Tom Wants to Talk

It’s January 27, 2016, Bell Let’s Talk day.

goneThe day when you make calls, text or tweet to raise awareness of mental illness as an effort to end the stigma attached to this type of suffering.  It is a great cause that brings all the levels of support and avenues for help to light.  I would like to point out where we are failing and still have much work to do.

The crisis hotlines are only for people who are actually on the ledge.  These selfless men and women who answer these calls are trained to encourage you to climb down.  This is not a number you can call if you are hurting and contemplating suicide. If that is the case you will be directed to your family physician.

General Practitioner knowledge and training is lacking.

If you are brave enough to go and be honest with your family doctor about your coping methods:  whether it be drug use, alcohol abuse or a tendency to cut, your GP will be happy to prescribe you an anti-depressant and refer you a psychiatrist. There will be no follow-up, just an assumption that you are indeed taking the meds (which clearly do the trick) and an acute oblivion to the fact that the earliest shrink appointment is several months away.

Human Resources department are enough to drive anyone crazy. The forms required to take leave when you are in crisis fail to have a section for mental illness or depression and even when your doctor has filled it out to the best of their abilities given the irrelevant space HR will reject the request for leave.

The hospital itself has a protocol that hinders many by painting every patient with the same brush. When there is a suicide attempt regardless the reason or the method the ER doctor is required by law to notify the ministry of transportation. They will immediately suspend your license. This means, that the survivors of suicide, if lucky enough to recover physically, will be unable to resume their lives and pick up the pieces especially if they depend on their license for their income. The red tape involved in having a driver’s license reinstated in long and tedious. It will take the better part of a year.

How do they expect someone struggling to get their life back not to feel helpless and dejected if they cannot get themselves to work or do their job?

A year ago my wife of nineteen years was in a horrible car accident. When the blown tire of a transport truck crashed through her windshield it was a miracle she survived. After weeks of therapy and months of pain killers, her body was healing but she was never the same. Darlene (the unknown author) developed a dependency on her pain killers which she had begun mixing with alcohol. The mother of my two girls was turning into a completely different person. She was an angry drunk who sank back into dark corners of her past that I could not determine if real. After she accused me of despicable things I am not capable of; we began living apart.

Finally, five months ago after a break down that even she recognized, I convinced her to get help. We called a hotline together. I heard her admit that sometimes she just didn’t want to be here anymore. It was clear to me that Darlene did not see this as being suicidal. Once the councilor determined that she was not a threat to herself or anyone else, she advised my wife to seek a physician’s help.

We Waited…waited for help.  She was hurting and we had to wait to get help! Admitting that you need help is not the hardest step.  The waiting is.

Eight days later she had a doctor’s appointment which she allowed me to sit in on. The glossed over version of events that she spun was worthy of a weekend at the spa. Risking our marriage, I clarified a few points and reminded Darlene of a number of specific breakdowns. We left there with an antidepressant prescription and the promise that a psychiatrist’s office would call to arrange an appointment.  Little did he know that Darlene would take those pills with a bottle of wine and that the shrink’s appointment would be a seven-month wait.

black dog, depression, bell let's talk, january 27
Promote Bell Let’s talk January 27 2016 The Black Dog of Depression Follows Her

Four weeks later Darlene stumbled home. Her work had called; she hadn’t been there all day.  With red rimmed eyes, she dragged herself to bed muttering that she wasn’t feeling well. I made her a tea and wrapped her up in a blanket. Thinking it was the flu, I found it was strange that she did not have a fever and had yet to explain where she had been all day.

“I was supposed to be gone by now.” She said.

 

The words floated around me meaningless for a while. Darlene had tried to kill herself. She had downed a bottle of Tylenol after she left in the morning.  She had no intentions of going to work. She sat in her car all day waiting to die. When I got her to the hospital they pumped her stomach.  ‘Wait and see’ was what they said after that.  The next 72 hours were crucial. For three days I didn’t know if my wife was going to live or die.

My work gently explained that it was my wife in the hospital not me. I would be expected back to work unless I had a doctor’s note. Our GP was happy to fill out the form the first time but after the fourth rejection, he had grown to dislike my company.

