War has lasting effects

Pat Black remembers the devastation she felt as a five-year-old watching her father go off to serve his country in the Second World War

Remembrance Day is tomorrow. What I still vividly remember most on this day is being a five-year-old child, bereft, confused and heartbroken that my beloved father and best friend was gone like a puff of smoke. He didn’t say goodbye. It was just too tough for him. I was his constant companion and he took me everywhere with him, skating, tobogganing, swimming, bowling, and I worshipped him. At five, nothing that was said about his leaving made any difference to me. I didn’t care about heroes, about saving the world, about keeping us free from the bad Nazis. My father was gone and I was inconsolable. That’s what I remember most on Nov. 11.

He enlisted in 1939 after hearing all the impassioned rhetoric about the devastating consequences of not getting behind the war effort. He was one of the first of his gang to sign up to protect his country, his home and family. He saw action in France, Italy and Holland, progressing through the ranks to Sgt. Major. He returned a very different man in 1945 when I was 11. My brother, who had never known his father, was six, and the reconciliation and reestablishment of our family was very rocky like so many other families whose men had been away for so long. We were lucky and we finally made it as a family, although not without our bumps and bruises and hurtful memories.

War is hard, we all know that, but we sometimes forget that it wasn’t just the guys who went overseas who suffered devastation and deprivation and loss. Sometimes the effect of this war, and I suppose all wars, lasts a lifetime for the whole family.

Last month I experienced some symptoms of depression that frankly scared me silly. I was listless, no energy, sitting for long periods of time just vegetating, and had no zest for life. Before I retired I had also worked for more than 20 years in mental health and had counseled and assisted many people with depression and was very familiar with the condition and the many ways to cope with it. However it is another story when you are the victim and experiencing these emotions. I did manage to cope and get through it by using all the tools I was familiar with to combat depression.

I also saw my doctor, a truly wonderful, empathetic and solid support who offered advice and prescribed a temporary anti-depressant. The other important asset I had was the ability to see a counselor quickly. She helped me deal with the issues that caused my depression, to see them in a new light and to see there were solutions. So far it is working well and I am feeling good, but I wonder about other seniors who experience depression and do not have the tools to combat it or the opportunity to see a counselor.

For seniors, especially those with mobility issues, winter brings on its own set of discouragements and often leads to too much time in the house and too much time to reflect on those disabilities rather than more positive aspects of life. The most important thing is to know you are not alone and that you can change things to make them better. If you are experiencing depression see your doctor and talk about it or if that doesn’t work call the Vernon Health Unit at 250-549-5700 and ask for Senior Mental Health Services.

Pat Black writes about issues of concern to seniors in the North Okanagan, appearing every other Sunday.

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