Month: February 2015

Isolation and the Psychiatric Patient

DSCF3311Here is a nice picture of my dear old Dad, who is building me a bookshelf.  I could write volumes about what an incredible Dad he has been for me.

     Well, I felt a little bit inspired to talk a bit today about something that I certainly notice in myself.  It is a phenomena where I have social anxiety disorder (which is part of the reason why Prozac/Fluoxetine works well for me) especially after I have isolated myself for some time.  There are times of course when this can’t be avoided, like the other week when I was sick for a few days.  I seriously could tell I hadn’t had any decent human interaction in some time when I first started getting out of the house again.  Fortunately these days it isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger.  I have a very gripping memory of being 14 and being in the Psychiatric Ward of Edmonton’s General Hospital and every moment I could isolate myself I would.  I was afraid of the other patients, one time I started a conversation with an older man and he started drooling, something very common with psychiatric medications at the time and still to this day, which upset so greatly that I pleaded with my Dad to get me out of there, that I didn’t deserve to be there.  My Dad had a great deal of experience with mental illness at the time though, he had cared for my mom who had an illness for many years and he told me that these people were not to be feared or misunderstood.  Still, it was very difficult and I wouldn’t participate in groups or go to the hospital school, I would mostly sit in my room and read a History book that had nothing to do with any class I was taking (I recall it was a fascinating book though about the war in the desert during World War Two) and I would even hide when I heard the nurses coming around for their half hourly checks.

The end result of all that isolating was that when I went to Air Cadets on Thursday of one of those two weeks, I had to get up in front of everyone in my public speaking class and I was literally terrified.  I shook, I stammered, I messed up what I wanted to say, I thought about my acne which was quite bad at the time and I even had a great deal of trouble looking anyone in the eye.  Not long after this, after I returned to school and went about my normal activities, I actually ended up doing fairly well in that public speaking class and greatly enjoying it.  But the question remains:  how does one adjust from being in a hospital/institutional setting and get back to interacting with people in the outside world?

That is basically the question I wanted to answer in today’s blog.  I remember, though it has now been 15 plus years since I was hospitalized, that it is a big adjustment going into the hospital but it can be just as big an adjustment when you get out.  I met a man today who actually had been a Psychiatric Nurse on one of the wards I was on 25 years ago and he was telling me that often he would encourage people who were in there and in what they felt was a dire situation that everyone eventually does get discharged.  I personally have seen people on the inside who were very much gone, thinking only of their next cigarette and their next meal who are out walking around in public stabilized on medications and doing well.  It does take a great deal of support, but it is always possible.  With some of the more serious cases, and mine was very serious a number of times, there is need for frequent visits to nurses and doctors, possibly injections of medications to help with ease of taking medications and higher levels of compliance.  Not to mention something I don’t know much about in the US, but I do know here in Alberta is the situation where a person needs to receive some kind of financial benefits.  (In my case most of my benefits go directly to the group home I live in), but the thing to remember is that one day no matter how bad you think things have gotten, you will be back in a place you are comfortable with, with a degree of freedom you won’t have in the hospital and no one to answer to outside of your loved ones.

But how do you get to that point?  Inside the hospital it is a matter of accepting you need help and doing everything you can to find a Doctor who you can be honest with and one who will help adjust and change your medications to an optimal level.  Inside the hospital your medications will likely be higher than when you feel better and are discharged, but still it is possible to work with something you can handle.  It is important when you are in the hospital to work with the staff members to have as full a life as you can.  I can recall going bowling for free in Edmonton close to the hospital I was in, working at recycling parking meters part-time for a small amount of money and then there was events such as dances or therapy sessions which I would participate in, and if you are lucky, you will make a few friends.  At this point I think it is important to note that meeting a significant other or life partner or boyfriend or girlfriend is almost always a bad thing when you are in the hospital.  I can’t tell you why this is, but I can tell you that this is something I learned from experience and was also told by a number of staff members.  Perhaps it has to do with how people in a hospital setting can be very different people when they get home and they will be under a great deal of stress at this time.  I have had two such relationships and both were serious disasters.

So, when you get out probably one of the best things you can do is to start walking.  15 years ago when I got out of the mental institution after 5 months on the inside, my Dad was kind enough to come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk different routes in any time of year through Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.  When I noticed my concentration and patience was returning, I started getting interested in reading Steinbeck and not long after I once again took up my old hobby of writing.  By sheer chance a friend handed me a stack of papers in a plastic bag one day and here was the manuscript that is now (available on this website to order) “Through The Withering Storm”.  Writing brought new meaning and purpose to my life, and from those small steps at first, I started turning back into a fully active, working and traveling and even writing person.  More on that tomorrow, I side-tracked a fair bit in this blog and I don’t want to put too much into just one post or I will run out of ideas and my readers will run out of patience.  As always, I am just an email away, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSCF5643This is a photo of my good friend Dr.Gary Garrison, who has just released an incredible book that takes a look inside Canada’s Federal prison system called “Human on the Inside”

DSC00283I met this happy little guy at the Edmonton Zoo

 

Blog for today:  Personal Psychiatric Directive

Good day dear readers!  It is early in the morning, but I thought I would get an early start on today’s blog.  I went to a class the other day and learned some very interesting things about mental health through the Schizophrenia Society.  One of the things I learned was that there are some really smart things you can do while you are well to avoid and speed up recovery from a relapse.  For those of you who may have Schizophrenia, you might be aware that sadly quite often your illness will get worse over time, meaning you will one day be sick again and your whole life could fall apart.  For me what happened the last time I was ill was that I simply scaled back the dose of one of my medications thinking it was making me too tired and over time I began to go into a manic and delusional state.  It is incredible to think of what happens to my brain when I am not being properly treated for my illness.  It had been such a long time then since I had been sick I didn’t think I would get sick again.  I slacked off in my medication taking, I reduced one of them and I wasn’t seeing a Psychiatrist on a regular basis who could evaluate me and most likely could have avoided the terrible relapse I had that ended me up in the hospital for 5 agonizing months.

What we talked about in the class I went to was something called a personal directive.  You actually have to sit down with a lawyer, which may cost some money or may be covered by legal aid or a local charity that helps those with mental illnesses.  Basically you sit down and map out what you want to happen if you ‘lose your mind’ for lack of a better term and end up in hospital.  You can write down what Doctor you want, what hospital you want to be sent to, whether or not you want to consent to shock treatments (ECT) and even what type of diet you want (vegetarian, vegan, etc.).  This to me seems like a great idea and I want to get one as soon as I can because I really had a bad experience with an egotistical ass of a Doctor last time who took me off all of my medications to spite me and treated me like garbage.  He even left orders that if I did anything at all out of the ordinary I was to be put into the solitary room and I was put in there so many times I don’t know if the emotional scars will ever heal from that.

