Tag Archive | father

Holiday Blues

I am about to go to the United States with Contiki on Wednesday on what will be one of the biggest – and longest – adventures I’ve ever done.  That is my summer vacation (see, I’m already mastering the lingo!), but one holiday planned and approaching only makes me begin to think about my next one, which of course, for a British girl is Christmas 2015.

Christmas is a strange holiday, one about which I have mixed feelings.  When I was a younger girl I adored it.  Not because of the gifts or the great meal or because it was a time when family made the effort not to bicker and bite, but because it was a time when I was part of something…something great, memorable and important.  Ever since my paternal grandparents passed (my grandfather died quite some time ago, a nonagenarian and my nana died years after him in her 100s), Christmas has never been the same.  For a few years after, we still went up – as was tradition – to Whitnash in Warwickshire and had Christmas with my father’s sister and her family, but that did not last.  After that, the adults of the family (I was still at school and about 13 years old, I reckon) decided that presents would no longer be shared among everyone but that instead my father would give to his niece and nephew and my aunt and uncle would give to me.  Though, seeing as my cousins are closed in age to my mother and father than I am to anyone else, I was still the baby of the family and it still feels, as we haven’t had a ‘proper’ Christmas since that Christmas was another thing I loved that got taken away from me undeservingly and unwillingly.  I don’t get the wrapped gifts anymore, I don’t get to sit round a decorated tree and listen to the Queen’s speech (though admittedly that might be the thing I miss least!), I don’t feel the spirit of Christmas anymore.

My dad always says that Christmas is for children, so maybe as an adult I shouldn’t care or I should feel that it was only natural that Christmas should be cancelled as there’s no one younger in the family that celebrated Christmas together than me and I’m all growed up.  I disagree with my father.  Christmas isn’t for children.  It’s for family.  It’s for togetherness.  It is for home.  Just because members of the family who died naturally first are gone does not mean the world shuts down and what makes the living happy dies along with them.  If it did, wouldn’t the world be a depressing place?

I may sound callous, but I am one of the most unfeeling people, so I’ve been told, concerning death and sympathy for bereaved.  My motto is that people die and that’s the natural order of things.  I’ve felt grief but I have not the constitution or the mindset to let it claim me or take things away from me.  The most I have ever felt and constantly feel to this day concerning grief and the death of someone loved is that my godbrother died when he was only just out of school close to Christmas and I never met him but if he had not died I doubt my godparents would be my godparents.  So, the only thing I ever think is that if I could I would swap with him.  I never met him but the amount I love my godparents and their son and his family, I would do anything to spare them from losing such a valued member of their family, whereas if I could, I would gladly sell my wretched soul to the devil if he sent Tim back to his family.  You can tell from all the photos and painting of him that there was brightness and happiness in his soul, and he was taken before his time, whereas my soul is black as pitch and I’m still here to miss Christmas and lose my sanity bit by bit.  Why should I be here suffering when I so wish sometimes that I could be put out of my misery and many people could benefit from someone much better and much more loved than me taking my place on an earth that to him, I’m sure, would have been full of glee and unknown contentment?  And Christmases with his family…

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked!  The point was that I feel things so differently from others because somewhere along my brain broke, that my feelings about the dead are so warped and confused that I hold the unknown dead so dear in my heart but cannot wrap my head around how the death of my grandparents resulted in the death of Christmas.

At Christmas time, the world is bombarded through social media with photos of happy celebrations and times spent with the family.  There are, naturally, instances where Christmas is a time of sadness and grief and loneliness as it has become for me, but usually pictorial evidence of that state of mind during the Yuletide rarely makes it onto the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  Actually, though the idea of suicides being more common in the Christmas holidays is shown to be a myth (see the links to the CDC report), as it has been found that the summer months actually see higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts than the winter.  However, for Christmas to be no more a time when I wonder why the hell I’m on this planet, traditional Christmases like I remember when I was in my formative years would have to resume.  I tried to make a go of it and force it myself, for who can you blame if you don’t make an effort yourself, yet I having Christmas in a student property in Exeter was almost twice as depressing because I actually plucked up the courage to invest my heart in it.  That was the last time I even contemplated trying to resuscitate the Ghost of Christmas Past and accept that what my Ghost of Christmas Future was showing me was a lifetime’s supply of Christmases travelling and forgetting that December 25th has any significance whatsoever.

