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COLUMN: I’m still here: a true story

This piece has taken me longer to write than most I can remember and I struggled for a good long time wondering if I did write it, how would it be received by folks I've lived with in Rankin Inlet for almost 20 years and people I know across the Kivalliq.
In the end, my experience dictated it had to be written.
Like many of you, I had long heard people talk and write about the stigma that can get attached to folks whose need for help dealing with an issue leads them to the door of a mental health counsellor.
I often wondered if people still reacted that way in this so called 'enlightened age' we supposedly live in.
That is until it was me standing outside the counsellor's door.
I readily confess (if that's the proper word) that I totally lost it when, within a couple of years, first my marriage dissolved and then my son, Dale, lost his life to a freak accident on Christmas Eve.
The time after my son's death is little more than a blur to me, as I sought solace at the bottom of a bottle for a good long time. Anything to numb the pain and turn off the voices in my head.
I also admit (if that, also, is the right word), that during my darkest hours of grieving, I wasn't giving a whole lot of thought to the years ahead and was teetering on the edge of a dark, dangerous precipice from which there is no return.
I can say, one morning I woke up while on vacation in Nova Scotia and realized if I didn't get help that day there would be no coming back from the edge of the abyss where I was perched.
Long story short, a person in Nova Scotia pulled me back from that edge and convinced me that I still had some living to do, evidenced by the fact I reached out for help.
I haven't lived back home in a good many years, so I was easily able to visit that office with no worries of my anonymity.
Upon my return to work in Rankin and with hockey no longer a part of my life that helped keep me grounded, I began to slip again.
I was referred to a mental health counsellor here who helped a great deal in helping me understand where my anger and grief were coming from.
She also opened my eyes to the weight I was carrying around with my anger and grief anchored to the loneliness of being away from my loved ones back home and the normal stresses of life that bring most of us down a peg or two at the best of times.
However, in Rankin, my anonymity could never be maintained, having been at the head of Kivalliq News for almost 20 years and a very busy hockey official for most of that time.
It wasn't long before word made its way around that I was seeking help and I wasn't prepared for some of the attitudes I faced because of it.
I cannot find the words to describe what it feels like in that situation to have someone tell you to 'man up' and get on with it.
I told the person if I hadn't 'manned-up" in seeking help, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
Another told me to get over it, that we all have problems to deal with. Again, I can not put into words the anger that welled-up inside me listening to those words.
I chose not to respond and, happily, we are both still here.
And, finally, I had a person tell me he didn't think I was like that.
Like what? A person who has gone through a horrible time and needs help getting back on his feet again? Sorry to break your illusion of me.
I firmly believe I would not be here today, relatively happy and productive, if it were not for the help of those two people.
My final admission is that I decided to carry on without further counselling unless I ever find myself staring into that abyss again.
There is no sin to a person seeking help to get past a rough time that has them struggling in life.
Before passing judgment, you may want to envision yourself in a similar situation.
I still wonder if the people who gave me such 'man-up' advice realize the possible damage such words can cause.
We are all trying to find our way along this road called life as best we can; some of us simply run into bigger bumps along the way.
I'm still me and I'm still here, but many are not.
Food for thought before wielding that stigma!