Sacrificing For Those We Love: It’s About Our Mental Illness and Their Caring

Some of you may have heard me talk before about my dad. When I had the worst hospital admission of my life, he was there for me. He would drive all the way to my apartment, across town, and then we would drive to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long and soothing walk. He did this with me for a very long time until I was fit enough and well enough to go places on my own. Just that little bit of company and that little bit of exercise was enough to put me through a powerful transformation, recovering almost 100% from my hospital stay.

Then, yesterday, it was time to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I can’t help but notice he seems a little shorter, a little more helpless, but no less funny and kind and lovable. He was turning 83.

I think my dad somehow understands that he isn’t going to be around forever. I don’t think he ever imagined me, the youngest, would be taking him out for supper near my 50th birthday, but he is starting to understand. It is getting harder for him to concentrate, he forgets things more and more. There will be a time some day soon we will have to look for a place for him to live that has more care.

Something that is very important to remember is something that a young woman who was studying social work told me a long time ago: “The worst thing you can do is use your illness as an excuse.” I think, for me anyway, that being the best writer, best son, best friend, best brother, and all of those things are extremely important. Sadly though, there was a time in my life that I didn’t live up to what was expected of me on these counts, and I lost friends and girlfriends, and I almost made my family sick of me.

I think it can be a good idea to find someone, be they an actual family member, or even a fictional character on TV that you admire and use them as a foundation for how to treat your loved ones. Now, all that is good, but there are some things a person can do that will almost guarantee they will have good friends and that they will be close with family members.

  1. Be able to listen just as much as you talk, and even try and talk less to your friend or loved one than they speak to you. Listening skills have to be cultivated, and it is so important to give each person the ear they deserve.
  2. If you can’t work full-time, try and work casual or part-time. Be careful with your money but not cheap. This seems like an irrelevant point, but the truth is that if you never have any money of your own and you end up making friends or family members pay for you, they will want to have less and less to do with you. A little money is also good for things you may want like a second hand mountain bike or other wish items
  3. Having a job (or even a volunteer job) pays back in a few ways, it will make you a more interesting person. Who wants to hear the run-down of the latest TV shows each time you meet up with them? Volunteering is also a great way of building skills for a future job that may be just what you dreamed of.
  4. Keep drinking or drug use to an absolute minimum, and if you smoke or vape, do your best to stop. Doing these things will increase your worth in the eyes of your friends and loved ones (unless you currently hang with the ‘wrong’ crowd, which I suggest you work on changing). If you moderate and quit these things, so many barriers come down for you, and you will definitely have more pocket money. With the price and danger of smoking tobacco or vaping, quitting is almost a no-brainer, but I want to emphasize you can’t get feeling better or be in a better financial situation than you will be in if you stop smoking.
  5. If you are able to stop smoking or vaping, and you are not physically disabled, getting involved with sports can be a great thing to do. I personally have osteo-arthritis in my knees and I have a few health issues from torn cartilage in my feet to a thick head, and I am still able to walk long distances and to go swimming. Doing these things not only opens a new world to me in things to do, it has allowed me to meet and get close to some pretty wonderful people.

Well, that is about it for today, I hope you got something from all that writing. I think I could close in saying one of my favourite modern phrases:

Use things and love people. It never works out the other way around.


Mental Health During Times of Pandemic and Isolation

Right now, I know that a lot of people are hurting. My heart goes out to young people who are caught in a trap most of them don’t fully understand. I have a neighbour, a brilliant young man who is going to University while his family is taking on a work term from Denmark. He really is missing out on so many of the things that makes University such an enriching experience, from the sports to the interactions, parties, and many other activities. On the other end of the educational grid, elementary students are extremely tough to manage and so many parents are opting for home schooling.

What I feel is a little more relevant is how all this is affecting those who suffer from mental illness. A lot of us already isolate and now it is getting worse. The Canadian government has pledged a very small amount of extra support for people with disabilities but still aren’t being very clear about when or how they will be doing this. I really fear the possibility that this is going to go on for years more. When one figures the impact on not only our own wallets, but the government’s resources, and the economy’s resources, it seems that something will one day have to give.

I like to think of myself as a source of advice but in this case I really don’t know what to say. When you have a mental illness, first and foremost you need to get your medications right. If they aren’t, you are going to have to get after your psychiatrist (I now meet with my doctor only over the phone which isn’t nearly as good as in person) Once again I feel for my American readers who don’t have the resources I have access to in Canada. If I have serious issues, there is no question of getting in to see a doctor, I have numerous options available. I recently had a physical health problem and ended up using my health care number to contact a physician over the phone and get a. prescription called into my pharmacy. I put my mental health as my number one priority. Even if I lose my home and sleep in a garbage bin I will still take my medications and see my doctor, and follow his advice. I also feel it is so important to do all the research you can, and set up supports as much as possible. One thing I recommend for anyone is to join an organization like the Schizophrenia Society, and take all the free courses and take out all the library books you can about your illness. You can get through this, it just needs time, work, patience, and perseverance.

Next to my strong desire to take my medications, see my doctor and maintain a good diet with exercise, is very simply, my apartment. I had to wait a long time to get into this place, but it was well worth it. I now have a huge apartment (for my needs as a single disabled adult) and my rent is very low. One of the things I would strongly suggest to add to approaching the Schizophrenia Society is to join or start a group on Facebook for others who are in the same physical, mental, or financial situation you are in. The government plan to give money to people with disabilities in the province I live in is called Aish–Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped. There is a Facebook group just for those getting it and it helps me a great deal. I get to connect with people, I learn about new programs and subsidies, information about housing, and much more. One of the more recent things it has helped me with is getting my Internet bill lowered greatly under a new plan for people with disabilities. I now pay just $10 a month for Internet compared to $80. That $70 buys groceries, the odd 12-pack of diet cola, or whatever I need.

