Which Way Ya Going Billy (Part Deux).

A couple of years ago I published a Blog about 3 friends of mine whom I found out suffered from depression. The Blog to some was controversial but others claimed that it was one of my more sensitive ones and nothing like my usual egotistical rants. All I know is that received more comments about this Blog than any other plus because of it I received a surprising e mail which inspired me to revisit the subject and also share the e mail.
I don’t know anything about depression and am always surprised when I hear that someone I know well has it because most sufferers hide it so well. After writing the Blog I started receiving comments like the one that I got from my good friend Gary Russell. Gary’s Father was a very successful businessman but according to Gary he also suffered from depression for most of his career and finally had to retire at an early age. Somehow though he found the strength to fight his way through it and even started a whole new career again when he moved to British Columbia.
Gary’s story made me think back growing up around my Father and I never realized until now that he too may have been suffering from depression. Whatever he had was referred to a nervous disorder which was treated with nerve pills what ever the hell they were but all I remember about it all was that a lot of plans had to be cancelled because he was unable to participate in them and we had to be quiet according to my Mother because he was resting. I so wish I had better understood what was going on because my memories of him are unfortunately are clouded by disappointment and for that I am very sorry Dad, especially since this is Fathers Day. What I wouldn’t give to sit down with you now and try to make some sense of it all instead of remembering sad times like flying home for Christmas shortly after becoming a Program Director in Saskatoon. I was very excited about the the fact that my Dad was picking me up because according to all my teachers my future didn’t look too bright but here I was a Program Director and I’d just received my first raise which he would be the first to know. Instead it was my brother in law Ronnie who picked me up explaining once again that my Dad was once not feeling well. I wish I had known back then what he was going through because maybe we would have had a much better relationship. My Dad lived a Jekyll and Hyde existence which my Brother Reg claimed worsened after I had left home but my good friend Jim Quail would often say to me … It must be great living at your place because he always had him and others rolling in the aisles with his public persona.
Jed Duval commented after reading my Blog that our long time production whiz at WIBC TJ Byers also suffered with depression and eventually took his life and I now think that maybe a lot of our radio brothers whom we regarded as strange may have in fact been suffering from depression. I believe the more that we talk about it, write about it, argue about it, and bring it out of the darkness into the open, just maybe some skilled and qualified person will find a way we can deal with it.

My original Blog was about 3 guys from Winnipeg, Rick Hallson, Bill Wakeman and Billie Gorrie whom I had no idea were suffering from depression, they like my Father hid it well in public. A little while after writing that Blog I recieived an e mail from Rick Hallson who was until recently the only survivor of the three and even though he survived a suicide attempt he didn’t survive cigarettes.
Rick told me that when he worked at CHUM radio a mutual friend of ours, J Robert Wood would occasionally drive him home and as Rick would light up J Bob say … Those things are gonna kill you Rick. J Robert turned out to be right because I am sad to report that he is now gone, so in your memory Rick, I repost your e mail. RIP Brother!


Hello George,

I think the last time we talked was 1963 when Sandy Koufax won the MVP award in that years’ World Series. Maybe that’s going back a little far but it’s in the ballpark.I was directed to your website last night by Ken Porteous, an old CHUMer and lifelong friend. He found news of the death of Bill Gorrie. I am shocked and saddened to hear about Bill’s demise by suicide. Bill, Ken, and I were just three on a long list of Silver Heights Collegiate grads who were drawn to radio in the early sixties, primarily by the dynamic CKY talent with jocks such as Jimmy Darrin, J. Robert Wood, Chuck Dann and the amazing on-air execution. ‘KY was huge and working at the station for me, being barely 17, was a gift.

Bill Gorrie was kind, gentle, supportive, humorous, upbeat, flexible, honest, to name a few. That was my experience with him during the time I worked at CKRC. I guess that’s why I was so shocked at leaning about his suicide. That just doesn’t fit with what I knew of him, his character, his comfortable drive and his kindness toward others. But then, someone who lives with chronic depression lives two lives. One is hidden deep within while the other part struggles to live with a sense of normalcy. I know because I have lived that. I attempted suicide three years ago. I don’t know what Bill’s issues were but in my case, I carried my issues as far as I could–until August 28, 2008. My demons had won. I was completely surprised when I woke up 26 hours later and it was shortly after waking up, when I became somewhat lucid that I realized I was getting a second chance at life. Since then, I have used my experience and skills as a two-decade professional speaker to advocate for mental wellness and the rights of those who are affected by mental illness. (That’s a long way from executing a dynamic intro sitting on the edge of the jock chair in front of a mic in the control room.)

Could Bill have been swayed in the parking lot the night of the CKRC reunion party? No one will ever know. A couple of months after my suicide attempt and release from the psych ward, I became certified in suicide intervention so that I could better understand suicide and perhaps help others in crisis. One who deals with chronic depression feels shame and a sense of hopelessness, every day. It never leaves. There is no relief. Stigma is a huge issue. Stigma is embedded in our health care system—even within the silo of mental health. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It’s there in all its ugliness. Bill’s pain is gone. May he rest in peace. What a shame. What a loss.

I did write a book about my experience with my suicide attempt. It sits in a folder on my computer. I’ve never sent it to a publisher for consideration. I’m not sure why but I had to write it for the sake of writing it. Please let me share a few lines from the book with you and your readers. “Within weeks of my release from the hospital after my suicide attempt, I attended a suicide survivors gathering. It’s an annual event staged for family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Speakers addressed an audience of about 150, relating their personal stories: anguish, guilt, fear, hurt, anger, frustration, pain; stories that rang so loud it was deafening; Oh how they wish they could turn back the clock and perhaps change an outcome. As the ceremony continued, I became so profoundly aware of what I had done, as never before, and even in my survival, how I had hurt the people who loved and cared for me. I stood in a back corner of the room watching and listening to the stories one after another, trying to keep my crumbling composure in check. It was so hard to be there. As I walked away after the final prayer from the podium, I came to a decision to write my book. I need to write it for my own sake: fifty years of dealing with my personal demons had almost cost me my existence. It had to end. If telling my story helps even a single human being from taking that final step—suicide, then it is worth every word.”

Like so many others, I will remember Bill Gorrie.

Take care George.

Rick Hallson htp://www.richardhallson.net




6 thoughts on “Which Way Ya Going Billy (Part Deux).

  1. So important to keep telling this story. I lost a good friend a few years ago. I thought I was so close to him, but I never knew he was suffering so deeply, even though I have been there myself. Depression is so prevalent in our society, it’s pain is so individual, but kindness, compassion and non-judgement of others is at least part of the answer.

    • It is important to bring this kind of thing out into the open Sharon as I too am discovering more and more people whom I’m close to are suffering from it.

  2. George, the velvet sensitivity you bring to this global malady is appreciated. Depression hides in dark corners and I’m guessing many more suffer from it than we know.

    I’m so fortunate never to have known it but thinking about friends and colleagues, like you, I can now see patterns. Life can become a forced march through a minefield if we see it that way. Some clearly don’t have much choice.

    Joni Mitchell may have had this in mind in the lyrics of a long lost ballad: “Dark with darker moods is he…and not a golden prince has come, of columbines and wizzardry to talk of castles in the sun. In a Bleeker Street Cafe, she found someone to love today.”

    • Thank you Tim. As Joni sang about I think a lot of the poor folks who suffer from depression are only hoping that the special person who can save them from their torment is going to come along soon.

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