Just a Poem and a Cool Photograph Today

 

Life Poem

 

In step we all march to the bitter end

Despite how each of us laughs and pretends

We live and love and go about our plans

And it seems that none of us understands

 

Old age, sickness and death will come to all

But we still must get up each time we fall

Friends and lovers can make this race worthwhile

So hold them close and try to make them smile

 

It seems that when we hold our loved ones dear

Each laugh or smile holds back another tear

Making friends and caring for those we love

Gives us each stores of treasures up above

 

In younger days it wasn’t up to us

To worry, fret, and plan and make a fuss

So now I feel full grown we have a task

To ease each other’s burden more than asked

 

Send flowers to a person feeling blue

Give lonely people time to spend with you

Above all love your friends more than yourself

And never put a lover on a shelf

 

I say these things because I lost so much

Letting time pass by without being in touch

Forgetting those who mattered most to me

Thinking that by doing that I was free

 

In time I was the one who was alone

And my place no longer felt like a home

I know now I must hold fast to my friends

As we all march towards the bitter end

Stress Management For Those With Mental Health Problems

(Please scroll past photo and poem for today’s blog 🙂

Love Poem

 

Not one of us will leave this world alive

We must show love to those we care for every day

Think upon all the things for which you strive

 

Do you think too much about the car you drive

Do you care about what others see and say

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

There is truly just one way to thrive

One must give from deep within in every way

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Caring, loving, giving is the only way to derive

A life with a special beauty like a grand ballet

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

Sometimes into dark waters we must dive

Knowing nothing, only being able to pray

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Give up plotting, planning, please don’t connive

For each thing you take you will be made to pay

Not one of us will leave this world alive

Think upon the things for which you strive

When dealing with a mental health issue, stress can be your worst enemy. I want to write today about some of the ways I deal with stress, which can be all boiled down to setting boundaries.

One of my favourite Canadian authors, Margaret Laurence, mentioned in an interview I watched that she only writes about 2 hours a day and can’t manage more. I don’t know if Margaret ever suffered from a mental illness, but I have found this to be a good rule of thumb. While I feel it is really important to write every day, and that doing so will definitely make you a better writer, I try to maximize my screen time to about 2 hours a day. Sometimes I do less, and often when I am deep in the trance of writing something I enjoy writing, I do more. Of course, again I want to mention that one of the best therapeutic things a person can do is to write in a journal that they don’t let anyone see. It is such a great way to express yourself and to let out things. In a way, I like it that writing in a journal each day gives me a gauge to see how I am improving overall.

The next thing that I feel is good for stress is exercise. For a long time after my last hospital admission, my Dad would drive to where I was staying and take me to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long walk. I was a smoker at the time and couldn’t handle anything much more strenuous than that, but it got me into better shape, a better state of mind, was an outlet for my extra energy, and led to me being able to find a paid job eventually.

Work is definitely something a person has to consider when they are in recovery mode from a mental illness. I honestly think that if you have just gotten out of a hospital or have just made the decision to start looking for work, you really need to take some time to feel 100% before venturing out and getting a job. I started with a job that was very easy, working as a security guard. I had a hard time with some employers either sending me to assignments that were too stressful or asking me to work too many hours, but there are  a lot of jobs out there for those who want to transition back into the workplace. My security guard job kind of sucked, the pay wasn’t very good and it often wasn’t healthy for me to stay up all night drinking coffee and trying to get what sleep I could. Soon though, I found a rhythm and was able to lift weight and swim and also work my job and I was ‘scouted’ to work as a security guard in the film industry and made leaps and bounds more than what I used to make and got into a union that greatly benefitted me over the next few years. Some other jobs that are low stress could be working in a gas station as a cashier, working as a dishwasher, and many others. Just remember you won’t be doing this forever, this is just to get you out of the house and make a little extra money. Better jobs will come your way if you are conscientious about your work.

Another way to make a transition back to the work world is to volunteer. In Edmonton where I live there is a company called the volunteer network and you simply approach them with your skills and they find a place for you. This is a great way to get experience, self-respect, friendships and much more.

The last thing I wanted to mention that I do to deal with stress is keeping my schedule as open as I can, only making firm commitments for a few days a week. I work for the Schizophrenia Society now and give presentations to many different groups about mental illness. I have had the incredible privilege of speaking in front of lecture halls full of students, among many other groups as diverse as junior high schools to Edmonton City Police Recruits. But I only book 2-3 assignments and then keep things open so I am free to go to the pool or the library or for a long walk whenever I want. I guess on a final note, I want to offer the suggestion that you try and live beneath your means, whatever they are and save as much as you can so that you can enrich your life with travel at least once or twice a year. A really good trip can give you a lifetime of memories and a lot of happiness and joy in the present.

