Let’s Talk.

Never mind cowardly, impotent terrorists or overrated, ungrateful celebrities, the buzz this week is all about mental health.

Mental health. Those two seemingly-harmless words evoke all sorts of images, don’t they? A group of sad sacks gathered for a therapy session. A trembling hand reaching for a bottle of pills – or a glass of liquor. A figure huddled in a corner of a stark white padded room. This is how the world-at-large feels about mental health issues. 

But the truth is, every single one of us is at risk when it comes to the state of our mental health.

We work harder then ever before – for a smaller reward. (Most of us anyway.) We spend far too much time worshiping/envying the rich, as though monetary wealth and fame are the key to true happiness. Society tells us we deserve everything and if we don’t get it? Well, we should consider ourselves doomed to perpetual unhappiness.

So what do we do?

Well, most of us ignore our fears and insecurities while others swing in the other direction and are consumed by them.

The solution? How the hell should I know? I carry luggage for a living. Personally, I think the answer lies in the simplicity of Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” campaign currently unfolding on social media.

Pain shared is pain halved. Period. Then again, we’ve already established the power of the stigma of the words “mental health”, so again, what do we do?

We move past the stigma, just as we would any obstacle in the path of our happiness. Easy for me to say, right?

Fine, I’ll go first.

My name is Robert. (You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.) I’m a forty-something, Canadian white guy. I’m a smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls. Scratch that, I’m THE smart-ass bellman working in the city of Niagara Falls.

I am also a rape survivor. (I hate the sanitized, civilized nature of the term”sexual assault”. Why do we use “clean” words to describe savage acts?)

It happened when I was a boy and in the time since that fateful afternoon, I’ve allowed the details to blur in my memory. I remember the knife against my throat, the sweat on my face, my fingers reaching through the long grass and into the dirt of an open field behind our house. As for the pain, I severed that connection years ago; its buried in some dark sub-basement of my memory, and that’s where it will remain. I refuse to be haunted by the past, though it creeps up through the layers of protection I’ve placed above it from time to time. I’m only mentioning  it now because I feel stronger about the Let’s Talk campaign than I have about anything in a long time.

My secret? She’s standing a few feet away from me as I scribble this post into a notebook, preparing dinner, while Murdoch Mysteries unfolds on a small television in the background. Our daughter is safely ensconced in her room, devouring season two of Saving Hope. They are my secret. They are my salvation.

Do I believe in therapy or pharmaceuticals? Yes and no. Therapy can move mountains of pain but only if one is wiling to surrender fully to the process. As for medication, I have a loved one who has become addicted to prescription medication, thus eradicating my objectivity, but I’m willing to acknowledge the power of pharmaceuticals in the battle for one’s sanity.

That’s all I have to offer. Now it’s your turn. I’m not suggesting you bear your soul as I have. (Truth be told, my stomach is in knots. I’ve shared this truth once before on my blog but never so plainly. I’m actually afraid to hit the “publish” button.) The important thing when it comes to mental health is to share your fears, anxieties or horrors. Doing so will lessen their hold on your soul.

And if you don’t have anything to share. First off, that’s great! Secondly, don’t underestimate the value of being someone’s rock. You don’t have to become an instant psychological expert, just be a steadfast friend. The darkness only holds sway over us because of our innate fear of the unknown. But when we recognize and share our demons the light begins to pour in and suddenly the dark isn’t so terrifying anymore.

I stopped being afraid of the dark long ago but only because I was willing to acknowledge exactly what was waiting for me in its depths.

The rest is up to you.

Reach out as an individual and become part of a community. Let’s stop being silent on the issue of mental health.

Let’s do away with the stigma.

Let’s talk.

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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70 Responses to Let’s Talk.

  1. adamjasonp says:

    It takes a lot of courage to bear your soul, your past like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’ve got anxiety disorder. It’s been four years since I was diagnosed and started the work, and it’s been a steep climb.

