Journals

Going through Willie’s things tonight because I miss him so much that I need to connect with him. Very much a double edged sword though as the “things” that I am going through are his journals. They are a brutally honest insight into his mind over the final 9 months of his life. A look at his darkest feelings and his strongest emotions. He wrote with complete disclosure in his journals.

When he was first admitted to the hospital and allowed to wear his own clothes he was very clear that I was to get his shirts from the third drawer – “way at the bottom of the drawer” he had said. I remember telling him that I knew where his clothes were, don’t be silly. When I went home though and went to the third drawer and moved the shirts though I found a stack of notebooks. I believe that was Willie’s way of saying, without saying out loud, that he wanted them to be found. That he wanted to be helped and made better. He had reached out just a cople weeks earlier when he had written me a note stating that he was certain he had a mental illness and that he was scared – that he needed help. This was no different to me than that note – a message saying “help me”.

I sat on his bed in his room and read through every page of every journal. It took me a long time and yes, I had some pangs of guilt about his privacy, that I shouldn’t be doing this…but the fact is that I was just as scared as Willie was; maybe more. I was searching for something to show me how to help him. I scanned all of the pages – not sure if he would destroy them when he got home form the hospital. I felt they were too important to have gone if he did. Then I did what I knew was necessary – I betrayed him and took the journals to the hospital. I asked to see the psychiatrist before we met together as a family. I explained what I had found and started to tell him of some of the things Willie had written. Willie’s journals were terrifying…they were so filled with emotions. Very personal and radiating pain and hurt; clearly detailing far more than simple clinical depression and anxiety in his writings and expressions. Imagine my shock when the psychiatrist said that since Wille was 16 they would ask his permission to view them and if he refused, then they would not look at them or allow me to reference anything I had read as it would violate his privacy. I argued that Willie was committed to the psychiatric ward – involuntary – and I was his guardian….that the information in these journals contradicted what he was saying… that he was lying about his thoughts and the severity of his emotions and how could we begin to help him if we didn’t use all the tools we had. But, the psychiatrist didn’t budge. Willie was brought in, told that I had found his journals and brought them in and he – of course – refused permission to discuss thmem or view them. I was given the journals to take home, unopened by the hospital care workers.

So Willie’s care continued and his journals were never mentioned. I did continuously try to reference the things I had read in them and everytime it was made clear that the information was not “relevant”. Willie lied and said what he knew they wanted to hear. The social workers, nurses and his psychiatrist raved about how polite he was, how much better h was getting a taking part in things, how his mood was consistently getting better. His home visits with me showed a completely different side however, He raged at me, broke things, wrote on his wall, threatened to kill himself, screamed at how he was just saying what he had to until theywould let him out and he could do what he wanted and end it all. Everytime I went back and told the case workers what he had said and what had happened… it was spun that it was my relationship with him that was a trigger…that maybe it would be best if he moved to his Dad’s after discharge to allow for a less stressful environment while he “got better”. There was, briefly, a point when the psychiatrist did mention that sometimes people will orchestrate things to fall into place so they can do what they want. But it was made in passing and that was it.

Reading through Willie’s journals again after his death – he kept more after his discharge up until he died – allow a more disturbing look at his mind and his thoughts. A mind that was becoming more and more tormented and conflicted and very very ill. A mind that was not of a singular thought but rather disjointed. Multiple journals kept over the same period with divergent themes and thought patterns from each other. Writings that literally begged for help while at the same time swearing to do what he needed to to ensure that he wasn’t stopped in taking his own life.

The pain in reading those entries matched by the pain that must have made him write them.

It’s all water under the bridge now…no matter how many times we go over it and remember the events or talk them through it’s not going to alter what happened. So I sit everynow and then and read through them and hold them and hear his hurt and his pain and his confusion and I tell him how sorry I am that I couldn’t make it better – that I didn’t make it better…and that he’s not here for me to tell him.

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Reaching out

This entry is a tough one for me to write but one that I feel needs to be written.

