05/08/12 The three pronged approach to dealing with mental health problems? Honesty, honesty and honesty…

Having met the “no, we don’t have any of that round here,” woman, I walked about a mile up the road and found a farmer who did have some of that.

He was a man of about 60, mending a wall while his dog bounced about just for fun.

I briefly told him about what I was up to and he told me his tale.

About 30 years ago he’d been working flat out – feeling the stress of it all but getting on with it – I guess like so many others –

but then a few simple things contrived to push him over the edge – not anything terribly profound or life threatening – but just a gentle nudge to send him too far.

First of all he had to get his car fixed. The weather was bad – snowy – and the guy with the part he required wouldn’t deliver it. His car was still functioning so he drove off into the snowy night to get it.

He found he couldn’t sleep. He was worrying about something and nothing (his description) – he found the prospect of completing the (usually simple) paperwork for his livestock almost impossible.

He asked a friend round to help with it. After a bit his friend said, “Where are the debts?”

But there weren’t any debts – he wasn’t worried about money – he was just unable to function properly.

He believes if his GP had acted swiftly by giving him antidepressants he’d have been fine.

As it was he fell into a 10 year spell of a depressive illness – his mind slow and sluggish but with thoughts of suicide haunting him.

With the help of a light box and the right medication he feels more in charge of his mental health than ever before – he relapses from time to time, he describes what he experiences as breakdowns, but he gradually bounces back to a more functioning person given a little time.

He understands that depression is something that is common in his family – but that this is a truth that has taken a long time to come out…

People say they have a virus, recurring headaches, all, he believes, as a smokescreen for their mental health problems.

He had an uncle who, he believes, committed suicide after long periods of viruses and headaches. He walked onto a busy road and was killed by the traffic.

He described other folk in his family who, he feels, hid the shame of their mental health problems with the result that they suffered more – with isolation – with a belief they should pull themselves together…

He was angry when he told me you don’t get that reaction with physical illnesses. That’s why folk in his family talk of headaches and viruses – hiding the problem, but not moving on.

The farmer has prostate cancer with all the symptoms that go with it. But he says this physical illness doesn’t effect him one tenth as much as his breakdowns.

So, he told me what he believes is the best way to deal with mental health problems is through honesty, honesty and honesty.

“Say it back to me,” he said.

“Honesty, honesty and honesty,” I said.

“Good, I was just making sure you got it in the right order,” he said

Walk a mile

Chris

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