Newcastle, New South Wales
Wild Competition entry
When I was younger I had a habit of imagining improbable scenarios and what I would do should they ever happen. Usually they were insignificant conversations with people or my plan for the zombie apocalypse. Often my imagination only ever served to boost my ego, as a show of my awesome prowess at killing the undead. Yet, every now and again things happen, which no matter how vivid or wild our imagination is, we never see them coming.
My father began his normal routine. At 6am, while everyone was still asleep he would begin shouting about anything that slightly frustrated him. Often I wondered if rather than shouting at no-one, he was yelling at the horrors that clouded his mind hoping to scare them away. This particular day, he was angry with my brother who had gone away for the weekend and forgotten to do some insignificant chore. In his irrational rage, he was able to tell his unknown phantoms how much he despised a child he usually sung praises for.
As I listened to him screaming at no-one, my ability to ignore his indignant attacks seeped away. My attempt to ask him to be quiet, was met with brutally being told, ‘Fucking shut up.’ Of course, in typical teenage melodrama, I retorted, ‘Grow the fuck up.’
As quickly as I had bitten back, the tone of his rants took a different voice. In the delusion of his mental illness he had taken the attempt to put a halt to his unnecessary tirade, as a personal vendetta against him. I was quickly met with vehement statements of how I wished him dead and how he could make that happen. I’m almost certain that these words were used to bait me into an actual argument, where I, on my mighty high-horse, would try to be the voice of reason. A voice of reason that had no place in a manic episode.
Cue entrance of mother. In recent times, my mother tried to make herself scarce during the morning episodes. However, with an exasperated look on her face, she asked what was going on. I told her he was being a dick, and he told her that he was going to make everyone happy, by killing himself. At this point, I often wonder what an outsider would think, whether they would be outraged, saddened or blatantly confused by the chaotic screaming of a seventeen year old girl with a middle-aged man, and a lady asking them to calm down in a patronising teacher voice.
We finally reached the stage where my father tries to overdose on his daily medication, only to be foiled by the lightening reflexes of my mother. I tap out, and leave her to sort out the pandemonium I helped create. In half an hour, I needed to be on a school bus with the intentions of finishing my last HSC trial exam. For us this was normalcy; wake-up, scream, prevent suicide, and continue our daily lives.
However, as the last of my father’s verbal abuse subsided and my mother disappeared, he makes a dig directed at me, calling me a lazy bitch. I bite back. Mustering all my angst, I make a petty remark telling my father how much I hate him. Not an unusual comment, yet this time, holding some weight.
In an instant, he grabs the needle which contained the regular dosage of medication, and multiplying it. I lunge at him as he attempts to inject it into his arm. With all the strength I can gather, against a grown man, I push it away. As fast as my brain operates, his irrationality is one step ahead. My arm is in perfect alignment with the tip of the syringe. To my horror, I go from trying to prevent his death, to my own. I shove him as hard as possible, pushing him off balance, just in time to snap the needle of the syringe.
He runs from the house, with my mother closely in pursuit, having returned from the backyard to ask what the hell was happening. I stand there for a few minutes oblivious to the shouts outside, when my mother returns asking me to help. Apparently, my father had continued on his suicidal rampage and found the spare syringes, successfully overdosing. And in an almost comical fashion, was madly sprinting along the fence-line to speed up the process.
I never made it outside. That was the day I stopped trying to fight, and rang the police. I didn’t tell them what my father had tried to do to me, just that he had attempted suicide. By the time they showed up, my father had calmed down, my mother had counteracted the effect of his overdose and I had missed the school bus.
When I walked out the door to verify my safety, my father quite happily told me to keep walking. I had broken the one rule about his health, which was never to tell anyone.
A month and a half later, following an extremely brief stint in a psychiatric ward, and numerous uneventful mornings, my father’s resolve of not speaking, broke. In one last heated argument, he told me whilst pointing an accusing finger that he hated me more than anyone else in the world. I was to get off his property and never look back.
While in tears, my mother told me what had happened was not as bad as I thought. I should harden up. When I told her that someone was coming to pick me up, she told me to leave. Except to pack up my belongings, I never went back.
Bio: Emma-Lee explains that this piece explores the impact of mental illness on those around the sufferer.