Last year, I went to Morocco for the Christmas holidays on an Explore tour and as an Islamic country I saw maybe two Christmas trees maximum.  There was no atmosphere of the holiday at all and weirdly I loved it.  On Christmas Day itself, we arrived in Rabat and the Holiday Blues were starting to get to me a bit so I left the group for a day and explored the city on my own in my “Frozen” t-shirt with Olaf on the front saying “I like warm hugs”.  That was the only Christmassy element of that trip but I thought about what other families back home were doing and enjoying together and it made me realise I will never stop looking for that.  One day, I won’t have to save up to go travelling the Silk Road or Jordan or Ethiopia.  One day, the only thing I’ll have to save up for is turkey with the fixings for a family of my own.  That is a day I’ll love, but it still gets me down that I’m about as close to getting that day as I am to getting to hold my son in my arms.

Just for information’s sake, here are some useful links to articles and reports concerning Christmas holiday suicide and suicide epidemiology in general:

http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/holiday.html

http://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/branches/branch-96/files/Suicide_statistics_report_2015.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2040383/

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/taxonomy/index.html?nscl=Suicide+Rates

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

24-07-2015

Let it Go

I am about to attempt something completely new and different (can you tell that’s the theme over the past week or so?).  I am going to attempt to communicate the way I feel about depression and social anxiety and coping with the aforementioned through music and a video blog.  So, this post is less wordy than my others but I hope you will play the video below and listen and see what it is I want to say but often am unable to.  Otherwise, stick around and the next post in my guest series will be up presently!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

12-11-2014

Father Dracula

In the year of our lord 1442, the Turkish Sultan enslaved one thousand Transylvanian boys to fill the ranks of his army. These child slaves were beaten without mercy, trained to kill without conscience, to crave blood of all who defied them – the Turks. From among these boys, one grew into a warrior so fierce that entire armies would retreat in terror at the mention of his name, Vlad the Impaler, Son of the Dragon.  Sickened by his monstrous acts, Vlad came to bury his past with the dead and return to Transylvania to rule in peace. His subjects called him prince, I called him father, but the world would come to know him as Dracula.

The legend of Vlad Țepeș has been many things throughout the years: a horror story, a legend of atonement and sin, a vampire chronicle, a story of romance and loss.  However one aspect of the fact-based narrative that has rarely – if ever – been explored is the role of Vlad Dracula as a father.  As I sat today watching the new Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures release, Dracula Untold, I found myself utterly enchanted until the epilogue section which will henceforth be unmentioned, with the movie that saw Luke Evans play Vlad Dracula the Father.

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

I sat down to this film with my best friend as one of our traditional Matt-Pippa movie excursions and so I was by no means depressed or morose when the film commenced.  A happier and less depressed person would have grasped onto the historical or west vs. east themes of the film, which I did eventually, but for me, it was the sheer raw emotion displayed that caused my poor old ticker to palpitate in my breast.  With the initial voiceover by the Impaler’s son (see block quote), it felt crystal clear to me as a slightly deranged and basket case of a viewer that fatherhood and the father-son relationship was the crux (no pun intended!) and the heart of the movie.  It is – in short – what sets it apart and bears it aloft from the commonplace and slightly boring modern vampire films that have reformed the image we have in the 21st century of the vampire.

