With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 2

While I’m off slaying dragons, some friends have come to bat for me by sharing some pretty amazing survival triumphs of their own. I am so happy and grateful to share them.

This is part 2 of a tale of an amazingly harrowing trip to save one’s sanity along with body by the beloved blog-o-sphere cheering and writing champion, Paul Curran.

If you missed part 1, you missed a LOT… go see it… “The Invisibles, Part 1”

paulcurran2015.-2

I was checked out of the hospital when the internal bleeding had been stopped, and no word on the requested psych eval – it was as if it had fallen into a black hole.

As a dialysis patient a lot of my electronic health records were stored on a server called Oasis – which was a record keeping unit for the dialysis unit. All dialysis employees, including the nursing staff, social workers, etc., had access to Oasis. So when I got back to dialysis, I went to see the social worker to request a psych eval.

She pulled up Oasis and there was the history I’d given to student doctors merely in a psych rotation a few weeks earlier. I was upset; this had only a tangential relationship with dialysis and should not be available for all that staff to view. I objected and asked to see a real psychiatrist – board certified. She told me they did not take patients. This was news to me – after all this was a hospital and they were mandated to provide care and wasn’t mental health as important as physical?

I told the social worker that I needed to talk to a psychiatrist. She hemmed and hawed and said I would have to seek help elsewhere, perhaps with private counselling. I objected and pointed out that the majority of my depression could certainly be attributed to my vast medical treatment and I expected to get help with mental health issues.

After a few weeks the social worker eventually gave in to my insistence and set up an appointment with the dialysis psychiatrist. This gentleman provided services to dialysis patients who were scheduled for a transplant. Such patients were subject to a plethora of tests to make sure they were physically and psychologically fit to receive a new kidney. He took me for a patient just to placate me – it was not his “job” to counsel new patients.

So on the day of the appointment, I decided to be completely honest and open with Dr. Brown as I felt this would be the only way to move forward.

He was very easy to talk to and I made it clear that this meeting was confidential and would not be recorded on Oasis. He agreed. He asked a lot of questions about state of mind and I admitted to drinking excessively, feeling that honesty was the only way to proceed.

He then informed me that he would have to contact the DMV and have my license suspended. I couldn’t believe my ears –  this was supposed to be confidential.

He said that he was required to report anyone who was a threat to himself or others. I was incensed and objected. I told him I only drank at home and never drank and drove.

I told him that I’d come here choosing to trust him and he had broken that trust. I told him that I could never again open up honestly to him because I no longer trusted him; that I was leaving here worse off than when I arrived and I was terminating all contact permanently. At this I left and he looked very guilty.

That was my entire experience with psychiatry. I dealt with the license suspension in a way that caused it to not be a part of the record. That was not easy or cheap and I was angry about every minute I spent worrying about it. But it was done legally and is no longer an issue.

Never again. Never will I trust a ‘professional’ with my life details; never will I seek help or ask for treatment; never will I darken the doorway of a practicing psychiatrist if I have any choice.

Should I ever need medication I will have to break this vow but not until. After 5 years of struggling, I pulled myself out of the depression one little bit at a time.

I am flabbergasted at the complete lack of any help for mental issues; in fact after serious pestering and begging I found myself in worse shape after treatment than before. I am appalled at the treatment or lack thereof offered those who ask for help with mental issues – it is meagre and niggardly and inappropriate and comes with stigma and not as needed.

It actually adds to the problem by being so poor and untimely. Our current offering in Canada to those who ask for help with mental issues is so poor as to actually create stress and a sense of separation and valuelessness.

I am an intelligent, well-educated, middle-aged Canadian with good language skills, personal awareness, former professional manager, local citizen for many decades and hospital connections (social workers, doctors, nursing and advisory and admin staff). I recognized that I was depressed (naturally from illnesses and life changes) and sought mental help to address this situation.

Imagine if someone was not familiar with the system, knew no one, spoke another language, was uncertain of Canadian culture, perhaps with reasoning abilities reduced – how could they ever get help? It is obvious that they could not get help until such time as they ran afoul of the legal system and the situation was totally out of control. At that point so much damage has been done that they would be facing serious consequences including incarceration, a criminal record, serious negative life impact including destruction of family relationships, work ability, reputation, financial ruin, etc.