So, if you can find it, put your name on a list for subsidized or co-op housing as soon as you can. Every dollar you can save counts. I think it is kind of obvious to state, but it is also a really good time to look at habits. The cost of cigarettes in Canada has gone through the roof, along with gas and alcohol. I don’t want to demand anyone give these things up, but the way prices are, you may find if you do some calculating, that you could afford some stuff you really desire if you find help in putting aside your vices. Imagine taking a penny-pinchers trip to Hawaii or a train ride across Canada. These things are possible if you can manage to quit some of your habits and find a part-time job you can handle.

I do suggest that if a person is able, a part-time job is a great idea. I work on a casual basis for the Schizophrenia Society and also have a two-hour a week job as a computer tutor. Even this little bit of work feels stressful sometimes, but it has allowed me to get a lot of things and do a lot of things that would be impossible without them. Volunteering is an alternative that should be considered. If you volunteer, you pretty much pick what you want to do, and when you become good at it, there could be a paid job in it for you down the road.

The last topic I wanted to mention is entrepreneurship. I hope this is something that people with mental illnesses are free to do wherever this blog is read, but I am not sure. Entrepreneurship is when you make your own job. The simpler forms of it are collecting deposit bottles and asking for change. I heard of one guy who will stand out on the road and ask for change and one day out of the year-near Christmas, he can rake in $1,500.00. I don’t recommend this approach, but it is an example of something that can be done if there is a true need for funds, especially around Christmas when you want to buy family presents or have a large meal with guests.

There are many kinds of entrepreneurship. One of them is to do what I have done and write about your experiences and have a few copies printed to sell. You really have no idea who your story could help until you try. It can be a long process but extremely rewarding. One of the best places to start if you feel you are ready for a regular job, even if only part-time is to apply at Goodwill. They have a strong reputation of hiring disadvantaged people. I know one person who made enough after a lot of saving to buy a second-hand luxury car and a top rated motorcycle. Once again though, I have to remind you that none of this will matter if you aren’t taking care of your mental and physical health.

Something I have been a part of is putting together a collection of poetry. The first step in this journey is to get involved in local poetry events (or short stories but poetry can be simpler to put together) once you meet a few poets, get one or two to help you set up a contest and then canvass the businesses in your neighbourhood to donate prizes or funds to rent a space to hold the giveaway night. Put the word out that you are looking for poetry, and that there are prizes to be won, then make a simple zine with the poems in it and you can charge $5 or something after the contest is over for the books, and keep the profits. I did this twice, and I met a lot of people and I like to think gained a lot of respect from people in my community. Something that I have seen being done in many cities is for homeless or impoverished people to have things like a poetry zine or a newspaper that they can stand in the street and sell for a fixed price or donations. One many I knew that did this in a popular part of town often would come into a pool hall I went to with a wad of cash. Even if you make just a small amount of money you will feel you earned it and feel better about yourself, and have esteem in the community. These projects can take a lot of work, but there are people out there who want to help and volunteer to help. The important thing is to never take on more than you feel comfortable with. I have to make sacrifices often to get through the month on my 2-hour jobs, but as I’m nearing 50 I don’t mind so much not going out to a bar on the weekend and spending my time reading books I get from the library.

And so, dear readers, that concludes today’s blog. I wish you health and wealth and happiness. Feel free to write any time and suggest a topic for me to write on. My email is


Lovers First and then Maybe Friends. Psychosis and Romance Poetry

This is the Provincial Legislature Building in Edmonton, a favourite of mine for getting photos. The grounds are beautiful and well-kept, and young lovers often come here at night on summer weekends to talk and stroll in a romantic setting


Seeking Solace

By: Leif Gregersen

cue the music

kill this silence

deep in my mind

I’m seeking solace

I just can’t be

alone with myself

all the things I’ve done

make silence my private hell

and yet somehow

the quiet reaches through

as I close my eyes

and think of you

you and I

were never meant to be

But still my deepest wish

is that you didn’t set me free

why can’t mishap romance

end with two people as friends

was it that much of

an unhealthy love

It was wrong to think

you had to love me back

I still think of you

and regret the past

misplaced love

is all I have

and moments of silence

that always take me back


Happiness on a Saturday Afternoon For a Psychiatric Survivor of Schizoaffective disorder and Depression

To order this wonderful book, by the author of this blog, please contact:

Please scroll past this photo and paragraph if you already have a copy or just want to read my blog

Hello good readers! I really wanted to thank all of you for reading my blog on a regular basis and for your support. With any luck, after much editing and work, I will be making the archives of this blog available as a downloadable digital file and paper book. In the meantime, I need to raise cash for rent, food and covid-19 masks, so I thought I would put the two monumental events together and offer those who read my blog a special discount on my first book. For just $25 (USD or Canadian, they work out the same because I live in Canada and my postage here is less) I will personally sign a copy of “Through the Withering Storm” for you and mail it right to your home. Just email me at and I will get your copy right out to you. Help me in my battle against ignorance and stigma surrounding mental health!

Today’s Blog:

Hello my brothers and sisters in arms. We have a huge battle to fight, there are so many people out there who still suffer from schizophrenia that don’t know they can get help or how to get help, and there are many more who live in places where there is simply no help to be gotten. On top of that, so many loved ones and families of sufferers are going through hell seeing a loved one succumb to this horrible illness. I just wanted to take another moment not only to thank my readers, but to thank my co-worker, Christine May for being my biggest fan and my best supporter. Christine reads all of my blogs and when I get lazy and haven’t written one in a while, she pokes and prods me into posting another one. Thanks Christine!