Another really good idea I got from this group came from a participant, he had the idea of keeping a bag handy with things he wanted to take to the hospital or be able to get someone else to take to the hospital for him if he ended up there.  On my last stay, I literally had to wear the same shirt and pants for five months and had no books I enjoyed or a radio or anything.  I had to save up for a little walkman out of what I like to call ‘convict’s wages’.  I would do manual labor in the hospital and I would be paid $1.50 an hour for it while the people who supervised me were getting upwards of $25 an hour.  The injustices were many, but thankfully I have hopefully learned from that.

As a bit of a side note, I was watching an information program about spousal abuse and I saw something I would like to do if the situation came up.  This one person had a neighbor who he could hear each night was being abused by her spouse and one day he went to her and told her she could keep a ‘getaway’ bag at his house if she ever wanted to leave.  At first she declined and denied there was abuse going on, but later she brought over a bag and needed it not too long after.  This is the sort of thing that I think is really valuable because (1) it shows compassion and (2) it reminds me that mental illness is not the only problem people have in this world.

Last night I met up with an old friend from my high school days and went to visit another person who we grew up with who is living in a nursing home with Multiple Sclerosis.  The first friend is on medications now too, having been diagnosed with Lupus.  It really makes me feel kind of lucky, reminds me of how blessed I am in so many ways because though I do have physical problems, they are manageable and I am actually in really good health.  It also makes me feel better about my one problem, my bipolar disorder

Aside from that Dear Readers, I think I will leave things alone from here.  I am looking forward to my day because I am meeting my ex-girlfriend’s mom for lunch.  I met my ex-gf some 20 years ago and though we only went out for a short time a very long time ago, we still are close friends, even best friends and just about her whole family calls me a family member.  I talk to my ex on the phone nearly every day and I do things with her sister and mom and of course have her niece on Facebook.  I feel like a bit of a cad about it but years ago I actually was sort of dating her niece ( this was a full grown woman I should note, she was the child of my ex-gf’s much older sister).  I really liked her a lot, she is married now too though but we keep in touch.  Not long ago, though it was actually a joke, a Facebook friend posted that she was in love and wanted advice, and I think I came up with a pretty good gem.  First of all, without putting pressure on them, or going overboard, make them your best friend and then let the relationship grow from there if it wants to.  Anyhow, I should run.  As always, I am open for emails from any and all of you who like to read this, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC00221This is a statue in West Edmonton Mall honoring all the oil rig workers who made Alberta a wealthy and prosperous place to live

Relationships For the Mentally Ill

DSCF3413This is a picture of me with a young Air Cadet Glider Pilot taken at a local small airport

 

Today’s Blog:

Some time ago, very soon after I was first diagnosed, I found out that a close friend of my brother’s had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  He had been on Lithium and didn’t like it at all, which was not hard to understand since a few short years later I was on Lithium and had similar problems.  My brother’s friend said that he slowly tapered down on his medication (which I very strongly do not recommend) and then established himself a group of friends that he could call and talk to and keep himself more on an even keel.  He had done well for himself, and likely had only a mild or even a mis-diagnosed form of Bipolar, but how does a person go from being house-bound due to problems handling stress, or something even more common among those of us who suffer, have simply lost a great deal of their friends because the friends couldn’t cope with our mental diversions.

This is a very difficult question, and I want to stress here that I am only able to tell what I have experienced, and that I have no clinical training other than one University course in Psychology and two more from high school, plus of course my years of dealing with the illness.  What I have done in the past when I felt alone was to try and establish myself with a community.  This can be something simple like a volunteer job, your community can include just your boss and the people you directly work with.  I am so lucky to work in a supportive and mutually strong workplace where making each other get through the day is rewarded, not simply trying to outwork someone so they are no longer competition for you.  A fair number of years back though, all I had for a ‘community’ was the three people I shared a house with and my Dad.  For a while this was the perfect thing, I would sleep, get up and watch some TV with my roommate George, who liked to watch four kinds of Star Trek every day and we would casually talk about how we were coping, what our dreams were like and then I would go out for a walk with my Dad in the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and I would get just a little fresh air and exercise and slowly I was progressing towards more of a ‘life’ for want of a better term.

So, to get myself to the next level, I found out that city swim passes were free for people who were on disability, and I got myself a bus pass and would get up each day to ride the bus to the pool.  I would meet a man I know only as John each morning at the bus stop, and him and I still meet in the neighborhood now and then, he is a very fascinating guy and a fan of my poetry now, and then I would head over to the pool.  At first I wouldn’t say so much I was nervous, but I didn’t know really how to make friends or talk to people, I had lost a lot of ‘life skills’ while I was in the hospital and also afterwards not being around new people or even simply ‘normal’ people for some time.  I remember going into the steam room and sitting alone and people would talk about different things and slowly I started to feel very at home sitting in the hot tub and the sauna and steam room and doing a few laps in the pool.  After a few weeks, or perhaps even months of saying hello to the women who ran the front desk I ventured a little further and started to chat with them and once more found people who were new fans of my writing and this was where I sold some of my first books while they were still in ring binders with hole punched paper inside.  Day by day, I started talking to the people at the pool and met some really amazing people.  I met two older people there who had come from Denmark around the time my Dad did and became close enough to them to be invited for coffee at their houses and at McDonald’s after we went for our swim.   I also met a man who was a coin dealer on the weekends and owner of a steel plant during the week.  He was very wealthy but put on no airs and I would often go and see him for a very fair deal on coins that I used to collect.  I met a lot of people, and one of them was a very attractive young life guard who helped me a lot with my swimming and my health in general as she was attending pre-med in school and wanted to become a chiropractor.  I can’t even remember her name but I remember her pretty smile and endless kindness to me.  Establish yourself, allow yourself to get comfortable, push your limits a bit and make friends.  Not all that complicated, but not always easy.

