Stories of Recovery

Depression No Cause For Shame

by Rafe Mair
The Vancouver Courier, Wednesday, October 11, 1995

Because I have been in the public eye for some 25 years (I was a late bloomer, but had I bloomed earlier we'd probably all have regretted it, bad enough as it is), I dare say I have some measure of public recognition.

For all that, I am really a private person. I avoid public functions like the plague and my close friends are not in the public eye.

But I feel strongly that if, by sharing my experiences with others, it may save someone some grief. That is not too much to ask by way of shared privacy.

I'm not trying to be noble. It just seems that this goes with the territory of earning your living from a public which, in effect, pays your wages.

I very much admire Elizabeth Taylor - shame on you who have nasty thoughts - not for her money and continuing deliciousness, but for her public position on AIDS.

She didn't have to say anything to anyone but she did, and brought great opprobrium from people who ought to know better. She scarcely did it for money or fame; she simply wanted it known that AIDS was not a taboo subject or anything to be ashamed of.

I'm no Elizabeth Taylor - not in money, fame or seductiveness, (although we are both of a certain age), but I've had a few life experiences I could have done without. By recounting them, perhaps someone might be helped to look through the darkness to see some light.

I have largely been blessed with good health and an iron constitution, which, I assure you, has taken a bit of pounding in its time.

There are two exceptions.

I'm a type II diabetic - found out about 18 months ago. The symptoms were classic: constant need to urinate, constant thirst and blurred vision. I now have everything well controlled by diet (such as my undisciplined habits permit), exercise and some pills. It's not really much of a story except that if I hadn't seen my doctor I could well be on my way to having serious troubles, ranging from blindness to death, for those nasty things happen with unattended diabetes.

My second ailment is harder to talk about, though I'm damned if I understand why I should be less willing to talk about depression than I am about diabetes. Both are illnesses, and both are eminently treatable.

My depression, with associated horrendous anxiety sessions, came upon me in 1988. I truly didn't know how to cope. I was not suicidal, though that often complicates the problem - but simply unable to get out of a deep depression accompanied by the firm conviction that every ache and pain in my body was associated with something fatal in the very short term.

I coped with my broadcasting, but just. When the "on air" light went on, somehow things got done, but I was a basket case off the air. Like many, I had been brought up in the era of "British pluck, stiff upper lip" and all that. Depression was "weakmindedness"; you just put your head down and ploughed on.

I don't know why I saw my doctor. One day after a show I just phoned him, and what a stroke of good fortune that was. My doctor is not only one of those "real people," he's well-read on depression and knew what I was going through. It transpired that like many depression sufferers, I had a directly related chemical imbalance in the brain.

After a bit of trial and error, we found the right medicine and the right quantity. With medication I am well, very well indeed.

It is critical to note here that we aren't talking about drugs or anything addictive; we're talking about much the same sort of thing I take for diabetes. Neither of these medicines turns me into something I'm not. They turn me from being unwell into well.

The point is simple: mental disease is no more to be ashamed of than diabetes or any other illness or malfunction of the system. If you have the symptoms, see your doctor. If you aren't satisfied, see another doctor until you are satisfied.

You are not alone - you have lots of company, whether they admit it or not.

Rafe Mair is heard Monday to Friday from 8:30 -11 a.m. on CKNW Radio.

Reprinted with permission.

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