A View of Downtown Edmonton From Outside My New Apartment
Hi, I wanted to talk a little about disability benefits today. This is a senstive topic for many reasons. One of the big ones, as I know a good deal of my readers are from the United States, is that people on Welfare or even Social Security Benefits are looked down upon. The tax burden on Americans is great, plus the cost of health care and this ends up worsening the problem from both ends. People with mental illnesses are faced with costs that can’t be managed for medications, hospital treatment, doctors, housing and on and on. The way the American system seems to be set up to work is that each person is responsible for themselves, and when someone has a severe mental illness, this can be just about impossible. I can recall being in the US and simply knowing a guy who applied for foodstamps and then discussing it with an older gentleman and he literally stopped talking to me after we had travelled together for 3 days. It seemed a harsh judgement and pretty ignorant, but this is the way many people down there think and there are valid reasons for this attitude. I feel very fortunate to live in Canada and to have a disability benefit program plus health care and on top of that I get heavily subsidized housing and free fitness and leisure access. It almost seems like paradise, but it definitely has its drawbacks. One of them is that if I do go out and get a job, I have to limit my income to less than a minimum wage job or lose my benefits completely. With the cost of psychiatric medications this would be a staggering blow. At the present point I’m at I don’t honestly know if I could hold down a full-time job for any length of time, but I also don’t want to live the rest of my life with no improvements in my standard of living.
Some 27 years ago I found myself in a homeless shelter, mentally ill and penniless due to prolonged hospital admissions. There were very few options left for me and so I made an application to join the military. This would have provided me health benefits, an income, and a purpose in my life. My application process was interrupted by a fight with my dad that sent me to the shelter, and I decided that since I was working towards something that I could do something I thought was unthinkable-I would apply for welfare benefits. I will never forget the words of the social worker when I applied, as she looked up from the forms she was filling out for me, “Don’t get caught in the trap.” I think she meant more along the lines of the trap of drug abuse or alcoholism and circle of poverty. But whatever she meant, due to my mental illness, I was never able to join the military, and I later failed a concerted attempt to complete commercial pilot school, and was unable to hold down a full-time job. For me the trap wasn’t in getting money for nothing, it was in that every time I tried to do something, either I was told I was ineligible as a person with a mental illness, or that I would try and do a job set before me and the incredible pressure of working up to acceptable standards was simply too much. I was caught in a trap, and in some ways I still am.
Things are improving in my life though, I have found a part-time job that I am good at and that I enjoy. I give talks to students about mental illness for the Schizophrenia Society, and I have written a number of books. The books give me little income, but together I manage to put food on the table. One thing I often think about is that despite that numerous times I went over the brink into madness, I now have a good life with stable housing and income and something to do, but I have a lot of regret that I have no life partner. This is another trap that people with mental illnesses have to be aware of, the isolation factor, and it has a lot to do with receiving benefits. If you don’t have to force yourself to get up and get out and look for work, you may just sit inside and watch TV and never care if you have friends or a significant other, and years will fly past and a person will have nothing but regrets. One of the reasons that people end up isolated like this besides recieving benefits is that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness. One thing with me is that I used to try and hide the fact that I have a diagnosed illness, but now I am very forward about it. So many people, when you stop trying to hide things, will tell you they suffer, they have a family member or close friend that suffers.
Anyhow, a lot of that is beside the point I was trying to make. How do you avoid the trap that going on benefits causes? You may not be able to, but you can make your life as full as possible. I always like to say that the first thing you need to do with a mentally ill person is get them proper treatment, proper medications. Then you need to take some therapy that will help you understand yourself. After that, a life skills course or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course can help a great deal. From there, even if it just means taking one course, get some school under your belt. While you are doing this, find ways to keep fit and healthy, in what you do with your body and what you put in it. Quit smoking if you smoke. Then, try and find work, even part-time. Spend as little as possible, and save, and keep taking your medications, work on your mental health on an ongoing basis, and before you know it, you may forget you ever were sick. It isn’t an easy process, and it isn’t a simple one, but it is one that is worthwhile. I like to keep telling people that you need to have goals and direction, specific ones. “I want a bachelor’s degree in six years.” would be an excellent one. “I want to be stabilized and back working in two years, earning enough to drive a car and rent my own apartment.” is another good one. Once you have goals, you have a direction to move in, and if you are having a hard time, you can end up feeling so much better about yourself from just working a little bit each day towards your goal. Take care Dear Readers!
(scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog 🙂
Soft crunch of snow
Even for tired feet
Mile after mile
Each day brings
Feeling fit, happy
Romance is a lie
Who can’t be alone
Can’t be whole as one
Because those who can
Are never alone
Night sky in winter
Crisp, moonbeam and starlight filled
Fill my heart
As I watch the northern lights
No need to hold on to
We are all brothers and sisters
One flesh, one world
Under the night sky
January 6, 2015
Good day dear readers! Well, a good deal has gone on since I last posted. One of them that I don’t know if I mentioned is that I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a long time fan of the Star Wars movies, especially the first three (they were a religion to kids my age when they first came out), I have to say this was an extremely well done and satisfying movie to watch. The plot was incredible, the references to the first movies was awesome, and the stunts and effects were almost beyond belief. GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!
On to other topics, I had a great day yesterday. As many of you may know, I work giving presentations about mental health for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta. We are doing a new thing where we are going to have Psychiatry students come in to answer questions that normal presenters can’t handle. So yesterday I met the young woman I will be working with and she seemed so cool. She was very attractive and introduced herself as Doctor Olivia… and I was really pleased to think I could get to know someone so intelligent and dedicated to have gone this far with her education. Being part businessman, I thought I would show her my books about mental health (Through The Withering Storm, Inching Back to Sane) and to my great surprise she had read and greatly enjoyed one of them already.
Now that is a nice little story all in all, but I want to use it to illustrate a point. When you are a writer or even just a person with a goal in mind such as owning a business, if you give it your all, it may take time, it may take a lot of time, but if you persist, huge rewards can come. When I first put my book out, I was very distressed that no one seemed to want it, very worried that I couldn’t cut things as a writer and now a few years later I am reaping the rewards of my efforts. One of the things I did was to get a copy of a book called “The Writer’s Handbook” which comes out with a new edition each year and I sent off proposal after proposal to write articles. In this time I started to learn how to write better proposals and I have had a few really good opportunities come my way. One of them that happened recently is a case where a man who owned two mental health magazines called me up from a query I had sent him two years ago and had me write him some articles. He liked my work a great deal and now I am kind of a staff writer for his magazines and it pays fairly good.
There are many other little things too numerous to list here, but I just wanted to illustrate that when you have a dream, as I had a dream of being a well known writer, you have to give it your all and keep giving it your all and not give up. Your goal can be anything though. One thing I learned in Phys. Ed. class in school (yes, you can actually learn things in gym) is how to set down what I can do and make goals for what I want to be able to do. I think this really applies to mental health patients. Fitness of course can be a part of it, you could say you wanted to walk a mile a day and work your way up to more, but you can also say you want to have five close friends or a part-time job by the end of next year or have saved up for a trip. Goals are very powerful things, and if you don’t have them, you are basically just floating around without direction, which sadly can end up leaving you with years of your life gone.
Well Dear readers, I hope my words can help and inspire you. I have to run but it is my strongest prayer that the words I put down here can make a difference for someone, so if you enjoy what I have written or even if you just wanted to talk or ask my something, as always I would love to hear from you at email@example.com
All the best!!!
Well, above is another bee photo I took, this one in my kitchen. I really like to take photos of insects, but bees especially not only because they are beautiful to me but also because bees are an extremely important part of our ecosystem.
In the news for me this week some may know I had my camera stolen. Thanks to the fact that I have been working hard and saving I was able to replace it and with some luck I might also get some help in doing so. I have a casual part-time job as a photographer for the City of Edmonton so it was pretty necessary that I get another one right away. I was going to get another Nikon D3200 as I was very happy with my last one, but I found out they have been discontinued and so I spent a little extra and got a Nikon D3300 which so far seems to be a very nice camera.
As far as my mental health goes, I don’t know how much of this I should share, but I seem to have come across something that is really helping me. I recently visited Toronto and found out that my sister’s husband takes a herbal medicine called Skullcap when he gets too far into an ‘up’ or ‘manic’ mood, and I decided to try it myself. I have also been trying something that I got at a health food store called ‘True Calm” which has valerian and Taurine (one of the ingredients of energy drinks) among other herbal stuff in it and I occasionally take them when I need to sleep. I have found that they calm me down, get me to sleep and seem (when I don’t take them more than one night in a row) to give me a full night’s sleep rather than just a short sleep which often leaves me feeling tired the next day. I am very much against sleeping pills and tranquilizers, but lately I have been taking something called ‘Rivotril’ or ‘Clonazepam’ which has calmed me down but I worry it will be addictive, so I try to use it very sparingly. It is so hard for me to sleep sometimes though, so for now I am going to keep taking it once or twice a week, alternating days with trying to sleep with no help and using the skullcap and true calm and occasionally also using melatonin. I think the biggest difference with this new stuff I am taking is that it seems to allow me to have dreams that are much less disturbing. I could write volumes of theories on the subconscious mind and things like delusions and dreaming, but they wouldn’t mean much because I am not qualified to speak on such matters. I guess I will kind of sum up what I think in a few sentences, but please don’t look to me as any kind of an expert. Basically my theory goes something like this: I personally feel it is impossible to have more thoughts than we have had input into our brains, but many people, including myself have things like disturbing dreams and delusional thinking that seems to come from somewhere. What I feel all of this is, is something that is taken from our subconscious mind, that huge massive 2/3 of the iceberg that we don’t see, the part that is hidden underwater. These thoughts surface when our grip on our conscious mind is weak, but they are things we have experienced and learned but have forgotten for a number of reasons, sometimes our minds have made them unavailable to our conscious mind because they are disturbing. Anyhow, I don’t want to get into this any further, but I would love it if anyone who regularly reads this blog could comment and start a discussion with me. If anyone out there wanted to talk and needed a peer supporter to email, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org Hope you all had a good Canadian Thanksgiving/US Columbus Day and don’t forget to scroll down to read today’s poem!
