Hello. Sorry I haven’t been adding content for some time, after seeing that I still have followers and daily hits I think I will try and remedy that. For anyone interested, I am having a free Online Reading tomorrow from my latest mental health book. This will be your chance to hear work not yet published and ask me any questions you like. You can access the meeting with this link:
Good Mental Health Doesn’t Always Mean Life Is Perfect. But My Worst Day Sane Is Better Than My Best Day Crazy
Photo by Sincerely Media On Unsplash
Hello my Dear Readers! Well, I tried a little experiment and posted this website and the link to download my book “Alert and Oriented x3” on Twitter. I also posted a link to the amazon page to buy my book. I got 27 downloads, but zero purchases. I can accept that. I am kind of glad 27 people are interested enough in my work to give it a shot. Maybe I should start posting here more and start up a Patreon Page so people can donate to my efforts if they feel moved. The truth is, I love this blog and I love posting here, but up until now it has often been like writing notes on a brick wall that just get washed off each day, I have been feeling like my posts don’t make a difference. If any of you out there feel like my blog has helped them, please do get in touch, it would mean a great deal.
So my big thing these days has been freelance work. I don’t know how many of you may have seen what I have been writing elsewhere, let me try and paste in a few links:
Darn, that didn’t work. Let me try pasting in my CBC article here: CBC Article
Cool, that seemed to work! There is another, an article published in Alberta Views Magazine
Awesome! Now I will link a video that CBC News made of me, a 5-minute min-documentary
Hope you, my good readers enjoy the above. I hope you also feel that this blog is something that should keep going on. I just kind of wish I knew a little more about Patreon. Once again, I could really use feedback. Is there anything you would like to see as a special reward for those who support me with $5 or $10 a month? Perhaps I could put together a short compilation of one of my short stories and a couple of my poems for those who are able to pay. I definitely don’t want to make it so people can’t access this part of the website. I want that to stay free and openly advertised.
Well, I would love to install some of my wisdom with you now readers, but I don’t have a whole lot of it on hand. One thing I could talk about is this wonderful book I am reading called “Ragged Company” by the author Richard Wagamese. It is absolutely brilliant, it is the story of four people who are homeless who start getting together each day to go to the movies. At first they think it is just a good way to avoid the cold, but it becomes much more to all of them and they make friends with a retired reporter. I don’t want to talk too much more about the story but it is so incredibly beautiful how the author portrays these people and the circumstances that brought them to live on the streets. Five stars out of five, read this book and anything else you can find by Richard Wagamese.
I am also reading a book by Dr. Gabor Mate, who used to work in a clinic in the downtown east side of Vancouver. It is so amazing, it tells some pretty sad and tragic stories and in a way it is like the previous book I mentioned because it is about people who are hurting, struggling with demons no one could comprehend. The book is about love, but it is about love that some people never experienced, and how it left them in so much pain they hid from life by using drugs or behaviours that were unsustainable or self-destructive like gambling or compulsive shopping.
As I have been reading and doing a fair bit of writing, I have been experiencing some pain of my own. I have two muscle tears in my shoulder and I have a huge need to go to physio but the number of appointments allowed me by Alberta Health Care have ended and now I have to find $90 a week somewhere to pay for more sessions (This is almost the same money as my rent for one half hour a week) I have been in a bit of a mad rush to find more freelancing opportunities or sell more books. By the way, for those of you who live in Edmonton, I will be selling and signing my books at a Christmas Market on December 3 and 4 at 12855-52 street from 10:00am to 4:00pm and I would love to see you out, even if it is just to say hello and Merry Christmas. I am also happy to sign any books of mine you may have bought that aren’t signed or answer any questions anyone may have about writing or mental health.
Well! I don’t know how many of you will read all the way down to this point, but if you have, I snuck over to the page for Patreon an in a few simple clicks I re-activated my account. Anyone wishing to help support my efforts (if you gave $2 a month that would be amazing, if you ask, I will still put you on the list to receive poems and stories) can visit MY PATREON PAGE and donate whatever they like, or even just read and view some of the content on there.
