mental health page

Travel (Pandemic Allowing) When You Have A Psychiatric Disability and A Tiny Income

Travel is one of life’s great experiences. The hardest thing for me since the Pandemic began has been not to be able to travel. For so many who have mental illnesses, travel can be nearly impossible. I want to show you here how you can still do it.

The first thing I think you most need to be able to do is save. There is a short but information-packed book I have read many times on the subject of saving, investing and earning called “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I can’t guarantee it will make you rich overnight, but if you read it and follow the simple advice in it, you are guaranteed to be better off than if you don’t.

So, first you need to determine where you want to visit. Places that are overseas come with expensive airline tickets. Sometimes you may need to set aside money for your ticket as much as a year in advance. This is something I recommend and it has worked well for me travelling to Hawaii twice and to London, England once. I bought my ticket to London well in advance, keeping an eye on prices and seasons. I just wanted to visit the place, it didn’t matter what was going on so I managed a ticket for less than $1,000.00. By luck my trip turned out to be when England was celebrating the Queen’s 92nd birthday and there were a lot of events going on, a lot of flag waving and flowers being laid all over.

In the time between buying my ticket and leaving on the trip, something I did was watch as many Youtube videos as I could about London. I learned how to read their Underground (subway) map and picked out things I wanted to do, good places to eat and where to visit. I was even able to order my bus pass and a detailed paper map online. One of the other things that was key to me going on this trip was that I had a part-time job. I worked as a security guard for just a few hours a week, which wasn’t much, but it was a very easy job and the little extra money for savings made the difference for me.

When I got to London, instead of staying in a hotel, which could easily have cost $200 a night, I stayed in a Hostel, in a dorm room for I think around $60 a night after the exchange, which gave a free breakfast and had free wifi. Free wifi is key because with it, you can make free calls home. Not only that, but I was able to cook most of my meals in the Hostel and store food there rather than having to spend a fortune on restaurants.

I knew of a lot of the places I wanted to see, but after getting there, there were so many more things I want to get to next time. So many of the amazing sights and experiences in London were free. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, winding down in Trafalgar Square. Even most of the major museums and galleries were free to visit.

One of the key things I did was to restrict my activities to one per day. I also set a rule for myself that I wouldn’t spend more each day than I would at home. This meant returning home with a little extra money and the ability to not worry about working for a couple of days as travelling overseas can be exhausting.

I do want to caution something about customs. They can be a little tricky, especially with people with mental illnesses. During my trip home I was selected for secondary screening and the customs officer actually went through my medications one by one and also googled me, I guess to see if I was lying about my job or anything like that. If this happens to you, stay calm, explain your illness even if you feel it may look bad and above all be totally honest. You can’t get into trouble for having a mental illness, but you can get into trouble for lying and a lot of trouble if you are taking home contraband or more than your legal limit of products such as booze and cigarettes.

Lastly, if you are going to the US, remember that although it is legal in Canada, cannabis is illegal in the United States. Many states have legalized it but the US Federal Government hasn’t, and that is who pays the border guards down there. Don’t even bring a trace of marijuana or other drugs with you, they can turn you back, arrest you or fine you and generally ruin a hard-earned vacation.

My Best Explanation Of Psychosis Caused By Bipolar and Schizophrenia

Good day dear readers! If you would like to contact me, feel free. My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

I don’t know exactly why, but when I think of mental illness, pictures like the above one often come to mind. Sometimes I really envy birds, I have spent a lot of time watching them. As a boy, I don’t know if I was that obsessed with birds, but I certainly loved flying and I started from a young age. I was 12 when I first sat in the cockpit of a glider and I later went on to attend commercial pilot school for a while. It just seems sometimes that birds are so free and happy. They just have relatively simple brains and they constantly display incredible amounts of skill and grace as they cleave the air.

