“The worse kind of sad is that which you can’t explain to others because you are a survivor”
Today is the national day to discuss mental health, known best as #BellLetsTalk day. A massive corporate fundraising day and a chance to get people to understand that it is okay to discuss their mental health issues. While I think that is admirable, I do have an issue on needing to tell people, one day a year, that it is alright to speak about their mental health,. Every day should be seen as an opportunity to speak up if they are feeling depressed, bullied, marginalized, etc. Children nor adults should ever have to feel they can’t discuss their feelings without some form of repercussions however we foster that we see those repercussions every day.
Right now we are looking at a world where bullies reign supreme. We have Russia threatening an invasion of the Ukraine (bullying on an international basis). I can’t even begin to imagine how those children in the Ukraine are handling it. We have Trump using his “Big Lie” philosophy to bully and use ideologues who have bought into this to threaten the safety of so many undocumented immigrants while separating children from families to be held in, call them what you want however they meet the definition of “internment camp“. This included separating almost 4000 children from their families.
The recent discoveries of more unmarked graves of First Nations children just keeps swelling and the latest, 93 new unmarked graves found at yet another “residential school” just outside of Williams Lake. And yet so many people I know even understand “colonialism” let alone connect the dots to recognize the “generational trauma” that comes with that. Every case mentioned so far are producing a growing collective of “children of trauma“. In Alberta we have a government of bullies who want to rewrite history by eliminating any mention of Canadian Colonialism from our school curriculum. Given their upbringing how safe to you think they feel with #BellLetsTalk campaign when much of the country are busily demonizing the members of the First nations community with a “get over it, that was a 100 years ago”. First of all, no it wasn’t, the last residential school to close was in 1996 so not exactly “ancient history”.
As a polio survivor who grew up in a hospital I was a child of trauma, it just took me fifty years to realize that. When I look back now I realize I have always had a low grade reactive depression (there are many types of depression). I say “low grade’ because it was developing slowly as a coping mechanism in a polio hospital. Watching other kids die at such young ages, you bury that memory. As a child you don’t develop the ability to understand abstract concepts like death and grief. That comes later. I grew up in a time (the fifty’s) before the concept of psycho-social practices were introduced into a hospital setting. We didn’t have “crisis counsellors”, we had the loving concern of nurses. Hospital trained nurses who saw their role as more of a “calling” than a “profession”. They were our rock and life guides with most of them treating us like their own families. They taught us to survive.
As polio kids, growing up in a hospital full of activities we could actually participate in, seemed normal. However that “normalcy” came with a price not many of us were aware of, a lingering depression being buried under all of those suppressed memories. I have had a small hollow feeling for most of my life that I now recognize as that piece of buried depression that I never identified let alone discussed. It is hard to discuss something when you don’t really know it’s there. What makes this even harder to come to grips with is that I was a mental health therapist at an inpatient hospital in Calgary. I knew the signs, symptoms, etc however when you have lived as long as I had by the time I recognized it, it was difficult to discuss.
Whenever I did the general response was usually “suck it up princess” or told my feelings were Bunk and stop using that “psycho babble”. So more suppression. As I have mentioned before, it wasn’t until post polio started showing up that I began to realize I was dealing with a form of depression. All of a sudden I was on the other side of the desk. I look back now and realize I didn’t do a lick of what I would have advised any client to do. You can’t be your own therapist while pretending to be unbiased. By the time I did finally seek out a therapist I had pretty well alienated all of those who knew me well. I had worked so hard getting people to see the person and not the disability that they had become use to seeing Terry, not the challenges that came with aging with a disability. All of a sudden I became increasingly aware of my disability. My drive for independence had become a curse rather than a blessing. Why does “wisdom” mainly come with age?
So to all of those “children of trauma” out there, yes “Let’s Talk”.
Do you ever want to rant and rave?
Rupture vessels in your heart,
Cleanse your mind of all the grief,
With aneurysms in the brain.
Empty yourself of any hurt,
By entering that coma state,
Lose the pressures of the world,
While lying in a bed.
Tubes going in and tubes going out,
You feel the pain no more,
Nurses come and nurses go
Your body for to care,
When words are lost, emotions dammed,
The pressure does build up,
So rant and rave all you want,
Or join the waiting dead.
Terry Wiens Dec 2002
#BellLetsTalk, scream it out and be you, not what others want you to be….