love you;” it comes second nature. This particular night however, I was in a rush and I didn’t respond to dad this way. My lack of correspondence played in my mind as I was driving to work, reminding myself to text him upon arrival. Once stepping into work, a busy Melbourne bar, this reminder slipped … and those three words were never sent; this still sits with me today.
A few days went by and I woke up feeling unsettled. It was a Wednesday morning and it was the first time I phoned into my internship with the CIU, unwell. Later that day I broke down with intense emotion in the car on busy Sydney Road and I soon learned that this was the approximate time that my dad made the decision to end his life.
That night, I had a knock on my door and opened it to find my brother…
“Megan, come here, it’s dad.”
Without saying another word, I rewound my steps,
“he’s killed himself hasn’t he?”
Dad had woken on that Wednesday, the 2nd of November, at age fifty-two, knowing it was the day he was going to take his life.
Despite rain falling, he told mum he had some cutting back to do across town. He kissed her farewell in the kitchen and she reminded him to get some ingredients for a paella dinner and toilet paper. Kayla was the last one of us to see dad, as from home, he took her to school.
Dad didn’t go to his mum’s for lunch, he would normally call in there each day to keep her company. For this reason, nan left a concerned message on mum’s home answering machine, to which she heard on her lunch break. He didn’t answer mum’s thereafter phone calls, he never picked Kayla up from school and he never returned home.
Mum phoned Andy with worry and after a few other calls, made the decision to phone a friend in Torquay, where our grandparents had a beach house, to see whether dad’s car was there. Andy’s friend drove past the house sighting dad’s white holden ute parked in the drive-way; 1.5 hours from our Ballarat home. The police were then contacted to complete a welfare check and dad was found; layered in his dad’s jumper, Andy’s work boots much too big and holding a photograph of us in his top front pocket. A note was left, to which I can recite every word.
His sign off, ‘Make me proud, love Dad.’
I chose to be the one to identify dad’s body and to some that may seem obscure. No one else in my family were able. For me however, it was needed. I needed to be with him again, to hold his hand, to kiss his face and to tell him those three words, I love you.
I ended my Melbourne lease and returned to Ballarat to be with mum and Kayla, who was only sixteen at the time. I had a week left of my two month internship with the CIU, to which I was exempt but I still managed to graduate with a Criminal Justice Degree in December.
Being home was strange. I was living in my family home, the home I knew with dad; to which he was only ashes. Months passed and as my human functionality began to return, discontentment with my life came. I knew I needed an escape, so I set off with a few friends to the United States. After this three week stint, I decided not to return to Australia with the others and flew solo to Mexico, to which was the beginning of a nine month backpacking trip, predominantly through Central America. This venture changed the state of my mind and life and set me up for a love of travel. To this day, I am still in contact with many of the like-minded, genuine, vibrant souls I met on my journey.
Upon return to Australia, I realised I was unable to return to the Criminal Justice scene, so I decided to reopen the doors of university to study teaching in 2014. Upon completion, I took upon a full time teaching position in a Melbourne school. Whilst working with children in a more positive environment was rewarding, a large part of me was still unsatisfied and I knew to further sustain this slow rise in positive transformation, I needed to make additional changes.
Nan, dad’s mum passed away in November 2017. Prior to this and whilst she was ill, we relayed the most painful parts of our lives; the death of dad. For the first time I learned that nan’s brother, my great uncle, had also taken his life. He was forty-eight years old when he passed and had undertaken shock treatment for his depression, to which he had no success.
I chose to relocate to Byron Bay in 2018, a special place I had been venturing to since I was a teenager; my first time being with dad.
I am now in my ninth year of teaching and I am a classroom teacher in many schools throughout the Northern Rivers, however I maintain the belief that this is not my true calling. Through my experiences and knowing where and when I needed support and guidance the most, I have the insight to aid children with the necessary tools to deal with experiences in their life, to which they can carry into adulthood.
Alongside teaching, I undertook a degree in Psychological Science, to which I completed at the end of last year. I am now taking the next steps to be able to work in the mental health arena with children.
I believe from a young boy and growing up with very authoritative parents, my dad never felt permission to express emotion; carrying this notion through the entirety of his life. I never want a child to be denied a safe space for true self-expression. The minds of our children are the seeds of our future, we need to ensure they feel protected and comfortable in sharing their experiences, asking for support and communicating emotion. Not until children are able to do this, will they be able to accept themselves wholistically and understand that it is okay not to be okay.
If I can assist in nurturing and gifting tools to children to adequately emotionally regulate and feel positive throughout the ebbs and flows of life, I will be in turn ensuring that these seedlings have the capability to bloom, prosper and survive to a great age in life. I would have then fulfilled my life purpose.
IT IS OKAY, NOT TO BE OKAY.
"EXPRESSION LESSENS DEPRESSION" – MKR.
Always here with open arms and a loving heart.
Thank you to my Sponsors
Kayla And Debbie Ringin
Megan Kate Ringin
Dan & Tam