How Best To Spend Your Time When You Live With a Mental Health Disability Like Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder
Hello good readers. I wanted to talk a bit about something that I have been wrestling with a bit lately. It is basically what I call wasting time. I had a roommate I stopped living with years ago and I ran into him downtown. He has had a mental illness for a number of years and just before I saw him, he was sitting on a bench, not doing much when some police came up to him. They asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’m just wasting time.” and because he wasn’t up to anything they felt was legitimate, they gave him a $250 fine for loitering. This is an extreme example, but a true story that shows how important it is to have a purpose in everything you do. In my own life, I experienced homelessness more than once, and I always saw not having a direction or a goal of some sort to be the worst of it. When I was homeless after being stranded in California, even though I sometimes went days without sleep or food, I still didn’t have that loss of hope that comes with not having a direction to go in.
When I look back at my childhood, I sometimes, but not always, lament how much time I spent starting at a TV screen. I happened to be watching re-runs of a show from the 1970s that I had seen a few times before, and I was amazed at how much of it I had seen before. I think that watching TV can be a problem as far as wasting time goes, but there is a way around that. You can become an active TV watcher. You can do this first by becoming aware of what kinds of things are on and then trying to maximize the time you sit in front of the tube with just your favourite shows. There is such a thing as a good TV show, and good ways to spend time in front of a screen. I don’t want to judge anyone, but video games are also a part of this. The way I try to make the best of my video game time is to try to only use very realistic simulators. You can get flight simulators or driving simulators. Still, if you want to play something that doesn’t fit into that category, try to lean towards games that make you think.
The way I wanted to explain to make watching Television worthwhile is to learn to look at TV like a film student would. One of the ways to do this is to read books that go with what you are watching. Recently, I watched an amazing series aired on Prime video called “Jack Reacher” which is based on a series of books by Lee Child. I have read a number of these books which I find extremely stimulating intellectually because they are so well written, the suspense is so well done and each new book is a new chapter in the main character’s life and also a mystery that you try and solve as the main character goes through it. If you decide that you love watching TV and movies and don’t want to stop, consider sitting in on a few University film classes. This will help bring meaning to your time watching a screen.
One of the ways I found that helps to make the most of my time (I am writing this for people with mental health disabilities that often don’t have a job and live on disability benefits) is getting up and going to bed at the same time each day, weekend or not. I then try to balance a set number of tasks as each day goes by. If it isn’t a day I work one of my part-time jobs, I have a system going where I will take a long-distance walk, mainly for exercise and fresh air, but also partly to both wake myself up and use up a portion of my day that I might otherwise have spent sleeping in or doing something without purpose. Walking to me is my salvation. Some of you may want to go for a jog, others might ride an exercise bike for a while. I find that there are really just two things I need to do when I get up, namely eat breakfast and get some exercise. I do have an exercise bike but I usually spend my time on it later in the day, especially when I want to get my heart rate going (cardio, which most doctors will tell you should go on 3 hours a week–walking doesn’t get my heart rate going). My late in the day exercise is also useful for regulating my blood sugar level.
I have recently subscribed to some TV streaming services. One is Netflix, and another is called “Kanopy” which anyone can download and register on for free through their local library. It gives you all kind of movies, TV shows and documentaries. Yesterday I had the total joy of using Kanopy to watch “For a Fistful of Dollars” the Clint Eastwood classic and it was very entertaining. Another free streaming service I recommend is called “Plex” which you can also download in an App Store and watch free movies with. I like having a lot of choice in which movie I watch and when. I have a ton of DVDs and numerous streaming services. It takes me back to the days when I would go to the video store and pore over movies for as much as an hour to pick out the perfect ones.
Of course, no one really has to follow what I say to the letter. You can ride a bike instead of walking, you can go to a gym or a pool. For a while, when my knees were doing a little better, I would take a 2-hour walk, then swim for an hour and take a two-hour walk back. It felt incredible to be in such great shape, but I don’t think it was doing my knees, hips or back a lot of good.
