Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mental illness isn't mental deficiency

This past week, Robin Lehner, a hockey player, gave a speech about his struggles with addiction and mental illness:

https://sports.yahoo.com/news/robin-lehner-gives-emotional-speech-at-nhl-awards-025142137.html

Over the years I've started - and stopped - many book or essay projects on this notion. I've experienced the unintentional - and generally well-meaning - bias towards someone with depression. You see it for all illnesses. My father, for example, was so incredibly over-protective of my mother that it made her life miserable. Coworkers who have a chronic illness are treated with pity. An admission of depression leads to a strong desire - maybe even a need, for some - to protect the person.

When you tell someone that they're really hurting instead of helping, it can damage or destroy relationships.

So what do you do if you manage someone with depression? Ask yourself what you would do if that person had cancer instead. If your reaction isn't more or less the same, at least in its framework, then you're probably on the wrong track. Someone with a mental illness doesn't want special treatment; they don't want your comfort. That can actually make it worse. Like any human being, they want to be listened to and to believe their opinions are valued.

No need for kid gloves.

But when days are bad, don't threaten to fire them, do show them your exasperation, allow them to work from home if that's what's needed. That's what you'd do for the person with cancer, right? You'd understand that some days the treatments are harder than others. They might need to take time during the day to get that treatment, and it might hit them harder one day versus another. That's how depression works, too. You don't need to be afraid of them, or trust them less than you did before you found out. And for God's sake don't talk about so-and-so as being crazy or insane; would you use similar language for someone with cancer? Of course not.

Take my advice on this.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day

I never fully appreciated in my life how much my dad taught me about the little things. He tried not to complain too much; it came out, of course, because he's a human being and human beings have emotions and concerns and get really frustrated with life. I was unhappy he didn't teach me all I wanted to know about cars and construction and things like that. What I didn't really get, at least until I was older, is how much he taught me about being an adult.

Being a parent is difficult. There's no end to the anxiety and fear that uncomfortably mingles in with happiness and excitement, often at the same time in ever-changing proportions. My father had to deal with a lot, from his own PTSD that you weren't supposed to admit to having in his generation to a house burning down that led to some financial decisions that had had ripple effects even to the present day.

Those are the things life deals us. Life is a one way street in a thick fog. You might have some idea what's coming up, but all we can do is try to be prepared for it. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Weird things. And we make those choices as best we can, and if it was the wrong thing, well, you can't go back and fix it. The decision was made.

I hope I have lived up to my dad's example. I hope in twenty-odd years my own son looks back on the effort I made and believes I admirably held up my end of things.

Happy Father's Day to the dads out there who work and stress and struggle, who face their fears and loves with equal passion.