Month: February 2015

Isolation and the Psychiatric Patient

DSCF3311Here is a nice picture of my dear old Dad, who is building me a bookshelf.  I could write volumes about what an incredible Dad he has been for me.

     Well, I felt a little bit inspired to talk a bit today about something that I certainly notice in myself.  It is a phenomena where I have social anxiety disorder (which is part of the reason why Prozac/Fluoxetine works well for me) especially after I have isolated myself for some time.  There are times of course when this can’t be avoided, like the other week when I was sick for a few days.  I seriously could tell I hadn’t had any decent human interaction in some time when I first started getting out of the house again.  Fortunately these days it isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger.  I have a very gripping memory of being 14 and being in the Psychiatric Ward of Edmonton’s General Hospital and every moment I could isolate myself I would.  I was afraid of the other patients, one time I started a conversation with an older man and he started drooling, something very common with psychiatric medications at the time and still to this day, which upset so greatly that I pleaded with my Dad to get me out of there, that I didn’t deserve to be there.  My Dad had a great deal of experience with mental illness at the time though, he had cared for my mom who had an illness for many years and he told me that these people were not to be feared or misunderstood.  Still, it was very difficult and I wouldn’t participate in groups or go to the hospital school, I would mostly sit in my room and read a History book that had nothing to do with any class I was taking (I recall it was a fascinating book though about the war in the desert during World War Two) and I would even hide when I heard the nurses coming around for their half hourly checks.

The end result of all that isolating was that when I went to Air Cadets on Thursday of one of those two weeks, I had to get up in front of everyone in my public speaking class and I was literally terrified.  I shook, I stammered, I messed up what I wanted to say, I thought about my acne which was quite bad at the time and I even had a great deal of trouble looking anyone in the eye.  Not long after this, after I returned to school and went about my normal activities, I actually ended up doing fairly well in that public speaking class and greatly enjoying it.  But the question remains:  how does one adjust from being in a hospital/institutional setting and get back to interacting with people in the outside world?

That is basically the question I wanted to answer in today’s blog.  I remember, though it has now been 15 plus years since I was hospitalized, that it is a big adjustment going into the hospital but it can be just as big an adjustment when you get out.  I met a man today who actually had been a Psychiatric Nurse on one of the wards I was on 25 years ago and he was telling me that often he would encourage people who were in there and in what they felt was a dire situation that everyone eventually does get discharged.  I personally have seen people on the inside who were very much gone, thinking only of their next cigarette and their next meal who are out walking around in public stabilized on medications and doing well.  It does take a great deal of support, but it is always possible.  With some of the more serious cases, and mine was very serious a number of times, there is need for frequent visits to nurses and doctors, possibly injections of medications to help with ease of taking medications and higher levels of compliance.  Not to mention something I don’t know much about in the US, but I do know here in Alberta is the situation where a person needs to receive some kind of financial benefits.  (In my case most of my benefits go directly to the group home I live in), but the thing to remember is that one day no matter how bad you think things have gotten, you will be back in a place you are comfortable with, with a degree of freedom you won’t have in the hospital and no one to answer to outside of your loved ones.

But how do you get to that point?  Inside the hospital it is a matter of accepting you need help and doing everything you can to find a Doctor who you can be honest with and one who will help adjust and change your medications to an optimal level.  Inside the hospital your medications will likely be higher than when you feel better and are discharged, but still it is possible to work with something you can handle.  It is important when you are in the hospital to work with the staff members to have as full a life as you can.  I can recall going bowling for free in Edmonton close to the hospital I was in, working at recycling parking meters part-time for a small amount of money and then there was events such as dances or therapy sessions which I would participate in, and if you are lucky, you will make a few friends.  At this point I think it is important to note that meeting a significant other or life partner or boyfriend or girlfriend is almost always a bad thing when you are in the hospital.  I can’t tell you why this is, but I can tell you that this is something I learned from experience and was also told by a number of staff members.  Perhaps it has to do with how people in a hospital setting can be very different people when they get home and they will be under a great deal of stress at this time.  I have had two such relationships and both were serious disasters.