There is only really one thing I hope you don’t do Dear Readers to pass time, that is to smoke. I swore when I quit smoking I wouldn’t become an anti-smoking Nazi but the truth is, it is a horrible habit. It makes your fingers and teeth yellow or brown, it robs you of precious oxygen and makes it harder for your lungs to function and can cause cancer and a whole host of illnesses. If you smoke, do your best to quit. I don’t even want my readers to vape, I feel this is a poor alternative to smoking and can end up costing you more and doing just as much if not more harm. Little is known now about the long-term effects of vaping. Do yourself a favour, save a ton of money and quit while you still can.
Now I will get to another way I feel time can be well wasted, reading. I loved to read as a child, I recently went through some old report cards and my grade two teacher put in mine how happy she was that I was such a voracious reader. I did a lot of reading for a while longer, then started to get away from it. I started reading comic books and for a long time didn’t do as much text-only reading. When I finally grew out of comics (we didn’t have a lot of adult-oriented graphic novels back then) I started watching “Reading Rainbow” by Levar Burton of “Roots” and “Star Trek The Next Generation” fame. He rekindled my love of reading, and perhaps more importantly, made me feel okay to read below my age level to build up my concentration and reading comprehension. I started out reading a few books about the FBI and such in the children’s section of my library, then worked my way up to novels about movies I saw (my favourite being a Han Solo book and another one a Star Trek book). Despite having poor grades in English for a while, English became my second best subject, and I was able to complete the academic English in grade 12. My love of reading about history allowed me to complete Social Studies in grade 12 as well, both with respectable marks.
If you find that you are not much of a reader, what I suggest is that you find something fun to read. I had a time in my life when I couldn’t find a book that held my interest and so I either would read my favourite book ever, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” or I would read parts of a book about a heavy metal band and their exploits. I really can’t emphasize enough how much joy reading can be. If you find you have concentration problems, maybe from not reading for a while, do like I did and start with younger books. For those with a mental illness, there are some great Young Adult Novels about mental health that are an easy and fun and even instructive way to get some words under your belt.
There are many advantages to taking the three types of advice I talked about today: getting some exercise, watching TV with a critical eye and getting into reading, but perhaps the most important one is that these are things you can do with very little money. In some ways, there were a lot of advantages to going through the Pandemic, I learned to be okay with spending time alone and I learned to get adjusted to not spending too much money. I really think that, aside from when you are dealing with loved ones, a person with a mental illness needs to be cheap. Buy generic products, always look for ways to save money on your food budget, quit smoking and other costly habits. I was able to do this, and, with the help of my local library, get some work as a freelance writer (I took a number of instructor led courses through my library called ‘Gale Courses’ that taught me so much). By doing these things, I have been able to sock away a little money that I can use either for a big trip or possibly even fund my retirement.
Well Dear Readers, I want to thank each one of you for coming this far. I hope you can take my advice and spend your time wisely, yet still be careful with money and engage with your community. A couple of last minute ideas to help you along could be to join your local community league and to make the most out of your local library. If you have more ideas, please feel free to share them here. You are also more than welcome to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I would love it if you write to purchase some of the books I have written, but asking your local library to stock them is just as good. Take care and see you on my next night of insomnia!!
The Importance of Friends and Family Members When You Have a Mental Illness
Hello Dear Readers! Just wanted to make a quick note that everything on this website is free, including a free download of my book “Alert and Oriented x3.” The way things are, it is hard for me to make ends meet, so I am asking that if you can afford it and you enjoy my writing that you consider buying one of my books off Amazon. There are 12 of them, including 3 memoirs (Inching Back to Sane: Second Edition, Through the Withering Storm, and Alert and Oriented x3) as well as two Young Adult Novels, (In The Blink of an Eye, Those Who Dare to Dream) and four poetry collections (Poems From Inside Me, First White of Winter Poems, Stargazer: My Life in Constellations, and Poetry of Love, Life and Hope) and two short story collections (The Base Jumpers, Mustang Summer). It would be great if you could purchase them off Amazon, but if you can’t, it would be even better if you could contact your local librarian and ask them to carry the books in their catalogue.
So, on to the topic of the day. Having friends is difficult, but it can be our best weapon against loneliness. Loneliness leads to depression, and social anxiety and can literally be deadly. One of the most important things to understand is that there may be times when you are lonely and there is little you can do about it. This is a good time to reach out to a counsellor (there may be a Pastoral Care worker at your local hospital that can help out here) or another type of counsellor who can treat you for free or on a sliding scale. What often is suggested is cognitive behavioural therapy, but there are many strategies that can help.
