My last post asked if it made me look angry. And most of you agreed that it did. That anger has waned to a near defeated attitude. Let me tell you why.
Yesterday I was at the medical clinic, sitting in the little examining room. I could hear quite clearly my doctor talking on the phone in his office. It was apparent that he was talking to someone who was having mental difficulties. As I sat there listening, I could feel my anxiety level rising to such a degree that I wanted to flee. My hands started to shake and I found I was close to panting so I forced myself to take deep breaths – in and out – in and out. I kept telling myself that I could handle this – I could! I had come so far over the years that I couldn’t let a simple telephone call destroy me.
As I sat there, trying not to listen, I heard my doctor tell the person that he probably couldn’t help them because they had not come into the office to see him, instead the person had chosen to drive to the psychiatric hospital in Alberta where they had refused to help. They had insisted that the personal physician be called first. That call is what I was overhearing.
As a result, my doctor ended up calling my former psychiatrist. I could overhear that call as well and I could tell that the poor person sitting in a car in distress was not going to get the help that was needed. I was right. Apparently no beds were available in the psychiatric unit on which I resided for nine months. Great. Up went my anxiety once more. Not only from hearing the psychiatrists name but also from knowing how the person in distress was going to react. For me it takes quite a bit of courage to go to my doctor for any medical reason. My anxiety level goes sky high and even writing about it makes my hands shake. I don't think I could do it for a mental distress reason. I just couldn't make myself go let alone try and sit in a waiting room full of people and then try and talk to my doctor. No. I know right now it's not going to happen that way for me.
Another call then took place to my doctor’s nurse who sat just down the hall from me. She had to call the person and tell them no help was available and that he had to voluntarily ask that he be committed to the psychiatric hospital. We all know where that leads.
When I was on the psychiatric unit I was threatened with incarceration in that hospital. It scared the hell out of me. Or should I say it scared me into sanity. We all know of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Those stories don’t get told without some kind of history behind them. Sure it was Hollywood and Jack did a fabulous job didn’t he? Wow. But don’t put me in that hospital. Ever.
So – my heart ached for the person on the other end of the line and I looked at my doctor in a different light. Where is the compassion needed for us? For those of us who are falling through the cracks of life. Whose fingernails are broken because they’ve been holding on to the edge for far too long? Where is the simple compassion needed to get us help. To get someone to talk to us – to talk us down from the edge of the building, from the edge of the blade, from the burn of the rope? Why are we being left out in the cold and the dark amidst the monsters to fend for ourselves. Why does a simple cold deserve more attention than a mind that is breaking into little pieces.
Last week a champion died. Eunice Shriver – the champion and hero of many, a fearless warrior for the voiceless and the woman who founded the Special Olympics. A woman – all on her own - who asked what we have done today to better the world. She leaves behind a massive hole that will probably never be filled by anyone. Shoes too big for even two. How I wish I had known her personally. How I wish there was someone like her to help with the fight for the rest of us.
So today I feel almost defeated. I know that if my mind slips again to that point where I can’t reel it back in, that I am in trouble. Today our Canadian doctors are uneasy. The United States has pointed so many fingers at our system that everyone now is evaluating what is being done here in our country.
It has never been the best or even close to perfect. But I felt that help was easier to find. Now I don’t know what is going on. One of my own medical conditions has me waiting to see a specialist in February. Just rushing me in!
So if my mind fails again what will happen to me? What is going to happen to that person on the other end of the line?
I used to wonder how people ended up living on the street, in a corner beside a warm air vent. I wondered where were the families of these people. How did they end up with all of their belongings in a shopping cart - pushing it down the street - fighting another just like them for a special spot on a park bench. Did no-one care about them?
Before I was released from the psychiatric unit I applied for help from the government because I could no longer work. That help came in the amount of $867 a month. I was supposed to live on that – pay my mortgage, all my bills, and feed myself. It didn’t come close. I learned very quickly where some of the homeless came from. As for the families who cared about them? I also knew about that from personal experience. A story to be told at another time.
So today, I’ve slipped down the rungs of the ladder a bit. My anger is not raging, I’m not at the top of the ladder screaming out at the world. Today, because of the medical society itself I have slipped down a number of rungs and I’m more timid. More afraid of my own future and terrified for the future of others in this position.But hey! Don’t let me get you down. We are the forgotten – the downtrodden – the pushed aside – the whispered illness. We know that. It’s nothing new to us. Some of us will take up Eunice’s cry and ask what we have done today to make this world a better place. Some of us will hold out our hands and offer a shoulder to someone on the edge. Some of us do it out of experience, from having been there. Some of us do it out of compassion. We offer our shoulder and our hand and anything else we can think of. I’m just not going to refer anyone to the medical world at this moment. I think they’re on the edge too.
An Addendum: I'm adding in this link to The Green Stone Woman because her post of today is exactly what I am talking about.