A Mercurial Mind

Life on the farm was good. When I was a boy there were many things to do, we were situated between the Grand River and Big Creek and often would go fishing. There were ponds, sand pits, the bush and so many things that we never tired of exploring. All eight kids grew up surrounded by nature.

Before we built the tree-house, our clubhouse was an old wooden sprayer. This sprayer had been used in the orchards to spray lead-arsenate and mercury-sulfate sprays in the spring when the flowers and fruit were prone to insect and fungal damage. Being impregnated with heavy metals kept the old sprayer in pretty good shape. When I got older, I also sprayed the orchards. Dad was supposed to have turned in these sprays in the '60's but as there was no financial compensation for doing so, he kept them in the back of the old red garage. They absorbed the ambient moisture from the air and became solidified. Now... you could spend an hour with a stick trying to mix the spray or if you got your hand in there and broke-up the clumps you could move things along nicely. Any sort of a breeze and we would get soaked during the spraying process and of course we breathed in aerosolized mercury.

It was an exciting day when I inherited my half of the basement bedroom. It was damp and had poor ventilation but was very private. And we could sneak in and out without our parents being aware. Our electrician on the farm had given me the mercury ballast from a transformer. According to my brother, I kept it in an old peanut butter lid on the dresser. That is, all that I was able to scrape-up after dropping it onto the carpeted floor.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when mercury began to impact my mind. Grade 4, I was top of the class in a couple of subjects - including spelling. In Grade 10, I was found to be reading at a Grade 6 level. Around grade 9 I had 12 amalgam fillings put in, It was also around the time when my mother first commented to my sister that my 'personality' was changing. It was also the last time that I got along with any teacher.

I became 'out of step' with everyone else. Teachers singled me out and this left me open-game for other students to bully. I was small but wiry and was strapped a couple of times for fighting and twice for talking in class. One of these was particularly brutal and left me with cuts on my hands. There were other incidents and by the time I reached high school I was finished with the whole schooling process. I have a lot of regrets about that.

Now-a-days they would say that I was ADD. Back then, I was just inattentive and disengaged. This shaded into cyclothymia around the age of 15 and later into bipolar disorder.


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