The Recovering Farmer

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What Really Helps

Over the course of the winter I have had the privilege of presenting to various groups. I find it fascinating how people come forward and ask questions. I used to tell organizers that I would be more than happy to entertain questions but that normally people are quite hesitant to ask. I see a significant shift in attitudes now where people are curious and do ask. I suspect that is due to the increasing awareness of mental health concerns particularly in agriculture.

Questions are good and I always enjoy answering to the best of my ability. As I hear these questions and reflect on them one thing becomes increasingly clear. There have been numerous people involved in my journey and to answer some of the questions I need to get input from those that walk with me. Sometimes that is not the easiest as I still, at times, feel regret with what I have put them through. Much more importantly is how thankful I am for the help and support they have been through thick and thin.

Some time ago someone asked me what my wife could have said or done that would have made me “sit up” and take note of where I was headed. That is a difficult question and here is why. I saw a tweet from Michael Landsberg recently where he said, and I quote; “I realized it happened so gradually over 6 months, I had no clue”. I think that really says it well for me as well. I suspect because of the torrid pace I was keeping in 2003 people around me did not realize or understand the change I was going through either. And neither did I.

Perhaps my wife and I never really had the conversation that needed to happen. Prior to my first doctor visit I am not sure that I would have responded favorably to her should she have suggested I needed help. However as the recovery began we did have more conversations and when I had, what I call a relapse, in 2005 we did discuss what type of help I should be looking for. Since then we have had many conversations, particularly when she noticed me headed off the rails again.

As well, when I was first diagnosed, my kids were quite young. At the time they did not understand what was happening. How could they when I really did not know either. However in later years they have had a much better understanding and have shown an incredible support. I will say it again, without their support I could not be where I am today. They are ready and willing to talk to me and do whatever they can to help.

I have also been asked what the turning point was when I started talking about it. As weird as it may sound I am not sure there was a turning point. It kind of came about unintentionally. Sure, I had a couple of friends who I shared with just as they shared with me. But at the time it was not really coming out and addressing the issue. Rather it was just chatting about stress and how that stress lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. The actual in depth conversations came about later when I started talking about it publicly.

I still smile when I think about how that came about. When I took the training to become a volunteer for the farm line I had been rather open about my own struggles. Furthermore I had been contracted to facilitate workshops dealing with men and depression. As part of that I was asked to share my story. Without any thoughts of the implications of that I consented. The rest as they say is history. That was in 2010 and I have never stopped talking about. I can still say talking about it was a turning point in my life. I have tried various methods to overcome my depression. I have been on various meds and I have seen countless medical professionals. Although I should not be too definitive about this I feel today that talking about has been one of the best tools I have had over the years. Not only have I been able to verbalize what is going on in my brain, I have also learned so much from all those people that have shared with me. That has made my journey much easier. So the bottom line is I need to keep talking. And, quite frankly, we all do. Make it a good one.

Instead of my usual quote I would like to leave you with a quote from someone who asked me to call them to talk. As that person talked to me I felt so helpless as I was not sure how I could help with what was being said to me. However I was sent the following note that reiterates what I mean about “talking about it”.

“Thank you very much for taking the time to call me last week. I feel sooo much better! It's like this big weight has lifted off my shoulders! Blessings .”