senility

Big Things Weighing Me Down

My Dad and His Granddaughter

Hello Good Readers! First, let me start off with a quick but heartfelt apology. I promised I would go back to posting at least once a week and I haven’t done so. I have been facing something very difficult that I now want to write a little about. My Dad, who is turning 85 soon, after a long life of being loved by just about anyone who knows him, is starting to succumb to dementia. It is very distressing to watch someone go through this, but especially someone I love so much and need in my life so much. In all of my 50 years, he was there for me, he cooked hamburgers on the barbecue on hot days like we have been having, he drove me and the rest of my family on trips as close as the mountains 350 km away and as far away as Southern California. He has never failed to be strong yet caring, and constantly funny. Now I see him turn into a scared, teary-eyed frail old man. I know there could be worse things to happen in life. One could lose a child to schizophrenia as one of my co-workers at the Schizophrenia Society did not too long ago. One could have a grandmother who screams and yells and makes no sense and is 100 years old and has to stay under the care of her daughter like my dear friend Charity’s mom has to with her grandmother. I think what makes this hard for me is that I work in a psychiatric hospital and I work with people who have schizophrenia. There are some similarities to what my Dad is going through to what people with mental illnesses experience, but for some odd reason, you can’t make dementia better with medications like you can with schizophrenia. All you can do is try to make the person as comfortable as possible as they slowly lose their faculties.

It hasn’t been easy that I have been at odds with my sister. I spoke to her yesterday and she basically told me that I am no longer welcome at her house and I got so upset I hung up on her. For some odd reason she texted me later on and again a couple of times today. It makes me want to fly into a rage when I run across people who do this, especially because I know she is doing it because I have a mental illness. One time I had a friend I went through so many good and bad times with and seemed to be closer to than just about any friend I had and he did the same thing. I called him up years after we had last talked and he said that it was nice to hear my voice and that he didn’t want any hard feelings between us, but he still wanted to tell me to fuck off. I asked him if I waited two years and was still stable if I could call back, and when I did he called back when I wasn’t home and left an incredibly demeaning message on my answering machine, again telling me to fuck off and saying that I had “gotten his family all upset.” But I suppose in some ways this is a good thing. I don’t need shallow, self-centred people in my life, and I definitely don’t need people who don’t understand what a mental illness means. Can you imagine someone telling their younger brother that they will never be welcome in their home again because they are in a wheelchair? Or if they have cancer? I never asked to have schizophrenia and I like to think that I have turned my extremely negative situation into something positive.

I have to admit though that in a way a small dream came true in my life a couple of years back. In my last year of school, I had a friend who I argued with a lot but respected and ended up working with at a restaurant and connecting with years after school ended. He also cut me out of his life but he had been told to by a psychiatrist, and when I finally gathered up the courage to call him some 20 years later, he didn’t care what a psychiatrist said, he wanted to be my friend. He is a busy guy and we don’t get together much but we have had some really great long talks about what it was like to attend high school together and some people we grew up with. So I try and understand things from other people’s perspective.

It’s funny though. I accept that I have a mental illness, but I am really a very lucky person. My illness is extremely well controlled by medication. I also have diabetes which is also pretty well controlled. The only thing I really have to deal with is the side effects. And the assholes. The world will always have assholes though. Thanks for tuning in dear readers.

If anyone out there is thinking of doing some writing of their own, I thought it might help to give you a bit of the advice I received when I was just starting. The person who gave it had graduated from a journalism program. What it basically is, is that you read a lot of magazines (best to read them at the library) when you find a magazine that fits with something you would like to write about, find out who is the editor and assistant editor of the publication. In the case of larger magazines, it might be better to approach the assistant editor. You write to them, tell them what kind of article you would like to write, why you would be a good person to write it, then start your research. It can be good when you are starting out to read a whole hardcover book on the subject before writing the article. Then do a lot of web research and make sure the accepted facts match what you want to write or ‘argue’ about in your article. Then write. At the end of each statement or paragraph as needed, put in the url link to where you found the facts so they can be checked. Start with an anecdote, the more real and gripping the better. Then say what you want to say, then say it, then tell the readers what you just said without sounding like you are talking down to them or using too technical or specialized language.

I have found that one of the best places to look for places to send your pitches is the Medium platform. It costs $5 USD a month to join, but there are tons of articles full of information about editors who are looking for content. After you have written and published a couple of articles, take the extra money they made you and look into a night class or a library Gale course or a community college continuing education class about journalism and bootstrap your way up the ladder. I have written about four articles this month alone and it really feels great. Tune in here for more writing advice as I go, I will repeat my promise and say that I would like to write a blog entry here once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. But thanks for tuning in!