As far as psychosis goes, from what I am understanding, it most often comes on gradually. It starts in something called the prodromal phase where a milder mental illness exists and develops into psychosis. For me, it was both anxiety and depression. Some of this could have had to do with the abuse I was getting at home and at school, but my mom did suffer from severe depression, to the point of needing shock treatments. One of the biggest parts of the early phases of my mental illness was a feeling of not being worthy of happiness added to a severe case of anxiety that made it impossible for me to look people in the eye or talk to anyone without blushing. One of the worst parts of this was that I was very slow to learn how to relate to the opposite sex and never even had a girlfriend until I was 20 something.

At a certain point in my life, I think I was starting to get a handle on the anxiety, and I hadn’t had any severe depression for a while. I didn’t notice it, but I was starting to show signs of both bipolar and schizophrenia. Later as a formal patient in a psychiatric hospital, I recall two very esteemed doctors arguing as to whether I had bipolar or schizophrenia. Funny enough, I had both.

What having those two illnesses meant early on was that I had extreme highs and lows and later developed psychosis, which I will explain in a moment. As far as my bipolar went though, I have a recollection of being able to induce a manic or high phase of my illness by drinking alcohol. I was invited to one party at a friend’s house once and was laughing a little too loud, making a few too many jokes and displaying too much energy for anyone’s liking. One of the things I recall about the times when I didn’t have any friends and thus didn’t do any drinking, was that I thought drinking was the only true joy in my life. It was also a social lubricant and if I had a few drinks, I was much more likely to approach a woman to talk or ask her to dance or even start necking with her.

One of the things about Air Cadets was that, possibly because of what the real military was like, there was a huge drinking culture. I recall having a phase of social development where I went from wallflower to life of the party in a few short months, then after I quit cadets losing all of my chances to interact with and relate to women.

To go past this for a little while, I should talk about my psychosis. It is a funny thing to have and a difficult thing to explain. Basically, psychosis is when a person becomes out of touch with reality. In my own case, and I am sure in many from experience, psychosis starts out with delusions. These are thoughts, ideas and beliefs that kind of appear seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes they can take the form of a running commentary of what the person is doing. My false thoughts didn’t appear to be someone talking to me, everything was from inside my head. The next aspect of psychosis is hallucinations. These are sensory inputs (touch, taste, smell, hearing–they can come in the form of any of the five senses) that are false. Often in my case, my hallucinations backed up what my delusions were telling me. I remember spending a great deal of time once when I was in the psych hospital sitting and listening to the air conditioner. It made a sound like a drum roll and inside my head a dialogue was telling me that I was about to be awarded a medal for bravery, all I had to do was walk out of the TV room and claim it. Sometimes this would go on for hours, I would even sometimes go and look if anything was there.

Another time, I was on the psych ward and experiencing false ideas and sensory input and a group of student nurses came onto the ward. One of them kept telling me, “Your Limo is outside.” I am pretty sure she really said this, not because I really had a Limo, but because she understood a lot about psychosis and wanted to see how much she could mess with me. I found it actually very common to experience this sort of cruelty from staff members.

So we have delusions and hallucinations. The next part is a feeling of paranoia. Certainly not everyone who has schizophrenia experiences all of these or even has all the same symptoms. Even when I was taking my medication though, I sometimes felt like others wanted to harm me. This made it very hard to attend school, go to parties, even have a job or a social life.

The next part of psychosis (and I should mention there are a lot of illnesses that can possibly include psychosis, though schizophrenia with 1 in 100 people having it is one of the more common ones) is having a general susceptibility to the false ideas you are receiving. One of the interesting things about symptoms like this is the fact that some ideas that people with schizophrenia get are shared with a great deal of other people with schizophrenia. One is a spy agency planting a computer in your brain to track you and spy on you. Some people with schizophrenia will walk around with tin foil on their heads in public so they don’t transmit radio waves. What I remember is experiencing those false ideas and thoughts, and having hallucinations and tendency to believe them and thinking the most preposterous things. I desperately wanted to make sense of why the CIA wanted me dead and that a super model wanted me to steal a car I saw that supposedly had a million dollars in the trunk (thankfully I didn’t do any of the more extreme things) I made a lot of logical conclusions and reasoned things out and quite often the only explanations that made sense were ideas like aliens were communicating with me or such.