As a daughter of a delightful father, whom I adore to the ends of the earth, I am incredibly drawn to the father figure as painted onscreen, but as the daughter of a father who often did not raise arms and try to move heaven and earth to protect me, I was taken in heart and soul by the powerful and sacrificial father image that Dracula Untold created.  I have no desire to detract from your enjoyment of the film and all its wondrous surprises and positives by illuminating its plot too much so I’ll endeavour as best I can not to divulge too much as I write now.  That having been promised, the story about the drive of the royal prince who has to fight the Turkish threat and offer up his soul, his kingdom, his subjects and his reputation in order to safeguard his child is too enchanting for someone in my position not to elucidate.

Vlad the former Impaler who occupies the screen for the first section of the film reminds me of my father: at home in Castle Dracula during a ten year peace and happy with his queen and son having suffered extensively during his own formative years.  It is the Vlad who refuses the Turks what they demand as the cost of peace that made me smile and almost weep in my seat.  He defies the greater threat, a threat that has the potential to wipe out everything and everyone he holds dear, when the price of peace grows too dear.  It is his love for his family, his respect for his wife and his unconditional love for his son that drives him from this point forward despite his underlying yearning for peace.  The ultimate draw of the character is that his paternal and visceral need to protect his offspring outweighed and conquered his preference for peace in his land.  I can only say that I would be very different now if in the 21st century and without the magic and the devil and a pressing Turkish invasion, my father had valued my sanity, my unscarred body and what my future might be above serenity in Theydon Bois.

So, you see during this film instead of feeling for and finding myself in the shoes of the mother, unusually and refreshingly for me, I felt more kinship with young Ingeras.  This certainly put things in a different perspective than usual and instead of feeling the force of a natural maternal love, as I did in Brave, The Borgias and Angel (to name but a few!) I found myself in a role of vulnerability and the unconditional love of a child and feeling as a child does as my mind flew into the media and put down roots there.  That is not to say that the feelings of Mirena never took rest in my mind – they did – but it was ever linked to the child and a child’s link with his father.

The questions that floated around my mind during the film were: what will my children do without a father to protect them?  How can I possibly hope or think it’s possible for me to protect them by myself?  Will I be enough?  Is it selfish and heartless and unbelievably evil of me to knowingly bring a child – or children – into this world to face it without the love and pride and protection of a father?  Understand that if during a movie that is essentially about a vampire prince in Wallachia, I can be ruminating those questions, precisely how unstable and mental I am and why I need this blog to get some of the crazy out of my brain.  What is especially troubling still is that a piece of media can still get into my head and lay all its babies there and turn me into a blithering, blubbering, bawling shell of a person just because a vampire is a daddy!

So you see how the maternal-paternal-filial feelings have all come together in the aftermath of me watching this film to a head.  My children – I know and promise to every higher power and the cosmos – will have all the love I can give and will never have cause to doubt their mother’s love, but what plagues me now is that although I will give them the best godfathers, uncles and grandfather I can, I want them to know that if anything should happen to me, then a father on this earth will fight to its ends for them.  I say that knowing and being certain that I cannot ask nor expect their godfathers to do that for my children.  That frightens me more than anything; that something will take me away from my children and they’ll end up living the same life I do, not knowing if anyone really loves me or if the world is really against me or I just have that kind of luck.  Then, what I have sworn never to do and have often said to my mother, that I would die before I created another me, I will have failed dismally and utterly and it’ll be infinitely worse than failing myself or my parents or my friends because I’ll have created through my own means and by my own will, tortured children who will never be whole, all because I wanted a family of my own and then failed to protect them and ensure their secure future.  That is what Dracula Untold revolves around: the legacy of leaving a safe life for your children no matter the cost or what stands in your way.

