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 Good Readers. Well, as an update my Dad seems to be improving a little. He isn’t completely clouded in confusion though it seemed that for a little while he thought he was in Denmark when I visited him today. What is really hard is him asking about his brothers and sisters, who have all passed on. It must be horrible to be the last person in your family alive.
I received a message today from a woman who wanted to help a close friend of hers get through the experience of having a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. It was hard to know what to say except that what she is doing is incredibly admirable. When I got severely ill 20 years ago, I did have some support but what help I got was tainted by the fact that I left an odd answering machine message for this person. He saved the recording and replayed it for friends and his wife and had a good laugh about how crazy I was.
I wish I could give a better description about what it is like to have a mental illness. Sometimes it seems like it is some awful cancer growing inside of you that surfaces in your brain and just takes over. One thing that is a little funny about having mental health problems is that often a stomach problem comes along with it. Just about every time I have become severely ill I have had serious stomach pain. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems interesting that I once read your stomach has a ‘brain’ of its own. All your brain really is, is a bundle of billions and billions of nerves. Also, people talk a lot about having a ‘gut instinct.’
Of course a big part of having a mental illness and being in the thick of things has to do with your thoughts. What I recall happening was I would be walking somewhere, be it down a school hallway or down a mall and I would think of commentary (things people around me were saying or even thinking) and it would have the same force as if the person were talking into an intercom and giving me up to the minute statements about what was happening around me. Of course, part of this psychosis comes with the irrational fear known as paranoia. So many of the things you imagine (and they are 100% realistic) seem to be threatening. For example, I may walk down a mall and see a young woman on a phone. I would imagine she is calling a girl I liked, telling her I was there so she could come and watch me over the closed circuit TV in the mall. Then I would pass another place and there would be a big, scary looking guy there and I would imagine he was her boyfriend and that not only did he hate me, but he was on steroids and had the ability to pound me into dust.
I will never forget being in a mall called Westmount one time. Funny enough, it was on a day I had escaped from the hospital. It is funny to think of ‘escaping’ because all I really did was get on a bus and go to see a movie. I went into a department store and there was a young woman who was working there who I knew from before. For whatever reason, whether she was saying it as a joke or as a test to see how crazy I was, or if she didn’t even say it at all, she said to me, “Hi Leif. I heard you own this mall.” this false idea stuck in the back of my head for a while. I remember trying to lie to make up a believable story as to why I owned the mall when my sister confronted me with the false fact. I said that when my friend and his mom passed away, they left me their house and someone invested it and was able to purchase the mall on my behalf. I knew I was lying, but the false reality was so vivid in my mind.
This is something important to note. The reason it is so important is because I often hear that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than become violent themselves. I can recall three times when I honestly believed (though I was delusional) that I had a significant sum of money. One time was in the hospital 20 years ago when a fellow patient started a fist fight with me because I told him I had the money to buy a house (he was supposedly a realtor). The second time I went to a local bar and quite plainly asked the head bouncer why someone had told me I owned the place. I wasn’t treated with violence, but when I went there later I narrowly escaped it from another person who worked there. It is scary now to look back at the past and think of myself holding on to delusional ideas while I wasn’t even in the hospital. This is another key part of having a mental illness. No matter how ill a person with psychosis may get, they are often unaware that they are ill.
Well Dear Readers, it has been a long and taxing day. I have plans for tomorrow that include getting up early and staying up late. Today I had a session of therapy, which I really have to say is going wonderfully. I have this amazing therapist who is really kind and empathetic and she is teaching me some strategies to, among other things, re-focus my thoughts when I find myself thinking of the past too much and beating myself up needlessly over it. What I learned today was something called 5-4-3-2-1. Basically, I notice 5 things around me and look at them like I haven’t seen them before, then listen for 5 sounds, then become aware of 5 things touching my skin. You work your way down to seeing 1 thing, hearing 1 thing and feeling 1 thing and eventually you start to train your mind to not focus on negative thoughts. She said that the mind can’t think of more than one thing at a time. Thanks for reading. If you would like to support my efforts, I encourage you to buy one of my books from amazon, there are inexpensive options in eBooks and reasonable options in paperback. Also, if you would like to ask me about something I can cover in these blogs or just say hi, please feel free to send me an email at email@example.com
Hello Good Readers! First, let me start off with a quick but heartfelt apology. I promised I would go back to posting at least once a week and I haven’t done so. I have been facing something very difficult that I now want to write a little about. My Dad, who is turning 85 soon, after a long life of being loved by just about anyone who knows him, is starting to succumb to dementia. It is very distressing to watch someone go through this, but especially someone I love so much and need in my life so much. In all of my 50 years, he was there for me, he cooked hamburgers on the barbecue on hot days like we have been having, he drove me and the rest of my family on trips as close as the mountains 350 km away and as far away as Southern California. He has never failed to be strong yet caring, and constantly funny. Now I see him turn into a scared, teary-eyed frail old man. I know there could be worse things to happen in life. One could lose a child to schizophrenia as one of my co-workers at the Schizophrenia Society did not too long ago. One could have a grandmother who screams and yells and makes no sense and is 100 years old and has to stay under the care of her daughter like my dear friend Charity’s mom has to with her grandmother. I think what makes this hard for me is that I work in a psychiatric hospital and I work with people who have schizophrenia. There are some similarities to what my Dad is going through to what people with mental illnesses experience, but for some odd reason, you can’t make dementia better with medications like you can with schizophrenia. All you can do is try to make the person as comfortable as possible as they slowly lose their faculties.