Another topic I think is very relevant to address in this day’s blog is when you lose friends because of your illness.  I had one friend that I used to talk to every day, often drive home and even worked with at the same restaurant while we were in grade 12 in my home town of St.Albert.  He was a very, shall we say–‘solid’ person, meaning he followed the rules passed down to him from his mother and stepfather and worked very hard and did very well for himself.  I was in a terrible state last time I talked to him, my mind was racing and I just couldn’t go five minutes without trying to phone someone.  I ended up calling him a few times and his wife would answer and she was very nice about talking to me but when he found out about it he was upset.  Add to that the fact that I was falling apart and he didn’t understand what I was going through and I lost one of the best friends I knew, certainly knew at the time.  This has happened a lot, and in some ways I am numb to these things happening, but I still think about them a lot and they still hurt in a repressed sort of way.  As far as trying to rekindle old friendships I don’t have any easy answers.  One thing that can be done is to wait until you are sure you are in a positive frame of mind and if you really want to talk to the person again, do two things that I have found very helpful:  write a brief letter explaining not only that you were having struggles but also that you have come back from that state and are now being treated properly and will likely not have problems like that again.  This isn’t any hard and fast thing, but I have saved a very important friendship (with my ex-gf Caroline) that otherwise would have just been lost.  The next step is to prepare to talk to the person directly which can be very difficult, but easier if you sit down and write out a script.  You plan out and write out what you want to say, what the person could conceivably say to you, allowing for permutations and then write out your response.  A little preparation can go a long way.  If you tune in tomorrow, I will try and talk a little about romantic relationships in the life of a person suffering from a mental illness, provided everyone understands that I can only speak of my own limited experience.  In some ways I feel I am very lucky because in my life I have only had one serious romantic relationship and I have stayed good friends with this person through the years, I even am still her friend now that she is married to someone else.  So, Dear Readers, have a wonderful day and please take a look at some of the other parts of this website while you are here, I have some videos, some links to eBooks and paperbacks for sale and even samples of some of my best writing.  Take care and keep smiling!

DSCF1014My good friend Walter Warren Milley, retired soldier, retired postie and a very nice man

How To Become Wealthy, According to Richard S. Clason

DSCF3211They call the west “Big Sky Country” and there is nothing finer than heading out down a back road and just exploring in the summer time.  The trees, the clouds.  So breathtaking

Good day dear readers.  Most of you will be reading this on Sunday.  If you are like my roommate, you refrain from work or making money on Sunday.  I think this is actually a pretty good idea, but with me being from good old Protestant Work Ethic stock, I will make money at any time there is some to be made.  As an example, today after supper I used my geek skills to fix a friend’s configuration on his computer for $20 then went to volunteer for a community event which was actually really cool and made a lot of new connections and added $60 to my bottom line by selling some of my books.  I do try to attend church when I can but I honestly don’t think that God will fault me if I don’t.  I think that really church is a great place to go, and can greatly enrich one’s life, but when it comes down to saying if you would go to heaven or not whether you went to church or not, I beg to differ.  I see church as a place to go to be forgiven for your sins (the sacrament of confession) and to celebrate a mass, but it is more there I feel to have a sense of community among believers and receive guidance and direction from your pastor or priest.  I even feel that people who don’t believe in God, provided they don’t persecute people who do, will go to heaven as long as they aren’t total unrepentant sinners.  One of the few types of people I feel won’t go to heaven would be psychopathic personalities because I think that when they do harmful or powermongering things and their conscience doesn’t kick in and tell them it is wrong, that is what Jesus meant when he talked about sinning against the holy spirit, the only unforgivable sin Jesus ever mentioned.

But, I did sort of promise I would talk about work and finance today so I will forgo that.  What I wanted to focus on was a little book recommended to me by one of the more successful people I know, though certainly not the most successful.  The most successful person I know is a young man named Jeff Berwick who I am friends with and went to high school with who not only once had a net worth of close to a billion dollars, but also was one of the founders of bitcoin among many other projects.  What the ‘lesser successful’ person told me was that he had been recommended to read a book while we were in school which was called “The Richest Man in Babylon” by Richard S. Clason.  I read this book after he recommended it, and it was simply incredible.  Through stories of traders and merchants and money lenders of old, and even stories of slavery and crime, Richard S. Clason, in not much more than 100 pages, teaches people how to master their finances.  He uses no special recommendations that don’t go beyond simple wisdom.  His first axiom is that a person should always save at least 10% of what they earn, that this should be put aside and not touched, but sometimes invested.  Then he goes through many things, not the least of which is how to get advice.  If you want to learn about bricks, don’t ask your neighbor who put up a wall last year, go and find a bricklayer who has spent his life mastering the trade.  If you want to make some money buying diamonds, don’t trust your local Amway salesman, go to a jeweler and seek information from someone who will truly know what they are talking about.  Then he goes on to show the wisdom of doing everything you can to own your own home because what you would have paid in rent goes to a place you can be proud to live in, a yard your children can play in and a place for your wife to have a garden, and as the years pass and you pay off your mortgage, you will have a sizable asset to lean on.  Next, though in the times the stories are set, there is no such thing as insurance or mortgages, he talks about how important it is to have insurance to protect your family.  A key idea he sets down as well is that you should take the job you have and learn all you can about it, consult with others who do the same work, and put all you can into being a hard worker and a productive employee, and this will also help guide you down the path to better finances.

I know this is all seemingly off topic for people who have mental health issues, but it is something I feel is important to everyone.  I feel so very blessed to live in Canada because at 43 I already am able to draw on my old age pension benefits under a disability program, which I would have a hard time getting along without, and there are also programs to help people who are disabled to save money that are so incredibly generous to disabled people it is almost a crime that I don’t take advantage of it.  What I would like to recommend to those who have very little or no income due to a disability, is to first of all maintain a good relationship with your Doctor/Psychiatrist and then look for ways you can earn a little extra and set up a system of rewards so that you feel good about doing it even though it may be 10 times more difficult for you than others who don’t have a mental illness.  I used to reward myself now and then with a special tin of pipe tobacco or a book, but there are many things that can be set up.  I do strongly recommend, even though I have books that give me a small profit, that everyone who wants to master their finances go out and get a copy of “The Richest Man in Babylon”.  The book has meant so much to me over the years that I would estimate I read it close to 50 times.  Once you have read that, the next recommendation I would like to give is to try and get an audiobook series from your local library, even if you have to arrange to borrow it as an inter-library loan or heaven forbid, purchase it instead of downloading it off the Internet, of Roger Dawson’s, “Secrets of Power Negotiating”.  This audiobook series will literally change the way you look at buying and selling everything.  If you arm yourself with these two books and make it your mission to understand them and put them into practice, you will be well on your way to living a comfortable life.  If you are presently unable to work, get these books, read them, and then start small.  Buy some furniture out of the newspaper and set up a booth at your local flea market, or do like I did and start to sell off your own excess household items and then supplement your stock with DVD’s or books you pick up.  One time I even went to the dollar store, got some gadgets for $1 and then sold them at the flea market for $3 and these people had no problem paying it.  I would like to be your guide, if you have any questions, or would like to ask me how you can turn your life around when you have a mental illness and are suffering, please feel free to email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com  and what the heck, if you want to learn more about this or if you like short stories or poetry, check out my ‘books’ page on the menu above or from the landing page on this site and grab a kindle version of one of my books (if you don’t have a kindle, there is a free app for kindle that works on smart phones and tablets).  Regardless, thank you my readers for making me feel worthwhile and needed!

