Things are fuzzy around this period of time so please bear with me if I remember something suddenly and post it another day. It is not only me with the fuzzy memory - it also includes everyone involved during that time. I've been asking around and we all have the same problem.
I think everything is fuzzy in my mind because of how stressed we were over Cid. I know the doctor started him on steroids and his weight ballooned. I have a picture of him sitting on our couch wearing his favorite hat. His face is almost perfectly round and his hat is more perched on top and holding on for dear life. He looks cranky, but I think this was because his huge cheeks overwhelmed his eyes and made them look small. Or it could have been that the specialist had started him on radiation, and the combination of the drugs and radiation made him feel weak and tired.
As his treatment progressed and he became more ill, he opted for spending his weekends here at the barn instead of driving the 7 hours to Lethbridge to visit his mother. He took over the guestroom opposite the kitchen on the main floor and I set it up so he had everything he needed. He liked to listen to talk stations after he had taken his contacts out and before he fell asleep. I’d lie on the bed beside him and put my head on his shoulder as we listened to people chatting miles away and across the universe. Sometimes the talk shows would be full of static and as we lay enveloped in our cocoon of love and friendship, my mind would drift and I would think we were listening to a program from the 1940’s. Strange how that happens sometimes.
On those weekends, D and I insisted that he use our phone to call his mother long-distance. He was the type of son who called his mother every day to check to make sure she was all right and to ask how her day was going. He would sit on one of the kitchen stools and lean on the counter as he chatted away in Italian with his mother. I sat at the other end of the kitchen and listened to his satiny voice speaking in an unfamiliar language. Without fail, the movie “A Fish Called Wanda” would pop into my mind and I would drape myself along the counter and drool as Jamie Lee Curtis did when John Cleese spoke in a foreign language. I just couldn’t help myself. Trying to keep the hysterics at bay while Cid wondered what had got into me was almost more than I could manage. Once he learned what I was doing, he took to ignoring me or looking down the hall so he wouldn’t see me carrying on and burst out laughing himself.
One day I received a phone call from my friend ‘N’ with news that was horrible and sad. Her husband’s daughter had been on the same psyche ward with the same psychiatrist as me. Sometime during the previous evening she had hung herself. The psychiatrist had been on the unit to check in on her and had felt that something was wrong as he stood at the nurse’s station. Running back to her room, he had found her and had cut her down and administered mouth-to-mouth. He revived her enough to put her on life support and my friends were awaiting the outcome.
When she said these words I immediately pictured the ward and the nurse’s station. I had an eerie feeling the daughter had been in the same room and the same bed as me and while my heart broke for the daughter, my skin broke out in goose bumps with the creepiness of it all. Anyone who is suffering enough to commit suicide is someone who can’t reach out for the help that they need and finds not having to deal with the problems any longer just easier for them. I understand. I truly do. But it is not the answer. The consequences for those left behind are something that suicidal victims just can’t think of. It is too hard for them. But for those then left behind - it is too horrible.
A few weeks later they turned off the machines and my friend’s daughter slipped into that land where she had wanted to go. My roommate from the ward went with me to the funeral that was held in this little town where we live. It was the first excursion out of my home without my usual protectors and it was to an event that boggled my mind. Everyone worried that it would be enough to send me back into the hall – but as I sat there, I thought of my friends and their loss and how it would affect them for the rest of their lives.
As ‘N’ and her husband walked past me after the ceremony, I hoped that they knew I was there for them. ‘N’s husband was oblivious to everything, while ‘N’ threw me a grateful glance before clutching his arm tighter to support him during this horrendous time. It later came out the daughter had lied to the psychiatrist and accused the father of sexually abusing her.
(Repeated questioning about the possibility of sexual abuse is something psychiatrists do when they first meet a patient. They almost seem fixated on that possibility - as if every mental break has to be related to sex in some way. I went through it for the first few months on the hall.)
This being said - that accusation has stuck with him since then and destroyed his relationship with his own family. ‘N’ and her husband sued the doctor, and the only thing they got out of months of anxiety and strife was admittance that he hadn’t read her chart from her previous incarceration in a hospital in Edmonton. The chart stated that she was taking meth and was dating her supplier, an older boy who was trying to get her to go live with him. The sexual abuse accusation was false – but the damage had been done and nothing my friends did afterwards has ever changed the minds of his family.
I want to say ‘Psychiatry!’ and leave it at that. But I can’t. I know there are many good aspects about this health field. But there are many bad aspects as well. It is always something to keep in mind. No pun intended.