As far as anyone requesting help for mental issues in Canada – my experience is that they might as well be invisible.

-Paul Curran

With a Little Help From My Friends; Paul Curran “The Invisibles” Part 1

While I’m off batting away demons, some friends have come to bat for me by sharing some pretty amazing survival triumphs of their own. I am so happy and grateful to share them.

Think you’ve heard of some tough years? Read on for a chronicle of unbelievable, stunning setbacks and lifesaving ennui.

This is a two-part tale of an incredible trip to save one’s sanity along with body by the beloved blog-o-sphere cheering and writing champion, Paul Curran.  

paulcurran2015.-2As I lay restlessly in the hospital bed, a plan began to form. I was here for internal bleeding, one of many, many complications that had cropped up from my cancer treatment.

It was under control but I knew what it meant – I had lost my right kidney, which we all knew was happening and came as no surprise. An ultrasound had confirmed that there was but slim remnants of that organ.

This had been a rare side effect of the radiation treatment – a treatment that was really a pact with the devil. In my case it was exceedingly effective and had destroyed the cancer, but it also created a list of horrendous side effects from the destruction of my kidneys to temporary impotence and many others in-between. I was now officially a dialysis patient and would remain so forever, barring a transplant. That was hard to accept.

This was the final straw, and the worst was that I KNEW it was not the end of the side effects – which the literature says can continue to appear up to 25 years after treatment.

quotation mark 1At 45, I would pretty much be at the end of my life before I’d be done with the potential lifespan of side effectsquotation mark 2.

In the preceding year I’d spent all my savings on a degree that I finished just in time for an economic downturn; got laid off from my job because with the new degree I was overqualified; ended a 12 year relationship which meant giving up my house; was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent radiation, chemotherapy and three operations.

I’d also suffered major treatment side effects including a colostomy, temporary impotence, a fistula between my bladder and rectum and then endured the many, many issues that crop up with dialysis such as multiple operations, scopes, colonoscopies, endoscopes, too many more to list.

Along with all of that, the engine of my car blew up. I was unable to work and with no funds left, I finally had to draw welfare.  The final topper, I had to move from where I was boarding because my landlady (not much older than me) died of a blood clot in her sleep.

I started drinking too much and clearly recognized that I was suffering from severe depression – certainly a state of mind that was natural given the few years of my life.

I had seriously contemplated suicide but didn’t have sufficient desire to follow through – sigh, a failure even at that. Ha! I needed help, of this I was sure and while lying in that hospital bed I decided it was time to get some help.

As difficult as my health issues had been over the previous few years, I had gotten excellent care and anything I desired treatment-wise was readily available. For instance when I came out of the last operation and recovered, I realized that they had cut through my belly button.

This meant nothing to me, but when my surgeon presented himself and asked if all was OK, I responded with: “My belly button is gone”! I was being funny, obviously having survived the cancer and surgery, my belly button was immaterial, but he took me seriously. “I apologize”, he said, “I can arrange for a plastic surgeon to rebuild your belly button and it will be covered under OHIP [the government health plan which normally did not cover non-life threatening plastic surgery].”

Invisible Beginnings…

Expecting mental health care to be as carefully and meticulously addressed as physical health care, I requested a psych evaluation – my intention was to eventually get sessions set up so I could talk my way through the depression and get a hand up back to normal.

In physical health care the doctors were so thorough that I sometimes had to turn down tests or watch for duplication. I had never requested help that I did not enthusiastically receive.

My requests for a psych evaluation went unanswered. I knew that the hospital had a whole psychiatry floor filled with patients and psychiatrists, but try as I may, I could not get one to come to my room.

After a week of asking daily, two interns showed up – doctors in training – who were not psychiatrists or even psychiatry students, but rather were doing a rotation in their training for a few weeks in psychiatry.

These students were typically kept busy doing case histories and such. I thought perhaps this was the route to a real psychiatrist, so I was cheerful with them and we chatted for an hour or so while they took careful notes. (They were humorous at times in their naivety and when I complained about the impotence, they asked how I knew.  Of course, I pointed out that I was sequestered here in the hospital so obviously it was an inability to masturbate – at which they turned all red, stuttered and moved to another topic).