 

Mental Health and Our Changing World

(please scroll down for today’s video)

Being Open About Mental Health and it’s Consequences

So, yesterday was an amazing day for me. I was invited to the Edmonton Public library to give a talk and start a conversation about mental illness and it seemed to go really well. The only real problem was kind of a funny one, we had a young man crash our event who was suffering from a mental illness and likely experiencing psychosis. I felt really honored to be asked to do this event though and everything else seemed to go really smoothly. As far as events like this go, this is actually the best paid talk I have given so far. The important thing though is beyond that, myself and several other people were given a chance to open up and talk about mental health. I feel so much better about myself these days because I can explain to others what was going on in my head when I did some of the things that hurt people close to me. I also recognize that I hurt people close to me, and that when I was ill, they didn’t blame me and were able to forgive me.

Yesterday after my ‘conversation circle’ event, I was talking to my Dad about my teen years. I still can’t forget spending an entire summer between grade 11 and 12 almost aimlessly driving my car around, lost in a sea of depression and social anxiety. I spent a lot of that summer sitting at work doing very little. I had a small amount of fun delivering pizza and I did end up eating some memorable food, but I was so sad, so depressed. The unfortunate thing was that I began to learn that alcohol could solve a lot of my problems even though the next day I would feel like shit.

Well, just a short blog today. I have been watching a lot of videos lately that deal with motivation and inspiration and I thought I would share one of my favorites with you below. Enjoy!

Where To Set Boundaries For the Sake of Your Mental Health

(don’t forget to scroll down to view a video I chose to go with today’s blog)

When it all really comes down to it, we are simply animals that can reason and communicate in more complex ways. Many people in modern times use examples from far in the past to solve problems that plague us today. I have heard people talk about the “paleo” diet and workout routine that mimics the ways man (and woman) used to eat and exercise in prehistory. I like to use an example like this to describe how a person with a mental illness should look at stress and work. According to the ‘paleo’ system, we once foraged and sometimes hunted for food to sustain ourselves and our families. We were never hard-wired to sit at a computer terminal or a factory floor spending many hours a day inactive but producing what society deems to be a worthwhile contribution. What if we change the way we consume things and get a chance to step out of this rat-race? I think that our far off descendants didn’t try and hoard up all kinds of possessions, they didn’t assign permanent ownership over the caves or the other places they lived. They migrated with the flora and fauna that sustained them. I like the line from an 80’s movie (Crocodile Dundee I think) that said aboriginals think that to try and own a country is ridiculous, that it is like two flies arguing over who owns the dog they live on.

All this may seem like rambling, but I am getting somewhere with this. Recently, I watched a number of videos about these two men who call themselves minimalists. I had encountered a number of people who believed in this philosophy and it intrigues me because I have always admired monks, be they Buddhist or Catholic. I feel that if one is able to free themselves from the pursuit of vain possessions and live in the simplest way possible, it opens the mind to a type of understanding, knowledge, and spirituality that lifts them out of the world of stress and troubles that get in the way of these things.

This minimalism is fascinating. These men say you need to take a long, hard look at everything you own, everything you hold onto, and give away, sell or donate everything that doesn’t give you real pleasure. I went through something like this about 16 years ago when I left the hospital after a six-month stay. I had lost my apartment and all of my stuff was in storage. After a couple of years of paying for this storage, I realized that nothing I had accumulated over the years was in any way useful to me. If I wanted to read a book I could get any book I wanted from a library. There was no point in keeping all of those things, from old toys that gave me some nostalgic feelings but were essentially worthless to papers I had saved for years with horrible poetry on them I wanted to forget. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with that effort to get rid of everything I didn’t need and soon accumulated even more stuff. I’ve gone through a few binges and purges of accumulating and getting rid of things. But basically, it seems the way it works is to look at it like this: I am a person with a mental illness. I don’t cope well with stress. I get a lot of stress from working. I have to continue to work a difficult job to make more money to buy more things that I don’t really need. The solution? I have found part-time jobs that bring in just a little money, and I have decided to stop buying more things and set my schedule at a maximum of three hours a day of work, four days a week. I fill the extra time with exercise, swimming, long walks, trips to the park to take pictures of birds and my writing. I can’t say I have gotten rid of all the junk, but I am progressing. I can’t say I feel 100% better because I still have a mental illness that won’t go away. But I am finding that life is getting better for me, simplifying things has already begun to make me feel happier. I may never go back to full-time work. I may never own a big house or have a big bank account, but I just may achieve what those things are meant to give a person, satisfaction, and happiness. I will keep you updated!

Worrying and Self-Doubt

Well, it has been an interesting week. I finally have a few days off to do what I like which is nice. I have a hard time when I get stressed from doing too many things and sometimes I react to it by sleeping way too much. I know this wreaks havoc on my system and makes it very hard to function in line with the world of the normal people. So many good things have been happening to me, but I know that things won’t stay good for me if I can’t do something about my excessive sleeping.

