I had an experience recently that brought back memories of an old comedy character from the 70’s. Fred Dagg was a popular character of a young John Clarke. Fred was a likable gumboot and black singlet wearing New Zealand farmer with a talent for telling it like it is. One of his trademark songs was about how lucky we are to have what we have. “We don’t know how lucky we are mate”.
I was helping a telephone counselor while she was talking to a woman who was reaching out for help. The quietly spoken caller told us that everyone was ‘out to get her’, people had attacked her in the past and she was ‘looking for a weapon’.
It became apparent that the caller needed help as she described her life. A life where nobody would employ her, she appeared very isolated with no close family and hadn’t been to see a doctor in 3 years. As we continued to talk, she rejected all suggestions offered, but remained calm.
We suggested directly that she go and see her doctor, but she told us they had closed down and there were no doctors around where she lived. Having told us she lived in Melbourne, a city of 4 million people, we were a little surprised and concerned at this stage. Again we recommended she contact a doctor and that’s when she changed.
Without warning, the caller’s calm, soft tone transformed from into a deep guttural manifestation of what could only be described as ‘a demon from within’. That voice, wherever it came from, told us to “f**k off, you f***ing bitch” and hung up on us. The telephone counsellor reeled away from the desk and a cold shiver cursed its way through my body. We were both shaken, shocked and horrified by the sudden change in the call. That voice was like nothing I had ever heard before – except maybe in the movie, The Exorcist.
The woman had earlier told us ‘some people would get angry’ if she looked for help and in our debriefing afterwards we discussed how one of ‘those people’ was probably the voice we heard coming down the phone line.
It was a truly unexpected experience, but one which once again, reminds me just how lucky most of us are.
Mental health illness affects many in our community; some who live amongst us in a terrible state of daily anguish. For those living with these often constant voices in their head, unheard and unknown to everyone else, their lives cannot be imagined.
Many with a mental health illness hide away from the community and are unseen. As we go about our seemingly difficult lives, there are others who struggle simply to make it through hour by hour.
In this week of mental health awareness, please look out for those who may seem a little different, don’t judge them harshly. They may be in need of more help than you think or can offer, but a kind word offered may be just the thing they need.
Whatever you think of these people, take time to be grateful for what you do have and remember – “You don’t know how lucky you are”.
All words and thoughts here are my own and not endorsed by any government or not for profit organisation.