The Mail

The Mail

November 26 2001
The Mail

The Mail

November 26 2001

The Mail

Like ‘standing in tar’

About five years ago, I became the victim of a smothering depression. Though I had battled depression since childhood, and gone nearly mad during the six years I lived with postpartum depression, full clinical depression still held the surprise of a cougar’s embrace. Once caught, you’re

helpless to break free. Like writer Sharon Doyle Driedger (“Overcoming depression,”

Cover, Nov. 12), I’ve been put on a number of drugs and had the effectiveness of each drip away until I was once again staring at walls and miming my way through each day.

Marie Savage, Sidney, B.C.

Doyle Driedger has done a great service to all who suffer from the debilitating effects of depression and antidepressants. There is no “quick fix,” as she painfully discovered. Relief and, ultimately, healing lies in lifestyle change, reassessing your priorities and carefully searching out what gives

Family and friends want to

know why I can’t step out, slough off the blues and be normal. That I’m standing in tar and draped in lead will be irrelevant because they just don’t get it. But apparently your author does and, in her honour, I’m going to try cleaning out my cutlery drawer this week.

meaning and purpose to your life. Regular exercise and balanced nutrition are essendal. Journal writing and individual counselling may be beneficial. Warm, loving relationships are the anchor that holds the rest together. They take a lifetime to build.

Gail Boulanger, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Nanoose Bay, B.C.

Doyle Driedger gave quite a marvellous description of the sufferings in moderately severe depression, with the typical history of vague prodromal symptoms, then the quite sudden onset of disabling clinical depression. But her overall experience was certainly a most

atypical, as well as disturbing, one. Many readers will conclude from it that modern drug therapy is unreliable, distressing, even harmful, which it certainly is not, and this may set them against proper treatment efforts when it is their turn. I would point out several misconceptions in the article. First is the implication that choosing the right drug is all there is to the treatment of depression. While drug companies encourage us to believe this, proper treatment involves several other dimensions: psychological (caring support, supportive psychotherapy); physical (prescribed exercise); and social (attention and help to the family). Second, I find no hint that other possible alternatives were considered in this refractory case, such as hospitalization or convulsive therapy (despite its bad press, a very humane and effective treatment). I simply cannot recall any patient I have dealt with, or heard of, who went through all the horrors of Doyle Driedger s case. But, my best wishes to her, and thanks for her courageous self-disclosure.

Dr. William E. Powles, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.

During my hospitalization for depression, I was part of a group that discussed our feelings about living with a mental illness. Every individual in the group felt that we would be better off with a physical illness. Society doesn’t frown upon someone with

cancer, diabetes or other physical ailments. It doesn’t conclude that an individual is weak or lacks character because they are affected. I applaud you for an article that opens the eyes of readers to the origin and treatment of clinical depression, as well as proving that people who have suffered from depression can go on to be active and healthy contributors to society.

J. E. Dickie, Omaha, Neb.

People struggling with depression have to ask themselves the question: do I want to feel better, have great sex or both (“Not tonight dear, I’m feeling better,” Nov. 12)? I was in my mid-20s, I wanted both. Now

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A refugee’s tale

After reading your article about Canada refugee policies, “Turning up the heat” (Special Report, Nov. 12), I can’t help but drop a few lines on this subject—for I am one of those who came here a similar way from Czechoslovakia 18 years ago when the refugee system was not as abused as it is now. I was seeking asylum and had no entry visa or any prior contact with Canadian authorities. Back in 1983, it was difficult to find security people or police at the transit hall of Mirabel Airport. Finally, at the far corner of the hall, a fellow countryman and I ran into a gentleman dressed in a dark, impressive uniform with colourful stripes on the sleeves and pants. We produced our passports without visa and asked him for help in seeking political asylum. Our conversation did not go very well, as we could not speak clearly in either of the two official languages. Eventually, the gentleman, mildly shaken, called the RCMP. They took us away to the immigration office for brief questioning and then we were whisked into a detention centre for illegal immigrants. We were happy campers, safe at last in the hands of Canadian officials and prison guards. Everything went fine ever since. Later on, we learned that the uniformed gentleman in the hall was an employee of a nearby hotel responsible for the baggage of overnight guests in transit. A chief porter, if you will.

Dennis Z. Vacha, Burnaby, B.C.

No need to cringe

I have been a Canadian for 79 years and I’ve yet to cringe when looking an American in the eye. So I’m not about to start. I was disappointed to see Allan Fotheringham join a bunch of rah-rah knee-jerk critics in his column on Canada’s response to aiding the United States and others (“A national disgrace,” Oct. 29). It is going to be a long battle. Tell me—when did our good friends to the south join us in the Second World War? 1941—Pearl Harbor was a push. And the First World War? 1917. Two years in the first instance and three years in the second does show prudence, but hardly the alacrity expected of friends at war. But maybe we weren’t good friends then. Just business acquaintances? We—Canada—will do our part, believe me.

Kenneth Simpson, Abbotsford, B.C.

In addition to taking issue with Allan Fotheringham’s article “A national disgrace” regarding Canada’s contribution to the current war on terrorism, I question his contention that Canada is a rich country. Canada’s per-capita debt load is among the highest of the Group of Seven nations. Moreover, Canada’s stock market capitalization is insignificant compared with that of Britain, and pales in comparison to that of the United States. Canada’s wealth as based upon natural resources is also misleading, in that commodities like base metals and minerals used in industry, etc., are not nearly as significant in determining a nation’s wealth as these commodities were back in the 1960s and before. If Canada attempts to keep up with other nations, especially the United States, with regard to per-capita foreign aid and military spending, while neglecting its foreign debt, we could end up with a bankrupted nation. In their obsession with adventurism and the prospect for Canadian heroes and martyrs, the media would have this nation overextend itself to the detriment of its citizens.