On the second day, after the liver specialist told my wife to get her affairs in order, our daughter’s sat by their mother’s side and kissed her goodbye. That night, Darlene died in my arms.

Women will often say that the best day of their lives was their wedding day or the day their children were born.  Those days were great indeed, but when you have had the worse day of your life the rest are like little pieces of wonderful.  I wish I had one good day to give back to Darlene.

So many of us failed my wife, including me.  We let the darkness win.

Depression is not a choice; the ignorance surrounding depression and mental illness is.

RSVP, Damn It!

RSVP

…an old tired custom…

For everyone who has ever been brave enough to organize an event, whether it be as intimate as tea or involved as a wedding, I appreciate your tenacity to follow through despite the slow demise of social etiquette upon us today.  Will the RSVP be phased out because it is simply ignored by far too many?  Will it be an old tired custom that will be abandoned like the curtsy or holding the door for another? Not if I have anything to say about it.

Let’s for a moment believe that there is a confusion with the translation.  One of the first acronyms of our time, RSVP stands for répondez, s’il vous plaît, Yes, it is French.

The exact translation is ‘respond if you please.’

Perhaps, this is the cornerstone of the debate.  “If you please,” is subject to explanation.  This does not mean if you want to. Quite simply, if you please is a polite way of saying ‘please’ in French.  Sometimes the most accurate translation is not the correct one. For instance, in German, hunger is a state to which one belongs to, so, they say ‘I have hunger’ but, the true English translation is ‘I am hungry.’  This rule applies with RSVP. Respond if you please simply means, ‘please answer.’
Or, like many hosts will secretly be chanting as the impending date encroaches,

….”Reply, damn it!”

This does not mean reply only if you are attending or only if you are not attending.  This means reply, respond, answer in person, by phone, by text or by email no matter what.  Announce your intentions even if it is the ever non-committal, maybe! It is the very least you can do when someone has gone to the trouble of planning an event and has been so kind to consider you as a worthy guest.

… Our ethics are being compromised with every fragmented and micro human connection we make.

By responding, the host can accurately accommodate the number of guests expected. That way they can avoid waste or worse, not having enough food or amenities for everyone.  Oh, just so you know, everyone who has ever hosted anything…ever, just shuttered unanimously at the thought of running out of provisions.
Unfortunately, I believe that this growing trend of not ‘RSVP’ing is the root of a far bigger problem.

Our social accountability is depleting rapidly in this high-speed world we have created.

With the click of the mouse, we are able to scan images and messages with no real appreciation for the effort, time or individual responsible for the content.  Our ethics are being compromised with every fragmented and micro human connection we make.
Let me give you an example.  How is it appropriate to click ‘like’ on a Facebook status that illustrates someone struggling or announces the passing of a loved one?  If you don’t have time to write a few genuine words of support or condolences, please resist the urge to click ‘like.’  This is about basic human respect, appreciation, and empathy.   There seems to be a shared avoidance to commit or be responsible. With every click of the mouse or swipe of the screen, we are dismissive with expediency.   Which brings us back to the RSVP. Please respond. When someone has sent you an invite, especially when it comes through the mail, has a real postmark or is hand delivered, allot them the common, quickly proving to be not-so common, courtesy of answering them.

  There seems to be a shared avoidance to commit or be responsible. With every click of the mouse or swipe of the screen, we are dismissive with remarkable expediency.

Which brings us back to the RSVP. Please respond. When someone has sent you an invite, especially when it comes through the mail, has a real postmark or is hand delivered, allot them the common, quickly proving to be not-so common, courtesy of answering them.

Which brings us back to the RSVP. Please respond. When someone has sent you an invite, especially when it comes through the mail, has a real postmark or is hand delivered, allot them the common, quickly proving to be not-so common, courtesy of answering them.
Small human decencies are fading out of existence at a startling rate because we are too busy and so connected to the entire world that we loose sight of our immediate surroundings.  The RSVP holds us to a higher standard of accountability. Rise to it because thanks to social media even ‘RSVP’ing is as effortless as clicking a response.