Wednesday, June 22, 2016


"In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe decided to study whether or not stress contributes to illness.  They surveyed more than 5,000 medical patients and asked them to say whether they had experience with any of a series of 43 life events in the previous two years.  Each event, called a Life Change Unit (LCU), had a different 'weight' for stress.  The more events the patient added up, the higher the score.  The higher the score, and the larger the weight of each event, the more likely the patient was to become ill.

Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, can cause death."

Here's a list of the life events and the weight they're given by the scale:

As of a week ago today, my total hit 382.  According to the website linked, anything over 300 is a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future.

I can't be reassuring right now and say that I'm all right.  I am very plainly not all right.  Stress management is a very tricky thing.  The first step is to admit that it is there.  Not to panic about it, but to look at it as structurally as possible, to identify the measure of it and, most of all, to ask for help.

I apologize for this post.  I can't think of a single good reason for writing it, except that I am conceivable not the only one in the world experiencing what I'm experiencing, and that others may gain something from hearing about this.  I'm not concerned with my reputation or how others will see me.  I'm a writer and I write.  Today, I'm writing this, just to get a handle on what's going on.  To be honest, just starting this post is giving me some stress, but I expect that to fall away as I write.

Last Tuesday, the 15th, I got a call from the police.  They were phoning me from my father's house, where they had responded to a call from my father that there were three people who had come in through my father's front door while he was in the living room, sleeping.  The police were phoning me because my father was disoriented and irrational.  It turned out the doors of the house were locked when the police arrived.  There was no sign of any entry.  The police were completely convinced that my father - from his behaviour - had imagined the event.

I did not know that in May, my father had called the police because he was convinced that someone was showering in his basement.  The police arrived to find no one in the house - but the dishwasher was running and my father admitted that this might have been the reason for his panic.  The police wrote this event off and did not contact his family - because these things happen.

However, this second incident has the police anxious that there shouldn't be a third.  I certainly understand that.

I had a long, long discussion with my father about the event.  My father is utterly, fully convinced that the police are wrong, that they did not do their due diligence in taking evidence of the crime.  My father clearly remembers what the three people looked like.  The lack of any forced entry has convinced my father that the three people had a key.  The failure of the security alarm to go off, as the door is wired, is due to the three people possessing a device that deactivates security systems.  The doors being locked when the police arrived is due the the three people intentionally locking the doors to fool the police.  The purpose of the intrusion, and the reason why nothing was moved, is because the intruders were seeking identity information so that they can break into my father's bank and empty it.  During the conversation, my father threatened that I would better appreciate the seriousness of this situation when he died and I discovered there was nothing to inherit.  Not kidding about this last.

Thing is, there was no fear in my father's voice.  No emotion at all.  He was tackling the whole problem of how these details could work together with the emotion of someone building a jigsaw puzzle.  I got the contact details for his family doctor out of him, without his seeming at all aware of why I may want that.

My father's doctor was to call me Thursday last week.  The day my phone was turned off by the phone company.  As the doctor did not get ahold of me, I spent Friday working to get my father's doctor on the phone.  I also did an online DMing class that day that went very well; so, I guess I could say I was managing all right.

I finally made contact with the doctor Friday evening.  My father is unquestionably suffering from something that may or may not be full-blown dementia.  This may be due to an unknown medical problem or it may be a permanent degradation of his brain.  The doctor confirmed my suspicions that my father is absolutely not self-aware of himself at this point.  The doctor explained that he has scheduled an assessment of my father's state of mind for July 5th - however, the doctor has also explained to me that this situation should not be left until that time.  I was told in no uncertain terms that my father should be placed into a hospital at the soonest opportunity - and I was given a moderately condescending speech about how his health trumps all other considerations.

The reason for this speech is as follows.

First and foremost, my father and I do not get along. We have not had anything like a father-son relationship for ten years.  This is due to physical abuse I received from him as a child, associated by decades of general disregard as to my personal life and beliefs (along with emotional treatment of my family, with many boundaries being crossed).  For the sake of insight, those who have seen the Breakfast Club might remember Ally Sheedy explaining the treatment she received from her parents thusly:  "They ignore me."

The final act came in 2006 when, during an argument with my father and mother while on a day trip to look at antiques in small town flea markets, my parents got into their car and ditched me and my partner Tamara in a small town 110 miles from home, with only what we were carrying at the time.

I am willing to overlook all this in the present situation.  I present it, however, because it speaks of a similar experience that both my brother and sister have had.  They're not especially close to my father either.  The last time I saw either of them was at my mother's funeral in 2012.  My sister and I said a few words.  My brother and I did not talk AT ALL.  We did not, in fact, stand any closer than 30 feet apart during the entire after reception.

My last experience with my brother was 25 years ago.  My brother is 5 years older than me and, when we were children, we shared a room together.  During that time, he regularly won his arguments with me through physical attacks.  When I grew up angry as a child and a teenager, it wasn't because of my father.  It was because of my brother.

25 years ago, my father convinced my brother and me to go hunting with him.  I was 27.  It had been five or six years since I had made any attempt to communicate with my brother and my father was trying to make amends.  Of course, this meant little more than putting my brother and I into a box and shaking it repeatedly.  Still, I remember the day was going along pretty well.