I thought a good topic right now might be the whole idea of fun in the life of a person with a mental illness. To start, I was thinking back to when I was in the intensive care (lockdown some call it) ward of a psychiatric hospital and having a really hard time just existing. What I ended up doing was I started to learn to trace pictures to teach myself to draw and sometimes played ping-pong or video games. It was simply too hard to read in there with all the medications I was on. But to go back to it, my fellow patient, a very nice guy, encouraged me to draw while I was there and after we got really absorbed in it for a little while, he said, “See, now it’s no longer a mental hospital.” I know it can be so hard to find things to do, I love to read and couldn’t, and the dose of medications you often get in the hospital to settle you down to ‘normal’ robs you of a lot, especially concentration. I still had to force myself to not succumb to smoking to pass the time or overdoing the snacks for the same reason. It takes a lot of willpower to not do negative activities while in a hospital for mental health purposes, but it can be done. Things like meditation, relaxing music, writing poems, trying to participate in rehabilitation classes or activities can not only help the time go by, it can also let the doctors know that you are serious about working towards recovery and want to help you more and communicate with you more, something essential to getting you out of the hospital. This is something that family members or any visitors should keep in mind. Bring the person a radio to listen to, an ‘easy’ puzzle book to occupy their time. Just try and make sure you aren’t pushing the person too hard. Once someone ends up in the hospital, a lot of things have gone wrong and they don’t need to be pushed beyond a slow pace of recovery in their comfort zone. Suggest, don’t demand that there are things they can do, things they can look forward to. In my case in my last hospital stay the most important thing I had was a notebook I could write my poems now (they now are part of my book, “Alert and Oriented x3” which you can download by clicking on the picture of the Tower Bridge in London to the right of this text.)

Then we have the outside world. So many more things you need to motivate yourself to get done. Cleaning, grocery shopping, managing time and money. In my case a long time ago I had a particularly devastating hospital stay and instead of going right into my own apartment, I went into a very well run and supportive group home until I was ready to live on my own again.

Really what all of that comes down to is, can you find someone who you trust and who understands you and your illness to live as your roommate? Are there broken relationships you can mend? I had a very close friend break off contact with me some 20 years ago and it took all that time for me to get back in touch with him and I found out he was actually trying everything he could to help me 20 years ago, and that all that time had been wasted. But it felt really good to talk to him again and we are on track to becoming the close friends we once were.

So if you don’t have a family and you end up living on your own, you still have to do your best to build a group of people who you can depend on for support, the odd ride to an appointment, and many other things, not the lease of which being recreation. It can be really hard to make friends in the hospital and maintain those friendships after you are released because you have to remember those people have problems too and these types of friendships or romantic relationships almost always end in disaster.

It is so important to have hobbies that interest you that can take up time, make you feel better, and get you out meeting people. One of my first suggestions is that you really should be careful to take up a hobby that doesn’t include a lot of shopping. An expensive hobby like photography is okay, but if your hobby is finding deals in shopping malls on designer clothes, you are going to end up with problems. One of the reasons that an expensive hobby is okay is that you will be motivated to better manage your money, save your money, and then learn all you can about cameras, and there are so many clubs and people to take pictures with and teach you things. Not to mention that you may get lucky like I did and get a job paying $50 an hour taking pictures, not to mention the money I won in contests and other cash I got framing and selling some of my better work.

Sadly, there can be times when you simply can’t handle living on your own. I am lucky to have friends who will come over and play chess with me and the building I live in is focused on housing people with disabilities, so I know quite a few of the people who live here from local events and things put on by the charity that runs the building.

It all comes down to priorities, and nature has already laid them out for us. Immediate health, food, water, shelter, friends and loved ones. Do the best you can to buy healthy food, minimize sugar and fats, read and learn how to make less expensive recipies from magazines you can read free at the library. Come to think of it, make the library your second home, they have resources for everything from chess games to photography books and magazines. Something I started doing when I was very poor was I got permission to eat at a men’s shelter. The food wasn’t that great or that healthy, but it wasn’t harmful and having steady meals did a lot to help me recover and look for things I wanted to do. I think it was the following fall after I went to the shelter for hot meals for a few months that I was able to save to buy a typewriter.

There is really much more to say on the topic, but I know that my readers don’t have all the time in the world. If there is something you would like me to blog about, even off the topic of mental illness, please let me know and I will do my best to accommodate your requests. Ciao!

Illnesses Like Schizophrenia, Bipolar, and Schizoaffective Disorder and Employment

Hello to all. Just wanted to let everyone know that I have a stock of my most popular book sitting, which is the story of my recovery from mental illness. Anyone interested in a copy please send an email to and once I get your details, I will sign and mail a copy for $26 Canadian (within Canada) or $22 US (within US, both with postage and tax included) Please support my efforts to decrease stigma and increase awareness of mental illness. Class sets available, and if you are in the media, evaluation copies can also be provided.


On to the meat of today’s blog:

So, I thought a good thing to talk about today would be jobs and employment and money. It is interesting to work on a blog that goes to so many parts of the world when often all I really know is Canada with some experience in the USA. In Canada, in my province, when a person is diagnosed with a severe mental illness and has no means of support, they go into a program called AISH which stands for Assured Income For the Severely Handicapped. Most people who are on it, at lease for the first few years as I definitely was, have no other income. I have found though, that once a person has found medications that work well for them, and have made connections in the community, there is often a fair number of jobs they can take on. One of my best jobs was working for the Union that handles labour for concerts as a stagehand and it was a great steppingstone to take me to where I could spend more time writing and teaching writing. It certainly wasn’t easy though, and if AISH didn’t have a policy where they allowed you to work part-time and still get not only the monetary supports, but the essential medications and health insurance they provide the disabled, I wouldn’t have been able to take on this job.

I remember my first day as a stagehand, it seemed impossible, and I didn’t even know if I would make it through the first day. I had a hard time dealing with not just how difficult the job was, but also with people I worked with who made things even more difficult. There was one woman who wasn’t a supervisor or a shop steward or anything who yelled at me for taking a donut from the coffee area one morning. I went to put it back and apologized and she said I had touched it now, I couldn’t put it back, I would have to throw it in the garbage. There were a lot of people like that in the union. I liked most of the people though, and I enjoyed being a part of concerts and such, but after seven years at it I had enough. I didn’t have any savings, but I had job opportunities that would help pay my bills. One of the main things that kept me going was that I had published my memoir, “Through the Withering Storm” and was having some success in selling it as well as a part-time job with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.

So, I started slow. I tried really hard to minimize my expenses, I even sold my car so I could focus on writing and teaching/facilitating and presenting mental health information for the Schizophrenia Society and any other place I could.