DSC_0048       Despite the cold and the urban sprawl, Edmonton can actually be a beautiful place

A Little On the Financial Side of Things

DSC_0062I’m excited to see a building coming up on this spot because in Edmonton we have closed our municipal airport, meaning now downtown towers can go over a specified height limit that was needed for the approach pattern.  This may well be Edmonton’s new tallest tower

Hello Dear readers!  I wouldn’t count myself to be a proper blogger on the topic of mental health if I didn’t take some of what I had to say about money and work and put it down for all to see.  Just about all my life I have worked, even when I was in the most severe of depressions and on seriously strong medications.  I can recall one time when it was my birthday and my brother and mom called me in the morning before work and I was in a terrible state.  Most people would appreciate getting a call like that, but I was very down and very ill at the time.  I was working at a grocery store which for some time I thought would be a dream job seeing as how it was a well paid union gig, but I was struggling.  Later that same year I went into the hospital and was released early so I could go back to work.  After finally quitting the grocery store job I found something that I could handle a little better, security work.  There were a few things I liked about this kind of work, first and foremost it allowed me a great deal of time to read but sometimes it was extremely hard to keep myself going through a long night shift (we often worked 12 hour shifts) and then have to ride the bus across town to get home and maybe get a few hours sleep before having to go back.  Having no union was an obvious drawback because one year I worked both Christmas and New Year’s hoping to earn some overtime and was given none and a scant explanation that I hadn’t worked for the company long enough to get overtime.

Eventually that job dried up, actually I think what I remember is having some 19 year-old kid come and tell me all the things he didn’t like about what I was doing and I simply quit rather than knuckle under.  A short time later I went into the offices of the best company I possibly ever worked for, the old cowboy movie classic, Pinkerton’s.  It was a great company and I had a great boss, a former Infantry Captain who had left the military after removing a major’s teeth the hard way.  He made the job so fun, he would always call up and say, “your assignment, should you choose to accept it…” there was a lot of pride that went with the uniform and I worked some cool assignments, like guarding multi-million dollar highrises and the Edmonton Art Gallery among many others.  I ended up losing that job too after a couple of years and I went in and out of security work when I needed to.  Eventually I really did get a dream job, the one I have now.  I work for IATSE, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the work is fun, the people are awesome, they pay is great and they treat their employees really well.  That is what I think is really key, a person, especially someone with a mental illness, but really any person, has to enjoy and be comfortable with their work, because it is a huge part of who we see ourselves as and how we feel about ourselves.  I really think that a lot of women I know are heroes because they forgo the joy of working to take on the nearly thankless job of being a mom.  Just today I wrote a note to an old friend of mine telling her how much she would love my job and she agreed, she said it would be a dream but she only has the time to fix up furniture at home which is her present job because of her duties as a mom.  Makes me think back to my mom and how much she gave up to raise my brother and sister and I and then took on correspondence courses and volunteer jobs and even went into debt to return to school to realize the dream she had to give up on of becoming a teacher.  But really, what I want to say is that even if you have a Psychiatric disability it is important to try and work as much as you can.  A lot of jobs may pay very little, but still when you add up the dollars on payday it will make a difference.  At first it may be just a few extra groceries, or even just a few better quality groceries.  Then it will pay off in self-esteem.  Then, you may find you have savings and can plan a little trip somewhere on the Greyhound.  A trip will renew you and re-energize you, make you want to work more and work harder.  Do this for a while and raises and promotions or better jobs could well come your way.  Before you know it you will feel great, have some property to be proud of.  Myself for a while I ran a table at the flea market.  I found that if I kept a decent roll of cash in my pocket wherever I went that opportunities to buy cheap items would present themselves and I could sell these at reasonable but profitable prices.  One thing I would do was go to book sales and garage sales.  I would pick up Stephen King Novels for $1 or 50cents and sell them for $3 and get DVD’s from pawn shops or my own collection and sold a lot.  One year I had some money set aside for boxing day and a store was clearing out video games for $1 and I bought about 100 or more titles and sold them for an average of $5 to $10.  Another time I had some cash and bought four or five VCR’s that I sold at a profit. I eventually got a bit sick of working at the flea market, the lousy food and the worse coffee and found another job as a security guard.  One day I was simply doing my job of watching a door at a movie set and got to be friends with the Assistant Locations person.  He convinced me to come on board with the union to do movie security for twice what I was getting, and before long I was doing the job I have now for even more money.  Of course money isn’t everything, but now that I have my mental health in order, it really is nice to be able to buy a book or a gift or a plane trip.  Last year alone I went to Hawaii twice.  Well, that was actually more than I wanted to write today.  Please tune in tomorrow when I will go over some of the secrets I learned reading some of the great classics of financial literature, the best of which I will recommend in advance, “The Richest Man in Babylon”.  All the best dear readers!

DSC_0031Here’s the same construction site as above, but from another angle.  I just love to chronicle the development of new construction in my photos.

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

DSCF1292One of the things I love about Edmonton so much is that it is home to such wildlife as this furry little critter, even right in the downtown core

     Hello dear readers.  I want to start off by apologizing for posting such a lame post previously.  I suppose the story wasn’t bad, but I feel I was letting down people who wanted to learn about writing or mental health issues.  Let’s see what I can come up with for all of you today.

To start off, I think I am getting fairly advanced in my recovery from Bipolar.  Now, there is a hurdle I have to go over.  I have to be able to keep reminding myself that I am a person with special needs, not the least of which is medication and Psychiatric help.  I can recall a few times I was at this point, where things seemed to be going good and I got complacent.  One such time I had a few different life events happen that very nearly put me in serious danger.  I hadn’t spoken to a young woman I was once very infatuated with, who liked me as a friend but no more.  Sitting in my apartment all alone for weeks and months at a time, I tried to reach out a couple of times, but it is a sad thing to say that there are some people who you can make a mistake with, whether it be something you control or not, and they never forgive you.  One day I got the new phone book for Edmonton and looked up one of these young women and called her.  She even answered.  I said who I was and then when she answered, I replied that it was good that at least she didn’t scream and hang up on me.  I tried to explain to her that I had been going through some rough stuff but had gotten treatment and that basically I kind of needed a friend at the time.  She threw it in my face that I wrote some irrational letters to her that she had kept to use as evidence against me and also that she pretty much didn’t care if I lived or died.  That was really harsh.  I forget if that was the point I stopped taking my prozac or if I had done that earlier.  Either way, it preceded a massive depressive episode in me.  A short time later, I took an overdose of about 100 Tylenol and some Lithium and a few other drugs I had in my medicine cabinet.  For the next two days I slept and then for the two days after that I was sick and couldn’t even hold down water. (this story is paraphrased from my book, “Inching Back To Sane” by a million to one shot, my Dad had come by and slipped some money under my door and this was enough to get me to the hospital.  I was very near death and hurt my family members very badly.