  3. Pamela Edwards says:

    Thank You Hook for talking about this . I recently learned a good friend of mine suffers from a mental condition. He was afraid of telling anyone about it because of how he would be viewed . He is very successful & has a beautiful family . He’s a wonderful person yet he knew he would likely be whispered about if people knew about his condition that is managed by medication. This needs to stop . People simply don’t choose to have these conditions . If you don’t know what you are talking about when commenting on mental illness , it is best to not say anything. Educate yourself first to know what that person deals with & lives with everyday . After that hopefully you will be enlightened.

  4. ‘Mental health’ is better than ‘crazy.’ Live long enough and it touches all of us. It is courageous to write about what happened to you. May it encourage someone else to open up as well, and give hope. The only way to fight stigma is to shine a light.

  5. Lucky Wreck says:

    YAAAAAAAAAYYY for you, Hook! I am currently working in mental health, and the stigma associated with it only seems to perpetuate the problem. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts. You are a total bad ass! 🙂

  6. We are all in awe of your brave sharing of your truth. Hopefully, others will take the same step and get rid of demons which cause them to be afraid. The heartbreaking part of these demons is they are perpetrated on those who are young and innocent and who have no cause to feel guilty. Yet by the nature of the circumstances the unwarranted feelings of guilt is the root cause of fear. Rational discussion helps the guilt disappear.

  7. Kudos to you for sharing this, Robert. I am very proud of you.

    My half-brother was sexually assaulted as a little boy, maybe 4 years old (I don’t actually know if it was rape), by a neighbour child. He disclosed to my parents, had therapy, and as far as I know has never had any issues as an adult as a result.

  8. recoveringwomanofadultery says:

    I love the quote ‘pain shared is pain halved.’ So true. It’s why I created my blog.
    I’m so glad you can share you’re pain here. It takes away some of it’s power, doesn’t it?

    Thank you for sharing your story, and being brave and honest.

  9. Robert, bravo for writing about this. The writing is healing, and may encourage others to do the same. I worked in psychiatry for many years and my patients benefited from therapy and writing about their sufferings, big or small. Christine

  10. 1jaded1 says:

    Robert, Thank you for talking about this. I hope the stigma ends. And I hope whoever did this to you gets a case of the itchies down there forever.

  11. Chrissy says:

    Wow. You are brave for sharing. Beautiful post. Very touching. Xo

  12. Gennie says:

    Thanks for your courage, Hook! I feel like I’ve been quite courageous lately but it just went south. Maybe it was the wrong place, the wrong person, or the wrong time. I don’t know. I suspect that maybe they weren’t ready for their own talk.

  13. 'Tis says:

    I live with mental illness every day, he is beautiful and charming, sweet and stubborn, lost and scared, he is a a sufferer of PTSD and depression, a survivor of life and death. He is my mate, my other half, my love, my husband.

    We know what it is like to lose friends and even family over his illness. People who do not understand the complexities and challenges that he/we face. The unknown and misunderstood can be a scary place and because of that so many people slam the door in the face of this disease, not wanting to take the time or exercise the patience required to learn about, support and love those who are suffering. But I like to believe that if more and more people put themselves out there like you have and share their stories, offer encouragement, hold a hand, love and care then I think eventually the doors will open and love and empathy will flow.

    The biggest hugs to you Robert. xo

  14. Paul says:

    Wow, that took a lot of guts Hook to publish. I am honored that you chose to share with us. My life has been pretty easy compared to yours. When I got ill and it just continued to produce new problems (and still is) for years and i started to drink constantly, I realized I was depressed. I regularly contemplated suicide as far as planning the best way to accomplish it.