Psychosis sucks. It hurts those who experience it and it puts their family and friends over the brink of never wanting to talk to the sick person again, but it shouldn’t. It isn’t a choice people make, and the goal should be to get the person treatment, not to just get rid of them. When I look back at times when I had psychosis, I am amazed that my doctors were able to bring me back from the brink. I don’t necessarily like all the things I went through in the hospital, but it may have been the only place I could get the help I needed. I will never forget spending five months on the locked ward being thrown into solitary time and time again, weeks, months on end. I honestly feel it exacerbated my psychological health problems, which I believe to be PTSD. But now, 20 years later, my life is on track again. One of the worst things about mental illness is that not a lot of people know enough to help someone they know who is going through depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Seriously. Things. Need. To. Change.

Reminding Myself There Are People With Schizophrenia All Over This World

Well, dear readers, it has been quite a while since I published a post. A lot has gone on in the past while, I stumbled across a job as a journalist and all seemed great but unfortunately the magazine that I worked for was defunded, leaving me wondering what to do.

I had come across this magazine through a post online (I strongly recommend any writers out there who are just starting out, subscribe to submission mailing lists and go through them carefully, some of the things I have found there have been my bread and butter). I wrote something for them and they were really impressed. I had actually just completed a very cool course through the University of Alberta and an American University on writing personal essays. I had a few things published, including getting a short article into “The British Journal of Psychiatry”. Things really seemed to be going good. What was odd was that I asked about my pay for the article and they said they paid ‘x’ amount for oped articles, and until then I hadn’t even heard of oped articles. To educate myself, I found a website called “The Oped Project” and applied for a scholarship to take their course.

This was a fantastic course to pair with my personal essay course. They taught me how to write short opinion articles, edit them and send them to newspapers and other news agencies. I ended up getting four or five articles into newspapers and though they weren’t paid gigs, they led to a lot of great stuff. I wrote one about mental health and police response and the next day I was interviewed on a mainstream news radio station. I wrote some others, and have had a lot of people contact me for different things, including buying my books.

The reason I think this is so important and why I think any writers out there who read this blog should take notice is that people with mental health issues are an unpopular voice. Newspapers and news shows need to hear our stories, need to hear what we go through and what could be done to help. My big thing is to look at psychiatric hospitals like the one in Edmonton where I now work and ask some tough questions. First of all, it bothers me that the place is hidden far away from the city and to get to it you need to go through unimproved back roads like they want to hide the fact that people have mental illnesses. I would really like to see a psych hospital in a more centralized location for many reasons. First of all, it would make it easier for long-term patients to find part-time work, attend school, or engage in normal activities like going to a movie or shopping. It would also benefit the communities because a lot of what is strictly done by institutional staff such as food services could be contracted out to local people and businesses.

I have this other idea that there should be a great deal more education and efforts at inclusion for people with mental illnesses. Then, when the public is ready (I don’t feel they are now) something like putting in an in-law suite in a private house that could be rented out to someone with a mental illness. This would allow people to become a part of a community and even help pay the landlord’s mortgage. I do feel though that there is too much ignorance and stigma around for this to be effective. It is being done on a small scale, but there is so much need.

A lot of what I have to say with regards to the mentally ill has to do with housing. If you can’t house someone, it becomes nearly impossible for them to be treated properly by psychiatric and medical staff. Their conditions grow worse and all too many times these people die from exposure or drug overdose and way too many by suicide.

There is much to be said, and much more to be done. I hope you, my dear reader will continue to follow me as I try to speak out and encourage more people to speak out. 1% of the world population have schizophrenia and another 1% suffer from bipolar disorder. These are horrible illnesses that are not the fault of the person experiencing them, and sadly often the bad results of these illness are the fault of things like stigma and ableism.

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 viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

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:

viking3082000@yahoo.com

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 viking3082000@yahoo.com 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!