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
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.
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: email@example.com 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!!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello everyone and welcome back! It has been a while since I have posted, but I can see that there are still people adding me on WordPress and I am still getting new reads. So, realizing that I love you guys, and that the blog has become something more than just typing practise, I have made the decision to return to writing at least one blog entry a week here.
So you may wonder what I have been up to. I have been writing on the Medium platform, which, once you get over 100 followers, pays you to write articles. It takes a lot of time and hard work, but I figured that if I put the same time into Medium as I do into this blog, I will be making a little money for myself in no time. The Medium platform costs $5 a month but has some amazing content. If you are a writer, I would totally recommend getting on Medium because some people curate lists of places to send your writing to. I have been fortunate enough to use these lists, and the income (from writing work) generated has more than made up for my investment.
So, I have been having some problems with Revenue Canada. I don’t know how many of my readers are Canadian, but here in Canada we have something called the Disability Tax Credit. You go to your Doctor, preferably the specialist that treats the condition that causes your disability (in my case my Psychiatrist) and they fill out a form T2201 then you fill in part of it, you send it off and if you qualify, you save a lot on taxes. I went through this process, then after it was approved, I learned my Psychiatrist didn’t back-date my disability, even though I have been under psychiatric care for 32 years now. The big problem was that I filled out my tax forms with the belief that I was eligible for this tax credit but they didn’t see it on their end. Add to that the situation where I received some support monies from the Government due to Covid-19 that I mostly paid back, and I was blasted with a heavy tax bill. I am now resubmitting everything, beginning with my T2201 and have high hopes that I won’t have to cash in my meagre retirement savings to feed the beast. I hope that anyone out there who has a disability or a family member with one will be able to get their T2201 in and get them that tax savings. For those who are disabled and under 49, there is a program that the T2201 form makes you eligible for that will pay extra money into your savings for every dollar you put away. If anyone is interested in more information about this (it can practically make you a millionaire if you start young enough!) please let me know.
So anyhow, this is going to be a short blog entry, I just wanted to let you good people know I haven’t forgotten about you. I would love it if you could write in and let me know what you would like to see covered on this blog, or any questions you may have. You can reach me here or at email@example.com
I did want to quickly touch on a subject that I think could really benefit my readers. For those of you who are living with a mental health disability, and also for those who aren’t, I want to encourage you to consider going back to continue your education. There is a free program available in many Universities called Humanities 101 where you take a once-a-week night class that tries to give people who may not ordinarily be able to attend a University some exposure to higher education. It is a great class not only because you learn so much, but also you get access to the University’s resources. You can use the library, get student discounts on tons of stuff. One of the things I liked about it when I took the course was that I was able to download a free copy of Microsoft Word, which is essential to my writing and normally over $100. If you don’t have a Humanities 101 program in your area, think about taking just one University class. You can audit it or just take it normally for credits. It will give you some of the same access, you will have a chance to meet amazing people, and it will enrich your life.
This is a photo of me and one of my best friends ever, Glen. This was one of the last times I saw him, Glen was in a nursing home and was in the final stages of MS. When we were kids, Glen was the most athletic guy, we would play tag games where the boundaries of our play area including a school that we would climb from ground level and chase each other like we were on something. When Glen got MS, his wife left him and took his two kids. I can’t imagine what he went through.
In my life I have been blessed with many friends, but not always the best resources to keep them as my friend. I live alone now but I don’t feel lonely. I have developed a lot of strategies to get me through the tough times. I often wonder if I could just cave in and let anyone be my roommate or move in with some love interest. It is a bit scary to think about, but now that I am 50, I am resigned to my present situation.
One of the things I do to cope is that I try not to have too much spare time, and when I do, I like to phone friends and talk for a long time. If I’m on the phone and another friend calls, I patch them all together and have a conference call. I have relied on phoning friends for a long time. In the first months of living on my own (I previously lived in a group home) I called my friend who lives out of town for at least 120 minutes a day. Fortunately the long distance rates were flat for anywhere in Canada.
