There is always time to grow, to change, no matter how
far you may have strayed from the thin thin line we call society. I think a lot about my hospital stay in 2001. I had lost friends, I lost every stitch of my property. I had lost all self-respect, and I think what was worst of all was that I lost hope. I was so conditioned to turn myself off from everything that went on around me. That was survival in the psychiatric hospital. Ignore the injustice, ignore the violence, trust no one and be prepared to be humiliated in every way possible by the staff and the other patients.
I have come a long way now from all that. I am living on my own, doing so many things. I am even working in the hospital that once held me against my will as a patient/inmate. I think a lot of the reason that I have been able to turn things around so far is simply my sense of will. I have always had a strong sense of will, a strong idea in my head that I could picture a goal no matter how abstract or seemingly impossible, and then work out the steps to achieve what I wanted. In 1990 what I wanted was to go to Vancouver and start my life over. Problem was, I didn’t even have money for a bus ticket and I had never been to Vancouver except as a small child with my parents. The whole trip started on a bad note, I had been sleeping in my room and my dad woke me complaining that when I slept during the day I stayed up at night and used his electricity. It all seems so unfair now especially since I had a major mental illness but his reaction was to threaten to call the police and have me put back in the psychiatric hospital. That was my breaking point. I definitely at the time wasn’t displaying any signs of sickness, I just thought it was unfair that he was so cruel to me and reacted with anger. It seemed to me like all my life I had been arguing with him and he would always win because he would end up most likely beating the crap out of me but here and now when this incident happened, I was big enough to fight back so all of a sudden he had to get his power back by lying to the police about my mental state. Granted though, I should have been working or looking for work. I did have a job in a plastics factory but with all the medications I was taking they fired me for being too slow on the assembly line. I had also been turned away from the military because of my history of being on medication. Not to mention that I had offered to pay my dad’s power bill. But he was drunk and that meant he was right and I was wrong and the police would see it that way too. I came very close to punching him in the face as he reached to pick up the phone. All I had time to do was to grab a bag I had stashed that had a raincoat and some sandwiches in it and I headed off. I willed myself all the way to Vancouver. There were some incredibly harsh spots like when I walked from around noon until past dark on the side of the highway. I camped out, covered myself in my raincoat and started a small fire to keep warm. I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare that I was camping in my backyard again like I used to do as a kid but had actually slept for hours and the fire was out. I scrambled to rekindle it and then in the daylight that came soon I hit the highway again and got a ride all the way to Vancouver. But the point was that I set my mind on something and didn’t let anything stop me from achieving it. I could have done a lot of things better, but I did well considering my situation.
Getting to Vancouver was an incredible experience, I loved just about every minute of it, but I was living in denial, which the psychiatric profession calls anosognosia. I didn’t believe I had a mental illness or needed medication, and that was the one limitation I should have accepted before any other. There was no way to will myself to be better when I was facing depression, mania, and psychosis. In Vancouver I ended up getting ill again, went back to stay with my parents after being arrested for hitch-hiking, then in a state of psychosis spent all the money I had gotten from social services/welfare on cab rides to places my illness told me I had to go. The whole fiasco ended in the morning, like I did later in Vancouver, I desperately tried to get help by calling the police and telling them I was poisoned. Once more I was taken back to the psychiatric hospital, and once more I went off medications and ended up in Vancouver.
This time when I got out I laid out some plans and set myself up to go to finish school. I was very determined to get the courses I needed to study further and was actually accepted into a journalism program and found a scholarship for disabled people that would pay the whole bill. A few short weeks before the program started it was cut, and so I kept my goal clear in my mind and began to write short stories and poetry. It is scary now to think of how marginalized I was, how poor and how far off any of my goals were. But I kept reading even when I was given medications that made concentrating nearly impossible, and I started to write short stories and poems, even sent a few off with poor results. I never let those things stop me, I understood that what made a person a writer or a pilot was what they had inside themselves not how far they excel compared to their peers or other irrelevant factors. I pieced together short story after short story about my life and when I had a semblance of a book I made copies and gave one to a close friend for safekeeping. Years passed and I completely forgot about writing until one day after my horrific 6 month stay in the hospital my friend gave me back the manuscript I had her hold for me and I started to work on it like mad. What came of it was likely not much like what my first drafts were, but after editing I had something very worthwhile, something that told the story of mental illness and how I pushed past my limitations and found an incredible job which carried me to the point where I could be a writer full time and make money just off my writing and teaching.
So, dear readers, I want you to ask yourself… where do you see yourself in ten years? What is your ideal picture of a perfect life? For me being in my own large, clean, organized, furnished two bedroom apartment that is very inexpensive to rent and has a perfect spot for me to park my MacBook and write all hours of the day and night is pretty much it. I could go further and say I would like a girlfriend or wife and maybe even a child, but it could be those things just aren’t in the cards for me. Ten years… I will be 58, close to an old age pension. I hope to be still able to write, still able to go for a swim. A trip to Europe once a year would be nice to add into that, maybe even one with my niece. Make a list. How many books do you think you will have written in 10 years, and how many of those do you think will be published? I can’t say enough to young people in Canada about the Registered Disability Saving Plan, where a person under 49 who is registered on their tax forms as a disabled person can start a savings account that the government will match at a rate of 3 of their dollars for each $1 you contribute, if you keep the money in savings for 10 years. Someone who is 21 can practically guarantee themselves to become millionaires by saving $100 a month. But it is hard to think of ten years down the road when you don’t have goals and plans. Maybe you want to run a marathon once a year in ten years. Start now by going for longer and longer walks, then short runs at a track. Consult with a foot doctor and get proper shoes, and you can avoid doing what I did-running on improper shoes and destroying your knees. Plan plan plan. Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them. There is so much more to say dear readers, so please tune in again and as always feel free to send me suggestions on topics you would like to see covered.