Tuesday, January 28, 2014

let's talk

"Let's talk" - it's an interesting phrase. On Bell Let's Talk day, it's an invitation, a movement, a corporately sponsored conversation. But there's another reading - it can also be an enreaty: "Let us talk - oh lord, please let us talk!" Let those of us with the lived experience of mental illness share that experience. Let us tell our stories not for sympathy or attention but just because they are our stories. Because we have the right to be heard. Let us educate you. And let us move forward without pretending. 

I remember a conversation with my dear grandma probably 15 years ago. She was talking about a close friend of hers, a neighbour in her seniors' condo complex, who had been hospitalized because her depression was threatening her life.

This friend did not like to take her medication. Apparently she didn't know that you can keep working with your doctors until you find a medicine that works for you. Apparently her depression convinced her not to be a bother, not to fight, or whatever other lie it needed to tell her. Regardless, the friend had ended up in the hospital. 

When my grandma thought things were ridiculous, she had a tendency to become a bit irate. She did not suffer fools. So as she told me about her concern for her friend, she started to get that tone in her voice - that tone that says that behind these words, I think my dear friend is being a bit of an idiot. Finally she said, "it's so stupid; if she had diabetes she would take her insulin and not be embarrassed. This shouldn't be any different. Just accept that you need the medicine for the rest of your life and take it!" 

Her saying that made all the difference for me. It gave me space to accept medicine as one tool that helps me when I need it. I have a pretty full tool belt - counselling, knowledge, books, a support system. And yet, sometimes, that most important tool - the right to speak freely and without shame about my and my son's experience is harder to come by. People don't want to know. It's inappropriate. The subject must be changed. 

It all makes me feel a little ... rebellious. I think maybe I don't want to be shushed. Maybe the problem is not so much my speaking, as the listener's discomfort. And maybe if they listened more they'd get over that. And maybe the more people who hear me speak, the more people who will feel free to tell their stories as well. 

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