Today in the day program, we had a guest speaker come to give us information about an annual swim-a-thon and hospital fundraiser that he created. Our guest also MEANT to motivate and inspire us, but sadly he fell very short of that goal.
Initially, I thought I was the only one who felt something was off because I mistook people’s politeness as happiness (ie. people laughing) and upset as boredom or tiredness (ie. people looking away, or getting up and leaving). In the end, it turned out, that the entire class had similar issues with our guest speaker and told one of our case managers about it.
It is my belief that our guest may have tried to be personable by making jokes, but he came off as demeaning, and he used profanity like “Jesus Christ!” and “Shit!”. Honestly, I personally thought it was amusing since he has been the only guest in the six weeks I’ve been there who spoke so freely like this, but I can understand how in a hospital setting, his language was quite inappropriate and unprofessional. He also referred to his wife as an old broad which was very unkind.
I also believe that he meant to be playful, but ended up making people very uncomfortable instead. He would tap people on the shoulders, take someone’s hand in his, and bonked two ladies on the head, one with his hand and the other with rolled-up paper. In an informal situation with good friends this may have been fine, but in a hospital day program with mentally ill patients, this was a huge boundary violation.
(He also licked his finger as he separated sheets to hand out to us which is unsanitary. I also received very dirty, finger smudged papers which is a no no for me who tends to be slightly mysophobic/germaphobic )
He attempted to inspire people by telling us about his story with depression– About how he relapses every now and then and how he, at times, felt no good and unworthy and suicidal. He talked about how he felt like he was on a boat without a paddle, and how he climbed out of the darkness by remembering what he is forever grateful for such as living in Canada, having a great family and being able to go back to swimming after a bypass surgery. He also mentioned using what he learned in the day program to combat his illness and gave us all a picture of a man boxing with a shadow as a symbol to keep going and keep fighting. Finally, he talked about his fundraiser and how he promotes a dunk tank activity for young people to partake in in hopes to teach people that it is okay to be mentally unwell. All of this sounds inspiring– until it isn’t. Where he fell short with his speech was the perception he gave on his battle with mental illness. There was no love, no kindness, and no compassion for himself, for this wounded part of him who went through such a though time- so tough- that he felt worthless and wanted to die. He repeated over and over how old and ugly he thought he was, which was very sad and very uncomfortable for everyone to witness. He kept saying how ‘weak’ and ‘wimpy’ he was and how he had to ‘grow some balls’ , ‘suck it up’, ‘be grateful’, ‘stop whining’, and not to allow any ‘sugar coating.’ What he didn’t realize is that by saying these things, he was actually unknowingly invalidating his own personal suffering, and in turn, invalidating the entire group’s suffering as well.
His overall message went from:
Let me tell you about how it’s okay to be unwell, that even though it’s difficult, don’t lose hope and keep fighting against your depression to the best of your ability, and to allow yourself to see even a tiny speckle of light at the end of the dark tunnel. That even in the stormy seas, alone without a paddle, you will have your rainbow when the skies finally clear and you slowly drift to shore. And also to please consider trying a fun activity as it’s known to help people who are mentally unwell feel better.
I’m going to tell you that it’s okay to be unwell, but then confuse you and send you unhelpful messages about how if you want to get better you have to grow balls and suck it up, be grateful for what you have, don’t commit suicide because it’s selfish(think of your family ) , force yourself to fight against your depression because if you let it get you down, you’re a weak, whinny, wimp who won’t get anywhere. oh, and come join my swim-a-thon because if you help other people, you’ll feel better ..and…if you are an old broad, wear a bikini because young men may be there to dry you off.