“Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

There has always been a lot of conjecture about the true ownership of the quote above. While most people believe that it belongs to a Scottish author by the name of Ian Maclaren, there are some that attribute it to Plato, or argue that it was Philo of Alexandria who first uttered the phrase. Regardless of who owns it, the simple, yet profound meaning it conveys speaks volumes, especially in a world where we so often feel as though we are struggling, and forget that we are not alone.

Every single person in this world is living through their own unique version of reality. And in that reality, they are fighting battles both within themselves, and with the world around them as they try their best to survive. While some people face battles that manifest themselves as physical disabilities or ailments; others struggle with cognitive or developmental issues, fight emotional demons, or find themselves pitted against the hazards of circumstance. Yet even though we all have moments where we feel as though we are the only one struggling, the truth is that we are not alone in the wars that we wage, no matter the obstacles we face.

Believe me when I say that there’s a lot more that I want to say here. But before I do, it seems appropriate to take a break for a moment and acknowledge that it has been more than a year since I have written a blog post. And while there are a few reasons why I chose to step away from my website, the largest contributing factor for my absence has been that I’ve been busy fighting a battle alongside someone very special to me…

On November 18th, 2019, my Dad passed away. At the time of his passing, he was sick. Really sick. Yet even though I knew that the phone call to tell me that he was gone was imminent, it still hurt like hell when a nurse phoned to say that he was gone. Dad was, and always will be, one of my closest friends. He was a confidant, a provider of advice, and a royal pain in my backside at times. He was the man who taught me how to ride a bike, drive a car, to respect those around me, and a million other things. But he was also a deeply troubled soul, and a man who was fighting a few battles that in the end, he just couldn’t win.

Physically, Dad’s issues started in 2011 when an aneurism in his aorta ruptured and he was airlifted to hospital to undergo emergency surgery. Mentally, he had begun struggling years before that. After more than two decades serving as a police officer, Dad had developed post-traumatic stress disorder and had been self-medicating with alcohol and cigarettes for several years. It was because of these dependancies that his aorta swelled to six times its normal size before eventually rupturing and causing internal bleeding.

Whilst it would be easy to say that the aneurysm was solely a result of his actions, his excessive alcohol consumption and addiction to cigarettes wasn’t entirely a weakness on Dad’s part. He had spent his formative years in the police force during an era where colleagues actively encouraged drinking and smoking as a means of coping with stress. If you had a rough day on the job, your boss told you to go grab a cigarette, or a colleague took you down to the local bar for a few beers. So, by the time Dad’s health had started to decline, drinking and smoking were so ingrained in his DNA that even as medical experts told him that they were the cause of his sickness, he turned to them as a means of coping.

Over time, his post-traumatic stress turned into depression, and his reliance on his vices became so consuming that he transitioned through states of homelessness, staying with family, attending mental health facilities, and living out of a car, plastic bags and whatever else he could, just so that he could keep a couple of bucks in his pocket to buy a beer and a packet of cigarettes.

At his best, Dad was self-sufficient, and could find ways to get by on his police pension. At his lowest, he was sleeping on my lounge and borrowing large sums of money to feed his addictions, or checking himself into clinics just so that he had a roof over his head and something to eat.

There were days when I could barely look at him. I hated seeing what he had allowed himself to become. It broke my heart to watch the person who had taught me everything that I knew about being a man falling apart before my eyes. Yet although I hated seeing his circumstances deteriorate, I still loved him, and I still did anything that I could just to show him that no matter how bad things got, he’d never have to face anything alone.

In January of this year, things got worse again. Dad was rushed to hospital with another aneurysm, and was told that because his health had declined so much since 2011, he wouldn’t survive. I can still remember sitting in a quiet space at work when he called me in tears and told me that the doctors had said that he needed to be airlifted to another hospital where a specialist surgeon would attempt to operate if he somehow made it through the flight. He was petrified as we said our goodbyes, and I told him that I loved him, and that I was proud of him, and that I always would be.

Then, just like he had done in 2011, he did the unthinkable and not only survived the plane ride, but the surgery too.