Really though, sometimes things come down to just having a place to go and something to do. I think maybe before even that though, a person should try and get connected to others within their community. I met a lot of people volunteering to write for our local community newspaper, and I also got a lot of great connections and experience doing so. One of the things I think a lot of people with mental illnesses perhaps don’t realize is that most of your recovery from an illness takes place out of the hospital, and just about all of it will depend on you.

Almost 20 years ago, I was in the hospital for an extended stay and I slowly recovered first by going for long walks outside with my dad every day, then becoming involved in my community by attending local events and making friends with the people I lived in the same group home with, then I got a part-time job. The job was the hardest part, and I think I might have been better off waiting more time before taking one on. I did okay with the work, but I kept having people tell me what to do and then still after that report me to my supervisor regardless of the fact that I knew what I should have been doing from working as a security guard for over 15 years. It became very difficult to go into work each day knowing that I was going to face people who had appointed themselves the status as my employer. Of course, as mentioned, the stagehand job was similar and there were many times I just wanted to walk away from the abuse in the middle of my shift and never come back. I have to say what got me through all those times that I didn’t even want to go into work was not just compliance to my treatment and medication, but also to having faith in a creator and learning how to clear my mind through meditation.

Work is still very difficult for me. I have problems with concentration and memory. But I believe that if a person keeps trying and keeps seeking new ways to adapt, anything is possible. I have started making a lot of notes and keeping a calendar so I don’t forget things. I also have put up a bulletin board above my computer so I can print up and post important papers to remind myself of them. Lastly, something I hope could benefit those that read this blog is that I don’t like to let the day go by without accomplishing something towards my goals. Having goals is a very powerful way of accomplishing things, but also committing to working towards them each and every day can take a person a long way towards huge achievements. It could be as small as writing a blog or as large as completing editing of a whole manuscript. I just have to work and reach out in some way, and I find if I push myself to do just a little that before I know it I will be comfortable taking on a lot. Thanks dear readers!

The Simple Acts of Falling Asleep and Waking Up For Those With Mental Health Issues Such as Bipolar and Schizophrenia


It has been a very interesting week for me. I was lucky enough to find two summer jobs, one teaching computer literacy 2x a week and the other teaching creative writing 1x a week. Thanks to Covid, I am teaching these courses online, which gives me the great benefit of having my morning commute be only 8 feet which is the distance from my kitchen to my laptop. I find I really love to teach, it’s a funny thing because I don’t have an education degree, I was mostly chosen for these jobs because of my patience in dealing with others and hands-on experience. I really find it to be quite an honour.

I feel so honoured by being given these jobs that I want to do them well. The most important thing for me is how much sleep I get, and that is where my current problems come from. I have been using over the counter sleep aids for some time, though my doctor will give me sleeping pills and they are covered under my health insurance. The problem is I was told that sleeping pills affect your memory. Well, the sad thing is that it seems over the counter sleep aids also do this. My memory, at least my short-term memory has been getting really bad. I hate to count disorders, but so far it seems like I have symptoms of schizophrenia, symptoms of bipolar, anxiety, severe depression, mood swings, poor impulse control and OCD with a tendency towards hoarding. I like to just say I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and leave it at that but I think if I ever go back to seeing a therapist, I will have to be honest about all of my symptoms. I guess one has to think about what affects their day to day life the most. Today I got some bad news about a writing project I had set in motion and depression kind of blindsided me. Then I wrote an email to a friend and they were kind enough to call and talk with me for about 2 whole hours. I wasn’t suicidal, but I was feeling pretty upset. The main problem was the fact that for any number of possible reasons, I think I was in what bipolar disorder experts refer to as a ‘manic’ state. I had them much worse when I was younger, and I was aware of them, I just never knew that if you leave these mood swings untreated for too long, you run a large risk of entering psychosis and acting irrationally. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t mind that so much, but the truth is that untreated schizophrenia has been known to cause brain damage. It is a pretty harsh thing to look in the mirror and see a person with a mental illness looking back at you.

But what I most wanted to talk about today was sleep, and when you are experiencing mania it can be damn near impossible. The lack of sleep, (at least in my opinion) is perhaps the largest disabler, the biggest reason that many people with bipolar can’t work or hold down a job. When I was younger I had a system going, I would play the radio most of the day instead of watching TV, and when bedtime approached I would put on progressively slower and more relaxing music. It worked pretty good, I used to refer to it as coming in for a smooth and even landing.

The part of this equation that makes people with mental health issues feel bad comes in when (at least in my opinion) they sleep too much. I sleep very jagged, disruptive sleep at night. It could be because of my many years of night shifts working as a security guard, but it also leaves me pretty tired when the sun comes up and I have to take my morning medications. I really have to watch because if I go back to sleep after my medications, I can easily sleep until 2pm. This is something that was very much frowned upon by my dad when I was growing up, even in the summer. Of all the summers I had, the one I enjoyed the most as a kid was the one where my dad would wake us up and get us down for breakfast before he left for work. I had so many fun bike rides and went to matinees, read comic books and watched cartoons. That summer seemed like two summers long, which is why I really kind of hate it when I fall into an oversleeping trap. This isn’t always detrimental I believe because when I have work days in my week I get very energized and don’t sleep until the evening, and if I have allowed myself to go into a manic state that means the cycle can continue. Then comes the pills, the part I really hate.

