The response to my September piece telling of my slide into and battle with depression has been overwhelming to say the least. It was written as part of my “opening up” and admitting to it and I ex- pected little if anything from readers. Was I wrong! Both Patrick (my editor) and I have received contacts from those who have endured the same. Some quit their farming careers due to it, some, like me, shared the experience and are in the slow throes of recovery. Some are still suffering alone and in silence. To them I say, “Speak up, share it. Please. It will help.”
Those who quit as they couldn’t handle the paperwork and/or demands of the powers that be, I feel particularly sorry for. They loved farming and their livestock. It had been their life’s work and were forced out. Depression was the final straw.
The stories of those who are or who have been in depression were so sad. One story left me wondering why I reacted to just the paperwork when she had had to face so much more. I am in awe of her strength: Proof that depression is not invincible.
Some broke down over CQM/proAction paperwork and red tape, bursting into tears, throwing papers across the room, much the same as I had. Not just farm wives on whose backs this extra work often falls, but their farmer husbands, too. The worst is the knowledge that so many are enduring this monster alone and have told no one.
If you are one of them and think no one has guessed, think again. Chances are the family knows but is hesitant to mention it to you in your present mood. To initiate the first talk, to admit that one’s brain has gone a bit screwy (my explanation of it) is hard and takes some strength. If family isn’t an option, start with a phone call to your family doctor or one of the many mental health numbers available everywhere. Even the DFO, the number one instigator of the problem on dairy farms, frequently prints a number to call. Be anonymous if you want, the advice will be the same and, as is so important, the non-judgmental ear will be there. You will be the winner. The climb out of depression is slow. Don’t expect miracles immediately, but the realization will come that the old saying of, “a problem shared is a problem solved” is so true. And the weight will start to lift.
I am presently entering the second year since I realized something was dreadfully wrong. The Environmental Farm Plan, a one-day talk and inane four-inch binder to be completed and, which takes days away from farming to complete, initiated it. It was not worth the ability to gain access to government grants we don’t need but, if you are dairy farmer, it allows you to continue to ship milk effective September 1, 2022. Whoever devised it should be tarred and feathered!
How the next year evolves as I progress through bookwork, taxes, Dairy Trace and our proAction inspection in July is anyone’s guess but I feel positive. I have blocked some 40 years of harassment by Statistics Canada every six months, a positive step forward. Now for the rest. I can openly talk about it now, have done so in buckets and no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed. What I have found amazing is that so many others in the farming community either are or have gone through the same thing and understand.
I now have to face the rest of the upcoming desk/computer work. I do know this battle has changed me as I have fought to regain control. I have a new battle cry, the famous words of Howard Beale from the movie Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m NOT going to take it anymore!”
It feels good to say it. Care to join me?
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.