But his luck was to be short lived. In June he was back in hospital again where he went into surgery to have stents put into his arteries to allow blood to flow into his kidneys which had begun shutting down. Again, Dad defied the odds and pulled through, but was told that he would need to give up his vices and begin dialysis treatment that he would need to remain on for the rest of his life.

Because he had no place of residence, almost no money or possessions to his name, and needed support, he came to stay with me, and then with my younger brother. Then when things got tough, he said that he couldn’t live with us and chose to check himself into temporary accommodation while we helped him look for a more permanent place to live. He hated dialysis. It left him feeling ill, and depressed. So although those around him tried to keep him focused on improving his situation, we could see that he was slipping away.


In early September, Dad decided he had had enough, and that he didn’t want to continue with dialysis anymore, electing to see out his days rather than pursue treatment. On the day that he told me, I was so angry at him. I had fought so hard to help him over the years that him telling me that he wanted to give up sent me into a rage. I swore at him. A lot. And I reminded him that doctors had suggested he could live another five years with treatment. I said that within that time I hoped that I’d be married, and have a family of my own, and asked him if he wanted to be around to see that. When he looked me in the eye and told he couldn’t imagine himself living through another five years of pain, I realised just how emotionally exhausted he was. And that while he may have physically been capable of surviving another five years with treatment, mentally, he had nothing left to give.

Over the next few weeks shit got rough. Dad deteriorated rapidly both physically and mentally. His body filled with toxins and his head became so clouded with anger that he began lashing out at the people who were trying to help him. From early September to when he passed away was one of the most difficult periods that we had ever experienced in our relationship. He and I fought more than we ever had, and I lost patience with him more than once as we both said some pretty hurtful things to one another out of frustration. I loved and cared for him so fucking much and it was destroying me to watch him just give up. But for every fight that we had, we also had discussions about my life, and his, and about what he wanted when he passed.

The night before my Dad died, he called me from a hospital bed and told me that he loved me, and that he appreciated everything that I had done for him. We cried. And then we spoke for a few minutes about what he wanted me to say as a farewell to each member of our family before he hung up the phone, and the period in my life where I had a father who was alive came to a premature end.

I know that some of this probably sounds like I’m condemning his decision not to undergo dialysis. Or that I’m harbouring some kind of pent up frustration at him for his actions. But I’m not. I’m not writing any of this to disparage my Dad, or his memory…

It’s important for me to say that. Because I love my Dad. I always will. And in a way, I’m still trying to shelter him by only talking about some of the things that my family has been through; particularly over the past twelve months. Instead, I’m writing about my experiences with him because I hope that by doing so, I can help whoever reads this to understand that every one of us are fighting our own battles; and that sometimes the kindness of the people around us is the only thing in this world that we have left to hold onto.

Mental illness is not something to be trifled with. Even though I’ve had my own battles with anxiety and depression, and had friends take their own lives, it wasn’t until I watched my father in his final weeks that I realized just how overwhelming a fight with the chemical imbalances inside our brains actually can be. Dad was constantly lost in his own head, battling against himself, scalding his own behaviour, and allowing his anger at his own shortcomings to fester. In the end, he was so lost that even the idea of being around for a few more years to potentailly meet his grandchildren couldn’t rouse him.

Although he’s no longer here, Dad did struggle against his illnesses for years before giving up. I truly believe that he made it as far as he did because of the kindness and generosity of the people around him, including the complete strangers who loaned him a couple of bucks, or who bent rules and gave him discounts on a safe place to sleep when he needed it. Dad might have been down and out, and on the wrong end of far too many of his own poor decisions, but people always seemed to see the good in him and reciprocated with kindness and compassion when he needed it most.

While he may not have left behind much of a legacy in a tangible sense, this lesson that people are inherently compassionate by nature, as well as everything else that he has taught me over the years, means far more to me that a life insurance policy, or a will choked full of meaningless assets ever could. I will forever be grateful to those strangers that treated my Dad with respect, and made him feel welcome. I will never meet most of them, or even know their names. But to know that their actions often helped him make it through just one more day means the world to me.