As for the other situation, it was the one that preceded my worst ever stay in hospital, which was also my last stay in hospital (when I say ‘hospital’ I mean the Psychiatric Hospital, Alberta Hospital Edmonton) again I was doing well.  I had work, I had friends, I even had a car and a credit card.  Then I decided to lower the dose of my mood stabililzer.  Not eliminate, just lower.  At this point I had stopped seeing a Doctor, I was just getting one of my old Doctors to refill my prescriptions and not having my regular blood tests done that were required of me, and which could have prevented the disaster that followed.  I ended up in a state of severe psychosis and though I was on medications that had worked for me, the new Doctor assumed either I wasn’t taking my meds or the ones I was taking weren’t working, so he changed them around and I ended up much worse off.  This began a hellish nightmare of 5 long months, a large part of them spent in solitary confinement with just a plastic mattress, an uncomfortable blanket and a plastic bottle for a toilet.  Lesson learned: don’t get complacent.  Get to see your Doctor, take all of your required medications.  Talk to your mental health workers if you have them and find some if you don’t.  I am very lucky to be a part of something called ‘the Community Living Program’ or ‘clip’ where I see a nurse on a regular basis who gives me part of my medication by time-release injection and then also see a Doctor who she consults with at least once a month.  For anyone who is a family member of someone with a mental illness, I think this is something you constantly have to remind your loved one about.  I was interested to learn that Schizophrenia as an example, will get worse over time.  Even if you take your full required medication every day it is highly likely that you will need an increase in your dosage of anti-psychotic (please don’t mix psychotic up with psychopath) or you will get ill again.

Let me just say a few quick things about writing here, I feel that writing, for me, and for a lot of people in my community, is something not only that I feel everyone should do, but I also feel that it goes hand in hand with mental health.  The first thing I did as I am sure I mentioned, was to keep a journal.  If you want to keep one, but have problems getting started, think of it as a scrapbook.  My sister saves movie receipts in hers from movies she liked and my Dad used to save all kinds of things like old cigarette packages that listed a price of 10c and candy bars and all sorts of things.  My journal was like that in a way as well.  I would write about movies I saw, make my own reviews, write about books I read or was reading.  Basically, your journal is your best friend and some of the best advice I can give to start journaling is to write down what you would tell your best friend at the end of the day.  So, I hope everyone feels a bit enlightened after reading this.  Today I wrote a poem about sitting in elementary school watching the clock and watching the alley beside the school to see my dear sister coming home from the bus.  I got my inspiration from a ‘poetry workshop book’ that I bought off of amazon.com.  I get so many great writing resources from amazon, they simply have everything.  Even my local 1,000,000 book public library can’t compare to what I can find on amazon, and quite often the book is as low in price as 1 cent plus a $6.49 fee for shipping.  As an added bonus, it is really a neat feeling to come home to a package of some new goodie waiting for you.  I do this for other people as well, I sent my ex-gf who is also one of my best friends a complete set of the original twilight zone series, I sent my niece a Karaoke machine.  Credit cards can be fun.  And they can be a disaster for the mentally ill, but I will talk about that in another blog.  Perhaps tomorrow I will write a bit about my knowledge of personal finance, I am sure many of you out there could benefit from some of the books I have read and experiences I have had.

DSC_0119This is a statue in a special park made solely for the homeless people in Edmonton.  In this small park, there is no closing time and you can drink alcohol without fear of police intervention.  It is sad sometimes to see such symbols of suffering, but also very necessary

Story Slam and New Camera Day

DSC_0146Photo taken near my house with my brand new Nikon Camera

Today’s Blog:

     Well, I wonder what my growing list of regular readers would like to hear about today.  Last night I went to a ‘story slam’ competition and got up in front of a large crowd of people and recited a five minute story I wrote about my mom’s passing.  It was something that affected me greatly, I think I will post the story here for anyone to have a look at:

A TRIBUTE:

Mother. Mama. Mommy. Mom. So many names for the same thing, that one special person in all of our lives, in the lives of everyone here, everyone that ever lived has had a mother. Mine is no more.

 

The Catholics consider Mary Mother of Jesus to be the first Saint. She was the first one close enough to our Lord to appeal to him when wine ran out at a wedding. When the time came for me to perform a miracle for my Mom, I was unable.

 

It was six or seven years ago. My Dad was far away in Toronto at my sister’s wedding and I was taking care of my mom. At 63 she had just about everything go wrong with her that could. In her day, my Mother had been a bank manager, she had been an expeditor for a rail company. She had been her first family’s sole support at 16 and nearly earned herself a full scholarship to University. All she had wanted in life was to become a teacher, but she had to satisfy herself with teaching three kids.

 

Life and medications had taken so much out of her. My mom had turned from an intelligent and active adult to a child in a 63 year-old body. I had to answer to her every call, be it for her meals, for help to go to the bathroom, or even just to bring cold water. As I did these things, I thought of all she did for me and tried so hard to keep having patience.

 

One day, she called my name. The name only she could get away using. “Leify!” she said. Leify. Me, her little boy, the one she had carried and loved and spoiled.   And now she needed me.

 

I went in to see what was wrong. Her arms were flailing but she wasn’t speaking. I felt cruel and cold as I looked at her, tried to explain I didn’t know what she wanted. I put my hand to her chest and somehow I realized she wasn’t breathing. I don’t know how much time went by, but in what seemed like hours and at the same time like split seconds I had dialed 911. “Do you know CPR?” the operator asked. Yes, I have taken it many times, in boy scouts, in air cadets, I had read about it, even watched it performed once on a heart attack victim.

 

“No.” I had to reply. It had been too long, and this was my mom who wasn’t breathing. They told me to lay her flat on the floor. This I did, wondering how much damage I was doing to the back that suffered from crushed vertebrae and osteoporosis. I made a seal on her lips and blew, still being able to taste her last dose of medicine on her lips. I pushed on her chest a few times then tried to breathe life into her again. Nothing was happening.

 

In no time the paramedics were there. There was a lot of them, they crowded into my parent’s small apartment, pounded her chest and put a breathing bag over her mouth. They tried so desperately hard but nothing was helping. One of the paramedics told me she could still hear me, to not be embarrassed, to say what I wanted to her. “We all love you mom.” Is all I can remember saying. “We all love you mom.”