It hasn’t been easy that I have been at odds with my sister. I spoke to her yesterday and she basically told me that I am no longer welcome at her house and I got so upset I hung up on her. For some odd reason she texted me later on and again a couple of times today. It makes me want to fly into a rage when I run across people who do this, especially because I know she is doing it because I have a mental illness. One time I had a friend I went through so many good and bad times with and seemed to be closer to than just about any friend I had and he did the same thing. I called him up years after we had last talked and he said that it was nice to hear my voice and that he didn’t want any hard feelings between us, but he still wanted to tell me to fuck off. I asked him if I waited two years and was still stable if I could call back, and when I did he called back when I wasn’t home and left an incredibly demeaning message on my answering machine, again telling me to fuck off and saying that I had “gotten his family all upset.” But I suppose in some ways this is a good thing. I don’t need shallow, self-centred people in my life, and I definitely don’t need people who don’t understand what a mental illness means. Can you imagine someone telling their younger brother that they will never be welcome in their home again because they are in a wheelchair? Or if they have cancer? I never asked to have schizophrenia and I like to think that I have turned my extremely negative situation into something positive.
I have to admit though that in a way a small dream came true in my life a couple of years back. In my last year of school, I had a friend who I argued with a lot but respected and ended up working with at a restaurant and connecting with years after school ended. He also cut me out of his life but he had been told to by a psychiatrist, and when I finally gathered up the courage to call him some 20 years later, he didn’t care what a psychiatrist said, he wanted to be my friend. He is a busy guy and we don’t get together much but we have had some really great long talks about what it was like to attend high school together and some people we grew up with. So I try and understand things from other people’s perspective.
It’s funny though. I accept that I have a mental illness, but I am really a very lucky person. My illness is extremely well controlled by medication. I also have diabetes which is also pretty well controlled. The only thing I really have to deal with is the side effects. And the assholes. The world will always have assholes though. Thanks for tuning in dear readers.
If anyone out there is thinking of doing some writing of their own, I thought it might help to give you a bit of the advice I received when I was just starting. The person who gave it had graduated from a journalism program. What it basically is, is that you read a lot of magazines (best to read them at the library) when you find a magazine that fits with something you would like to write about, find out who is the editor and assistant editor of the publication. In the case of larger magazines, it might be better to approach the assistant editor. You write to them, tell them what kind of article you would like to write, why you would be a good person to write it, then start your research. It can be good when you are starting out to read a whole hardcover book on the subject before writing the article. Then do a lot of web research and make sure the accepted facts match what you want to write or ‘argue’ about in your article. Then write. At the end of each statement or paragraph as needed, put in the url link to where you found the facts so they can be checked. Start with an anecdote, the more real and gripping the better. Then say what you want to say, then say it, then tell the readers what you just said without sounding like you are talking down to them or using too technical or specialized language.
I have found that one of the best places to look for places to send your pitches is the Medium platform. It costs $5 USD a month to join, but there are tons of articles full of information about editors who are looking for content. After you have written and published a couple of articles, take the extra money they made you and look into a night class or a library Gale course or a community college continuing education class about journalism and bootstrap your way up the ladder. I have written about four articles this month alone and it really feels great. Tune in here for more writing advice as I go, I will repeat my promise and say that I would like to write a blog entry here once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. But thanks for tuning in!