So, when you get out probably one of the best things you can do is to start walking.  15 years ago when I got out of the mental institution after 5 months on the inside, my Dad was kind enough to come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk different routes in any time of year through Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.  When I noticed my concentration and patience was returning, I started getting interested in reading Steinbeck and not long after I once again took up my old hobby of writing.  By sheer chance a friend handed me a stack of papers in a plastic bag one day and here was the manuscript that is now (available on this website to order) “Through The Withering Storm”.  Writing brought new meaning and purpose to my life, and from those small steps at first, I started turning back into a fully active, working and traveling and even writing person.  More on that tomorrow, I side-tracked a fair bit in this blog and I don’t want to put too much into just one post or I will run out of ideas and my readers will run out of patience.  As always, I am just an email away, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSCF5643This is a photo of my good friend Dr.Gary Garrison, who has just released an incredible book that takes a look inside Canada’s Federal prison system called “Human on the Inside”

DSC00283I met this happy little guy at the Edmonton Zoo

 

Blog for today:  Personal Psychiatric Directive

Good day dear readers!  It is early in the morning, but I thought I would get an early start on today’s blog.  I went to a class the other day and learned some very interesting things about mental health through the Schizophrenia Society.  One of the things I learned was that there are some really smart things you can do while you are well to avoid and speed up recovery from a relapse.  For those of you who may have Schizophrenia, you might be aware that sadly quite often your illness will get worse over time, meaning you will one day be sick again and your whole life could fall apart.  For me what happened the last time I was ill was that I simply scaled back the dose of one of my medications thinking it was making me too tired and over time I began to go into a manic and delusional state.  It is incredible to think of what happens to my brain when I am not being properly treated for my illness.  It had been such a long time then since I had been sick I didn’t think I would get sick again.  I slacked off in my medication taking, I reduced one of them and I wasn’t seeing a Psychiatrist on a regular basis who could evaluate me and most likely could have avoided the terrible relapse I had that ended me up in the hospital for 5 agonizing months.

What we talked about in the class I went to was something called a personal directive.  You actually have to sit down with a lawyer, which may cost some money or may be covered by legal aid or a local charity that helps those with mental illnesses.  Basically you sit down and map out what you want to happen if you ‘lose your mind’ for lack of a better term and end up in hospital.  You can write down what Doctor you want, what hospital you want to be sent to, whether or not you want to consent to shock treatments (ECT) and even what type of diet you want (vegetarian, vegan, etc.).  This to me seems like a great idea and I want to get one as soon as I can because I really had a bad experience with an egotistical ass of a Doctor last time who took me off all of my medications to spite me and treated me like garbage.  He even left orders that if I did anything at all out of the ordinary I was to be put into the solitary room and I was put in there so many times I don’t know if the emotional scars will ever heal from that.

Another really good idea I got from this group came from a participant, he had the idea of keeping a bag handy with things he wanted to take to the hospital or be able to get someone else to take to the hospital for him if he ended up there.  On my last stay, I literally had to wear the same shirt and pants for five months and had no books I enjoyed or a radio or anything.  I had to save up for a little walkman out of what I like to call ‘convict’s wages’.  I would do manual labor in the hospital and I would be paid $1.50 an hour for it while the people who supervised me were getting upwards of $25 an hour.  The injustices were many, but thankfully I have hopefully learned from that.

As a bit of a side note, I was watching an information program about spousal abuse and I saw something I would like to do if the situation came up.  This one person had a neighbor who he could hear each night was being abused by her spouse and one day he went to her and told her she could keep a ‘getaway’ bag at his house if she ever wanted to leave.  At first she declined and denied there was abuse going on, but later she brought over a bag and needed it not too long after.  This is the sort of thing that I think is really valuable because (1) it shows compassion and (2) it reminds me that mental illness is not the only problem people have in this world.