 

I was given a ride to the hospital and the paramedic explained that there was no hope to be had. At the hospital this was confirmed. I had to make a decision. She was brain dead and breathing through artificial methods. Her pain, her joy, her suffering, her crying fits and bedsores were all over now. I told them they could take her off life support.

 

It really was a beautiful thing, to be with someone when your end comes. Her breathing slowed, then stopped. I looked in her eyes and they seemed so alive, so real, I wanted to cry out that she wasn’t gone, that there was still a spark in her, but she was gone no matter how alive she seemed. I went into a waiting room, was given access to a phone and called my Dad to tell him my mom had died-on my watch.

 

It was discovered she had died of choking. Complications of acid reflux. Her and I shared a malady, the one that makes us take medications, we both had Bipolar Disorder. It gave us a special bond but it was also eating away at our souls and some of our vital body systems. My last true friend was gone, my mom. Three more days and she had an appointment to fix her throat. She didn’t have to die. She was a victim of waiting lists. I was a victim of guilt for many months.

 

My family goes on. My sister married and she has a child, a wonderful little child who had loved her grandmother. I look in her eyes and it warms my heart when she tells me she wants to grow up to be a teacher. Sometimes she cries because she misses her gramma. Now, I still reach for the phone when I want to talk to her, then I remember and pray to her instead. She can’t respond, but I know she can hear me. I know because when we visit her resting place I can feel her tears in the rain and her whispers in the wind. She will be in my heart forever.

CONTINUATION OF BLOG:

The story I read was just slightly different from how it appears here.  It must have been pretty powerful because when I got off the stage I noticed that three women were in tears.  One of them was one of the contest judges and she gave me the only 10 our of 10 of the night, though I didn’t win the competition.  Grieving a loss is a funny experience.  There have been times in my life when I was greatly worried that I was some kind of Psychopath or Sociopath, but after experiencing my mom’s death I realized that I do have a lot of compassion and feeling in me, I think I just register it differently.  The whole experience hit me from a blind side.  On the day my mom died I only cried one tear, as I held her hand after life support was taken off.  I was comforted that I was there with her, comforted that my name was the last thing she said.  I felt horrible for my Dad, worse for my brother and worse still for my sister who will always be reminded of her loss on her wedding anniversary.  I found myself doing odd things after my mom passed, I would lay in bed and say “mom” over and over again, I was in a bit of a fog of depression.  Now, seven years later, I feel a lot better about the whole thing.  My mom was the kind of person who made you feel very wanted, very needed.  I found my life somewhat lacking in purpose after she was gone.  I will never forget a friend of hers and an old teacher of mine who came to one of my book signings and said, “Your mom would be so proud.”  That meant a lot, but of course there was still the hurt that she never saw me publish a book and my mom dearly loved books.  I think though I will have to leave off there for now, it is early morning in Edmonton and I am extremely tired from lack of sleep.  Thanks so much for all those who have been liking my page and joining up, I hope you are getting your money’s worth out of reading my blog and that it moves you enough that you check out my eBooks and paperbacks.  All the best Dear Readers!

DSC_0038                    Downtown Edmonton’s Hustle and Bustle at Lunch Time Midwinter

 

The Real Beauty and Happiness Is Between Your Two Ears

DSCF5216Sometimes I can’t even believe I made it to this beautiful place.  This beach, with its crystal blue waters is known to locals as ‘the toilet bowl’ and makes for some great snorkeling and general lounging around the shore

     Hello to all those who dare to dream, dare to try, dare to seize the day.  I thought I would write a bit about writing here, writing is something that is not only what I do, and what I love to do, it is something that I think everyone should do, everyone should enjoy.  On a whim this morning I looked up our local correspondence University (Athabasca University which I have taken Psychology and Criminology through in the past) and did a search on creative writing.  There was a course, but there were many courses I had to take before I could take that one.  I am seriously thinking I would love to do this, love to go back to University despite my 43 years.  The only thing that really scared me off was that a 3 credit course costs $677.00!  I am going to look into financing options, there used to be something called a bursary for part-time studies that would pay all the costs of such things, but I fear that has faded into the cost-cutting jungle.  So, I looked at an option, iTunes U!  Well, it is a definite option and certainly much less cost, but there is still some cost.  One video I wanted to look at regarding freelance magazine writing was $10 to download and thanks to wise investments (not) and careful saving (not) I currently have an available balance of $35 on my Mastercard.  I looked at some of the free resources though, and I watched a short video on getting ideas for magazine writing and it prompted me to write a query letter to a magazine I was once paid a phenomenal sum from to write an article about my old Cadet Squadron.  Writing the article was pure pleasure, I even drove out to the airport where they had a gliding program going on.  If I could get 3 or 4 jobs like that a year I would be a very happy man.

As far as other writing goes, ever since I stopped posting my poems I seem to have stopped writing them.  As mentioned though, I really want to get into poetry publications and get noticed and known which could help my writing career in many ways and just about all of them insist that your poem can’t have been published online or otherwise if you submit them.  Last night though I did pick up a great resource that I received in the mail from amazon.com called “In the Palm of Your Hand, the Poet’s Portable Workshop”, and after working through the first chapter, I worked with a writing prompt and wrote something I was kind of proud of about how I felt about a dear Uncle who has passed away.  It is hard to describe how I get my ideas.  I think some of my best writing occurs when I start with a pen and paper.  I also quite often start before that laying in bed.  I turn out the lights, turn off any distractions aside perhaps from my classical music station on the radio and just toss ideas around until I can come up with something workable, plausible.  (I often use this same method for short stories and Novellas as well).  Then comes pen and paper.  First, I try to just brainstorm, write out every idea I have even if I’m not going to use it at all.  Then comes the outline, which is a bit harder and needs to be double spaced because I often make changes.  With shorter works like poetry, I might stop at the brainstorming phase and start to write, but with longer ones an outline is essential.  Sometimes I don’t even follow the outline for short stories, I just dive in and let the story and my memory lead me.  With Novellas and such longer works, the outline is more essential, but is always being revised.  When I am writing a longer work, I often come home from supper and go right to sleep, then try and wake up late at night in the wee hours and write then.  I start out reading and editing work I did the night before, or from my last session and then I find that my ability to write is increased.  When I write poetry, I start with the brainstorming and then I write out long hand a whole poem.  I have been told it is best to leave your work for some time, but I often go right to the stage of typing out the poem on my word processor, and I find somewhere between the written word and the computer typed words a change occurs.  I feel moved to write more stanzas, or to say things differently.  Lately I have been trying to write in iambic pentameter, which actually comes pretty easy with practice.  I simply count off two syllables for each finger on my left hand and when it fits into the rhyming and meter I am going for, I write it out.  What seems most essential though is to have a theme.  I have done young love to death (hey-that gives me a great idea-a poem about ‘old’ love!).  I have also used themes of brotherly love, friendship, my illness, history (usually of World War Two), my fears, and more.