I have a few different kinds of over the counter sleep aids such as melatonin and gravol (not meant as a sleep aid but seems to work well for me when I can’t sleep–I told my psychiatrist about this and he said as long as I’m not doing it every day it is okay). Sometimes I take a medication to get me to sleep and I don’t sleep. This is when I am best off to get out of bed and read, or do what I am doing now, writing in my blog. If I can’t sleep and I’m not working I will sometimes take on a writing project. It is amazing how the wee hours of the night can melt away while I am ‘creating’. But wheat seems to be happening more and more is that I stay up very late and am totally unproductive, then when I realize I am getting close to the point where I can just grab a few hours, then I will sleep just that short time, wake up and dose up with coffee, got to work, and sadly all to often either stay up and find myself in not just a manic state, but also in a bitchy mood with more than a tiny bit of paranoia, but I also don’t perform well at work and the situation steamrollers whether I have a nap (in which case I don’t sleep again that night) or stay up which requires copious amounts of coffee. It’s all a pretty viscous cycle, but small bits of wisdom often help. Of course, writing a new blog entry helps a lot. So does trying to get a nice long walk in. Going to the pool always helps but our pools are closed now until fall. My favourite thing to do when I can’t sleep is to go and soak in the tub for a half hour or so, make the water really hot and then just towel off a little when I get out and lay in bed without getting dressed. That has gotten me to sleep many times. I have tried so many things in my life from hypnosis to meditation to reading and on and on and on. What it all really comes down to with me is, if I am going to stay up late, how can I make that time worthwhile? I have been looking at trying to write more science fiction lately, and I not only find great videos on YouTube about writing, I also have found a lot of awesome astronomy/space programs to watch. My favourite treatment for when I am extremely tired and want to get to work? Splash after splash of ice cold water on my face. Feels good when you stop.

Best wishes Dear Readers, stay safe!


The Question of Non-Psychiatric Medications and Mental Illness: When To Draw the Line #drugs #medications #mental illness #bipolar #schizophrenia #mentalhealth #overthecounter

Mountain Goat, Jasper National Park, Summer 2020

Being on psychiatric medications can be a difficult situation and over the counter and legal drugs can make things worse if you aren’t careful. Many times in my life I have looked back and wondered what may have happened in my life if I had taken my medications as prescribed from the first time that they were prescribed. For me the first time was age 14-I am 48 now. I have asked my Doctor this question and he has told me that if I had done that at 14 I would be the exception-not the norm.

My illness is schizoaffective disorder with anxiety-I have an odd combination of having mood swings with symptoms of schizophrenia. The last time I was in psychosis it was a living hell. I had been given a replacement medication for the one that dealt with my psychosis and over time I began to get paranoid to the point of thinking all my neighbours could hear and see everything I did and were waiting for the chance to kill me. I was admitted to a hospital, but it took time for the new drug that wasn’t working for me to get out of my system so that the old one that I was put back on could get to work.

One of the things that often happens with me is that I will wake up and take my medications and then go back to bed. Prozac seems to have the ability to give me the sweetest dreams. But I can’t always do that–often if I get up at 5:00 am (like today) and take my medications, they will cause me to sleep as late as noon or later. I now have a part-time job that makes a schedule like that impossible to follow, so I medicate-with coffee and exercise. These may not seem like harmful drugs, but coffee is definitely a drug, an addictive and powerful one, and for me exercise–be it swimming or long-distance walking (my knees make it so I can no longer run, I injured them years ago) is what gets me out of my morning funk. The problem really comes when it is getting late and I know I will need a minimum amount of hours of sleep to work the next day and due to mania (mood swings) I am simply unable to slow down enough to rest. This can start a vicious cycle, needing more coffee, needing more exercise (often more than is healthy for my ageing body) and getting less and less sleep.

This is the point where I often find myself turning to over the counter drugs. Something I have found helps a great deal with short naps (they cause me severe nightmares sometimes) is to take a multivitamin before a nap. This is a positive over the counter medication that is largely harmless. But when it stops helping, I have turned to stronger ones. My first level of self-medication during times of little sleep due to nightmares used to be alcohol. I will never forget being 19 and living in a cheap hotel in Vancouver, waking from a very bad dream and being able to go downstairs, get a shot of whiskey and be able to sleep contently. Fortunately I didn’t do this every day, but still I would have binge sessions of drinking that I greatly enjoyed–which had to stop at a certain point. I did all I could, going to meetings and counselling. I even picked up other habits after quitting that had to also be dealt with like overeating and gambling, that I have now fortunately put behind me. I can’t stress enough that if you self-medicate with alcohol, and you are taking medications, it is just as bad as playing Russian roulette. You are playing a very deadly game. Compulsive gambling is a real destroyer of people and families as well. You actually become addicted to the hormones in your brain that turn on when you gamble, be it slot machines, video lottery terminals or garage poker games. If you have the tendency towards becoming addicted like I did, gambling will take over everything. All your money, all your time, all your relationships. Seek help.

So now that I have eliminated some of the less obvious medication, I should talk about some of the more obviously harmful ones. On occasion I take melatonin to help me sleep. This drug is a naturally occurring sleep hormone which I have cleared with my doctor. It definitely helps me get more hours of sleep and more restful sleep, but sometimes it can work too well. Sometimes when I take melatonin, I will wake up and feel exhausted, and all I can think of as I go about my day is how much I want to go back to sleep. And there is another thing about melatonin, a person (or at least me) can get used to it, or ‘develop a tolerance’ in a short amount of time. I try to take it rarely, and if I take it over the course of a few days, it not only doesn’t help me sleep, but it causes me to move and thrash around, never feeling settled in bed, and not going to sleep for hours.

Here comes one drug that a lot of people argue is harmless, THC. THC is often found in pot and hash, and other cannabis products. In Canada it is a legal drug, but very few psychiatrists will call it a harmless one. It is known to increase a person’s chances of psychosis, especially if used at a young age. I haven’t used it in years, and even then I don’t think I ever paid for it, I only used it a few times, and one of those times was an utter disaster. I went to a party and smoked up as they say and quickly slipped into seriously warped thinking. By the end of the party a lot of people thought I was either a cop or a true weirdo and I got so paranoid I climbed down the fire escape thinking I was going to be killed by someone at the party. It may be something to laugh at now, but when it happened, it was far from fun, not to mention that if you use THC and drive a vehicle, you are truly taking your life in your hands because your judgement will be impaired worse than if on alcohol.