It was near dark and we had packed out guns away in the car.  We were about to head home.  I don't know what my brother said.  It was something insulting, but not especially.  He hadn't said much that was insulting all day, however, so I remember that it came as a surprise.  Never at a loss for addressing things head on, however, I answered him back plainly - just as people have seen me do on this blog hundreds of times.

My 32-year-old brother decided that he was just as entitled to turn his fists on me as he had when he was 14 and I was 9.  I can't believe he actually attacked me.  In response, I cleaned his fucking clock.  My father broke us apart and we went home.  I didn't get ditched on the side of the road that day - but obviously, the fight was my fault.

Since, I've made no attempt to approach my brother.  We only see each other during funerals and weddings; and he makes no attempt to approach me.  We're happy with the arrangement.

My sister is a decent, reasonable, non-violent person.  She wouldn't hurt a fly.  However, she is also 100% incapable of dealing with anything: life, responsibility, crises, anything.  When things get hard, she closes up like a turtle and shuts down completely.  This is a very common response to the sort of upbringing all three of us had.

Where it comes to putting my father in a hospital against his will, I have reason to hesitate.  I explained some of this to my father's doctor during Friday's conversation and the doctor quite reasonably gave me the speech.

I called my brother Friday.  I had to get the number from my daughter, who had to call her first cousin, my nephew, whom I have never met.  I called my brother Saturday.  I called my brother Sunday.  He won't return my calls.  The doctor told me during our conversation on Friday that he and my brother had talked.  According to the doctor, my brother seems unwilling to take action; my brother seems to be dragging his feet.

I talked to my sister Sunday.  She is not in the city; she lives far away and right now is in nearly the same financial situation I'm in.  I explained the situation to her and she doesn't fully understand it.  I explained with the doctor said I should do and she doesn't fully understand it.  She tells me to "Do whatever I have to" but won't expressly tell me that I should do what the doctor says.  I know because I asked her.  She won't take the responsibility to say, "Do that, I think that's the right thing."

So here I am.  I have these two siblings and this father and I seem to be the only thinking, rational person in this mess.  I have spoken to my father on the phone and I'm fairly sure that he's not going to willingly go to the hospital, whether I'm there or not.  I can't decide if I should see him today and talk to him face to face.  I've asked health services and they tell me that if he's not willing to go, I can phone the police and - following an evaluation that I'm certain my father will fail - they can force him to go in an ambulance.

Would that it were that simple.  I can't wait for the fall out when my brother, who has been warned, decides that I've overstepped my rights as the youngest sibling.  I can't wait for my sister to freak out and to find myself dealing with her husband, who manages everything for her.  I just fucking can't wait.

On the bright side, I've called health services.  I've spoken to Calgary Regional Health Care, effectively the Alberta government, and they're looking into what they can do to help me.  We've started a file and - I know from the days when my first wife had multiple schlerosis - this will absolutely get the ball rolling.  Basically, I'm covering my ass by putting the responsibility where the responsibility belongs - with people who know what the hell they're doing.  I did what I said to do at the beginning of this post.  I asked for help.

I'm waiting for a phone call.

I was right.  I do feel less stress.  Point in fact, however: this accounts for only 44 points of the crap that's going on in my life right now.

If you're feeling stressed, add up your points.  Ask for help.  Don't do this alone; you'll wake up and find yourself in a hospital before you know it.


Maxwell Joslyn said...

Holy shit. I thought this was going to be about characters accumulating stress points from a modified Homes and Rahe scale.

I hope that the medical services are able to do their job well. Best wishes, Alexis.

Alexis Smolensk said...

There must be some way to make that happen, Maxwell. When I can get control of my brain again, maybe I'll have the insight necessary.

Carlos de la Cruz said...

You can choose friends, but you cannot choose family; it comes as it is. I have a wonderful family, but I've seen many different close relatives going similar difficulties as you have described.

I think you've doing the right thing asking for help. Neither your brother nor your sister seem capable of contributing positively to this situation, and there are times you can't handle this kind of situations alone.

Best wishes.

LTW said...

Ugh. Illness is devastating to the sick, but I have seen it corrode whatever civility exists in a family. You are dealing with what I call a pile of shit. Realizing this and acknowledging so always helped me mentally cope in the past. Hopefully you can turn to your family, the ones you have chosen, for support during this time.

kimbo said...

I feel you brother.
The progressing situation with your father is going to uncork a whole lot more hurt thats been bottled up by you, your brother and sister.
Weather the storm with the help of your crew.

Matthew Richmond said...

Hang in there Alexi,s you are doing all the right things. From what I have heard in your podcasts your daughter is an amazing person and that is the ultimate reflection on the values you help to instill whilst she was growing up. I believe you are well on the way to breaking the cycle of the crap you had to put up with whilst growing up.

Scarbrow said...

Total points: 382. Reduced by your call for help, 44 points. Given what I know, it's certain that there is still more that I don't know.

Don't really have something to say. No knowledge to share, no advice to give. You are already doing the maximum extent of what you can do: at least in that, you can relax a little. Fate or luck (what we mortals call to the cumulus of circumstances that are out of our control) will decide the rest.

Anyway, know that I feel for you. Good luck.