One of the first things I recommend to people who are recently diagnosed is that they go to live in a supportive group home, especially one that doesn’t kick out its residents during the day. This can be a great place to learn life skills to eventually live on your own and also is a good place to meet and interact with others who suffer from mental illnesses, while hopefully having someone to talk to who is trained to deal with those who have mental health issues.
I also strongly recommend getting involved in some kind of club. It can be a chess club that meets at your library, it can even be a Facebook group for things such as military modelling. You can join all kinds of groups where you discuss fun things with people who like the same things as you do, but be cautious not to get too absorbed in your computer. I personally don’t think violent video games are a great way to meet people, but they can be better than just sitting and watching TV.
One of the ways you can get involved in an activity outside the house is to go to your local gym (free memberships in Edmonton if you are on Aish, thanks Shiona and Allison for pointing this out) but not just working out or swimming, joining a group that does something like Yoga or any kind of thing where you are likely to meet people. Some of you may feel apprehensive about this and worry people will judge you for having a mental illness, so you may want to look into groups set up by psychiatric clinics where you can go and join a support group and get feeling better about yourself so eventually you can get out in public. The important thing is to try and find something you enjoy and find a way to get better at it while meeting people
Family of course can be critical when you have a mental illness. Sadly, if you ever go to a psychiatric ward, it may be only your family that comes to visit, and it may also be only your family who supports you when you leave. Keep this in mind when you choose where you want to live when you leave the hospital. Try to get a place near a clinic and near your family.
Sometimes you will have some time in your day when there are no interactions to be had. Try to fill up these times with positive activities. I like to read for a few hours before bed, and if I have the time, I like to go for a three-mile walk or more, then buy a bottle of water and take the bus home.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to work or volunteer. Volunteering can be ideal because you won’t be expected to perform up to the level of a paid position, but you will be able to learn how to get to that level. Of course you should do as good of a job as you can, but in the end if it doesn’t work out, you really haven’t lost much.
One of the ways I like to make new friends is to stop and say hello to members of my community when I pass them on the street or on the way to buy groceries. It can be a nice thing to stop and share a few kind words or even just say hello and have a person say hello back. As you get to know them you can talk to them about things like how their business is going or how their workouts are progressing. Sometimes making connections like these can take a while, but are worth the effort.
Going to church can also be a beneficial thing, but please be a bit wary. There are churches out there that are simply in the business of shaming their congregation and then asking for large contributions of money. In my case, I live next to two churches that I enjoy going to, one being a Catholic Church which gives back so much more to the community than they ask for. They don’t pressure anyone to give a ton of money and they often have charity sales like when they put on a 25-cent garage sale. I often go to these to get books to read.
The final type of relationship I want to talk about may not seem like a relationship, but it can be. I am talking about keeping a journal. Go to the dollar store, get some pens and a few pads of paper and when the spirit moves you, use it to write poems, notes to yourself, letters to yourself ten years ago or just how you are feeling. A journal can be a great friend, and if you ever decide to write a book like I have, your journal can be an excellent source of content for your book. Thanks so much dear readers, take care and if you have anything to add or comment, please feel free to leave a comment here or email me at email@example.com
It Can Be So Hard To Live On Disability Benefits. Here Are Some Ways To Make It Easier
I think there were six days to the end of the month. At the time, my total monthly income was $560.00. I had to pay $300 rent and the rest went to the bare minimum groceries and tobacco I could get away with. All I could think about was food, I was so hungry but just couldn’t bear to eat the crap that was left in my cupboard and fridge. I fantasized that when my cheque came I would get a Big Mac meal plus 20 chicken nuggets and dip them in honey. My cheque came of course, but once again it went to bills, tobacco and groceries, and I only had less the next month because of my fantasy meal.
