Yes, it’s true: I’m a lot to manage on any given day—big mouth, big opinions, and not often graced with tactful diplomacy. The people in my life have survived me to date; I offer no guarantees about the future. Like everyone, I’ve made my share of wrong turns and outright catastrophic blunders, but who gives a crap. I’ve learned along the way, left some things better than when I found them, and that’s all that counts. I’ve said before that I don’t believe in regret and guilt, too bad, all those years in Catholic schools wasted.
Will I lie on my deathbed and harbour grievances toward myself? Who the hell knows. What I do know is that even if Satan himself comes to poke a pitchfork in my face at the end of my days, there are moments in my life for which an apology will never come.
Back in my shrinky heyday, I was involved in a project of massive proportion: the start of a transformation of an inpatient unit for severely mentally ill children and adolescents. The unit (like most things in mental health) was underfunded and definitely not a place that anyone would associate with healing. The rest of the hospital looked like a resort in comparison to our dreary space. I joined a crackerjack team of unbelievably dedicated professionals and we rolled up our sleeves to bring about changes to better serve our youth and their families during the most difficult periods in their lives.
I was contracted for a year to help lead the process (the hardest year of my professional life) and, naturally, I was a colossal pain in everyone’s arse on each of the 365 days of my tour of duty. But I didn’t care, the stakes were too high, the lives of young people on the line. Sure, I paid a high personal price—I was constantly exhausted and frustrated beyond belief, and I was definitely not a contender for Wife of the Year. It was well worth the effort, but by the time it was done I was ready to be admitted myself. Instead, I took off for France safe in the knowledge that the people I left behind would keep calm and carry on.
Then, while I was off croissant gorging and finding myself, something extraordinary happened. Myron and Berna Garron, a couple with hearts bigger than their enormous wallets, showed up at the IWK children’s hospital with a check for 10 million dollars (the Garrons previously donated 30 million dollars for cancer care at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto). They asked where it would be of most benefit at the IWK and one resounding answer was a new mental health unit.
You have to understand the enormity of this. Psychiatry has always been the poor cousin and is very rarely a priority when it comes to the flow of funding. The team and I had always dreamed of a shiny new facility. We even had plans that we drooled over knowing it was never to be as the Canadian government had never deemed the minds of young people a worthy investment. Well, on Friday I got an email from one of my best psychiatrist buddies who is still in the trenches in Halifax. This is what she said:
“Been thinking about you a lot today. we had a lovely lovely reception to mark the opening of the new inpatient psychiatry unit on the 5th floor. I saw it today and Bobbi, you would love it. It is everything you dreamed of and more. Keep an eye out tonight for the Halifax news as there were lots of media there snapping pics. It is state of the art and most importantly, the kids will love it.”
I had been waiting for this day for a very, very long time. Of course, this dream becoming reality had very little to do with me. I’m sure me flapping my gums about how bad things were to anyone who would listen didn’t hurt, but really it is the result of the tireless work of patients, parents, and professionals advocating for better care. It takes a village to heal a child and this village is having its day. Finders, I give you the Garron Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. I’ve seen many a lovely sight in my small life and this is by far the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
I offer my most sincere congratulations to the IWK mental health team and CEO Anne McGuire, and my immeasurable thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Garron and the other donors who generously funded the project. Unless you’ve been deep in the battle of mental illness it is impossible to fully grasp what this centre will mean. I know better than most the impact this gift will have, this remarkable legacy of kindness. Kids, this one’s for you.
Today, with my heart full to the brim with joy, I have no jokes, no goofy quips, just a restatement of what has become a meaningful mantra for me: Je ne regrette rien.