by Amanda Ramsay
If there is one primary lesson I’ve learned it’s that nothing is certain until it’s done. In French, you cannot say “I am finished,” it is grammatically incorrect. Instead you must say “I have finished.” Children love to abuse this line of wording in French Immersion; at a certain age they realize that it is akin to “I’m dead!” Which is true. Think of one action movie where a character lands a mortal wound, there’s got to be a zinger of a line to say, amirite?
“I’m a goner! I’m finished! I’m done for! Here comes my untimely demise!” Quel Surprise!? (not likely).
Okay, I added that last one about the demise. Maybe we can make it the “polite Canadian’s way of asking for better healthcare?” I digress.
Instead, let’s reflect that “To Finish,” means to complete or end a story, a project, or some endeavour. Otherwise, a finish is a final detail or ornamentation that you add last in the manufacturing process before preparing it for delivery, sale, or export. Likewise, young girls often were sent to “Finishing Schools,” where their manners and appearance, as well as culture and education were “polished” to their families’ needs.
When my grandmother and mother couldn’t find a finishing school for me, they feared my backward ballcap and ripped denim jeans ( it was the ‘90’s!) marked me “Lesbian of the Deepest Order of Vulvae,” which meant that perhaps the WASPS on the admissions panel for the planet Venus had rejected me from their feminine path of social access? No folks, that’s just good old fashion prejudice.
Instead, I was sent to modeling classes where I earned my first job appearing in commercials at age nine. I learned through this that my value and my worth was always going to be measured by my outward expression of what society expected from me and whether it matched expectations. It was so deeply ingrained in me that it’s been the deepest journey of my life and I suspect that I am not alone. I’m certainly far from done this journey.
In fact, this is my primary fear, that I have no innate worth to anyone; that society considers me a burden like some of my family-though not all; that I will be discarded again; that my life will mean nothing when I am gone and I will have achieved nothing and quantifiable or quantitative value.
For many folks, COVID changed their busy schedule to one of actual reflection and contemplation. There’s folks that are emerging out of this moral coma we’ve all been drowning in and are pointing out ethical fallacies through the use of technology.
In 2018 I decided I wasn’t “fini.” It was a few years after the semi-colon tattoo went viral but I’d made the mental note to get the tattoo later when I felt I was finally on the other side of the semi-colon itself.
I need to add a few things I’ve been stewing on since then.
By the time a person is exhibiting signs & symptoms of suicidal ideation, it’s too late to “save them from trauma,” suicidal ideation is caused by the severing of the ego from the worthiness of living and that only happens through repeat and progressively worsening cognition.
One might say, “let go of such weak pitiful creatures, they are flaws in the biological design that will be sifted out by natural selection…”
…but to which I say, “where is your humanity? your empathy? and mostly, your fucking brain?”
First, every person is a person. Second, I’m one of those “mentally ill,” and do I look weak to you?
I got myself the semi-colon tattoo a few years ago to remind myself, I’m not finished and I have shit to do. When I feel like the world is not open or ready to hear me, when I feel like the battle is consistently upward, then I know I am gaining ground.
The darkest part of night is before the dawn, and the hardest part of mental illness is that part where the things are all out of your control so you let go and just observe: and then your life trajectory become obvious.
A semi-colon is something that joins two portions of a sentence into one. It comes after a clause of some kind and adds something meaningful to the end that otherwise might not have fit into any other sentence; it’s unique and deliberate.
Every day that I live I struggle with fear.
Every day I live I wonder, is what I do today just a point in a market fad segment? Is my life predestined by the forces of economic inequality or can I really find a way to be myself in this over-legislated, self- indulgent, capitalist waste of a colony?
How can governments or politicians say they are going to “improve mental health care” when those with mental health issues are rarely consulted and mental health isn’t even legislated properly as a human right? We live in the margins and are the most enslaved of any demographic. Every culture, every religion, every race, we all face mental health issues. You would too if you had just lost a loved one. Perhaps a marriage falling apart warrants mental health funding? What about drug abuse?
You see, mental health isn’t pretty because it’s caused by people who use “pretty” to control the narrative, the story. Pretty is what placed mentally ill people in asylums at the turn of the century, and if you haven’t noticed, the idea of institutional abuses is a theme in our media right now.
Yes, less than a century ago, BC and Alberta experimented with eugenics, forcibly sterilizing many folks including mentally questionable folks and people of colour or First Nations heritage. If you want to brush up on Canadian Eugenics, then listen to this great podcast that dove headfirst into this topic with class. Despite the title, the podcast gives some great details about BC’s involvement and where to find resources: "Alberta's Eugenics History," by Canadian History Ehx.
If you find yourself saying, “We cannot give control of the future over to degenerates, to them,” then you need to make a mental note that you are just trying to deny human rights to those you fear, to those that you find undesirable, that you do not want around yourself or “polite company.”
As economic stratification grows in Canada and the United States, we will see a more definitive line between the haves and the have nots… but the rub is this-those “have nots” in our system lose their lives before they get any ounce of hope. Why is Hope more expensive than Fentanyl?
When a whole class of people (who mostly wear white – just sayin’) can send their kids to private locations or pay for private education to avoid a major pandemic, and yet the lives of the mentally unwell (who we could have foreseen to support in a time of pandemic if we’d been thinking of anyone other than ourselves) or the lives of addicts, single parents, and survivors of trauma, are not seen as equal. Our children must go back to school in whatever way the public dictates through a majority ruling. A majority headed by a party that doesn’t even support First Past the Post voting styles to begin with. A party that has glorified the choices of a doctor running as a politician.
Is anybody else starting to feel like Sisyphus here?
When are we going to be getting the vulnerable a few seats at the table?
I’m not talking about as statistics, I’m talking about incorporating only their own solutions to their own problems politically.
Instead of voting for people, we ought to vote for needs. Only a disabled person knows exactly what their needs are. Instead of legislating access, we need to be legislating waste and the corruption of our working force.
If more female participation is needed to enable women’s freedoms, then this political game has never been about “representation,” it’s been about a lack of sharing, a lack of moral character in our richest classes, and it’s about trying to get diversity into our politics especially if it makes us uncomfortable.
“Sure, but Amanda, what about that guy who killed a whole family while they slept at Christmas,” shrieks a conservative troll in the corner of my mind.
My response would be “1) don’t discount the perspective of the person who perpetuated the crime unless as a whole they are incapable. If they are doing time in prison, then they are of sound mind. If they weren’t, they’d be in psychiatric facilities, right?” and “2) I know the system doesn’t work like that, that’s my whole damned point: the system doesn’t work and it never has!” (you can quote me.)
People are literally killing themselves in the hope of another few minutes or hours of chemical “high” because the reality is that Canada is not a peacekeeper in the sense of this land being all that peaceful, Canada is merely good at maintaining the status quo for the majority which “keeps the majority at peace,” but as a writer, I also consider it my civic duty to shake up the peace at times.
The fact remains that there are so many people who live in perpetual mental, emotional, or physical hell, that they have to seek an illegal answer to lack of hope.
“Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.” Said Banksy. And I agree. Art is a healing balm to trauma. Apply that shit liberally and as frequently as necessary.
Now, what kind of art is it going to take for the Province of BC to take our mentally unwell neighbours seriously? I’ll confirm for you that since I wrote my last article, the politics haven't changed much. Arguably, all of the provincial parties are failing, they are failing in preventative maintenance, and they are failing in educating the public.
I’m surviving, struggling to find housing and a doctor, but I am surviving.
I am not finished.