My doctor and I rarely start with the heavy stuff straight away. Actually, after I walk into his office and we shake hands, our routine consists of my weighing myself on his gravity scale, then I sit down and straighten the second chair, I place my water bottle and Diet Pepsi on his desk and we do a quick catch-up. Then I usually start with something relatively minor and recent.
Like the mini-media event that was the Conficker Virus, which blew up a few days before this appointment.
On Monday I flipped the channel to the CBC national news broadcast and watched as a friend of mine — the editor of an online tech magazine — was interviewed about Conficker. Then, a few minutes later, I flipped to the early edition of the CTV national news broadcast and got to watch another friend — an editor with a national tech magazine — also get interviewed about Conficker.
I haven’t seen either of them for almost six years… maybe seven, but we were pretty tight when we were together. They both looked older… and puffier, but seeing them reminded me I’m at a point in my recovery where I want to be doing something relevant, but I don’t know what or even how I’m supposed to find the opportunity.
There’s a five-year gap in my resume; I can’t afford to move; draw a circle with my village at the centre and there are no jobs for an Anglophone writer anywhere; the type of retraining the Ontario Disability Support Plan offers mostly involves learning how to type, or upgrading your truck driving licence; I owe roughly $12,000 in student loans, so there’s no chance for a real school…
And, of course, very few newspapers are hiring because, for the most part, they’re all going out of business.
Seems like the perfect time to be waking up from a mental illness.
My girlfriend has been making sure I spend more time with her three-year old son recently. And he seems to be getting more comfortable with my presence, and this is freaking me out… mostly because it’s making me reexamine my own failure for a father. Again.
With him around I see the things his father has failed to do, like pay child support, or provide a decent home environment, and I can see my own father neglecting his sons.
So I took him and my girlfriend to the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. During the car ride he and I played together, mostly with cheese. He has been saying my name for a couple of weeks now (Abe-riel), but now he’s also smiling and laughing with me. I took some photos of him and my girlfriend on the trains, and he insisted on taking one of me… not like he wanted to hold the camera, but like he wanted to include me in the fun.
But at this stage it’s still an experiment. I was raised with very little adult supervision or involvement. My mother was sick for the first five years of my life, and my father may have lived in the same house I did, but he never had an interest in being a father.
So I’ve always wondered what kind of a father I’d be… or even if I would, or should, have kids of my own. I feel like there’s a part of me which wants to help this kid, but there’s another part which comes out when he starts screaming that just wants to get the fuck out of the room.
When he does start screaming like he’s been shot I’ve looked at him turning red and wondered if I was thinking what my father might have thought… except I was a quiet kid.
Between this appointment and the previous one my girlfriend had a really horrible day. She had told her soon-to-be-ex-husband (STBEH) not to enter the convenience store where she works during her shift because he had been acting like an asshole. But he did. And again. So she told her boss she was being harassed, and he banned STBEH.
So, of course, STBEH confronted the store owner in the store. She told me all about it while I was walking her home after work… and then she said “someone should hurt him, I don’t care anymore, someone should just hurt him.”
The way she said it made me think she was asking me to do something. I pretty much just stayed quiet, but I was definitely disturbed. So was my doctor… I think he was worried I was going to hurt someone. He told me that civilized people live in a world where alternatives to violence can be found.
I told him “civilized people” are the minority… which was a little glib. But, really, I once saw a guy get his head caved in for using someone else’s pan. My girlfriend and her STBEH have been living in a world where legal agreements don’t exist, where the only thing enforcing the rules they’ve made up is the threat of force. Until I showed my girlfriend how to apply for legal aid she had no plans to file for divorce beyond a vague “I’ll talk to a lawyer”… and they broke up a year ago. There’s not even a separation agreement, or anything on paper regarding custody of their child or child support.
She’s mostly been in charge of making up the rules since leaving because she’s strong and STBEH is mostly a simple, lazy idiot. So they’ve been making it up as they slide downwards, and then they wonder why they’re so frustrated every few weeks. My doctor suggested I look into helping her get a restraining order, or some kind of order of protection. She has been keeping track of the incidents with her STBEH, so that’s good.
My younger sister has been physically attacking her boyfriend, and hiding his medications. It started last fall, they live together in Ottawa and both have mental health issues. She was diagnosed with “borderline personality disorder” several years ago, but last summer she was supersized to schizophrenia.
Her boyfriend has been treated for a few different things… ADHD with BPD, I think — the absolute worst thing someone trying to recover from a mental illness can do is start dating someone else with a mental health issue. Addicts should never date addicts, and people who are insane in the membrane should always stay away from people who think stabbing other people with forks is a means to saving the universe.
So last fall she started to attack him with forks. She was also getting hospitalized almost weekly for suicide attempts. But she wasn’t telling her parents, or me. She was dealing almost exclusively with her boyfriends mom and step-father.
But around Christmas, during a moment of lucidity, my sister managed to get enrolled into a CBT program at the Ottawa General Hospital. She started in February or March and she has stopped attacking her boyfriend, and hasn’t been suicidal or otherwise self-destructive.
When I described the program to my doctor he said it sounded more like “DBT”, or dialectical behaviour therapy. Personally I’m a big fan of medications first and talking later, but my sister has never responded well to medications and has rarely been capable of putting together enough lucid days to stick with therapy or, really, any treatment.
So the past couple of months have been a good sign.
The way my family treated my sister when she first started exhibiting signs of clinical depressions and a broken mind several years ago was very reminiscent of how I was treated. Basically we were both treated as though we should just get over ourselves and join the family in a round of “row, row, row your boat.”
The worse she gets the more contempt she gets from my mother, and the more crippled her father gets when he’s around her.
Whereas the better I get the more it seems like they believe the fourteen plus years of untreated manic depression, including several where I was near-homeless or homeless, never happened. Or maybe they happened, but only because I wasn’t trying hard enough to get better.
When I moved back here five or six years ago to start treatment for the manic depression, I handed a short list to my mother. It was a list of things I felt I needed to have done so I could get better… so I could clear out some of my clinical depression stuff.
Stuff like: rides to psychiatrists office; help changing my name; getting new identification… blah, blah blah. Nothing got done.
When I see the negative support being offered to my little sister by my family it reminds me of the negative support I’ve been offered for so long and continue to receive, and it frustrates me to the Nth degree that no one in my family learned anything from my recovery.
In the meantime my sister is trying so hard to get better, all by herself and despite being trapped inside a broken head.
And in two weeks, when I receive my new Health Card with my new name on it, I’ll have my very first piece of photo ID. This week I’ll have my new SIN card, which will have my new name on it… then I’ll have the proper ID to apply for a passport and get my learners permit.
And I’ll have nearly completed checking everything off the list I gave my family.