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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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get your copy right out to you. Help me in my battle against ignorance and stigma surrounding mental health!
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!