Debut book with a difference

This year my first children’s picture book is being published by Empowering Resources. They are a specialist publisher of books that nurture, educate and empower kids and adults. Through them, I have been given the opportunity to portray my experience with mental illness. My hope is that it will help children who find themselves in a similar situation. Let me tell you about the inspiration behind, My Daddy is Different.

Divided mind, divided family

When I was a young child, my father became very unwell. His illness wasn’t physical, but mental. He had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia years before I was born – he was only a young man when he experienced his first episode. But when I was about seven or eight, he had a major relapse, and life as we knew it came crumbling down.

As a child, I had no idea what to make of the situation. As a child, I had no understanding of why my dad was acting differently. His episodes were extremely frightening to witness, his mind overtaken by the thoughts in his head. We became regular visitors at the psychiatric unit, a place that smelled funny and had strange people in it. I hated those visits. As is the way with children, I could only see how it affected me and my own world. I became withdrawn, moody, angry, scared and bitter. I felt abandoned and alone, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody.

I felt ashamed of my dad, and spent years hiding the fact that my dad had a mental illness, believing it reflected on the kind of person I was. It is true that misunderstanding breeds fear, and I became afraid of my own father. Our whole family had been affected, and we all dealt with it in our own way. We were all hurting, but it was never spoken about. We all felt alone even in each other’s company.

Misunderstanding Mental Illness is a Mistake

If you were to see the truth hidden in my eyes back then, the secret I held onto for fear of ridicule, you would be amazed as to how I am now opening up in the way of a book specifically about this subject.

But I am an adult now, and I realise that I was just contributing towards the stigma attached to mental illness. I realise that my dad did the best he could, and boy did he suffer, more so than me. I felt like I lost my childhood, but he lost his mind, his occupation, and years of his life feeling like a zombie, medicated up to his eyeballs in an attempt to make him feel somewhat ‘normal’.

This is me on Dad’s shoulders

Time to Start Talking and Understanding

So, here I am, sharing this with the world, in the hope that when this book comes out, it will help children understand that if a loved one is suffering with a mental illness, that it is NOT about them, that they are STILL loved, and that they are NOT alone. The person suffering is not to be feared or rejected; they are people with feelings and aspirations. They are capable of loving, and being loved. I wish I learnt that years ago and saved myself years of heartache, but as the saying goes, ‘It’s better late than never’.

If children can understand that, hopefully relationships can stay intact. Hopefully those children will become adults who are informed about an issue that affects more people than we care to admit. Hopefully the stigma of mental illness can be eradicated, and replaced with love, support and understanding.

Seeing my Dad Through New Eyes

I am so grateful that we had the chance to repair our broken relationship, even though it took a long time for that to happen. We lost many years as a result of his mental illness, my childhood filled with resentment and hurt for something that was out of our control. I am grateful that we have been able to overcome those horrible years, and that I am now able to see him through new eyes.
I wish it had all happened sooner, though, because now my Dad has terminal cancer. His time with us is limited and I’m not quite ready to let him go. Through his cancer journey I have seen his true strength and courage, and I am so proud of how he has handled everything. This is another reason I want to help others with my story – I hope that through reading my book, people can begin to repair broken relationships now before it is too late.

My Dad, once a stranger with the same DNA, is now my inspiration. I once thought his illness defined him and made him weak. Now he is the strongest and most positive person I know.

So who am I to hide that from the world?

We don’t have to suffer in silence. I’d love to hear from people who have been in a similar situation, and how you dealt with a family member with a mental illness.

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4 responses to “Inspiration for Writing ‘My Daddy is Different’”

  1. Kylie says:

    Nice post!

  2. Dani Canas says:

    Thanks for sharing, Suzi. Really looking forward to your book coming out.

    • suzifaed says:

      Thanks, Dani. I really do hope that through sharing my experience and with the book, I can help people who had a similar experience. Time will tell!

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Suzi Faed Author Avatar

Hello& welcome to my blog, What If Warrior

Here you will find my multi-topic blog, told from my humble point of view. I write from the heart; for me, self-expression comes easier through written words. If you would like to read more about my inspiration for this blog, click here.