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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Funny: ha ha, or Funny: strange.

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.


Anonymous said...

I get that it's funny. It's the makings of a classic noir-comedy.
Oh, and go back to your GP and tell her about your experiences with this dysfunctional system. It's rotten.

shelley said...

so glad some of those tanks are getting filled, hopefully one of them is the oil, so your motor won't blow.

Anonymous said...

My imaginary friend and I are laughing.


Anonymous said...

I hate to be negative and say the system sucks when it comes to mental health/depression, but honestly it does...I have a niece who has been diagnosed, re-diagnosed, admitted, re-admitted etc. and she is still suffering...the system has failed her completely...and we are talking years of this "crap" sister lives on pins&needles, wondering what will happen next....sooo discouraging!!!

Joyce said...

Unfortunately, in order to make progress, one has to be quite assertive. The irony is inescapable, since most desparate and depressed people can barely think straight, never mind be their own advocates. I've learned from experience that the best thing to do is strip yourself of pride and take any help that comes your way. If the shoe doesn't fit, you huck it, and go try another shoe. A new doc, a community volunteer organisation, a private counsellor, a support group, just keep searching. And keep hammering on your doctor's door. Drive her nuts.
Thanks for the comments.
I have seen people go to "the system" and get good medical attention. He also had the fortune of an extremely good doctor, was good at being assertive, and was determined to get well. It would be wrong to say that one's determination to rise above is what gets you there, as intervention is essential. Yet, it seems true that without that determination, wellness is elusive.

andrea said...

You clearly have your ducks in a row, in spite of the great gaping gaps in the mental health care system. I'd say go for a brisk daily walk if it didn't make me sound like some butch no-nonsense gym teacher. :) Seriously, though, I noticed a discrepancy in the funding for mental health a couple years ago when my friend's very at-risk 17 y.o. son was not getting the psychiatric care and counselling he needed while another friend's 80 year old mother had the most amazing care and attntion for breast cancer. If you live in BC and have cancer the funding and expert attention you get is amazing, but don't ever become schizophrenic or depressed. After all, "it's not a real illness." Tell that to the homeless people who were kicked out on the streets when Riverview Institution was closed.

Grumblegrumblegrumble. (Touched a nerve, you did. Just keep on doing what you need to do to care for yourself!) xo

PS Mrs N is now cancer-free and B straightened himself out with little outside help, but still has serious unaddresses "issues".

Joyce said...

oh, but Andrea, didn't they tell you that institutions are evil? They're unnatural, you know. People should be INTEGRATED INTO THEIR COMMUNITIES. (Beds, medications, and meals are optional). We wouldn't want them living in an impersonal building. The fresh air outdoors is SOOOO much more natural.... (oh, and maybe more affordable? After all, once people drop dead, they become downright cheap.)

Homo Escapeons said...

For some silly reason I happened to get divorced, laid off and abandoned my faith all at the same time..
the outcome was quite predictable.

Oddly enough someone suggested that I see a psychiatrist even though I was quite content to share my ledge with the pigeons, especially the purpley one.
Anyway I actually had two shrinks,I guess that my GP thought that my situation was twice as bad as I did.

So of course one was like Frazier, funny, erudite, sympathetic, and helpful and the other one was such a complete asshole that my 85 decibal tirade on his complete disregard for my predicament brought a nurse running into the room to see if the doctor was OK hiding underneath his desk...
it is probably the only time in my entire life that I raised my voice at another human being never mind a
health(S)care professional
... who by the way defended himself by reaching for a shiny new package of happy pills in his drawer while quoting Kierkegaard. AAARRGGH!

So in the end I had to go back to Frazier to get over my encounter with the other shrink..smell the irony..
and after he successfully talked me out of conquering Europe I brought my Napolean Bonaparte outfit back to Mallabars and eventually decided to give my Proloftzac to the neighbours cat after I felt 'normal'.

I eventually calmed down, pushed the system restore button on my brain, and tried to concentrate on the people that still needed me functioning (in very small increments at first)

..and luckily the clouds parted and an angel named Alice appeared and she has held my hand every single day since the Dark Ages.

Do whatever it takes.

Bonnie said...

Wow, I was going to leave a comment, but then I read the other ones and found myself feeling a bit unauthorized to make any kind of comment. Can I say this much? I think your a great person with a wonderful sense of humor and a sensitive heart. I look forward to getting to know you better in 2007. Bonnie S

lettuce said...

I'm glad you are getting the help and support you need from the best people to give it to you.

Our medical system over here is similarly dysfunctional and/or patchy. My mum is getting absolutely brilliant care and while I rejoice so for them/us, it makes me angry that there are so many people who need it as much and wont be getting it because they live in the wrong place.

Your blog and comments box are a very loving place.

Chris said...

Love your blog...Oh, and for what it is worth, I don't know you personally um....but I care.
Be good to yourself!
And yes, I'll send some happy thoughts your way as well.
Who doesn't need "happy thoughts'?

Anonymous said...

I admire you for finding the humour in this situation.

I am grateful for the great (albeit expensive) health insurance company that we have. I've had greater success with naturopaths and private clinics than with our provincial health care system.

Anonymous said...

Well written post. And yes; GOD does care. I think that people are just too busy, fragmented and haven't found margin in their lives. This causes us to be self-absorbed, yada, yada. I hope that your journey through the grieving process has been met with a few people who have expressed love, care, and concern. Check out my art blog, maybe it will bring a smile to your face.