That’s why, I guess, I invest so much heart and mind in these sci-fi & fantasy shows, books, and films that have these awesome father figures that possess magical powers or vast armies or some superhuman (or all of the above!).  Angel is the vampire with a soul father to Connor, John Crichton is father to baby D’Argo with the knowledge a whole galaxy wants in his brain, Noah Bennet adopts Claire and exercises his influence to protect her and that’s just fathers in Angel, Farscape and Heroes for you to consider.  Vladimir Dracula as played by Evans, like Angel, other than being a vampire, alternates between being good and bad, light and darkness and right and wrong, illustrated ever so clearly in his final showdown with Mehmed II (played – vexingly, I might add – by Dominic Cooper) where the adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” (Harry’s Game, G. Seymour, 1975) has never been so apt.  This is not least due in part to the fact that they symbolise a clash between east and west and Christianity and Islam, which I found a bit on the head due to the threat from ISIS currently experienced by the world, but nevertheless, it presented me with an interesting conundrum.  Although Vlad is undeniably set up as the protagonist and Mehmed as the “cardboard” (Matt’s word) villain, in the final fight where perhaps conventionally. we would usually side with the man who didn’t sell his soul and his eternity to the devil, oddly, we find ourselves rooting for Vlad as he fights for his son’s future and to keep the promise he made to his wife.  Much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is ironic as it is now the pretty (meh) blonde girl chasing the monsters with a knife, the inversion of a supernatural heroic villain fighting a foreign threat who is – in this film, if not in history – represented as a bit of an arsehole for his family made me ask the question: can – and should – a father simply be good?  Mine certainly was and is, but I don’t know if I would have the mental and physical and psychosomatic problems I do now if my father had had a bit of evil or darkness in him enough to wage a bit of a war for me against the arseholes (myself included!) that turned my life into the circus it is today.  I know that Mirena is portrayed in the gothic setting of Dracula Untold as the stereotypical mother and damsel in distress and therefore, she is not characterised or shown, at least, to have any flaws or darkness within her – it’s all in her husband!  So, the question of whether a mother can be innately good and sin-free never really entered my mind during the feature film, for Mirena does appear to be the perfect, almost fairytale if in an Angela Carter setting, mother.  Vlad, however, in order to be a good father to his son (and, indirectly a good husband to his wife) is required to turn a bit evil, if initially temporarily and with the potential for redemption, so I just wonder if when a mother has a pristine soul, a father has to be bad, or if a father just has to have that hint of darkness in order to be the strong, virile protector he has to be.  Needless to say, it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while and I doubt I’ll ever reach a cast iron decision on my opinion on the matter, but I will say this: the darkness within my mother has never in my life been a darkness used to protect me and the light within my father has not protected me from her darkness either so as a future single parent, I aim to be a light shade of grey and thus tone down the darkness from how strong its pigment is at the moment.  That is all I can do for my children: not be my mother and not be my father, but have the darkness of my mother and use it the way a father like Dracula did in the film for their good and to have my father’s light and accept it as the good in my soul the way the mother in Mirena does to counteract the strong and masculine darkness in Vlad.

I hope this article hasn’t bored you to death as I skirted around the plot of Dracula Untold and that I haven’t dissuaded any of you from seeing it, if you haven’t already!  I will conclude by saying that we all have monsters residing within us but it is whether we allow them to have the active or passive role in our lives that defines us as people and as children and as parents.  The right kind of darkness can be a force of light and the wrong kind of light can be detrimental.  Don’t judge someone’s darkness because it is not an obvious asset to them – it may be the only thing keeping them alive because that’s certainly what the darkness in my soul is to me.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P.Mistry-Norman

15-10-2014

Motherhood

“In a child’s eyes, a mother is a goddess. She can be glorious or terrible, benevolent or filled with wrath, but she commands love either way. I am convinced that this is the greatest power in the universe.”