- Do you love coffee? Try to wean yourself off of it and drink tea instead. When I drink coffee, I often buy generic brand Keurig pods that work out to 35 cents a cup, plus 2.5 cents for artificial sweetener and then the cost of either keeping powdered whitener around or milk. When I get tea, it costs me right around 5 cents per tea bag and I don’t use whitener so the total cost is 7.5 cents per cup. I have really come to enjoy tea and it doesn’t keep me awake like coffee used to.
- Do you get cable and Internet and keep a land line? You may need a psychiatrist (yes, some p. docs will do this!) to help you get out of your home services contract, but do it as soon as you can. Look up discount Internet providers in your area, you may be amazed how much you save. Then, either with a smart TV or with an Apple TV or Roku Device, get the following apps: River TV, Plex and Kanopy. River TV costs about $17 a month (Canadian) but will give you live and on-demand TV as well as Network TV so you can watch sporting events and news. Plex gives you a ton of videos, all free, ad-supported. Kanopy is a service you join through your library card and gives you a ton of documentaries, a lot of foreign and British TV and movies and all the movies you used to take out f the library. Now you don’t need cable or Internet. Don’t bother with a land line, I think the best thing to do is purchase a reasonably priced Android phone and use that as your main line. Shop around for a deal. I use Virgin and after 5 years I don’t miss my land line at all.
- Start to condition your cardiovascular system and legs to walk long distances. Get a quality backpack. Quality costs more, but works better and lasts longer and ends up costing less. I have a Swiss Gear backpack and briefcase and I have had them both more than five years with almost no sign of wear and no tearing or splitting of seams. When I need groceries, I put two reusable bags in my backpack and walk the two miles to my local Superstore. They have the best prices of just about any grocery store because they are much larger. I walk there, buy just what I need and then walk back with it. The exercise makes me feel great, and so does the savings. If you just can’t walk to a large superstore type place, try going with a friend and splitting the cost of a cab home, but walking or taking the bus to the store.
- Find yourself a part-time or volunteer job. Volunteering has many benefits, one of them is simply time. It takes up time to wake up, get ready, go somewhere and work for a few hours then do it all in reverse. This is time you won’t be spending money, and if you do your job well, you always have a good chance of being hired on for pay. If you can work a part-time job that pays you, even better. Volunteering will also help you get jobs because when you do apply for another position, there won’t be as much of a gap in your resume.
- If you smoke, get help to quit. If you drink on a regular basis, or have any habits, join a 12-step group. There is so much help out there for people who have habits they may have formed in their teen years that they don’t want any more. I quit smoking around 18 years ago by joining a program through my mental health clinic where I had two support groups, a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions, and even a pharmacist who showed me how to use patches and the gum effectively. At the time, I was using around $5 a day of tobacco. Now, the same habit would cost me $20 a day. Figure out what habits like drinking or smoking are worth it and then think about how wonderful it would be to not wake up coughing if you smoke or wake up with a bad headache and a queasy stomach if you drink. Note that groups like AA don’t require you have stopped drinking, you only require a desire to stop drinking.
- Make the most of your local dollar store. In Alberta, we have two main dollar stores, The Dollar Tree and Dollarama. On a hot day I like to make a stop at Dollarama because they have cold bottles of Diet Pepsi for $1.25 while just about any place charges $3. I am always buying my pens and paper there for my writing and sometimes when I can’t help myself I will buy some kettle chips there, and they have so much more from garbage bags and sandwich bags to business envelopes, super cheap graphic novels to cooking utensils. I shy away from most of the food there, but my dad loves the dark chocolate I buy there for him.
- Get your name on a list to get into subsidized housing. I live in a subsidized building and I absolutely love it. The building is very solidly built and I rarely hear my neighbours at all. A social services nonprofit runs the building and they have hired me to teach poetry classes and other things. The very best part? Rent is just $411.00 a month and it’s a spacious 2-bedroom. The main problem with places like this is the waiting list, which here is as much as 2 years. I suggest going into a higher floor if you go into a 3-storey walk-up for a few reasons. Ground floors are more susceptible to mice and some other bugs, as well as break-ins. Granted, it is difficult to walk up all those stairs sometimes several times a day, but it is good exercise and very much worth it in my opinion.
There is much more to be said of course, I encourage any of my readers to write to me and let me know what they do to stretch a buck. Best wishes to all of you!