From depression to coping
One nurse’s visit can make a difference.
An on-farm visiting nurse program was instrumental in helping to change the life of at least one Waupaca County farmer.
After his wife left him two months ago, Alan admits he sank deeper into depression. (Name withheld to protected patient identity.)
His wife gave one condition for her to return: he had to get a complete physical.
Then Alan received a phone call from Waupaca County Extension Ag Agent Greg Blonde, asking if he would be interested in the Rural Health Initiative program. Blonde explained that a nurse would visit the farm at no cost.
“Man, what a coincidence,” Alan recalled. “I said ‘yes’ right away.”
Shirley Yaeger, Waupaca County RHI nurse, came within a few days.
“I call her my angel,” he said, “because her listening to me and giving me a positive outlook just changed me completely.”
After the physical, I realized I was pretty healthy,” he said.
“She was such a great listener.”
Yaeger came several times to visit Alan at the farm.
“Then I was milking cows one morning when it hit me like a bolt of lightning: The only one who could fix me was me,” he said.
Until that point, Alan had always been afraid of the end, of retiring or being forced to retire. After that point, he developed what he refers to as “my exit plan.”
“After that day, I just believe I am a different person,” he said.
Alan had always dreamed of expanding his milking herd to 100 cows and leaving the farm to one of his children.
“That won’t happen now,” he realized.
He admits things had gotten so bad that he tended to “put things off” and had a hard time making decisions.
There were repair projects he “let go,” and chores he postponed.
His depression was so bad that he started milking the cows only once a day.
“I was so ashamed,” he admits.
The first step in Alan’s “exit plan” was to quit raising calves and sell 45 cows. This allowed him to milk one barn full instead of switching cows.
“I went back to doing things like I should,” he said.
He began milking the cows twice a day and made needed repairs to the farm’s facilities.
Alan’s plan is to keep letting the heifers freshen and cull the herd to accommodate them. He figures by the time the heifers are “used up,” he should be ready to collect Social Security and can retire.
“I always thought one of my kids would take over,” he said, “but I realize now that’s not going to happen.”
Fixing a marriage
Alan and his wife are starting to see a marriage counselor, as recommended by Yaeger.
Now he knows the marital problems were at least 90 percent his fault.
“I always took my anger out on her,” he admits.
Alan is working on taking away the things that triggered his anger.
He wrote down the words he has often used to hurt his wife, like blaming her for not letting him expand the milking herd by adding more buildings.
“I hope I will never say those words again,” he said.
Together, they buried those hurtful words.
“My wife said she is proud of me,” he said. “The only problem I have is winning back her trust.”
Alan noted that his wife and children have been always very supportive of him, especially now. They have contributed physical labor and emotional support and have never abandoned him.
“Without their support, I may have just given up,” he said.
“If it wouldn’t be for Shirley, I would still be waddling in the same stuff,” Alan said. “It’s hard for me because I was always strong physically – mentally and emotionally, no.”
“I spent the last 10 years being angry and miserable. I can’t do that anymore,” he said.
“Who knows how much time you have left.”
Alan attended the Waupaca County’s Wine and Cheese Tasting fundraiser for the Rural Health Initiative, hoping to make a difference. He wanted others to realize the value of the program.
The Rural Health Initiative Inc. is a non-profit program designed to address growing concerns regarding the health and safety issues facing today’s farm families.
At the center of this program is a Rural Health professional who makes “house calls” to farm families to provide health screening, information, education and referrals to area services.
Alan gave up an evening of wine and cheese tasting for the chance to share his story with the Wisconsin State Farmer.
“You always hear about the farms that have successes; you never hear about the bad stuff,” he said
Alan’s story, though, is a success story due to the efforts of a county that is trying to help its farmers.
For more information about the Rural Health Initiative, visit www.wiruralhealth.org.