Carl James Johnson, Victoria

Decency and terrorism

Barbara Amiel fell over backwards to justify the shifting opportunistic alliances and outright oppression that the West,

the United States in particular, has indulged in (“Terrorism’s real ‘root cause,’ ” Oct. 8). Her harangue hit rock bottom, however, when, while admitting the West has prospered at the expense of Third World countries, she felt that the latter should not seek terrorist means to redress the wrongs done to them, but should act decendy. I wonder if Amiel would still feel like acting decendy if she or members of her family had been tortured or killed by one of the many U.S.-backed rightist regimes? Perhaps she neglected to draw an analogy between the feelings of those who have suffered as a result of U.S. policy and the actions of the Americans themselves in their war of independence.

Peter D. Shargool, Duncan, B.C.

I have to agree with Barbara Amiel’s article “Silly new security rules” (Nov. 5). She makes a valid point in stating that the current security measures being put into place by governments “won’t make a centimetre of difference to terrorism.” The United States and its allies, although well intentioned in trying to eliminate terrorism, are fighting a war that cannot be won. Attempting to eliminate terrorism is akin to trying to rid the world of drugs or other crimes. Despite the best efforts of intelligence agencies, there will always be hidden elements of terrorism. The new security measures will likely serve to drive terrorism further underground. I think it will be impossible for governments to be aware of all terrorist activity. The current anthrax scare may well be an example of this. In addition, the United States and its allies should never assume that they have outsmarted and defeated Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network or any other terrorists. The Taliban and its leaders, though not educated by the book, are likely very “war smart” as they have been fighting for much of their lives. They want America and its allies to suffer as they have suffered. I do not think the new security measures will be successful in deterring or eliminating terrorism. I know it is a difficult situation for governments as this is a new kind of war, but terrorism is not likely something that can be defeated—contained, maybe, but not defeated. It is difficult to eliminate what cannot always be seen.

Mary Margaret Peralta, Kitchener, Ont.

I have both, but it took time and experimentation. There are many antidepressants out there. I’ve tried most, with the same result—I stopped crying, I stopped mutilating, the rage was gone, but so was my ability to laugh, feel happy, have an orgasm. In time, my doctor prescribed an antidepressant that worked and it was like a gift. Depressed patients should not stop at the first medication that halts the crying. They should continue until they find one that lets them live a normal life.

Zofie Beloshchenko, Hamilton

Without peer

When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was asked what he thought of Conrad Black accepting the title Lord Black of Crossharbour (Passages, Nov. 12), he reportedly replied: “I do not comment on British affairs.” Excuse me? This has to rank as one of the Prime Minister’s stellar disingenuous statements. Perhaps he could enlighten us to why this is a “British affair,” yet the Canadian taxpayer was left with a $170,000 legal bill after Black sued Chrétien for abuse of power for blocking his appointment. Remember that when your local Liberal MP tells you there’s not enough money to go around.

Julian A. Belanger, Windsor, Ont.

Now that Conrad Black has made it abundantly clear that Canada is not deserving of his regal presence and we have finally been given the treat of viewing him in all

his finery as Lord Black, can we possibly hope that this is the last time that we have to see or read about him?

Christian Hackh, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

Isn’t it hypocrisy, and not democracy, to support a government position that vets (and denies) personal honours bestowed upon a Canadian citizen by our very own head of state? Although I don’t always agree with Lord Black, I can’t help but approve of his actions in this case. Congratulations, Conrad.

Madelaine Wessel, Barrhead, Alta.

Doctors: cure or cause?

Until a significant majority of doctors agree with the 57 per cent of the public who say that there should be joint doctorpublic decision-making in, and for, the health-care system, its productivity will remain inferior (“Are we being served?” Health, Nov. 12). The medical profession has been, and remains, an obstruction to the systems achievement of its top performance. Doctors religiously believe that their knowledge and place in society are unique. Most doctors are dedicated to welfare of individual patients, but there is an almost genetic belief that the system exists primarily for their purposes and patients will benefit secondarily but certainly. It seems certain that the system needs more money. It also needs deep changes. But until doctors escape their Aesculapian bonds, abandon their silo practices, and at least 57

per cent willingly participate with the public in planning and reorganizing the system, it will continue to function far below its potential. Who knows? These docs may have some great ideas.

Dr. J. S. W. Aldis, Port Hope, Ont.

Awe-inspiring writer

I am awed: Deborah Ellis is truly inspiring (“Kabul for kids,” (Books, Nov. 12). Volunteering to work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan and bringing their stories to Canadian children by writing her book The Breadwinner is admirable, but donating the royalties of her book to the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan is extremely admirable and selfless. We must listen with care to brave hearts like Ellis.

Bill Finley, New Denver, B.C.

Picasso, meet Einstein

Talk about a time warp! You should either attend the plays (and keep the programs) or find a medication that prevents severe time shifting. Picasso at the Lapin Agile certainly was a “wry fictional” evening at the theatre, but Picasso’s counterfoil was Albert Einstein not, as you wrote, Sigmund Freud (“No, please, don’t get up,” Overture, Nov. 12). The play with Freud, Hysteria, was last season.

Glen C. Bodie, Toronto