Month: June 2020

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.