It’s a strange thing having to call the police on your own family. Especially when you know full well the damage the police can do to a person that looks the way you do, and let’s not pretend. We know. But when all else fails there’s a system in place that you’re supposed to trust, and desperate times call for 999.
My dads Mental Health hadn’t been great for some time. You suffer unexplained illnesses, get made redundant and eventually can’t work because you’re in and out of hospital so much – it begins to make sense, of course you’re not going to be the happiest person in the world. Particularly if you’re from a community where this is simply not something you talk about. But he’s damn near the most resilient.
You know what, people don’t give enough credit to the people who are literally pushed to their limit, plan to end it all and then come back. There’s a real strength in acknowledging your weakness, and for that lesson alone I’m grateful. But to be honest, it’s taken me a while to get to this point of being able to communicate it.
Selfishly I was angry for the strain it put me through. Truthfully, I was scared for the fact that I learnt that I myself wasn’t strong enough to confront it and face visiting the Unit myself. I grew up with such a stigma about Mental Health and ‘crazy people’, about asylums and ‘lunatics’ and then one day you need to go and visit your own dad in what’s probably the worst place imaginable in the world for someone to ever recover. It’s hard. *pause for my fragile tears.* Realistically, I was incapable of having to deal with that knowledge – the “what would people think of ME”. The great, now, how am I supposed to be? The, looking for comedy because sarcasms always (trust me bro, I’m an expert) the quickest way out.
See, my dad had attempted to kill himself whilst I was at Nandos. Half a chicken medium with peri salted fries & spicy rice had never tasted so bitter when I got that call to come home. (Don’t worry, I still rate and eat nandos, and one day I’ll be important enough that they’ll give me free chicken, but we’ll get there, #struggles).
He’d been talking about it for a while, mumbling to himself, acting erratic, far from the man I knew when I was growing up, the non-stop, I’ll work overtime bus driver/taxi driver/van drive/ just DRIVER, and yep, like Buju Banton said, this man did not stop at alllll. But, I’d ignored what I didn’t understand & I never really thought he’d do it. He’d grabbed at a lot of pills and taken them right in front of my mum and then passed out in bed is how the story goes…
So, sadly, I had to leave Nandos before I got the chance to fill up my “tap water” with more coke & make my way home. When I got in, it was a dark atmosphere, you know those ones where the tension is just mad thick, sort of like that year everyone was chucking glass bottles through the sky at Notting Hill Carnival and vuvuzelas were the in-thing. And yes, my references are random but if you know, you know. Pretty soon, the paramedics came, ran through some checklist on a scale of one to ‘kill myself right now’ how do you really feel though & gave their two pence. It wasn’t looking good.
It got more intense later that night when he was now awake, scrambling around the house looking for sharp objects and me and mum were frantically trying to hide every pill, knife, blade etc in the house. Somehow, my man still found a screwdriver and was pointing it at his own chest. It’s strange how someone else’s pain can make your own heart stop.
By this time, the police were there, it was pretty much like on TV. They were doing their job of coaxing him as best as they could, trying to level him out and bring him down. Bring him back. Me? I was still full from Nandos & fighting that urge for a post-food nap to be honest. But, sleepiness aside, I remember the chat with one police officer, he said he couldn’t forcibly remove him from his own home even if it was in the interests of his own safety. Except in this situation, I was the homeowner, technically this was my home. This was my decision. I remember the anxiety of wondering what would happen next. Where do you go when you’ve threatened suicide twice in a day in front of the Feds, the meds & your own family? I made my choice. I made our choice.
A few hours later, I had a phone call from the police: ‘your dad’s run away from hospital and we don’t know where he is. Wait, hang on, we’ve found him.’ Another phone call to tell me: ‘Mr. Khan,(please don’t call me that, it’s too popular & I’m unique ok?) he’s been sectioned under section 3.bla bla of the Mental Health Act and will be taken back to hospital. He was now under their authority.
Like I said, it’s a strange thing to call the police on your own family. But love is a strange thing right? I’ll never underestimate the strength it took for him to spend a month in a place like that, to recover and rest in a place where you’re just reminded of stress. But I’m grateful. And I’m proud. I’m proud of what he taught me about the true measure of a man, of a human being, of what being pushed to your limits truly looks like and the importance of receiving help. I’m grateful for the lessons that night taught me about the limits I’d go to and the decisions I’d make just for the people I love. But more than anything, I’m grateful for what I’ve learnt about Mental Health and the understanding I now have about being open about your emotions and your feelings. About self care and about stigma, about talking and about acknowledging but most of all about sharing. About the importance of sharing your story.
This is why I’ve shared this story, not only to advertise nandos (for free might I add, again, where is my free chicken?) but also to shed light on something important and so necessary and on what is to me something which is absolutely vital to talk about. Mental Health, particularly in BAME communities is something so necessary to talk about, it’s a journey for my family & I and there’s still a lot to learn, but it’s a journey we’ve started. Let’s talk about MENtal Health.