In the weeks and months of my brother's illness and subsequent death, personal stress was undeniably high. I recognized some things in myself that were not good indicators of perfect mental health, and being an adult of nearing forty years I couldn't be bothered to hide in shame. So, I went to visit my doctor. She was wonderful- set me up for some blood tests, had me visit my pharmacist, suggested that I contact a spiritual ministry in our community, sent referrals to mental health, and referred me to a psychiatrist. I reentered my life feeling optimistic.
The first contact was to the leader of the church-based counselling service. I was advised that her caseload was already overflowing. No problem, I said. Its not like a crisis, and I still had several other avenues of assistance that needed to be explored. I went in for my blood tests, waited patiently in the waiting room, feeling mildly guilty for taking up the time of the daycare sub that I'd arranged. Finally seated in the doctor's room, I was informed that the appointment had been wrongly booked, and there was no lab person in on that particular day. No problem. I'll simply get a sub again, make another appointment, and wait on the appropriate day.
Its nearly impossible to find the time.
A few weeks later a letter came in the mail with the mental health emblem in the left corner. The letter read in part as follows:
" A referral was sent on your behalf to receive some support from the Community Mental Health Program. The position is currently vacant. If your situation changes and you require more immediate service, please contact the local crisis service."
That's code for: "If you feel like killing yourself, save the mess and call us instead so that we don't look bad". Only one problem. I have no interest in ending my life. I quite like my pulse, thank you very much.
I've never heard from psychiatry.
I've told this tale to a few people, thinking that it was humourous. Not too many people threw their heads back and laughed until the tears flowed. I find the humour because this is not new to me. It does not surprise me. But what about all the people out there who would find it incredibly intimidating to visit their doctor in the first place? What kind of message do they receive?
"No, you're not delusional and paranoid. Its actually true that everyone is not only out to get you, but that all those nasty fears will probably catch up to you by the time any sort of support systems actually come into place. When and if you become catatonic or suicidal, we will pay close attention, but until that day, you are only imagining your symptoms. Now, go on, be a good boy, dash off and play with all your imaginary friends. Oh, and on your way, could you double check if the stove is turned off, then open and close the back door fifty times, and then give your hands a good wash? Like, maybe til they bleed? Unless the voices tell you to do anything else. Don't forget to purge. Oh, I meant your kitchen of sharp objects and hand blenders."
"Above all else, hide yourself. Nobody cares."
Just in case anybody reads this and doesn't either see the humour in it, allow me to cover my butt, please. "Nobody cares" is not my personal belief. In fact, I have had wonderfully amazing experiences through this grief journey. So many times I have received phone calls from people who I'm not even particularily close to who tell me that God impressed on them to raise me up in prayer. I have been heard by people of greater love and compassion that a dippy, self-centred, cold-fish psychiatrist I once saw when I was young. Every Sunday, I am wrapped in love that actually feels physical and strengthens my heart and lifts my spirits. My husband daily wraps his arms around me and loves me with compassion and honesty and makes me feel safe. And biggest of all, I believe that God cares.