    I had a hard time even seeing a psychiatrist, they were too booked up and I couldn’t afford a private one. Eventually, I did get an appointment and all I wanted was to talk through my problems. The psychiatrist did not want to schedule time and told me he would start me on anti-depressants. I had decided that i was gong to be honest with him and when I told him that I was drinking too much he said it was his responsibility to inform the Ministry of transportation and have my divers license suspended. I was not driving for a living at the time and I got upset at him and told him I did not want to add addiction to my list of problems and that i had trusted that our session was confidential – as I had asked him before we even started. He said that he was required to report anyone who was a danger to themselves or others. I told him that I was very disappointed in him and his treatment of his patients – encouraging drugs, refusing counseling, saying the sessions were confidential without warning there were exceptions, taking away my drivers license.

    I lambasted him and swore I wouldn’t see another shrink, needed or not. I must have embarrassed him because he gave wrong personal info to the ministry and i received a notice saying my license was suspended but with my name spelled wrong and the wrong license number on it. I checked my license and it was fine – some poor guy was driving around unknowingly with a license suspended by the shrink – but it wasn’t me. Ha! i was concerned for a few seconds but then went away fast. Whatever.

    I have cut out the drinking, mostly because I can’t afford it (likely a blessing in disguise) and my medical situation has become more stable – not a new disaster every week. I don’t think of suicide anymore and the depression seems to be fading away. But i can assure you that the shrink was of absolutely no help and i couldn’t even get to see him until i pestered for months.

    I agree Hook that mental health care is not taken seriously. It is employed only after the fact and is used as a band aid not as part of a healthy living process. I have no way to even estimate how many need help and can’t get it until they attempt suicide or hurt some one else. And on top of it all, any help given is the minimal and patients are released into the public without any support or continuing help/ Often they end up back in the hospital or jail.

    Thanks for opening up this forum Hook.

  15. Beautiful, fearless and inspiring! Thank you, Hook. I was molested at 4 years old. Sometimes I don’t think we will move past the darkness, but we live with it as it makes us who we are today. We can evolve into a much better person because of it, or descend further. The choice is ours.

  16. I’m not big on the whole Jesus thing, but there has to be a special place in hell for anyone that would hurt a child. You did a good and brave thing here, Hook.

    My daughter brings me great joy, and a few gray hairs of course. Kids are hilarious. Seeing her, as well as telling, and hearing, jokes among co-workers and a friend or two, is all that keeps the damn Black Dog away. But he’s off in a nearby field lurking, and sometimes visits, sitting in the corner snarling at me. Life is mostly a heap of crap. Sure helpin’, ain’t I? Ha ha. Seriously, though, it does help people to know that others are also having issues. I suppose I fight my “issues” off by trying to laugh at most everything. Laugh or cry, is the choice I guess. Easier said than done sometimes.

  17. A brave and courageous post, especially for new followers (like me).

    I had a breakdown in 1987, after years of bottling things up, putting everyone first and pretending to be what I wasn’t, then being afraid to voice my own opinion, or wear certain clothes and makeup for fear of being laughed at and ridiculed.

    I was such a wreck, I couldn’t even dress myself and it was MY BOSS who stood by me. They wanted to put me in a mental hospital and I remember getting on my knees clutching her skirt begging her not to let them take me away.

    Medication was a cocktail of 7 different coloured pills, and what followed was the longest year in my life as I had no sense of self worth, feeling less than what you’d wipe off your shoe.
    When I could finally think straight, I knew I had to leave and although I’m not proud of the way I did it, I knew I had tried everything to make the relationship work and if anyone knew my plans, they would have talked me out of it and I’d probably be dead now.

    My life is totally different now. Encouraged by an excellent GP at the time and my boss, I found things I liked about myself and built on those, gradually rebuilding my life and turning everything round. I am a better person for it and have found my soul mate in Hubby, who loves me unconditionally even when I’m being an absolute bitch. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

  18. You continue to amaze and inspire me, Hook.

    I don’t have any personal secrets to share – but I do have an instance of healing. A good friend of mine shared the story of his rape with me. It’s not a friend that lives close and we aren’t in contact very much, but one day he reached out and told me the story because he needed to tell somebody. He told me, cried and disappeared. I was worried sick!