Last night I met up with an old friend from my high school days and went to visit another person who we grew up with who is living in a nursing home with Multiple Sclerosis.  The first friend is on medications now too, having been diagnosed with Lupus.  It really makes me feel kind of lucky, reminds me of how blessed I am in so many ways because though I do have physical problems, they are manageable and I am actually in really good health.  It also makes me feel better about my one problem, my bipolar disorder

Aside from that Dear Readers, I think I will leave things alone from here.  I am looking forward to my day because I am meeting my ex-girlfriend’s mom for lunch.  I met my ex-gf some 20 years ago and though we only went out for a short time a very long time ago, we still are close friends, even best friends and just about her whole family calls me a family member.  I talk to my ex on the phone nearly every day and I do things with her sister and mom and of course have her niece on Facebook.  I feel like a bit of a cad about it but years ago I actually was sort of dating her niece ( this was a full grown woman I should note, she was the child of my ex-gf’s much older sister).  I really liked her a lot, she is married now too though but we keep in touch.  Not long ago, though it was actually a joke, a Facebook friend posted that she was in love and wanted advice, and I think I came up with a pretty good gem.  First of all, without putting pressure on them, or going overboard, make them your best friend and then let the relationship grow from there if it wants to.  Anyhow, I should run.  As always, I am open for emails from any and all of you who like to read this, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC00221This is a statue in West Edmonton Mall honoring all the oil rig workers who made Alberta a wealthy and prosperous place to live

Relationships For the Mentally Ill

DSCF3413This is a picture of me with a young Air Cadet Glider Pilot taken at a local small airport

 

Today’s Blog:

Some time ago, very soon after I was first diagnosed, I found out that a close friend of my brother’s had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  He had been on Lithium and didn’t like it at all, which was not hard to understand since a few short years later I was on Lithium and had similar problems.  My brother’s friend said that he slowly tapered down on his medication (which I very strongly do not recommend) and then established himself a group of friends that he could call and talk to and keep himself more on an even keel.  He had done well for himself, and likely had only a mild or even a mis-diagnosed form of Bipolar, but how does a person go from being house-bound due to problems handling stress, or something even more common among those of us who suffer, have simply lost a great deal of their friends because the friends couldn’t cope with our mental diversions.

This is a very difficult question, and I want to stress here that I am only able to tell what I have experienced, and that I have no clinical training other than one University course in Psychology and two more from high school, plus of course my years of dealing with the illness.  What I have done in the past when I felt alone was to try and establish myself with a community.  This can be something simple like a volunteer job, your community can include just your boss and the people you directly work with.  I am so lucky to work in a supportive and mutually strong workplace where making each other get through the day is rewarded, not simply trying to outwork someone so they are no longer competition for you.  A fair number of years back though, all I had for a ‘community’ was the three people I shared a house with and my Dad.  For a while this was the perfect thing, I would sleep, get up and watch some TV with my roommate George, who liked to watch four kinds of Star Trek every day and we would casually talk about how we were coping, what our dreams were like and then I would go out for a walk with my Dad in the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and I would get just a little fresh air and exercise and slowly I was progressing towards more of a ‘life’ for want of a better term.

So, to get myself to the next level, I found out that city swim passes were free for people who were on disability, and I got myself a bus pass and would get up each day to ride the bus to the pool.  I would meet a man I know only as John each morning at the bus stop, and him and I still meet in the neighborhood now and then, he is a very fascinating guy and a fan of my poetry now, and then I would head over to the pool.  At first I wouldn’t say so much I was nervous, but I didn’t know really how to make friends or talk to people, I had lost a lot of ‘life skills’ while I was in the hospital and also afterwards not being around new people or even simply ‘normal’ people for some time.  I remember going into the steam room and sitting alone and people would talk about different things and slowly I started to feel very at home sitting in the hot tub and the sauna and steam room and doing a few laps in the pool.  After a few weeks, or perhaps even months of saying hello to the women who ran the front desk I ventured a little further and started to chat with them and once more found people who were new fans of my writing and this was where I sold some of my first books while they were still in ring binders with hole punched paper inside.  Day by day, I started talking to the people at the pool and met some really amazing people.  I met two older people there who had come from Denmark around the time my Dad did and became close enough to them to be invited for coffee at their houses and at McDonald’s after we went for our swim.   I also met a man who was a coin dealer on the weekends and owner of a steel plant during the week.  He was very wealthy but put on no airs and I would often go and see him for a very fair deal on coins that I used to collect.  I met a lot of people, and one of them was a very attractive young life guard who helped me a lot with my swimming and my health in general as she was attending pre-med in school and wanted to become a chiropractor.  I can’t even remember her name but I remember her pretty smile and endless kindness to me.  Establish yourself, allow yourself to get comfortable, push your limits a bit and make friends.  Not all that complicated, but not always easy.