You might be wondering why I called this post Tricky…

I did so because that’s what people used to call my Dad when he was a cop. Tricky Trev was as sharp as a whip and always had a solution to a sticky situation. Yet while the title is more of a homage to him than anything else, perhaps it also lends itself to the idea that I am ultimately trying to convey here. Which is that life can be tricky sometimes. For all of us. We all have our battles to fight, and our horizons to cross as we complete our idiosyncratic journeys between birth and death. But through acknowledging that we all experience lower moments, as well as remembering the powerful effect that kindness has on each of us during those difficult times, we can create a better world for those who are struggling.

The battle that I’ve been fighting with my Dad is over now. It came to an end on November 18th, 2019. In many ways, his passing is bitter-sweet. Because as much as I miss him, at least I know that he is no longer in pain.

What we went through as a family won’t be the last hardship that I endure in my life. I will undoubtedly have plenty more ups and downs before my bones inevitably turn to dust. But hopefully the lessons that I’ve learned by fighting alongside, and against, the man who taught me how to ride a bike, drive a car, and to respect those around me, will help me to remember that I’m not alone in my struggles. And to be kind, always. Because you never know what someone else is living through, or just how deeply your compassion can move them in their times of need.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

163 thoughts on “Tricky”

  1. I wish circumstances were different for this post. I’m so sorry about your Dad. But I need to say I have truly missed your writing. You and your words are always so heartfelt and inspiring. Please keep posting. ☀️Erika

  2. It is amazing the hope we can find in another’s struggle. A year ago tomorrow I shot myself and life changed forever in a split second.

    Tonight as I sit here contemplating past, present and future of humanity; well, hope is all we may have for the future.

    I found my hope tonight in a little writing on some random corner of the internet I didn’t even know existed 30 minutes ago.

    We see hope where we need it because we realize… Sometimes you’re looking for a needle in a stack of needles, only the right one will thread the string you’re holding on it.

    Thanks for being the string tonight.

    We all need more strings to pull ourselves up on. Maybe then, with enough pulling, we’ll unravel the mystery of “us all.”

    I know we’re one. Trying to prove it will drive you crazy; if you let the world form your beliefs of self.

    Thank you for passing along hope. It hit home tonight.

    Bless you all. Thank you for your kindness.

    1. Dear Souls, thank you also for your openness. “Keep on passing the open windows…” I’m happy you survived and that your life changed since that moment. the world can be a lonely place but also very supportive of you let it, as you have done. Take care,!

  3. First of all let me say I´m sorry for your loss.
    Second you said he didn’t “leave a tangible legacy”, I believe he did. His service as a police officer and more important you and your brother.
    I can relate to this quite a lot. I was army in the Spanish Legion and had my struggles after army days with alcohol, still do. Also my mother is in stage 4 cancer so I´m literally her caretaker day in day out and it´s exhausting. I literally left everything and moved to her house to take care of her. Taking care of the house, cleaning it as she wishes ( she might be hurting physically but her brain functions perfectly) plates here or the plates there, the trash, take the dog for her walks, more cleaning of the house (she’s a neat freak), going to the supermarket which now I know where every single item is by memory, e.t.c But I figured if she raised me by her own, the least I can do is for her to see that her only son is not a complete fuck up.
    Anyways, point being that thank you for sharing your story and the quote it is true. But the part of being kind…. humans are humans so I don’t expect much. As long as mother is happy for now that is what matters, even though it´s driving me a bit crazy yet at the same time it is keeping me sober since I have to take care of her. Ironic.It took this extreme to be sober.
    Again, appreciate you sharing this part of your life.

  4. Prayers and condolences on the indeed tricky recent loss of your father, and incremental losses leading up to it. And good to see you working through it with your unique gift of communication, my friend.

  5. This is a very beautiful tribute to a father who was obviously mch loved.
    My own late partner fought for years to stay alive… but there came a time when he no longer had the strength or resources to keep fighting and stopped the treatment for cancer. While I undestood exactly where he was coming from, having shared the journey with him intimately, it still hurt like hell. These days, I understand a little better… and you are quite right about the emotional overload.
    I am sorry for your loss, but I think your father left a very tangible legacy, as evidenced by your words here.

