Author: edmontonwriter

I am a poet and writer of prose

The World of a Writer (a ‘crazy’ writer?)

A World Well Travelled

Well, I don’t know if I have it in me to write a poem today. I guess I wanted to talk about all the stuff in my life that’s been going on. I haven’t been writing blogs much at all for the past couple of weeks and I have to admit I miss it. A few days ago I taught a poetry workshop which was a lot of fun. I am getting more of a good reputation with the public library for doing these things. The main problem is that I see myself as doing more, working more, making more money, but not being able to handle it and eventually spiral down the drain to insanity as I have done so many times before. It really scares me that I will lose the friends I have now and maybe even lose the respect I have built up with my dad.

Speaking of my dad, I have been spending quite a bit of time with him lately and I have been learning a lot not just about him but about myself, especially about the times when I was mentally ill. It is so hard to describe mental illness to someone who has never experienced it. People think they can just apply logic to their thoughts and mental illness will go away. I am proof positive that even the most preposterous false truths can embed themselves into your thoughts. One of the worst things is that there are people out there who really hate the mentally ill, and some of them actually work in hospitals where they lock up people with a mental illness.

When I think back to the days when I just got out of the hospital, I was a real mess. I wonder why when I left they gave me back my gun license because I nearly saved up the money to buy a gun with it and it was my intention to rob a bank with it. Just a few months before that I was a somewhat innocent, straight edged young man who would never think of something like that. But the strain of becoming mentally ill and of being taken away from my home, my family, my friends, and even my school were incredible. One of the weirdest things is that it was at this time that I met a lot more females than I ever did as a supposed ‘nice guy.’ I don’t think any of those relationships would have lasted at all because I was having very serious problems. Somehow I had always known I had bipolar. I just spent most of the time in the depressive phase of it. I can remember coming back from a cadet camp and seeing a friend who gave me a ride home and I was incredibly manic despite spending most of the past weekend without sleeping.

I guess what I want to think about now is living on an even keel. I don’t know if I will have to give up all my commitments, but the way I live I don’t really need the money I’m making. I have never been closer to my  goal of being well off and able to support myself but I don’t know how long I could keep this up. I have this hope that I can find a counsellor or psychologist who can talk me through it. Heaven knows I have tried everything else.

 

Not Stealing, But Being Inspired By Dylan Thomas

               A lovely sunset on my trip out to Two Hills, Alberta to visit a friend.

 

Let the Light Guide and Strengthen You

 

I say softly now you can’t rely on emotions

Or greed or pity or any deadly sin

But you can find strength as vast and deep as the oceans

When you let your spirit grow strong from within

 

The spirit that guides me through the darkness

Is the hope that keeps me warm cold winter nights

Never hope to face the world when you are lonesome

Because each soul on Earth gives us strength in different ways

 

I thought the best thing for me was hiding

To live far away from angry, judgemental eyes

But the spirit that guides me through the darkness

Helped me to age like wine, grow old and wise

 

Just like an energy that surrounds us all and binds us

The spirit kept me going in the here and now

And as I opened up and allowed others to love me

I found the courage to use the grindstone and the plow

 

The spirit that guides me through the darkness

Kept me going, kept me fighting for better days

I cared no more that some may have disliked me

By that spirit’s power my broken soul was saved

 

And then I found the perfect partner

Someone to care for all the rest of my living days

And at once I gave myself to her loving heart

Then my whole life got so much better in so many ways

 

Poem and Photo for the Glorious Summer

 

Darkness Poem (Villanelle)

 

I walk among the shadows in the night

Like a raven seeking fresh bits of bread

I only feel strong when the stars are bright

 

Once the wee dark hours gave me such a fright

As though in darkness life was on a thread

I walk among the shadows in the night

 

In recent days I go to a grave site

To lay a rose for one I could have wed

I only feel strong when the stars are bright

 

We were to wed after a hasty flight

Her body crushed, her lovely soul now fled

I walk among the shadows in the night

 

I now I stalk her killer as I write

To lift the curse of grief off of my head

I only feel strong when the stars are bright

 

He took my true love’s life it is not right

And now I am a ghost who is undead

I walk among the shadows in the night

I only feel strong when the stars are bright

 

Blog, Poem and Photograph Today!

Scroll down past the photo for today’s poem, and past that for today’s blog.

 

Midsummer Poem

 

The orange golden light of dawn

Beckons us to fight, to keep on

There will be no more giving up today

As the sun greets us in this special way

 

Poems are fine, poems can be bold

But they can’t replace what you are told

Never give up, never give in

Pausing to rest can be a sin

 

We’re in a battle my mates, a struggle real

No matter how you boys may feel

Give it your all in sport, and more in class

Our chance to win will slip away so fast

 

It isn’t quite as if we can just say

We’ll leave the fighting for another day

We’re locked in a struggle with a death grip

And if we don’t win a one way trip

 

The battle I speak of is the one to be free

And we’re all combatants you must see

But the enemy lies inside of us

With each friendship, each display of trust

 

Giving in to hate means losing it all

And we must get back up each time we fall

Winning means joining our fellow man

Arm in arm, hand in hand

 

Now I can’t say all men are good inside

Or that no one will take you for a ride

I’m just trying to get each person to see

The better way for grown adults to be

 

There are evil people in this world of ours

But at night we all gaze up at the same stars

Look for the things that make us all one

Because that is how our wars will truly be won

 

A Short Blog About How Things Are Coming Along

Hello dear readers! I have found myself out of a job as a blogger, so now I can devote even more time to all of you who read my blog here. It was fun and rewarding working for healthyplace, but in the end I guess it was too hard to come up with original ideas week after week and I was having problems with errors so I got the boot. I’m actually kind of glad because the job was more stress than it was worth.

So I am finding myself in a position that I kind of like, less stress, more time for my real writing and so on. I think I might get to work on another poetry collection now.

My mental health has been good lately, summer has finally come to Edmonton and it is such a beautiful season in this part of the world. Everything is so green and alive and there are a ton of birds out there to take pictures of. I am looking forward to using my new Nikon 1 J5 to take more photos of birds as they are flying. I have even entered some of my stuff to be considered for publication.

So as summer rolls into focus I have a few things on my mind. I don’t know how much I told anyone here about my Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset I bought. I have been flying  a P51 Mustang on it and have been having a blast. I am learning to navigate from airport to airport and land and then return for a safe landing. It is so incredible when you have that 360 degree view. I am looking forward to more simulators like it. I have to admit though, I don’t know if it is the best thing to immerse ones’ self into a video world like that. I don’t know if I would have done it if I hadn’t read the incredible book “Ready Player One” that my friend Richard suggested.

I am so happy to have such a true and genuine friend like Richard Van Camp. He is an incredible person, done so much in his field and one of the most caring and honest friends I have ever known. He is also pretty fun to be around. I am going to be heading to his work with him today and hanging out at the Fort Saskatchewan library for a while today.

As far as mental health goes, I don’t think I could be in better shape. My only real concern these days is that occasionally I have needed sleep aids such as clonazepam to help me rest. It is not the best way to deal with the problem I fear, but it works. I have tried going for long walks each day but often that just puts me into a manic state which makes it even harder to sleep. I would love it if people could share their own sleep methods in the comments. With that I think I am going to get going, I see a long walk in my near future, like in the next 20 minutes!

 

 

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.