I don’t know why, but writing seems so exciting to me.  Even when you put aside the (slim) hope of money, the concept of becoming famous or at least well known and respected, there is something that really hits me about actually creating something, and this feeling often also goes for reading quality literature.  When I mention quality literature though, I should point out that my concept of quality literature has changed a lot in the past few years, largely because of my good friend Richard Van Camp who writes everything from dark novels exploring horrible sides of the human condition, right down to baby books and in between (comics, graphic novels and more).  I want to put in a mention here about a graphic novel I am reading right now that is just so good I can’t help but tell people about it.  It is called, “Brooklyn Dreams” and is a black and white, thick book where a man is sitting in a dark room supposedly talking to a Psychiatrist, recounting his days as a teenager in the drug culture of Brooklyn in the early 70’s.  This book is so engaging I have been savoring reading it page by page, massively enjoying the art and the incredibly humorous stories.  I think one of the great things about graphic novels is that it allows more people into the wonderful world of literature, people who don’t understand or have the patience for longer works of literature.  Feel free to post any of your favorite reads here.

After yesterday’s words about changing the focus of this blog to mental health, I wanted to mention at least some snippets about the subject.  I have been attending a class run by the Schizophrenia society about recovery from mental illness, and I strongly urge anyone out there, be they Bipolar, Schizophrenic or Depressive, to try and connect to a similar organization in their community.  I have gotten so much out of looking at more modern ways of dealing with my illness, I have learned about medications that may help me with fewer side effects, and even just kind of got out of my shell a bit and went to a place where I can feel comfortable about talking about my illness.  I actually think I am going to re-take the class another time just because the content of the course was only one small part of what made it great.

Well, dear readers, I hope some of you can take something from  today’s blog.  As far as any advice I may have, I think one thing applies to both people struggling with mental illness and people who have the desire to become a writer.  Keep a journal.  Head down to the dollar store, pick up a notebook, and find a good pen or package of good pens, and bring it with you everywhere.  Jot down how you are feeling, how things ‘make’ you feel, ideas you have for stories.  I actually forgot to mention one aspect of the writing process for me, once I am done the outline for a short story or a novella, if I get stuck, I write out with pen and paper a scene from my story.  It just takes a little push sometimes but when you do push yourself, you can find out that amazing things happen.  As for keeping a journal, it is something recommended for anyone, and it can even include blogging if you are so inclined.  As always, feedback is appreciated, so if you wish, please email me right at my personal email, viking3082000@yahoo.com  all the best readers!

IMG_8135This is a picture from the near-desert area of the interior of The Big Island of Hawaii, which some world class observatories call home.  I did some hiking and a lot of driving in this place and ended up feeling like a brand new person upon my return

Inside the Insane Asylum

IMG_7692This is the inside of Sacred Heart Church of The First Peoples, where I go for mass when I have the time.  The Priest here is a wonderful man, Father Jim Holland and is greatly loved among all community members, catholic, protestant, European or Native (or others)

     Hello dear readers!  Well, today was actually a pretty good day.  I am still getting over a cold that has lasted for 2 weeks now and my brother has told me I might want to try something called Cold F/X which has been on the market for some time and is quite expensive, but when I hear a recommendation from my brother, I often heed it.  For most of the weekend I have been sleeping, taking these Advil cold and flu pills and when I went to the post office in my local pharmacy, I tested my blood pressure and it was way higher than it has ever been.  I don’t quite yet want to stop eating my nightly popcorn, but I am looking at healthier alternatives (like using so called ‘heart healthy’ margarine) and I have already scaled back my eating and salt intake.

Today I wanted to talk a bit about what it is like to really be inside a mental hospital.  I relate a lot of my experiences in my latest book, “Inching Back To Sane”, but I wanted to touch on it here as well today.  I was thinking about how quickly attitudes towards smoking has changed.  A few years back when I first went to AHE (Alberta Hospital, Edmonton) you could smoke anywhere, and get cigarettes anywhere.  You could even buy cigars and all that.  Even when they were cheap though, people were often very reluctant to share cigarettes, myself included.  At first I didn’t mind so much but there were literally people who would wander around asking again and again until you gave in.  One time I recall sitting in the lock-down ward and this guy (who incidentally I have seen in the community, way to go dude!) named Robert came up to me while I was smoking a cigarette and asked me for one and I told him I didn’t smoke and he went away.  Another time I was in the cafeteria in another part of the hospital and a young woman actually punched me in the face because I didn’t give her a cigarette.  It is a sad sight to see now as people are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but outside and there is no place in the remote location the hospital is in to buy cigarettes.  I know smoking is horrible for your health and all, I had a terribly hard time quitting and still feel the effects 10 years after quitting, but people with mental illnesses are very prone to cigarette addiction which I feel has a lot to do with the fact that nicotine actually works on some of the same brain chemicals that anti-depressants and major tranquilizers work on.  I can remember days when I was relatively unmedicated and very ill that I would wake up and smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and my thoughts would be much more normalized, I wouldn’t hear the Television saying things about me and I was able to sit comfortably and carry on conversations.  I don’t really judge the staff on this issue, whether or not they smoke themselves, but I wonder if they have been aware of all of these factors in making their decisions.

One of the things I remember clearly also about being in the hospital is the effect that your illness and ‘cabin fever’ has on a person.  Everyone on the ward, staff or patients seemed in some different way to be someone I knew from before.  There was this really pretty young Psychiatric Aide who was staff on my last (hopefully last ever) stay who bore a slight resemblance to a young woman I was very fond of in school and my mind turned this staff member into this young woman in the flesh.  Then there were other people, like an east indian staff member who looked a lot like a man I had once arrested while working as a security guard.  All in all most of the people there were fairly nice but on occasion I had some outright threats from them.  “Don’t push us.” one young man said to me quietly as he handed me my medications one night.  “If I ever see you outside of this hospital, I’m going to kick the living shit out of you.” Another staff member said to me.  If I told anyone, they would deny it, but they made me very aware that they were the ones holding the power and I was the one under it.  There was one guy who kept coming into my room to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was sleeping (I don’t know if this was official policy, but it seemed just one guy was doing it) and he would wake me up several times a night, so I kept yelling at him or asking him to stop.  One day I was put in the isolation room and propped my mattress up against the wall and snuck in behind it so no one could see me, and this guy was watching me through the small window.  He came in and I knew he was going to assault me so I grabbed his ‘life call’ emergency button and pressed it and staff came running in from all over the hospital thinking he was in need of help.

