May 25, 2018

Goals scored by a 53-year-old

Turning 53 next month and somehow that causes pause for reflection. Never would have thunk it possible, given the bleak predictors early on.

And I'm damn glad I didn't kick myself off this planet when it seemed so dark and grim back then.

This, my friends, is more about health than it is sport, although the two intertwine. Mental health to be specific. The photo above, by the way, is my little guy playing ball hockey in North Bay. His team is defending two-straight men's league championships and they're aiming for a three-peat. Neat how his jersey number, one of his football favourites, matches my new age bracket. We'll come back to that later.

Looking around me, there's so many people who battled through, righted the ship and sailed on to meaningful lives (even if the course is a jagged one). Scarred and bruised they be, sometimes broken down a time or two but never done in. Not by their own hand, anyway.

Don't get me wrong. I'm full bore behind people checking out on their own terms with merciful euthanasia ending their terminal pain and suffering. Assisted suicide can be a godsend, I do not doubt. And sometimes, very rarely, there is righteous honour or duty involved in taking one's own life (earned by deed, good or bad).

But it's a much deeper universal shame when someone kills themselves over emotional constructs, as opposed to physiological realities. Sorrow and disappointment, failure, self-loathing, and the sort are not capital crimes, so to speak. 

Is it OK to even make a distinction between worthy suicide and not so much? I don't know.

I believe, though, there's a need for more readily accessible help for people suffering debilitating emotional or other types of mental health issues so it doesn't manifest into worse problems. Many don't seek help, however, fearing the risk of medical record documentation that may lead to future legal liabilities and/or career-limitations. Telling a doctor you've contemplated suicide due to a heavy burden of despair, for example, brings life-altering consequences even if simple counseling may help the individual get over the issue entirely. And hopefully they don't get prescribed the wrong pills.

There was an interesting column published this week by Andre Picard, Globe and Mail health field expert as well an award-winning author. Picard unpacked broadly-based survey results and the conclusions drawn before he argued to distinguish between mental health issues and mental illness. His column speaks for itself but here are a couple paragraphs: "We have to remember too that many 'mental health problems' are temporary and self-resolving. Most people are quite resilient...not everyone who is sad – or even depressed – needs antidepressants or psychological care or counselling. And those who do need this help rarely get it – or benefit from it – in the long-term."

His piece was a small part of my impetus for writing this missive. It sparked introspection at a time the keel is steady, my tack is true and the soul not so bothered by my insecure childhood, challenging teens, hard 20s, tough 30s and terrible 40s. I just think, as I look back, maybe it could have been smoother for all those around me if "issues" and "illness" were not on the same dictionary page.

It's a bit different now than decades past, in some ways, although not by a large enough degree. Seeking help shouldn't have a cost, that's all I'm saying.

Either way, cheers to those who find their way through the dank of doldrums or thundering seas. And I encourage anyone peering over the earth's flat edge to find something to embrace until the weather changes.

I'm a lucky guy, by many standards, and more than appreciative of Milestone 53. Long before he was conceived, Dylan served as that rock in stormy seas. And it's a special page to turn when he hits the 20 mark June 12. He was two days too early to be my birthday present when I turned 33.

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