  6. God be with you my friend. Your father’s pain started in 2011 and my wife’s ended that year. You may like to read my post : Time Heals Nothing

  7. very moving, Chris. my condolences for your loss. I am going through a battle with my partner/girl friend that this post brings to mind and the timing, of course, is dreadful but I just don’t know how to mend it. My partner tells me I am tricky too. I don’t know whether I want to mend it. WE have hurt each other so much, Relationships are tricky. Stay well, Chris and stay in touch.There is much to ruminate over in this post. thanks

  8. Thank you so much for sharing the struggle and the love. This helped me particularly with my own wish to help both those needing something to dull their emotional pain and those who are homeless for many reasons.

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. My mother passed away in late September, and you’re so right – even when you know the call is coming, it still hurts like hell. Wishing you peace and love this Christmas Day.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss, this post was so beautifully written. PTSD is rough, no doubt… but it’s awesome that the two of you were still very close. May peace be with you…

  11. My dad refused dialysis. I think he also was tired of being in pain, after two strokes and two heart attacks.
    We signed him up for an in-home hospice service – and he improved. Most likely because he was getting the care he needed. (He wouldn’t go to the doctor voluntarily).
    He got so much better, and held on, that they kicked him out of the hospice program after a couple of years.
    That was my dad – ornery to the end.
    It’s been two years and two weeks since I got the call.

  12. I am so sorry for your loss. But I’d also like to say that this was well written and well expressed. And you are absolutely right in that we all need to always remember that everyone has their struggles to endure. I too believe it is always best to be kind.

  13. I’m sorry about your dad Chris. I can almost resonate…my dad is still here but not in good health at all. Mental health struggles are never really understood by those that do not suffer. Vices vary for all. The misunderstandings alone in my own family are most painful. I thank you for sharing this and do believe that great pain can over shadow hope and lead one to give up. It’s not their fault, It’s the mighty evil that we have to battle with every day. We are human. It’s in us to help each other as our birthright of dignity, this is what needs to be brought to the forefront in all humanity to me. God bless you my friend and thank you! Your love has helped your dad in more ways than you know. His pain and struggles were real and he is with you in good spirit now! Take care! 🙏

  14. I understand this deeply. My father died this year as well. The event itself was quite sudden; one minute he was talking and the next he was gone. It’s honestly exactly what he would have wanted, no fuss, no hospital, just suddenly away. But we did have a thought that it would happen, even though we were hoping for some medical miracle. He’d been steadily declining for a few months, and had been ill and depressed for a few years before that. Our relationship before he passed was fraught, and there were a lot of emotions when he died – sorrow that he was gone, dismay that I wouldn’t ever see him again, anger that he couldn’t try harder to get better, relief that he couldn’t take his depression out on my mother anymore, a kind of gentle joy to find that suddenly I can remember the way he was when I was little, and really celebrate that. I’m very surprised at how much growing and learning I’ve done since he left in March; I’m constantly remembering new ways that we loved each other, and seeing how my life became what it is because of his influence. In some ways, I feel closer to him now than ever, because there’s just the essence of his goodness left behind, and none of the petty, personal in-the-moment BS that hung us up before he died. I wish you peace with your father’s passing. No words from an outsider can really do much, but I hope that you’re able to look back on your dad’s goodness and see it translated in your own life and actions, too. Sending a hug.

  15. Love your heart on display here Chris. It inspires me to write about my troubled relations with my father. He died on Dec 19. I am still processing the grief and taking care of practicalities. But, I will write on his goodness and his demons including addictions.
    Thanks for the strength to remember his humanity.

  16. This was beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss and can relate to losing a parent. You have so much understanding. ❤️

  17. My heartbreaks for what you and your Dad went through. I empathize. This has long been one of my favorite expressions it would suit everyone to remember its message. Hugs.

  18. I am so sorry about your dad! I think what you write in this post can help other people. You’re a very talented writer and you’re able to influence people in a good way with your writing!

