Women and children first??

Posted: April 2, 2014 in Mental Health

I am a blokes bloke, that means I follow the “code” that proper men follow to allow them to be seen as good geezers and have other men admire them for their manliness. This isn’t the same as being a gentleman, that’s more so ladies think your worth admiration and is about manners and appearances not real life.

So like a good bloke I have held true to the tenant that woman and children first is almost Newtonian in its universal truth and I have always followed it. Now I say this in terms of threats and dangers, when I was called upon to step in I have and probably always will look after the gentler sex and children before ensuring my own safety is assured, I have taken on men who have seemed about to threaten the wellbeing of the aforementioned folks and felt proud of the fact, still do.

I also believe wholeheartedly in the principals of triage, that the futility of attempting to save those who are already lost is a waste of effort and ultimately leads to feelings of failure for the sorry fool who attempted to. In my therapy I was vociferous in my belief that not everyone was worth my effort in helping, I was very clear that I wasn’t making a choice based on liking someone, their personality or values just on the likelihood of my intervention actually making any difference to them and myself in the offering.

That said I feel that one of my bloke/triage constants may have been wrong and for the record I am almost unprecedentedly willing to say I was possibly wrong. When I work with other PD patients/service users I have to make assessments almost instantaneously on their relative condition and their motives to improve. In this I spend lots of time with women, clearly traumatised and vulnerable and have until recently seen them as “more” worthy, sheer numbers seem to support this judgement. Most of the women are either a similar age or older than myself and have probably been struggling with PD for years before we met in therapy so it is fair to say some of them have passed the point of rescue, and crossed into the frustrating all parties stage of their illness.

Younger women were always a trigger for me as I am a father of a daughter who is growing up and going to uni, these younger women are sometimes highly strung and I had always looked on it that as the closest thing to children in our environment they deserved to be helped first. After this group it was my peers I bonded with, men of a similar age who I could associate with, some of them were as different from me as chalk and cheese but in most cases I accepted their help and offered my own in its place.

Some of these men have been as hard to associate with as the women, the very fact I gave time to any woman in the early days of my treatment was a revelation to myself and the close family who had seen my latent misogyny. The group I struggled to work with at any time was the older adult patients, those over 50 who had ping ponged around the services for years and rejected the idea that anyone younger than them, specialist, CPN , OT nurse or therapist or fellow service user could be of any possible use. In the face of such assured arrogance, perceived arrogance I should add, I did my triage and left them to their own devices. I wasn’t callous or unkind I just withheld my opinions and offered nothing but platitudes in order to allow them to continue in their chosen miasma, seems the right thing to do but I was mistaken.

I naively believed that the younger patients were the most needy and the oldest of them too far gone and of not relative use to my recovery or those of my peers. I now know and accept that that was not only ill judged but also to my detriment in my growth as a man and my therapeutic journey. I don’t think that in PD age is necessarily going to aid your insight, the longer you’ve held a mistaken frame of thought the harder it will be to budge, I have seen that so often to know its true, not in mental health but life in general which I now realise is the best way to judge things. Old stick in the mud, you cant teach an old dog new tricks etc. aren’t just old wives tales they have a grounding but an exception should be in mental health, sometimes our illness is an advantage, rarely but in this case it seems to be possible.

Older patients may come from a different time and perspective but they also have had time to gain an awareness of their mistakes, not the same as wisdom in the truest sense but at least a stepping stone on the way towards it. In listening to men who have made the mistakes I’ve made and some I most likely would have if they hadn’t spoken has made me see the error of my ways and opened up another avenue to wellness that I wasn’t even aware existed and to me that’s like another world existing. In that I mean I have benefitted from experience in so many areas, the professionals I have had the pleasure of meeting who are far above my pay grade as a service user have opened my eyes, being a volunteer in a number of organisations has allowed me to meet and speak to some truly inspiring and aggravating people with mental health issues in a different role, not above but alongside in a different role. I have heard the problems of working with people like me and recognised the man they describe as a variant of myself, I’ve been asked my opinion by people who know so much more than I and gained self esteem in the process so I foolishly looking back, thought I was in the know and although aware I was a long way from being totally aware of the situation I was sure I knew the direction it took and the mind-set required to absorb it.

When a man who hasn’t just walked a mile in your shoes but has cat a path way into your possible future speaks then you would be an arrogant fool not to listen. The fact that what they are saying isn’t just a version of “In my day things were tougher” but actually giving some contemporary perspective with wisdom attached is amazing. As a role model you couldn’t ask for more, I would never accept a mentor, too much cynicism and arrogance for that but to know that there are men and most probably women too who could mentor me is a revelation and brings me off my perch to a slightly lower level and opens up the possibilities for the future.

That said the younger people have tonnes to offer if I was willing to accept it, which in consideration of my new found awareness may be happening even as we speak. I have always valued the ladies I have been in therapy with but felt I was somehow smarter than them, not intellectually but emotionally so have been a rescuer, a bloke doing the right thing by letting the women go first, but I now realise that it is a disservice to them even if they don’t realise it but also to myself. If the dinner party game of who to save were being played no I would have to consider the older persons value to the future a lot more than before and maybe the youngsters wouldn’t get a place just on the basis of age or gender.

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