Another topic I think is very relevant to address in this day’s blog is when you lose friends because of your illness.  I had one friend that I used to talk to every day, often drive home and even worked with at the same restaurant while we were in grade 12 in my home town of St.Albert.  He was a very, shall we say–‘solid’ person, meaning he followed the rules passed down to him from his mother and stepfather and worked very hard and did very well for himself.  I was in a terrible state last time I talked to him, my mind was racing and I just couldn’t go five minutes without trying to phone someone.  I ended up calling him a few times and his wife would answer and she was very nice about talking to me but when he found out about it he was upset.  Add to that the fact that I was falling apart and he didn’t understand what I was going through and I lost one of the best friends I knew, certainly knew at the time.  This has happened a lot, and in some ways I am numb to these things happening, but I still think about them a lot and they still hurt in a repressed sort of way.  As far as trying to rekindle old friendships I don’t have any easy answers.  One thing that can be done is to wait until you are sure you are in a positive frame of mind and if you really want to talk to the person again, do two things that I have found very helpful:  write a brief letter explaining not only that you were having struggles but also that you have come back from that state and are now being treated properly and will likely not have problems like that again.  This isn’t any hard and fast thing, but I have saved a very important friendship (with my ex-gf Caroline) that otherwise would have just been lost.  The next step is to prepare to talk to the person directly which can be very difficult, but easier if you sit down and write out a script.  You plan out and write out what you want to say, what the person could conceivably say to you, allowing for permutations and then write out your response.  A little preparation can go a long way.  If you tune in tomorrow, I will try and talk a little about romantic relationships in the life of a person suffering from a mental illness, provided everyone understands that I can only speak of my own limited experience.  In some ways I feel I am very lucky because in my life I have only had one serious romantic relationship and I have stayed good friends with this person through the years, I even am still her friend now that she is married to someone else.  So, Dear Readers, have a wonderful day and please take a look at some of the other parts of this website while you are here, I have some videos, some links to eBooks and paperbacks for sale and even samples of some of my best writing.  Take care and keep smiling!

DSCF1014My good friend Walter Warren Milley, retired soldier, retired postie and a very nice man

How To Become Wealthy, According to Richard S. Clason

DSCF3211They call the west “Big Sky Country” and there is nothing finer than heading out down a back road and just exploring in the summer time.  The trees, the clouds.  So breathtaking

Good day dear readers.  Most of you will be reading this on Sunday.  If you are like my roommate, you refrain from work or making money on Sunday.  I think this is actually a pretty good idea, but with me being from good old Protestant Work Ethic stock, I will make money at any time there is some to be made.  As an example, today after supper I used my geek skills to fix a friend’s configuration on his computer for $20 then went to volunteer for a community event which was actually really cool and made a lot of new connections and added $60 to my bottom line by selling some of my books.  I do try to attend church when I can but I honestly don’t think that God will fault me if I don’t.  I think that really church is a great place to go, and can greatly enrich one’s life, but when it comes down to saying if you would go to heaven or not whether you went to church or not, I beg to differ.  I see church as a place to go to be forgiven for your sins (the sacrament of confession) and to celebrate a mass, but it is more there I feel to have a sense of community among believers and receive guidance and direction from your pastor or priest.  I even feel that people who don’t believe in God, provided they don’t persecute people who do, will go to heaven as long as they aren’t total unrepentant sinners.  One of the few types of people I feel won’t go to heaven would be psychopathic personalities because I think that when they do harmful or powermongering things and their conscience doesn’t kick in and tell them it is wrong, that is what Jesus meant when he talked about sinning against the holy spirit, the only unforgivable sin Jesus ever mentioned.

