Coping Skills - #4B - Managing Our Emotions

Robin Cunningham Health Guide
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    Managing our emotions is not always limited to dealing with immediate events. It can be a long term process that delves into deeply rooted misunderstandings.


    My father was a determined, ingenious and quiet man, with many skills. During my youth I longed for a strong relationship with him. I wanted him to spend time with me, to teach me the things he had learned in life, to be my mentor. It never happened.


    It was my Uncles Ray and Marvin that taught me how to fish for cutthroat trout, to hunt for pheasant, to play softball and basketball, to ride a horse and rope calves.


    Instead of spending time with me or my brother, my father worked long hours at his grocery stores and on building projects at our church and homes for relatives.

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    I never understood.


    On the plane home after his funeral, I wrote the following -





    Are we alone,

    Just you and I?

    Can we talk

    And not be heard?


    You know I've tried

    To make sense of this,

    To work it out,

    But nothing fits.


    You've been here!

    What's yet to come?

    How does it end?

    I want your solemn word.


    I want the truth.

    Is there some universal key

    On which I may rely?

    Or just my native wits?


    And by the way,

    You lied.

    You said you wouldn't,

    And then you died.


    Over the ensuing years, my mother explained many things I'd never known about my father. His second greatest fear was that one morning he'd wake up and find himself afflicted with schizophrenia like his father, older brother, and younger sister. His greatest fear was that one morning he'd wake up and find my brother and/or me in the throes of this terrible illness. He knew there was [at that time] no effective treatment and he'd seen the consequences of the illness and the stigma attached to it. Mother said he dealt with this by becoming a workaholic. His concern for my brother and me had made it all but impossible to spend time with us.


    One of his greatest fears had come true when I developed schizophrenia at the age of thirteen. Until mother told me, I never knew that he was devastated.


    Some years later I wrote this -



    Broken Legacy


    This mind, a fragile thing,

    Was crippled with his genes.

    And for want of clear expression,

    He also was the means.


    Silence dealt the crushing blow,

    Regardless of intent,

    Because I never understood

    What his silence meant.


    What legacy is yours,

    This riddle broken now?

    Love is what I give,

    All silence will allow.


    Behind his unspoken word,

    Beneath our silent sound,

    Wanting to be heard,

    An irony is found.


    For I am older now,

    And he is dead,

    And I better understand

    All his silence said.


    Since I wrote this poem, I wake up every morning looking for some way to share my father's love with those who suffer with mental illness.

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    Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.



Published On: March 31, 2008