~ N.K. Jemisin, “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”

At this point, I would just like to shed a bit of light on my relationship with my mother.  Over my life I’ve met a few people with notable mother-child relationships.  Some people are lucky enough to have a mutually loving relationship with their mothers, others have mothers who adore them but they cannot love them back and vice versa.  I don’t know which of these broad categories my mother and I fit into but I am going to try and pinpoint it in this post – if I can…

My childhood was traumatic.  It felt incredibly harsh and almost as if it didn’t exist at all.  I still swear that when I was twelve years old I was at my most mature.  I am an only child born to parents who were already looking at their prime in the rear-view mirror at the time of my birth.

I am not laying any blame for how I’ve turned out at my parents’ feet, I just feel it is a contributor to the negative as it is to the positive as well and thus, needs to be shown as part of what happens to make a young adult with such a cocktail of mental disorders.  

I will start by saying that my relationship with my father is uncommonly strong.  We talk almost everyday for about an hour each time and I love my daddy.  Even when both of us – since neither of us are the most talkative of folks – run out of things to say, it is one of the most comforting things for me just to know that my father is on the other end of the line just listening to me and spending time with me.

Contrarily, my mother and I do not have a solid or stable relationship at all.  When I was in school, I attended counselling to deal with various problems that – I feel – stemmed from how I felt about my mother and how I perceived her feelings for me.  I am not going to lie about anything here to make people feel better or to sugarcoat what happened.  This is my story and I intend to tell it how it really happened, though, there are two sides to every story, but I’m telling mine.

When I was a child I was hit.  There, I’ve said it.  I was slapped for things I did wrong, I was hit for making mistakes.  It was a time when it was acceptable for parents to smack their children and some of my friends had the same punishment tradition at their homes and a few claim to be glad that their parents struck them as it supposedly made them disciplined, but I do not share in that view.  I don’t at all.  I think it is the most loathsome and cowardly thing to strike a child and there is no excuse for it whatsoever.  It literally makes me weep when articles come up in newspapers and headlines come up on news channels telling the story of some poor innocent child being killed by negligent parents or being beaten to death.  I am thus not even capable of thinking about hurting a child and I am quick and harsh to judge people who do.

The fear a child can have of their mother is a horrible thing.  I was plagued with night terrors all through my formative years and they’ve only just begun to dissipate now with the help of medication and audiobooks, actually.  Some of my earliest memories are of running through my parents’ bungalow from my mother.  It is what prompted me to ask for a bunk bed at Christmas and what makes me still need to lock my bedroom door at home in order to get a decent night’s kip.  Never underestimate how a ladder can keep you safe when your mother has a back problem!

The annoying and incredibly vexing aspect of the relationship my mother and I share is that it is so changeable and difficult to read.  One of my former best friends once told me that every child is genetically predisposed to love and cling to their mother and I suppose that is true. She is a graduate psychologist so I might as well take her word for it.  This primal instinct is what keeps me coming back and never being able to truly let go of the aspiration that one of these days, my mother and I will put everything behind us and stop this endless cycle of cruelty that has been fostered for two whole decades…hopefully, while I’m still young!

Some days, my mother is the ideal mother, she is a fantastic cook – honestly, no one can make as nice a proper Indian prawn curry as my mum can.  On those days, no one loves her more than me.  Sadly, those days are few and far between…most of the time, my mother despises me and resents me and blames me for everything that has gone wrong in her life.  When I was born, she was kept in hospital due to a badly done epidural and I was a sick baby so I was a nightmare and a problem then too, but I think that possibly due to that separation so soon postpartum, our relationship was affected permanently.

On the days when my mother is a gorgon sent from Tartarus, it is not even worth stepping foot outside my room just to be called fat and huge and useless and weak.  This is the ultimate point of what the relationship with my mother has done to contribute to my condition.  It is not the words or the actions themselves, it is how intimidating and memorable those insults and strikes are when you are literally at rock bottom and have to work up to no self-esteem.  That is the effect of a poor mother-daughter relationship on a depressed, socially anxious and mythomanic child who didn’t quite manage the transition to young adult as easily as it’s done in “The Sims”.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

28-01-2014