But, I did sort of promise I would talk about work and finance today so I will forgo that.  What I wanted to focus on was a little book recommended to me by one of the more successful people I know, though certainly not the most successful.  The most successful person I know is a young man named Jeff Berwick who I am friends with and went to high school with who not only once had a net worth of close to a billion dollars, but also was one of the founders of bitcoin among many other projects.  What the ‘lesser successful’ person told me was that he had been recommended to read a book while we were in school which was called “The Richest Man in Babylon” by Richard S. Clason.  I read this book after he recommended it, and it was simply incredible.  Through stories of traders and merchants and money lenders of old, and even stories of slavery and crime, Richard S. Clason, in not much more than 100 pages, teaches people how to master their finances.  He uses no special recommendations that don’t go beyond simple wisdom.  His first axiom is that a person should always save at least 10% of what they earn, that this should be put aside and not touched, but sometimes invested.  Then he goes through many things, not the least of which is how to get advice.  If you want to learn about bricks, don’t ask your neighbor who put up a wall last year, go and find a bricklayer who has spent his life mastering the trade.  If you want to make some money buying diamonds, don’t trust your local Amway salesman, go to a jeweler and seek information from someone who will truly know what they are talking about.  Then he goes on to show the wisdom of doing everything you can to own your own home because what you would have paid in rent goes to a place you can be proud to live in, a yard your children can play in and a place for your wife to have a garden, and as the years pass and you pay off your mortgage, you will have a sizable asset to lean on.  Next, though in the times the stories are set, there is no such thing as insurance or mortgages, he talks about how important it is to have insurance to protect your family.  A key idea he sets down as well is that you should take the job you have and learn all you can about it, consult with others who do the same work, and put all you can into being a hard worker and a productive employee, and this will also help guide you down the path to better finances.

I know this is all seemingly off topic for people who have mental health issues, but it is something I feel is important to everyone.  I feel so very blessed to live in Canada because at 43 I already am able to draw on my old age pension benefits under a disability program, which I would have a hard time getting along without, and there are also programs to help people who are disabled to save money that are so incredibly generous to disabled people it is almost a crime that I don’t take advantage of it.  What I would like to recommend to those who have very little or no income due to a disability, is to first of all maintain a good relationship with your Doctor/Psychiatrist and then look for ways you can earn a little extra and set up a system of rewards so that you feel good about doing it even though it may be 10 times more difficult for you than others who don’t have a mental illness.  I used to reward myself now and then with a special tin of pipe tobacco or a book, but there are many things that can be set up.  I do strongly recommend, even though I have books that give me a small profit, that everyone who wants to master their finances go out and get a copy of “The Richest Man in Babylon”.  The book has meant so much to me over the years that I would estimate I read it close to 50 times.  Once you have read that, the next recommendation I would like to give is to try and get an audiobook series from your local library, even if you have to arrange to borrow it as an inter-library loan or heaven forbid, purchase it instead of downloading it off the Internet, of Roger Dawson’s, “Secrets of Power Negotiating”.  This audiobook series will literally change the way you look at buying and selling everything.  If you arm yourself with these two books and make it your mission to understand them and put them into practice, you will be well on your way to living a comfortable life.  If you are presently unable to work, get these books, read them, and then start small.  Buy some furniture out of the newspaper and set up a booth at your local flea market, or do like I did and start to sell off your own excess household items and then supplement your stock with DVD’s or books you pick up.  One time I even went to the dollar store, got some gadgets for $1 and then sold them at the flea market for $3 and these people had no problem paying it.  I would like to be your guide, if you have any questions, or would like to ask me how you can turn your life around when you have a mental illness and are suffering, please feel free to email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com  and what the heck, if you want to learn more about this or if you like short stories or poetry, check out my ‘books’ page on the menu above or from the landing page on this site and grab a kindle version of one of my books (if you don’t have a kindle, there is a free app for kindle that works on smart phones and tablets).  Regardless, thank you my readers for making me feel worthwhile and needed!

DSC_0048       Despite the cold and the urban sprawl, Edmonton can actually be a beautiful place

A Little On the Financial Side of Things

DSC_0062I’m excited to see a building coming up on this spot because in Edmonton we have closed our municipal airport, meaning now downtown towers can go over a specified height limit that was needed for the approach pattern.  This may well be Edmonton’s new tallest tower