  19. You convey your experience so beautifully! I am so sorry for your ultimate loss. You have done an exceptional job of laying bare your father’s story while remaining respectful to and honoring his memory. The truth is, we are all conflicted and full of evil and good. It is beautiful that in the end, you embraced your father for the whole of his experience, and yours, as his son.

  20. Words that you have spoken are raw and pure, those which come from the heart. True emotion, deep love and passion spoken from your soul. Never do we ever know that battles other people face. There is so much hidden about our identities, until we find the right person, the right outlet to share our stories with, that we may be able to heal and move forward in life. Acceptance of what was, many lessons we have learned, educate, inspire and bring hope and light of other people.

  21. Your writing is…special and wonderful. I fought alongside my mom when she battled a brain tumor. And while that was painful, it was nothing compared to the loss of my son six years later. So I can understand how you need to talk about your dad, what he meant, and pay tribute to him. I was pulled into your story immediately, wanting to know your struggle from the opening paragraph. Thank you for sharing it and for what you meant to your dad and for not abandoning him just because he wasn’t perfect. You were raised right. Like you, I find healing in writing. If you want to know my story with the loss of my son, you can find that here:

    Thank you for your post, it meant a lot to me. Sometimes you inspire, without even knowing anyone was listening.

  22. Beautiful and well written. Made me think about my own issues with my dad. So sorry for your loss. RIP Tricky Trev!

  23. Welcome back to the world of words, wisely written, well weighed. From whence pain and suffering once fell, a wellspring of hope inevitably arises. Thank you for sharing a part of your world. In the end, does it matter who or when the words were spoken, if there is peace and and end to the suffering; we can carry that forward. Excavate, do no harm & as has been spoken before ‘The deeper the mud, the more beautiful the lotus.’
    Be well, today and all days

  24. From someone who lost his father 12 days ago, you have my sympathy, and as far as is possible given the differences between our circumstances, my understanding.

  25. Hey, I can certainly relate to a lot in this post, very heartfelt. Sorry to hear about your loss. I use writing as part of my therapy for my mental health issues, I find it therapeutic. I’ve made numerous posts on my YouTube channel in the past to help externalise things out of frustrations. Whatever works for you, just do it.

  26. First of all I’d Like to say SORRY for YOUR loss.. and that Quote is VERY true and I try to live by it daily.. there is another that goes “step into the lives of others gently” BOTH meaning the same thing.. WE all are fighting some unseen battle and WE all should think of that when we look at others. I too stepped away from my blog for 2 years while I spent time with someone dear fighting cancer, He lost the battle in Dec last year. I have found and followed most of my life just living in the moment helps to cope with life. Many Blessings to YOU.

  27. My own experience with my father in the last several days before his death a few weeks ago resonates with what you said here: “…it wasn’t until I watched my father in his final weeks that I realized just how overwhelming a fight with the chemical imbalances inside our brains actually can be. Dad was constantly lost in his own head, battling against himself, scalding his own behaviour, and allowing his anger at his own shortcomings to fester.” It’s chemicals all the way down, from the brain chemistry to the inevitable cocktail of drugs someone is often on in hospital. My dad was a protestant minister and normally had a positive outlook. His last days were lost in depression, self anger, pain and a desire to die. Like you and your dad, we at least had the chance to say goodbye. Take care.

  28. There is another saying – it is Chinese but it struck me as terribly true “our organs cry the tears we cannot” the heart breaks literally when it grieves so the person eats or drinks too much, the mind breaks literally when it tries to avoid thoughts, livers break because the man drinks to avoid the pain – our bodies carry the burden of our suppressed emotions. This is such a sad story.

  29. Thank you for writing about you and your Dad. I lost my Mom over 33 years ago from alcoholism; I struggled with addiction and depression for three decades. It runs in the family line. I have a sis who’s been homeless.
    I get annoyed and frustrated often – now dealing with a boyfriend who has cognitive decline. Thank you for reminding us that we’re all doing the best we can and a little extra compassion, a few bucks, an ear to listen, a hug and no judgement goes a very long way.
    Bless you!

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