SILVER LAKE – The stigma of mental illness can cause some to never talk about it, but Joan Jackson has written a book about her brother’s struggle with schizophrenia in "Just in Time."
The fictional story is based on her brother’s life dealing with mental illness after their parents, who lived in Silver Lake, died suddenly in 1997 and 1998.
"The book begins on Dad’s memorial service, and we didn’t know what to do," Jackson said.
Jackson’s sister-in-law (husband’s sister) was having financial difficulties and needed a place to live. She moved in with Jackson’s brother, Gary Lindstedt known as "Steve" in the book. Jackson is known as "Sylvia" and her sister-in-law is "Nancy."
"They didn’t know each other," Jackson said. "It’s the story of two strangers getting to know each other with the back story of schizophrenia."
Jackson said Silvia has to resolve numerous crisis in the book, including medication confusion, Nancy’s alcoholic son who moves in, Steve’s hospitalization and a tragic police encounter.
The title comes from the question Gary once asked Jackson, "How come you always get here just in time?" The cover includes a picture of Joan and Gary at Virginia Kendall Park when they were children.
The book is in chronological order, Jackson said. The hardest part was fleshing out the relationship between Steve and Nancy. Steve didn’t like people invading his home and sharing space.
"I had to tell it like it was," Jackson said. "I gave both sides of the story and how they help each other."
In his teens, Gary was a big track star but in his 20s he began to show signs of mental illness. Jackson describes the symptoms and how they dealt with them.
"The book is the day- to-day life of living with schizophrenia," Jackson said. "The book helps others to understand how to deal with mental illness."
Trouble for the mentally ill can occur in public because of their nervousness or a perceived oddity. When Gary was in a restaurant, he became uncomfortable about a rough-looking couple with crying kids, Jackson said. He began mumbling to himself and the man took offense. The manager kicked Gary out and wouldn’t let him return for six months.
Occasionally, Gary is mixed up and his sense of reality is different from others but he is much better now, Jackson said.
"He openly says ‘I have to take my meds,’" Jackson said. "He remembers when he missed his meds which is remarkable because he doesn’t understand the passage of time."
Sixteen years ago, Gary wanted to live independently and now manages his appointments and takes his medications, Jackson said. His life has a set routine and others have learned to accept what his "normal" is, whether it is drinking ice tea at a restaurant or volunteering at the library for an hour twice a week.
The book ends with (Gary) Steve becoming independent. He goes shopping at Acme with a debit card. He learns to pump gas.
Gary, who is 68, has a trust fund to cover basic expenses and is on Medicaid and Medicare. He has had schizophrenia for 48 years, Jackson said. Gary takes his medications with a goal of thinking clearly without harsh side effects.
"His social outlet is to chit chat with people," Jackson said. "His life is a lesson in how basic you can keep your life."
Gary walks a lot and keeps a set routine, Jackson said. His hometown of Silver Lake is an ideal place for him because of the familiar surroundings.
Jackson, who lives in Los Angeles, travels to Silver Lake 10 weeks throughout the year and manages the house for her brother. He has a social worker who takes him to his psychiatrist. A woman cleans twice a week, and Jackson coordinates his care.
The book is published through She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher for women and took four years to finish.
Now retired, Jackson was a French teacher at Kent Roosevelt High School for one year after receiving her bachelor’s degree in education from the Ohio State University. She taught French at other schools before working in Oregon for an export office that needed someone who spoke French. Jackson learned to run the business and opened an office for a Tahiti customer and traveled throughout the islands of French Polynesia.
For more info, go to Faceboook @JoanJacksonAuthor or Amazon at https://amzn.to/2Kk3Tei
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.