What I Learned From Having a Dad with Depression
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What I Learned From Having a Dad with Depression

New Zealand comedian Cori Gonzalez-Macuer was working on the hit comedy 'What We Do in the Shadows' when tragedy struck his real life.
18.10.16

This article originally appeared on VICE Australia/NZ

While I was studying at uni I got depression. My dad actually helped me through it. Whenever I'd get down, my dad talked about how when he was younger he'd had depression too. He was 22 and living in Chile in the middle of the war with no money. He had found out my mum was pregnant with me and was really depressed. But he was starting a family, and he always told me to put family above yourself.

Annons

We moved to New Zealand from Chile 26 years before it happened. My parents were cleaners for years. Eventually mum got a proper job because her English was better than my dad's. Dad ended up getting a proper job with his degree too, but it took a while. He could read and write well in English, but he never lost the accent. He sounded like Antonio Banderas, which made it hard for some people to understand him. After moving from Chile, he didn't really have any close friends in New Zealand.

My dad was 53 when he killed himself. He thought he didn't have anyone to talk to about it.

Cori (second from right) with the cast of What We Do in the Shadows, which he was filming when his father died.

After it happened, everything was just a blur. The entire year was a blur. I went back to work two days after it happened because I just had to do something. I took my sister to the set of What We Do in the Shadows. Now when I look back at photos of us hanging out there, we look so normal. But only two days before, this horrible thing had happened, and then the very next day we went to my dad's funeral.

It was such a weird situation. My own life it was so dark and shit, but then I'd go to work for 12 hours a day to a place where there was non-stop laughter. They were the two biggest extremes, but it kind of helped me out.

The next year was a bit better. I went overseas. I met my partner. We got pregnant and now I'm a dad. Those distractions are good, but they don't make it any easier. For the last three years I've had to keep doing something: working, doing shows, going out. Before I met my partner I went out every night so I didn't have to be at home by myself.

Annons

It changes you. When the person that you trust the most and admire the most does that. You lose faith in people. You approach everything a bit more carefully. Some of the changes are for the better, some are for the worse. It's definitely made me and my family so much closer—my immediate family and also my family in Chile. We were really close before, but now it's just different.

Cori and his dad. Image supplied.

It's mainly my partner and my daughter who have influenced that positive change. I put myself in my dad's shoes and I know that it happened nearly 30 years after I was born, but I just can't imagine ever—no matter how bad things get—not wanting to be around.

At the same time, I know he felt like that when I was born, so it's another thing I'm wary of. Who knows what will happen in 30 years' time.

My dad was cool. He was really smart, intelligent, funny, a really caring person. We came from quite a rough background, so when we came here he was always quite sensitive to people in need. At the end of the day, my dad was just sick. He had an illness and he never talked to anyone about it. I heard my mum talk to the ambulance driver and apparently he was on all these anti-anxiety and depression pills and no-one knew about it. You never thought he would have done it.

That's part of the problem. We're such a "she'll be right" country, especially in small towns, or if you go to an all boys' school, like I did. People don't like to show any signs of weakness, so they don't want to talk about it, which makes it a lot worse. We're so blasé about everything here.

I think about what might be different if my dad had just spoken out. He wasn't very social so he didn't have many friends. But if he had talked to one of us—he could have maybe avoided it. I think he was just too embarrassed. There's such a stigma around suicide. I was the same. When I was depressed, and when my dad did that, I was embarrassed—for my family, for my dad, for myself. But we actually have to sit down and talk about it. It's not that scary.

I miss him quite a bit. Sometimes less, sometimes more, sometimes I tell myself I don't miss him—I just pretend I don't because I get angry at him, but I still do.

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