Well good readers, I would like to keep on writing, but I have a strong feeling that blog readers get a little bored if I make my entries too long. As always, feel free to reach out. I am always willing to discuss any mental health topics people suggest to me here, my email is

The Question of Housing For People With Mental Health Issues #schizophrenia #bipolar #mania #depression #home #mentalhealth #psychiatry


One of the first and most essential issues a person with a mental illness has to face is that of housing. A good deal of people who are leaving the hospital or have been in the hospital/psychiatric ward for a while, is where are they going to do, and what are they going to do? Having something to do, ie a job/volunteer job, a hobby such as running, walking or swimming, can be essential to the well being of someone with mental health issues and should be given top consideration. I am so lucky to live in Edmonton, Alberta because I have a low income, and the city of Edmonton provides low cost bus passes and free fitness passes to me and everyone else who qualifies (mostly those with disabilities, but also seniors and others). It can be extremely helpful to have a YMCA in the city or town you chose to live in because they are known for providing low-cost facilities to people with low income or disability, and from what I have seen, they have some nice places.

The really big question a person with a psychiatric disability has to ask themselves is, should I live in a city or a town? The fact is, you are going to need some important services such as access to a psychiatrist and possibly a mental health clinic, plus pharmacy and reasonably priced meals and accommodations. When I left the hospital some 20 years ago, I had little choice. The first place I went was a group home where the woman who owned it wanted just extra income and free labour from her tenants. I needed to get out of there and nearly moved into an apartment on my own when I wasn’t ready just to get away from the horrible person that ran that place.

My social worker at the mental health clinic found another group home for me to live in, and in so many ways it was perfect. Everything was paid for in one lump sum, and all I had to do each day was show up for meals and get my medications. Sadly after living there for a very long time, one of the unqualified staff members seemed to want to go on a power trip and make an example out of me. I wasn’t kicked out, but I was asked to move into a subsidized apartment, something that was an excellent choice for me at the time. It was hard to keep my sleeping hours straight and I had to all of a sudden take care of a lot of things, but I ended up enjoying it greatly and was able to focus on the work I liked to do and I also no longer had to feel embarrassed that I was living in a place where I was treated like a child and stuffed into a house with several roommates. The rent subsidy was significant though, and it allowed me to have a comfortable existence without having to strain to work hard.

Something I really want to cover in my blogs as much as I can is the situation for people in the United States. I often consider how difficult it must be to survive down there on much less income than I get in some places that are more expensive to live in. Something my sister warned me about when she first moved out was that you really have to take care of your health. Brush your teeth all the time, don’t watch TV in the dark, don’t go out when you can cook at home, and share your place with someone if you aren’t married. All these little things, like fillings or glasses can be crippling to someone trying hard to make it on their own. Perhaps the worst part of it is that mental illness destroys families and family is all that some people have.

There are so many choices to make, it can be important to write out your plans and wishes before you leave the hospital (and show it to your doctor, he or she may find it encouraging to see you taking the reigns of your life). Once I was given some excellent advice, a doctor told me that I should look for a roommate who is studying in the psychology department of the University. I have to warn everyone that it isn’t a good idea to make close friends with people you are in the hospital or psychiatric ward with. These people are dealing with a lot of their own problems just like you are and this can make it very difficult to keep a happy home going.

So, the big choice is, city or country. If you have support, if you grew up in a small town and you have family there, I would say go ahead and love every minute of it. For those who don’t though, being in the city can be the only really logical choice. You will have access to so many more services, not to mention the large grocery stores that give way better deals than small town grocery stores that have cornered the market. Not to say you can’t find a medium sized town with most of these advantages though.

Depending on the state of your mental health, you may want to go the route I did and find a group home run by a charity. Places like this can be very supportive, understanding, and low-stress. Keep your eyes peeled for a subsidized/rent controlled apartment. What sometimes happens is really sad, a person leaves the hospital and has to go into a shelter, then forced by circumstance they take a small 10×15 foot housekeeping room and they not only face things like isolation and poor hygiene, they get lonely and often in these smaller rooming houses a lot of people can be lost in their addictions. All too soon it becomes tempting to make friends with these people and slip into their world. Before you know it, you might be back in the hospital but now with an addiction and a mental health issue. I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, this is information I actually read in a current textbook for social workers.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when choosing a home to live in. You want to get the nicest place you can afford, but that may end you up right back looking for a rooming house. If you are healthy enough to not need a group home, why not partner up with a reliable person and rent a house and then rent one or two rooms to reputable students? Make sure though that you have your space and that the rules of living there are written out and understood. I lived in a house with roommates once and I found it difficult to deal with the fact that it was very hard to find a place to read quietly. Make note if any of your roommates play a musical instrument or like to play their music loud. Compromises can often be found.

I could really speak volumes on this topic, but I want to say here quickly that your first goal is to make that difficult transition from the hospital to more independence and then to transition from assisted living to independent. If you go to a group home, while you are there join a cooking class and look for home economics courses. I don’t know if I could ever leave Edmonton not just because my family is mostly here, but also because I get a great deal of support from the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta here. Make a list of what advantages you get in different types of places and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. Add up the scores and think hard about following a logical conclusion. Nearby clinic? Discount grocery store accessible? Can I afford this place? Do I have the skills to manage on my own, and if not, do I have people I can call for advice? What are some of the strategies I can take for coping with boredom and loneliness?

Look on the lighter side of things as well. If you can work your way up to having your own apartment, you may never have to eat liver and onions again. Think of how great it will one day feel to lock your door and go in your own bathroom and have a long, hot bath while reading a book and playing some light rock on a radio. Have a great day everyone, and never forget to reach out if you have to.

Facing Rejection After Rejection and Keeping Going #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #bipolar #depression #mania #schizophrenia #schizoaffective #anxiety


Hello Good Readers!

I have had more people join me of late and I want to say I truly appreciate it. I have found that it really isn’t enough to have a website and a blog and put out good content, a person really needs to persevere diligently to accomplish something in this world. I have been writing stories now for a good part of my life and today I opened my mail to see yet another rejection from a publisher that I had kind of pinned a lot of hopes on. As a writer I kind of start to get numb to this kind of stuff, but even that numbness is something that isn’t good for a person’s mental health.