It’s intriguing to me how some things become clear to you. I am meeting with a psychiatrist and counsellor on Friday. I haven’t been doing any counselling since I left Vancouver and am having an increasingly hard time dealing with grief and the depression that I have been struggling with. I finally approached my doctor in early March and was honest about the thoughts I have been having and my behaviours that are not healthy. So she has arranged for me to be “assessed” by USTAT which stands for Urgent Short Term Assessment and Treatment and is through the Vancouver Island Health Authority. The wait list to see a Psychiatrist through a regular referral is approximately 9 – 12 months and she felt I was needing quicker care. Sound familiar?

There was a wonderful place in Vancouver called S.A.F.E.R (Suicide Attempt Follow-up, Education, & Research); they also provide suicide bereavement counselling. It is covered under BC Medical and doesn’t require a referral. Truly, this place is a blessing. I saw a counsellor there for 4 sessions before I moved and while I didn’t think it did any good, in retrospect… it was helping.

Unfortunately there is nothing like that in Victoria and the only counselling available was private. Finances being what they were/are, that’s not an option. So what was left? Friends, family and trying to get through it on my own. There is a support group but I’m just not comfortable with that. By September of last year my grief had started to turn to depression which, by November, had spiralled to depths that I didn’t see any way out of; and it continues today. My thoughts and behaviour are far from healthy and I finally reached out to a couple of friends and was honest about what I was trying to cope with – many nights of reaching out and having him or her come spend the night or me showing up at their house for comfort. A call to the suicide help line…a couple of times starting to walk to the hospital because of the fear that I couldn’t stay in my house alone anymore and be safe from my thoughts. Harmful behaviour that is barely controlled.

Then the parallels started to become apparent to me. I refused to be taken to the hospital because in my mind that equated with the start of a journey that only ended one way. As much as I don’t want to be feeling how I am, I also don’t want that end. So I muddle through. The shame and the embarrassment that I can’t just make myself better, that I can’t get through this my sheer will and resolve. Having to tell my doctor finally the thoughts in my head and the absolute shame at feeling so weak. My own feelings that my depression is nothing more than my own pathetic inability to “pull myself together” only adding to already strong feelings of disgust for how I am and how I can’t just be “ok”.

My appointment on Friday with USTAT and all I want to do is cancel it and not see anyone. I dread it. Part of me wants to go in and bluff… explain that I was going through a rough patch when I spoke with my doctor – that I’m really ok now – no, I don’t have those thoughts that I said I did before – no, I would never hurt myself intentionally – of course I see that things are going to get better and be all right – no need to treat me like a broken fucked up mess – I’m fine, really, honestly.

Part of me hears that and screams – that is exactly what Willie did at the end. He was honest at one point though… he reached out and he asked for help…he was scared and over-whelmed and had a moment where he knew he needed help and that there was something wrong. He wrote me a letter and we got moving on getting that help. He spent weeks talking and admitting to things in his head that he was ashamed of…that he was scared of…that he was embarrassed about. Then he stopped. He told them what would make them all stop asking him to divulge what he was so scared of…what he started to think would never be helped anyways so why keep talking about it…he started saying he was feeling better…that he was starting to be “ok”. There were days he would lash out and break down and the real feelings would bubble up but for the most part, the mask had been put on. Reading his journals after he died, it’s apparent that it was all lies to us and the doctors. That things were not only not getting better, they were getting drastically worse and he was not only hiding depression and suicidal thoughts but other symptoms of mental illness that were far more worrisome to him. Symptoms that he hid and denied outright when asked by the psychiatrists and counsellors.

I have asked myself a thousand times, why? I’ll never know. But I hate to say that I am closer to understanding now that I have been. I can relate to the sense of shame and embarrassment…the feeling that you don’t see any help other than the pills the doctors keep trying to get you to take…pills I refuse to take which they feel is another symptom of me being not well…who doesn’t want anti-depressants they ask? They’re fine…that way that they can say they did something because in reality they don’t know how to do anything and they have no resources other than the prescription pad at their disposal. A system that is designed to bury the mental illness even while pretending to embrace healing it.

I see myself propagating the same mistaken belief this is something to hide and keep quiet about – and that is why, no matter how hard it is and how much I don’t want to, I will go that appointment. Because even if the help is ineffective and I don’t see how it can help anyways…I have to try.