I feel really blessed today because I was contacted by the City of Edmonton and asked if I could come and give a talk about mental health at the Edmonton Public Library. On Monday I will be just finishing up a six-week contract to teach creative writing and there are many other opportunities coming my way. Still, for some reason, I find a need to worry. One of the big things that I worry about is money. Every now and then I work or do some photography and make a few extra bucks, but then it seems that the money just runs away from me. I am at a point now where I have savings to at least get me through one month of difficulties, but I keep thinking about ways I could spend the money on what I deem “more fun” things. There are cameras I would like to buy, I am always thinking of buying a car or taking a trip. It all seems like such a waste and it took so much effort just to have just the small amount of savings I do have.

I also worry sometimes about my ability as a writer. I went to a story slam the other day and really felt outclassed. I was the first reader up and was quickly knocked out of the competition. This is even after winning two story slams last year. Another thing that happened was that I won a contest for a 24-hour short story that got me $300 USD. I took the story and tried to publish it elsewhere but with no luck. I am really feeling the pinch of not having been able to go to University and take creative writing. Fortunately, I have some good friends who help and support me in making my writing as good as I can make it.

One of the things that often gives me comfort when I find myself worrying is doing meditation or taking long walks. I had planned to walk the 2km to the post office today, but the ice and snow and freezing rain was pretty bad so I ended up taking the bus. When I do take the time to meditate, what I often like to do is to read some of my Asian books about spirituality say from the Dalai Lama or ancient writings like Lao Tzu and then just sit, either cross-legged or not, close my eyes and simply try to focus on nothingness, empty space as I count my breath, breathing in and out until a thought comes up that distracts me, then I go back to zero and try to make it to a count of ten. It can be very helpful to take some training in this, I once used to go to a real Tibetan Monk for classes and it was a big help, very healing.

 

When Sensitivity and Ego Collide

Ahh, it has been such a long time since I sat down to write a proper blog entry. So much has been happening to me. For starters, I have some savings right now but I have too many commitments to take any long trips. It’s funny but for the first time in my life, I have the means and cash to go to London and don’t want to. I may want to go back there in the near future, but for the moment I am happy just to stay in Edmonton. It is likely I will go to Toronto in the summer to visit my wonderful sister and sweet little niece, but that is at the back of my thoughts right now.

This past Friday was quite a shindig. The guy who got me work as a creative writing teacher hired me to MC the 20th-anniversary party for the building I live in and it was amazing. I felt really comfortable for most of the time I was up there and people really seemed to respond to my jokes and the poetry I read. I went to sleep that night feeling like my world was spinning and I was trying to hang onto it by spewing out a few choice words into a microphone.

What I am starting to slowly realize is that though my medications deal with a large portion of my symptoms, I still have a mental illness and stress, fatigue, emotion and contact with the outside world can affect it. Tonight was my Humanities 101 course at the University of Alberta and I found myself being hyper-sensitive to others and the things they said and did. I put my hand up a few times to ask questions and I got the impression that the instructor was getting frustrated. Then some guy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could ‘please’ pull my shirt down. That kind of pissed me off and it felt like it ruined a good night of learning and debate but I thought about things for a while and realized that I was the one wanting to be in control, that I don’t like it when people show their unwholesome body parts in public and that my ego was telling me that this person, though just as valuable as me or any other person had no right to tell me anything. So here I am at home now, playing some relaxing music, sipping a cup of ‘sleepytime’ brand tea and honestly considering an early night and a ‘take as needed’ pill that will help me rest. Well, that’s about it for now, folks. Thanks for tuning in. I will do more VLOGs as time allows. In the meantime, stay real!

A Poem For Everyone

A Love That None Suspected

By: Leif Gregersen

 

My friends if you are weary

If life has been hard on you

Think upon the words I will be sharing

And let your heart be born anew

 

Let just a little love inside you

Allow the seed to grow

Love can fill every moment with joy

In ways you can never know

 

Love is like the rainbow

Bringing hope after the rain

But if you do not nurture it

It will leave you in nothing but pain

 

I once had a lover in my youth

Who meant the world to me

And then as though I hated myself

I pushed her away and set her free

 

My heart was broken for some time

I thought I could never love again

But someone came to fill the void

And I romanced her with my pen

 

I wrote her poems and letters

Tried to show my, caring side for her to see

But that time of love was no better

She saw to the broken core of me

 

And then after a lifetime of waiting

I found a love that would never go away

To my sister a lovely child was born

On a perfect sunny summer day

 

I loved this child fully from the beginning

How she smiled and played and laughed

She made me gather together all my bad feelings

And force them to slip into the past

 

Now love to me is her sneaky grin

Love is in her sweet and giving ways

And she has redeemed our broken family

Given all of us precious, happy days