I wanted to sit down today and talk a bit about how rejection in this world due to mental illness happens. I have now written three memoirs (Through the Withering Storm, Inching Back to Sane, and Alert and Oriented x3, all available on amazon) and some people say I have a lot of courage to do that. I don’t think I have so much courage, the courage I see is in a person I worked with at the Schizophrenia Society who lost a child to suicide as a result of schizophrenia yet still goes out to tell her story and his story in hopes of helping people understand the illness more. This person used to say that in the 1960s, cancer wasn’t talked about. It was a dark, foreboding subject. When you got cancer you died, and all this stigma hurt people in many ways. When they started talking more about cancer, a miracle happened. More people learned how to self-test and were able to have medical intervention before the cancer killed them. Not everyone, but more people. Then we saw that people were being comforted, not shunned as someone with a communicable disease, talking about cancer meant there was also more donations to treatments and research. This is what I want to be a part of with schizophrenia. I am also diagnosed with bipolar, and anxiety, but schizophrenia is by far the worst part of my illness. The reason I write books and give talks to various groups is that I am very grateful that despite the tragedy of mental illness in my life, some wonderful doctors, caring staff and of course family members were able to help me enough so I could leave the hospital, and then start to build a life for myself that even a person without an illness would be proud of. The other reason I am bold in saying who I am is similar to why people who are gay want to be out, want to be open about how they feel, if you tell someone you have an illness and they ditch you as a friend or even family member as a result, that person isn’t much worthy of being your friend or loved one. I have had to make some tough choices.

But to get back to the rejection aspect, one of the things that I feel is noteworthy is that I have always wanted to meet an intelligent and attractive woman who I could laugh with and love, and share my life with. But more and more I am seeing how my idea of a perfect partner just may never happen. Certainly at 48 I don’t think I could even raise kids at all. One of the things though is that many times what ruined relationships was behaviours surrounding chronic mental illness, things like my cigarette habit, which I have thankfully gotten over or the fact that I find it really hard to keep my apartment clean and organized and even have problems with keeping up with my laundry. For the most part I have overcome these things, I did quit cigarettes, but not soon enough to heal a relationship with a wonderful young woman who said she would continue to see me if I quit smoking.

One of the ways I deal with rejection goes back to something I feel can cure a lot of maladies, meditation. When you train your mind not to be all over the place and learn to control thoughts as you regulate your breathing and are able to focus, you can look so much more objectively at rejection. To make a quick point, I have known monks who are not married and will never and have never been in a romantic relationship and are completely whole within themselves because they have trained themselves to the point where they are happy and content in any situation.

There is another thing that I find helps me deal with rejection, that is just going onto YouTube and doing a search for inspirational videos. Some of my favourites are the ones when they show dialogue and training scenes from Rocky movies or have motivational speakers speak over action scenes of extreme sports. Watching some of these does to me what is so essential for me to succeed and to keep on working towards something, simply sitting down to work. I just got a huge rejection letter, and I decided I can make this bad experience into a good one by sharing these words and reminding myself of the things I do when I want to get back on the horse that bucked me.

It is interesting to look back at my life and some of the things I did for work that help me now. What is even more interesting is that some of these jobs had absolutely nothing to do with writing or creativity. One of them was working in a plastics factory, with these massive hot machines spitting out two ice cream pails every ten seconds for me to put handles on and stack. Doing this hour after hour, day after day taught me that a person can accomplish some incredible things with patience and determination. I worked in that plant for just two weeks but the money I made in that time gave me enough for a down payment on an incredible sports car that brought a great deal of joy into my life. I remember the summer I had it, I tried to sit down and repeat how I accomplished those impossible tasks in the factory and give myself a leg up for post-secondary education. I would get off work at the gas station I worked at and make a pot of tea, then sit and read all I could from the book “Les Miserables” this was an incredible book, partially in French and though it took me a couple of weeks, I accomplished the gargantuan task of finishing it, just a few chapters at a time. In the same night I would read one act of a Shakespeare play and it started me off on a love of language and literature that I am still maintaining. I even signed up for a French course after reading the book and not being able to understand parts of it.

Sometimes what can really help a person focus on a goal like I had, be it a home study course, a book they are writing, or even just bettering themselves physically in sports or fitness, is simply to turn off the TV. You don’t need to give up on it, but if you simply cut out a couple of programs or re-runs you watch that you find you don’t get a lot out of, there is so much you can do with that time. I have to admit though, today I watched about 3 hours of TV which is not like me but I only watched documentaries about space and astronomy. I am doing this because I want to expand my personal skills into being able to write science fiction. I don’t want to try and force opinions on people, but I am kind of against regular TV programs, with the possible exception of a few choice ones. I find TV programs (as opposed to movies) to be too unrealistic, too censored and worst of all, I find that it is almost as if the TV people were trying to teach us morality and other things without a good foundation on any philosophy or religion. You turn on a sex comedy with younger actors and you start to think all the world is an orgy and that as long as you use protection, it is okay to have all the sex you want and just get an abortion if anything goes wrong. Then you flip over and get a prime time show that is so completely unrealistic that it doesn’t seem to portray any type of real people at all. Movies on the other hand seem to let you think for yourselves, be able to express aspects of real life (some of the time). I don’t want to tell anyone what to think though or what to do, I just want people to think about what goes into their minds and how they are spending their time. And I honestly want to say that when I want to learn something, documentaries are great, but it seems nothing substitutes a book. But that can even be debunked as a theory because I have gotten some incredible courses from my local library, all free that taught me a great deal through videos and audiobooks and something called Gale courses. This is perhaps what I most want to say about rejection. If you can dig in and bear it, then get back up and learn from your experiences, and above all keep going back to working out your goals, nothing can stop you.

The Troubles of a Person With Schizophrenia, Bipolar (schizoaffective disorder) and Anxiety #meditation #mentalhealth #depression #teenager #psychiatry


My life seems to come in chunks, good and bad. I think I live more in my dreams than anything. It hasn’t happened in quite a while but I used to dream about teenage crushes. Two of them in particular, I can’t name them here, but if they read this they would know who they were. One of them sat behind me in what became my worst year of school, unless you count my last year when I went completely insane and was arrested in my school hallway and taken to a mental hospital.