Hello Dear readers!  I wouldn’t count myself to be a proper blogger on the topic of mental health if I didn’t take some of what I had to say about money and work and put it down for all to see.  Just about all my life I have worked, even when I was in the most severe of depressions and on seriously strong medications.  I can recall one time when it was my birthday and my brother and mom called me in the morning before work and I was in a terrible state.  Most people would appreciate getting a call like that, but I was very down and very ill at the time.  I was working at a grocery store which for some time I thought would be a dream job seeing as how it was a well paid union gig, but I was struggling.  Later that same year I went into the hospital and was released early so I could go back to work.  After finally quitting the grocery store job I found something that I could handle a little better, security work.  There were a few things I liked about this kind of work, first and foremost it allowed me a great deal of time to read but sometimes it was extremely hard to keep myself going through a long night shift (we often worked 12 hour shifts) and then have to ride the bus across town to get home and maybe get a few hours sleep before having to go back.  Having no union was an obvious drawback because one year I worked both Christmas and New Year’s hoping to earn some overtime and was given none and a scant explanation that I hadn’t worked for the company long enough to get overtime.

Eventually that job dried up, actually I think what I remember is having some 19 year-old kid come and tell me all the things he didn’t like about what I was doing and I simply quit rather than knuckle under.  A short time later I went into the offices of the best company I possibly ever worked for, the old cowboy movie classic, Pinkerton’s.  It was a great company and I had a great boss, a former Infantry Captain who had left the military after removing a major’s teeth the hard way.  He made the job so fun, he would always call up and say, “your assignment, should you choose to accept it…” there was a lot of pride that went with the uniform and I worked some cool assignments, like guarding multi-million dollar highrises and the Edmonton Art Gallery among many others.  I ended up losing that job too after a couple of years and I went in and out of security work when I needed to.  Eventually I really did get a dream job, the one I have now.  I work for IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the work is fun, the people are awesome, they pay is great and they treat their employees really well.  That is what I think is really key, a person, especially someone with a mental illness, but really any person, has to enjoy and be comfortable with their work, because it is a huge part of who we see ourselves as and how we feel about ourselves.  I really think that a lot of women I know are heroes because they forgo the joy of working to take on the nearly thankless job of being a mom.  Just today I wrote a note to an old friend of mine telling her how much she would love my job and she agreed, she said it would be a dream but she only has the time to fix up furniture at home which is her present job because of her duties as a mom.  Makes me think back to my mom and how much she gave up to raise my brother and sister and I and then took on correspondence courses and volunteer jobs and even went into debt to return to school to realize the dream she had to give up on of becoming a teacher.  But really, what I want to say is that even if you have a Psychiatric disability it is important to try and work as much as you can.  A lot of jobs may pay very little, but still when you add up the dollars on payday it will make a difference.  At first it may be just a few extra groceries, or even just a few better quality groceries.  Then it will pay off in self-esteem.  Then, you may find you have savings and can plan a little trip somewhere on the Greyhound.  A trip will renew you and re-energize you, make you want to work more and work harder.  Do this for a while and raises and promotions or better jobs could well come your way.  Before you know it you will feel great, have some property to be proud of.  Myself for a while I ran a table at the flea market.  I found that if I kept a decent roll of cash in my pocket wherever I went that opportunities to buy cheap items would present themselves and I could sell these at reasonable but profitable prices.  One thing I would do was go to book sales and garage sales.  I would pick up Stephen King Novels for $1 or 50cents and sell them for $3 and get DVD’s from pawn shops or my own collection and sold a lot.  One year I had some money set aside for boxing day and a store was clearing out video games for $1 and I bought about 100 or more titles and sold them for an average of $5 to $10.  Another time I had some cash and bought four or five VCR’s that I sold at a profit. I eventually got a bit sick of working at the flea market, the lousy food and the worse coffee and found another job as a security guard.  One day I was simply doing my job of watching a door at a movie set and got to be friends with the Assistant Locations person.  He convinced me to come on board with the union to do movie security for twice what I was getting, and before long I was doing the job I have now for even more money.  Of course money isn’t everything, but now that I have my mental health in order, it really is nice to be able to buy a book or a gift or a plane trip.  Last year alone I went to Hawaii twice.  Well, that was actually more than I wanted to write today.  Please tune in tomorrow when I will go over some of the secrets I learned reading some of the great classics of financial literature, the best of which I will recommend in advance, “The Richest Man in Babylon”.  All the best dear readers!

DSC_0031Here’s the same construction site as above, but from another angle.  I just love to chronicle the development of new construction in my photos.