I have heard of people using a method to combat loneliness and ‘cabin fever’ by writing letters. This isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have family overseas. You could write emails in rotation to people you know who are on the Internet, and then write letters. It helps brighten a person’s day a lot to get a handwritten letter and emails from friends are always welcome. Another thing I do is that when I have a day when I am home alone, I do a lot of Internet searches for work in my field. I might look up the faculty of a University and write to the Professors to ask if they want me to give a Zoom talk to their students regarding mental health. I add in trying to sell them a few of my books, politely and in a professional manner. I also do searches for magazines or periodicals of any type about ideas I have to write articles. There are many things you can do along the lines of that, let’s say you like making bead jewelry. You could look up videos that will teach you new ways of beading, you could take some time to figure out how to make an online store and then you can find groups on Facebook that focus on beading and spend even more time looking for free ways to advertise, say by putting pictures of what you bead on Instagram and Twitter.
One thing I want to warn my readers about. Living alone can have benefits, but it can also be extremely stressful. I recall a few years ago having an apartment and not working. I wasn’t keeping in touch with anyone and the loneliness really started to get to me. If you ever feel this way, do your best to talk to your doctor, get an appointment for as soon as you can. If you can afford it, try and get set up with telephone counselling over the phone. Anther idea is to creatively use the Internet to find support groups in your area that you can attend as soon as possible. I always recommend The Schizophrenia Society first if you have one in your area because they do so much good and can take a person through the cycle of recovery and stay very supportive. When I was in this bad situation, I ended up calling the psychiatric hospital. The person on the phone was very helpful, she said that I could go to the hospital, but there was no guarantee it would make me any better off than I was then. This really made me pull up my bootstraps and soldier on into dealing with my illness. The main problem was loneliness which was causing depression. It didn’t make sense at the time to just treat the depression, but that was what had to happen until I got feeling better.
Something I want to note here is that it can be very tempting to let someone move into your apartment. In fact, a lot of major cities have roommate services and some ad newspapers like Kijiji have listings for roommates. I want to warn everyone that a bad roommate is worse than even being in the hospital. You need to make sure you know the person, it is best if they are family or someone you went to school with or knew for years. I had a very brief relationship with a young woman once and a few days later she called to ask if I could house her friend for a few days. A few days turned to weeks, and one friend turned into a dozen. Soon they had eaten everything I had and decided that I should continue to feed them. The result was one of the worst experiences of my life. My phone bill got run up to $800. People were doing drugs and drug deals and I found no peace until they left, at which time they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down. I never got one penny of rent from any of them and they told something so precious that was a gift from my now-departed mother that I could never forgive them.
So what is the solution? I should mention before I move on here that I saw a situation where some people thought it would be cheaper to co-rent an apartment rather than live in a partially supervised house. The place was carnage. There was some little asshole going around threatening violence to everyone while he wore his hat sideways and made a lot of gestures with his pinkie and thumb. Eventually I think they all got evicted and lost most of their stuff.
So, I wanted to give a solution. Many people are lucky enough to have loving, caring parents who are willing to support them and let them live at home, especially if they have a mental illness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, my advice is to volunteer to pay them and do as much work for them around the house as you can. Myself, I had to leave at age 18 and it made it just about impossible for me to get an education or live in a halfway decent neighbourhood. It was so hard to deal with the stress of working and I was still isolated.
So, what I recommend is getting a roommate. Try not to let in anyone under 25 and even then look for a number of red flags and when you see one, terminate the deal. They should only ever drink moderately, it helps if they are in a stable relationship, they should have a regular job even if they have a mental illness and are on disability. A volunteer job is great. Regular meetings and revising of the rules, which you should have written out and posted (no drunk friends, only your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner can stay the night and no long-term house guests). Certain chores will rotate and should be done on particular days. Write everything down. and also be realistic about food and expenses. I once had a roommate move in and he was using my towel after his showers without washing it and he smoked more of my cigarettes than I did. We tried to work out a deal for me to shop and then share the cost of food, but it never worked from day one. Food should be separate if at all possible.
I once had a doctor give me a great idea. She said I should go to the University and put up a posting on a bulletin board for a psychology student to share an apartment. The idea was that they would be free support and possibly even free therapy.
Well dear Readers, I hope you learned a bit from my blog today. Keep in touch!