And then nothing happened…

-Paul Curran

————— You can find Part 2 here ————–

That Time I Saved Me From Him

RED sky

Sometimes life has you re-visit the worst experiences of your existence. Maybe there’s something in them that needs refining or a new understanding. A friend’s post about a near-miss with a likely abuser found me in commiseration of that place, a truly surreal, soul-sucking misery.

I’ve been aware of all forms of abuse since growing up in a home built on them. Unfortunately, as an adult, I re-lived them in a couple of relationships.  Even if you’re lucky enough to apply what you learned from those experiences, you can never really be certain that you won’t meet up with an even greater insidious player at any time in your life.

My last encounter came up against a well-practised talent for speaking to the heart of one’s fears, desires, and beliefs – a red-hot champion of all those things. In hindsight, despite his delight and proficiency in the game, I do believe he truly wanted to be those things for me then.  I think he truly wanted an ‘honest us’, at least for a little while.

I think he wanted that not only because I came to him unexpectedly and from out of left field, but because I came from a place of the real deal, a genuinely open heart. I’d not shared in any of the usual repartee he indulged in where he normally scouted.

The world he had built for himself before meeting me was a cadre of women who were at various levels of need and were also quite willing to rationalize betrayals or were so lonely that any word of kindness was seized with the same frantic grasp for water in a parched desert.

However, by his standards they weren’t ‘true heart material’. One of the kinder things he said about them and given the history he detailed, I agreed readily and then some. It’s a numbers game for him, more than quality.

Still, regardless of how much he may have wanted it, it’s hard to maintain a wishful façade for any length of time and his began to crack within months. An ingrained habit of lying is impossible to hide from someone close over time. His resentment at being found out was too difficult to check indefinitely and so when it surfaced, it was cruel and of course, my fault. Our last month together was a stunning whirlwind of shock – from exceedingly gentle charm to baffling nightmare.

He wasn’t physically violent, but he became utterly ruthless in emotional and mental turmoil that included brutal name calling, ridiculing those same fears, desires and beliefs that he’d originally treasured, and complete dismissal of my every thought.

Because there wasn’t anything physical, it permitted him to wallow in complete denial of abuses. He said his lies, broken promises & lurid pursuits were cause for merely, “some hurt feelings”.  To his mind, my angry responses were the real crime. He was the one really suffering in this and I was just so “wrong” about him, except for the fact every wrong was in plain and copyable typeset. He was thorough with his online chronicles.

I know this is about an ugly sickness as is, but there was more to come. Even as I strove to get away, concerned friends asked me to try to persuade him to seek help.  I did try, because even when you should run like hell, when someone says help, most of us will try, especially for someone you’ve loved.

He only responded with more derision, blaming me for other distresses in his life that I had no part in: his financial situation, an illness, an apparent lack of concern for threats to his life. He continued by furiously and jealously insisting every man I had contact with only wanted to sleep with me, including professional counselors. Nearly every talk ended with him calling me vile names.

More vengeance included OK-ing one of his deceptive divas to taunt me, then he descended further, claiming my dead father was responsible for trying to kill him.

By this point, I knew I should’ve stayed gone the first time.  On the other hand, I did act when I began to see the truth.  I did pull away and stood up for myself without the self-doubt & castigation I would have once indulged to justify attempts to ‘save him’.  This time I put me first.

Sometimes, the only way you can save yourself is to expose the rot and that was his only true Achilles heel. I swallowed my humiliation & spoke out – including to his cadre, and that was the one legitimate & unforgivable sin in his mind.  That was when he declared himself, brokenhearted. “Strange kind of love you’ve got”, he said.

Cowardice hides its image in the dark; it needs to ooze its poison undercover. When this insanity was revealed, it opened the door to light, back to sane.  I was freed, and he took nothing from me that I can’t get back.

He gutted me and broke my heart, but he didn’t close it. He may have discarded any value for me, but that love was real to me and it didn’t die the minute our life went off the rails. I will always hope that someday he’ll be helped toward the man I believed I was with. Maybe someday, all the stories he tells about himself will  actually be true.

Mostly I wonder, if it will ever occur to him or them, that the only way to really protect your image is simply by living the way you want to be seen.

RL

If you need a place to read or talk about these issues in warm environments, try these lovely spaces: Deliberate Donkey or Better Not Broken