The first one was really something. Funny enough, I saw a young woman recently who reminded me of her a lot. She was Asian and had the same cute face and smile the original crush did. Aside from that, I know very little about this first crush. All I really know is that she will go to the ends of the earth to not even talk to me. I can understand, I was never much to her other than a few shared moments in class. There was this one time, years after that horrible year when I ran into her and she commented on how good I looked loud enough so I could overhear. I didn’t know what to say that time and walked away, and by the time I got back and had decided to talk to her she was necking with another guy from our high school that I didn’t particularly like.


The second crush was a girl I met at summer camp one year. She seemed to suffer from depression or something like that but was very attractive and intelligent. Her and I did see each other a few times, just as friends. Then one day an overwhelming wave of self-guilt made me decide to stop talking to her. She never called me back.


Years later I called her up when I was drunk and just about suicidal. It was after I had gone to the hospital and I was feeling even worse about myself. But I called her and we talked for a long time. Then I didn’t call her again for over a year. When I did call her I was on the verge of another breakdown and as we talked I slowly slid over to the other side of that fine line between insanity and normalcy. The last communication we had was me writing a letter to her asking if she wanted to marry me. I was so sick and deluded I thought there was all kinds of money and potential job offers and scholarships. In fact I did qualify for one scholarship, I would have gotten a degree paid for by the US Army if I enlisted. I had even written a test and was making arrangements to join. Trouble was I had destroyed my knees the year before running too much while I was in training to join the Canadian Military—who wouldn’t take me because of my psychiatric record. All of these things—the delusions, the messed up ideas plus whatever horrible pain and depression was boiling up underneath must have scared her. She changed her phone number and refused to return calls or letters.


What really gets me is somehow when I feel really depressed, I want to contact those two women, the second one especially since we had an actual friendship. I have never had the desire to stalk either of these women, I just somehow feel that they are a connection to times that I didn’t fully understand. I think the biggest part of all that is when I was severely mentally ill and in a hospital, I got very few visitors and less phone calls. Part of me, perhaps the unconscious part of me that still battles my demons underneath a layer of normalcy wants to think they cared, that someone cared. But the truth is when I honestly look at the past, I was almost a ghost as a teenager.


I did have a few friends in school, the best of them were the people I had met in Air Cadets. Trouble was, when I was finished grade ten I was convinced I wasn’t that kind of person anymore and quit cadets just when I started to really make friends and advance in rank. I decided to cut all ties with cadets, I wouldn’t even sit with people that had been my friends for three of my most critical teen years.


And so, after grade ten I focused mostly on my studies and jobs. The thing I keep thinking about was how I went out and found a job and saved money to buy a car, then I got a pizza delivery job which wore out my car and cost most of what I earned, and it all seemed so useless. Work for money for a car. Get a car. Get a job where your car is essential. Wear out your car working and drive so much you get sick of driving. It didn’t help that at this time I was suffering from crippling depression and the early symptoms of schizophrenia.


When grade 12 ended and I didn’t have the grades for University or the money for tuition, or a place to live if I had either, I found myself feeling pretty lost. To think of spending 12 years with all those people growing up, learning, developing. I hadn’t had one girlfriend among them or was even allowed to go to my own Grade 12 Graduation ceremony since I was a few credits shy of a diploma. I think a lot about the people I wanted to have as friends. There was one guy, a bit of a mama’s boy who I shared an interest in Star Wars and football with and was on a few winning teams with. I had known him since grade two but despite all of those things he was pretty cruel to me at times. Still, he was a huge part of my life, as much so as my brother but school ended, and I never saw him again and I feel a sense of loss over it. I often wonder if everyone faces friends who are cruel sometimes. I often think about being taunted and teased and wonder if it was my reaction to it rather than how it made me feel that made it all worse.


There were other people, high school friends who I’ve tried to keep in touch with. One of them has a habit of trying to say things that will hurt me. This one particular guy was my closest friend in school, we hung out together a lot. We took trips together, knew all the same people. But there was some kind of clash between us. All I could really describe it as would be some kind of alpha male conflict. I think there were times when I was cruel to him as well. One time he played his head games with the wrong person, a close friend of my brothers and he got beaten up pretty bad over it. He came to me and said basically that my brother could be one of his witnesses in court for the assault and I told him plainly that my brother hated his guts and wanted to see him get beaten up. I guess I kind of did too and there really was nothing he could say or do about it. From what I understand he is still living in our old home town and working for one of our friends whose dad left him an insulation business. Haven’t talked to any of them in years but I have been featured in our home town newspaper a number of times. I would call him up and offer to buy him lunch some time, but I just know he will say or do anything he can to knock me down.


And so, the life of a writer continues. As Tennyson wrote so beautifully (I paraphrase) “I go on with a deep sense of longing and regret, among new faces and different minds.” What I have found is amazing is that I have shed the shallow friendships and relationships of school days and have not only found friends among some of the most wonderful and intelligent people in Edmonton, but I have been able to keep my family relationships going and they have expanded to include cousins and far off relations I have now only met over the Internet. It isn’t easy to live with schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, but I have been getting back from this world what I’ve been putting into it. I also learned something new from Canada’s favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield. “Everyone you see, all of them, are struggling in some way.” This has been a huge revelation to me and is helping me not to hate or judge those who have shunned me for my mental illness or simply have a desire to hurt or ‘cut me down to size’ with comments. It also really makes me want to get back into meditation. In meditation, one clears their mind of all thoughts (though this seems impossible, with practise it can be done) and one learns to train their mind to think more clearly, act more kindly, and much more. The truth is, I have a pretty vivid memory and I spend a lot of time going over in my head people who have hurt me intentionally or no, out of necessity or not, and I can get stuck in feeling bad about myself, about my body image, about how worthy I am to have friends and a nice place to live. It all comes down to just finding a comfortable place, clearing your mind then breathing gently in and out to the count of ‘in-one’ ‘out-two’ if your mind starts to wander, just gently go back to the start and try to get to ten. The amazing thing is there is no goal, no right or wrong way to do it, at least in the simple ways I have been learning about. It’s just a great way to unclutter your mind and put yourself back in control. I would like to talk more about decluttering your home when you have started to declutter your mind, but that I will leave for another time.