I could really go on and on, but I think the important thing to realize is that, though it was extremely difficult and painful to go through these things, I was indeed very sick and the result of me being in that situation could have easily led to me ending up in jail not a hospital.  I also want to emphasize that though my Doctor at the time in particular was a bit of a jerk and did little to help me, in the end the system actually worked and I got better.  When I got out fortunately I didn’t have to keep the same Doctor and ended up with an incredible Psychiatrist (who actually wrote the forward to “Through The Withering Storm” and has been a huge supporter of my writing efforts) who literally brought me back from the depths.  I don’t really have the room here to say thanks to all the people who did put up with my arguments and erratic behavior and still did everything they could to help me, but I would like to send out a thank you in general to Psychiatric workers of all kinds.  It takes a thick skin and a heart of gold to do it, and I have heard often that being in there can be just as hard on those people as it can be on patients.  As far as Doctors, I would like to greatly thank Dr. Petkowski, Dr. Bishop, Dr. Boffa, Dr. Chue, Doctor Gordon and many others over the years of my treatment.  And thank you, dear readers, for liking and sharing my posts so often, that is what really makes me feel what I am doing is worthwhile (with regards to my writing and blogging).

DSCF5151Take Off From YEG (Edmonton International Airport) En Route to Hawaii, with my old friend Chris Lockhart at the controls!

Working Out and Changing The Way I Think and Feel

IMG_7588It is said we are all physical, mental and spiritual beings.  This is where my spiritual side is nourished, and in today’s blog I talk about the other parts of me

     For some reason, I haven’t really got a clear idea of what I would like to write about today.  I didn’t do much yesterday, got up a bit late, went down to meet someone at the library about a radio interview on CJSR 88.5 FM, then did a bit of shopping.  Money goes so freaking fast these days.  I paid for some postage and some shipping envelopes and a few items at Safeway like coffee and such and a graphic novel at a used book store and suddenly more than $100 was gone.  Then when I got home I went onto eBay and ordered a telephoto lens for my new camera which set me back another $150.  If I didn’t have a part-time job, most of those things would be impossible.  As a note, I am a bit excited about the package I mailed, I am sending my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Mustang Summer” to be considered for a distribution deal.  If they are accepted, I think this could mean a big difference in how many books I can sell and how far they will reach (across Canada).  I still think that my efforts are not 100% noble with my writing, though I don’t really do it for the money.  What I want to do is simply to be able to reach out to people, and I also really enjoy the feeling that people who read my stuff think that I am intelligent and have something to say.  So much of my life, especially after my first serious hospitalization has been a long series of running into people who think I am defined by my illness, so much so that I end up thinking the same.

I have been in a much healthier mental state lately though, even just the past couple of weeks have been better than the times before and so on.  I guess one of the things that has caused that is simply me attending these groups the Schizophrenia Society has been putting on.  As a person with Bipolar Disorder, among a group of people with Schizophrenia, I often dominate the question part of the meetings but no one seems to mind.  Many years ago I was very ill and went to a Schizophrenia group and they went around the room asking people their name and what they did, and when it came to me I said “I am Doctor Gordon Mowat and I research the disease.”  No one batted an eye, even after the discussion.  When I think back it seems kind of funny that no one asked why a Psychiatrist was only 20 and was living in a homeless shelter.  Now I can see the humor of it, but for a long time these things made me feel pretty bad.

I haven’t done much writing in the past few days, not even the odd poem.  I was at a point where I started thinking posting a new poem each day wasn’t doing me much good because I can’t submit poetry anywhere if it has been posted online already, but when I don’t have a place to post my poems I find I don’t write that much.  I recently wrote a Young Adult Novel as many know, but I don’t seem to be getting much response from the many people I sent it to to read.  I did get a very high piece of praise from my brother, who was a part inspiration of the story about how my writing is really coming along and another great piece of feedback from my Dad who said “It’s good.”  Coming from my Dad though, “It’s good.” is huge.  One person I am looking forward to getting feedback from soon is a man called Gary Garrison who just completed a book called “Human on the Inside”, a book about Canada’s Federal Prisons which was so good I read it for the second time the other week in a single sitting.  He is a great help in my work and has a PhD in English.  We attend poetry gatherings together often and he lives just up the street.  I hope Gary and I stay friends for a long time, even though there is a 24 year difference in our ages.  Gary is a very interesting person having left the US during the Vietnam war to escape the draft.

As far as mental health goes, I think I have been doing well.  One of the things that seems to make a big difference is learning about Buddhism and taking anger management.  I have been finding little ways to redirect my thoughts when I find myself being negative and the Buddhism is a great way to develop a spirit of compassion towards people.  I still find myself getting upset sometimes, it is really hard not to when you spend time in this city as a pedestrian and people in cars do things like race by you splashing mud on your clothes or park in front of you when you stand in front of a bus stop.  There was even a guy today who carelessly raced up to a stop where I was crossing and came extremely close to running me down.  Part of me really wants to lash out at these things, but in fact none of these people are really trying to be malicious and me getting angry isn’t going to punish them in some way that will correct their behavior.  In fact, me getting angry only poisons my own soul, so I am hoping I can learn to govern myself better.  I was a bit surprised today to find that I have high blood pressure (according to the self-test machine at the drug store)  I am going to have to take a look at my diet which often includes salty popcorn, salty oily french fries and other bad stuff.  In many ways I am still young at 43 but it is nearing the time when I have to keep a close eye on my health.  I haven’t been nearly as active in the past few weeks as I normally am having had a bad cold, which may be a factor as well.  When I was still a teenager, I was reading one of my brother’s bodybuilding magazines and in it a 70 year-old man was talking about how he pushed and challenged himself physically each day and how you never have to stop doing that, how he even reached new heights of abilities at his age.  I am also inspired by Sylvester Stallone, not only in his movie characters, but in his regular life where he works out like a madman to stay in shape.  He is truly a man to admire, but I am aware that he uses Human Growth Hormones which have altered his appearance.

Well, I will leave it off at that for today.  Anyone wanting to learn about what I know about fitness, nutrition, working out and all that, I have an eBook I wrote with a bodybuilding friend and the help of knowledge gained from reading weightlifting magazines and working out for many years.  It is called “Muscular Strength Training For Any Age” and I have had some good feedback on it.  It isn’t available on this page, but can be accessed through Amazon under my name or the book’s name.  All the best readers, stay healthy, stay safe and stay sane!

IMG_7742This is my Dad, Leif Senior, and the flag of Denmark.  He is standing outside the church in which I was baptized more than 40 years ago