    A few weeks later, I ran across the piece on Karen Perry’s site called The Secret Keepers (you may even remember the reblog on my site.) With trembling fingers, I sent that to him hoping that it reached his pain and would give him the platform to share his story. As someone who had never encountered rape, I worried that my reaching out would land on deaf ears because I hadn’t been there with him. He has a somewhat volatile personality, so I had no idea what to expect. I sent that note despite my intense fear to do so.

    It resonated with him over and over again! Imagine my relief!

    Her story gave him the courage to uncover his secret, confront his abuser (yes!) and move toward a happy, healthier relationship with his own wife and children.

    Is everything fixed? No…not by a long way. But, when I do see him…the smile now reaches his eyes and the ghost of his past seems to be getting weaker.

    It just shows that the power of Karen’s words – and yours – go a long way toward healing. Thank you for being courageous enough to do it.

  19. Kay says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that. It took courage. I love your blog and admire you so much.

  20. Bob Lee says:

    Courage is not nearly the right word to describe your post & brutal honesty my friend. You have always caught my attention with your wit, humor, and candor and this one just takes the award for all that I’ve mentioned above (and more). I too have suffered & have in my life decided to “cover up” to live a ‘sub-normal’ life. I’ve gotta hand it to you Robert – you always deliver more in every single post than I could have imagined I’d be reading. And – God bless your girls, your family, and of course you. —-

  21. Mich-in-French says:

    Dearest Hook – I haven’t been around for a long time. I have missed your candid writing and your humble transparency. Thank you for sharing….

  22. My dear friend… again with the candor of what happened to you and the brutal honesty of putting it out there for others to benefit from. Your words are heart wrenching and I am so glad you have dealt with the pain of this encounter. Thank you for your courage to bring such an important issue to light in this horribly dark world at times. Mental illness is a serious thing and only through the support of awesome therapy, friends and yes sometimes the RIGHT meds can work wonders! Blessings darlin~ 🙂

  23. curvyroads says:

    Courageous post, Hook. To share your past suffering in hopes of getting the conversation started. I agree, ‘Let’s talk.’

  24. Much respect, amigo.

  25. Sarah Pittard says:

    Amazing post. Way to get the ball rolling.

  26. Deliberately Delicious says:

    I am in awe of your courage in speaking out – and in showing others that we can move beyond unimaginable horror.

    • The Hook says:

      My hand was actually shaking as I hit “publish” but I needed to state things plainly; I felt i dance around the issue before. Time to move on, though. Let the smartass bellman blogging resume!
      And thanks, old friend.

  27. Jeanne says:

    Very brave of you. I don’t think I am not at a point where I can share publicly something so powerful. (I have nothing as devastating as yours). You say, Let’s talk, but you leave me speechless.

  28. That 3rd paragraph should be bolded. It’s true.
    While “everyone has their own cross to bear”, it is harmful to live in pain without hope of healing, stabilizing, or at least coming to grips with it. And if situations are not managed/dealt with, explosive anger can lead to irrational violence towards self or others.

    What a wonderful campaign. May it encourage and support everyone.
    Cause everyone’s got something.

    Cheers for your determination to be haunted and destroyed. Not an easy task and no one can do it for you.
    Oh, any luggage you carry yourself has to be luxurious Corinthian leather – you’re a rich man, Hook.

    Thought you might get a laugh out of this from around 1988.

  29. Thank you, Robert, for standing up in such dignity for yourself and compassion for so many of us who hold onto secrets that should never have been ours to carry.

    I couldn’t ❤ you or respect you any more at this very moment, and I know for every moment to come.

  30. Ana Trofin says:

    Reblogged this on Ana Trofin's Blog and commented:
    Powerful words from a wonderful man!

  31. Pingback: Violence – a few thoughts about it | Ana Trofin's Blog

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