The Recovering Farmer

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Few More Thoughts

A few days have passed since the Bell Let’s Talk day. It was quite refreshing to see the response that it received. The concern I always have with these types of promotion about an issue is I often wonder about the day after, the week after, or the months to come. We are reminded to talk, we are enthused and engaged over the reminder but then we have a tendency to move on. I don’t mean to be critical but rather challenge us all to remember in the days to come.

After my post on thursday I received a note from someone whose partner has dealt with depression for years, stuck in a place that was obviously dark and lonely. In his words, “after 4-5 years, many psychiatrists/ psychologists, numerous medication attempts, (my wife) finally was able to break out of her cocoon that held her captive”. That reiterates the difficulties and frustrations many experience when they do seek help. The good news is that there is help, there is hope, and there is relief.

He also mentioned something else which has troubled me for some time. In his words “I find that people that have never struggled with or lived with someone struggling with depression/anxiety, find it almost impossible to identify with those dealing with it. Many think you can just snap out of it or just decide not be depressed”. Those words really resonate with me. In spite of my own experiences, being aware of the debilitating effect mental illness can have, and having been frustrated with some people’s response, I suspect I have been guilty of that as well, thinking that a person showing signs of depression should just move on.

Further to that is the fact that many try to hide their mental health issues. I am reminded of an interview I did numerous years ago when I first “came out of the closet” regarding my own mental health challenges. The reporter wrote to the effect that outwardly I had shown every sign of being a success yet inwardly I had been drowning in a black hole. We tend to cover up for various reasons. The stigma, the response we get from some, and the fact that we wish things could be different. Maybe, just maybe, if I act like nothing is wrong then nothing is wrong. And sometimes it is simply easier to pretend everything is okay rather than to explain why we are not okay.

So all of us need to continue with the Let’s Talk challenge. For those not living with mental health illness be ever mindful of those that are. Be ready to engage in conversations. Do what you can to listen and support. Don’t be judgemental but rather show curiosity, a curiosity that shows support through the questions you may have. Engage in a conversation that helps the other in their journey to recovery. Not just for the few days around January 25th, but for the entire year to come.

For those that are on the journey seek out your support system. Be willing to talk. Be willing to share. And don’t give up when the person you talk to is not able to understand. The more we talk, the more others will understand. The more we talk the more we will find ourselves being able to seek help, to move towards recovery, to move towards discovery. A discovery of life that takes us beyond the hopelessness and darkness that mental illness brings. And most of all be patient. It takes time to find the best way to heal. Be patient knowing there is hope, there is relief, and there is healing. Make it a good one.

“People don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them.” unknown

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Talking and Listening

I ran into an interesting situation this week. I found out that people could not send me emails because my email box was full. In all my years of using emails I had never had that happen before. Turns out that I have been saving too many emails and thus needed to do some purging. As I scrolled through and deleted emails I came across emails I had exchanged two years ago. I noticed a sadness in a few of them. With a sense of dread I quickly understood why.

It was two years ago that two family friends died by suicide. Although I had often thought of the two families impacted by this it seemed to me that I had carried on with life with hardly missing a beat. Reading those emails and reflecting back was a stark reminder of those among us that have been suffering. Many suffering in silence, seeking a way out of those dark moments, moments when life itself is questioned, when the pain seems to overtake and overwhelm.

Ironically enough this stark reminder and reflection happened as we approach the Bell Let’s Talk day. It got me thinking. I thought back to a workshop I facilitated last fall where the topic of suicide was part of the discussion. I thought of the gentleman that got up to share at the end and thanked me for having broached the topic in a candid and forthright manner. He reiterated the importance of talking about suicide and the mental anguish that leads up to that final step. He was thankful because of his own journey but also suggested that the discussion had been helpful to better understand the deaths of some family and friends.

So again I need to stress the importance for talking. First of all it raises the awareness of depression and suicide. As we have all heard there is a stigma attached to mental health issues, a stigma that that needs to be removed so that we can live in a world where people who are fighting the fight have a way to find help, to find a way out from the pain they so often live with.

It is also important that people with mental health issues are reminded that they are not alone. A reminder that there is hope, there is relief. A reminder that talking helps. That talking is the first step for healing and recovery, a first step in the journey out from under the clouds.

For me it is also a reminder to listen. Perhaps you find it difficult to listen when someone else shares about their pain. Sometimes we are quick to jump in, be judgemental, diagnose the problem, or try to “fix” it. There is only one requirement. Listen. Listen. Listen. Through lending an ear you are being supportive, you are showing you care. Through being attentive you are normalizing and validating what the other is feeling. And by listening you are helping the other in their journey, the journey to recovery.

I know from experience that having the ability to verbalize my thoughts is helpful in dealing with the turmoil that often are just out of control thoughts. I have been very fortunate to have family and friends with whom I have been able to share, family and friends that took the time to listen and support me on my journey. So this January 25, as we remind ourselves about all things mental health, make it your goal to not just talk about it but also to listen. Make it a good one.

“The most important thing I found, is to let somebody’s voice be heard”. Clara Hughes