I was so naïve and stupid
Thinking I could beat all the odds
I just simply had to try it,
Hope I had favor from the gambling gods
When I look at what they turned me into
Those games of luck and skill
It means so very much something saved me
Despite my self-destructive will
One wouldn’t think a simple game of poker
Or the pull of the arm of a slot machine
Could destroy someone so completely
Make them into something lowly and mean
How old could I have been
Those all too many years ago
When that demon crawled under my skin
And possessed my very soul
I started with scratching tickets
Even with money that wasn’t mine
I found with each bet my beating heart would quicken
As I strayed further from the straight and narrow line
I went through pain, withdrawal, depression
At times I wished I could totally give in
But soon with help my resolve was newly freshened
And I learned a weakness isn’t in fact a sin
With a lot of work and help I recovered
Managed to set gambling aside
It scares me now the lies I told
In the name of manly pride
Love never seemed to find me
Back when I was pissing my life away
The need for risk and danger blinded me
And pushed family and friends away
So many terrible addictions
I had to overcome and more
I found precious golden freedom
When faith opened a totally new door
Well, I am really fond of quoting a study done on a bunch of Harvard graduates a while back. They took a graduating class and asked them how many of them had clear, written goals as to where they saw themselves going and what they saw themselves doing and only 3% of them actually had them (please don’t quote me, I am only estimating, it is a while since I read the actual study). They went back to these students a number of years later, and they found that regardless of whether or not the people had stuck to their plan, the 3% group had made more money than the entire rest of their graduating class. Lesson? Know where you are going, be a planner!
But how does that apply to mental health? In some key ways it applies, especially if you have become part of the growing movement in the WRAP or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course. I took the course and tried to get everything out of it I could. I attended every session, which was my main goal at the start of the course and as a result I now have a written plan as to what to do if I get sick, what some of the things are that could make me sick again, and warning signs and much more. For those that are interested, there is actually a ‘wrap app’ for most smartphones where you can plug in all of these things and come up with a plan to improve your life that applies across many situations.
There is still another thing though, what does planning have to do with someone who suffers, who can’t work. Well, you could write down a goal as something like I did which was to find a decent part-time job. As a note here, I strongly recommend that anyone who does get a job that has a mental health issue should be as honest as possible to their employer about it and also try and get a union job. I am in a union that does so much for me. I can turn down work if I don’t feel up to it, I have the option of cancelling shifts if I am sick or for no reason if it is 24 hours before, and I am paid well and treated well. This isn’t the end of the story though, there are many jobs out there that are non-union that can be just as good as mine. I think the important thing is to try and move towards some kind of employment, staying at home and doing little than posting to forums and chatting on Facebook can be very detrimental to one’s mental health, especially if you are not maintaining a proper sleep schedule.
So, basically, the first goal is to try and get yourself ready to be employed. There are a number of things that can get you started, but I think the first thing you need is a reason to be employed. Myself I wanted the extra money and when I had saved enough I bought a laptop and I also took a trip to visit my sister on the other side of the country. I did this in two stages, one stage was where I simply tried to sleep while the sun was down and stay awake while the sun was up, and then the second stage was that I needed to get physically fit for a job. I happen to live in a city where bus passes and gym memberships to city facilities are greatly subsidized though I used neither of these things at first, I simply rode my bike as much as I could, and this was something that did me a world of good. If I hadn’t gotten into good shape I would have never been able to hold down the job I have had for 7 years which has put a lot of money in my pocket.
So baby steps, goals, plans. They all have their place. I can’t even begin to describe the mess my life was in when I was back in my 20’s, but a strong commitment to taking my medications, listening to my Doctors, honoring the wishes of my parents to get well and a number of other things came together and a miracle happened. I have a life now when there was a time when I felt my life had ended. Try this. Try sitting down and writing out all the things you want in life. Do you want a motorcycle? Write it down. Do you want a violin and lessons to get back up to snuff? It might be a great investment if you are good enough to busk in the streets or play for parties or even fancy restaurants. Write it down! There really is no limits, this is your mind having fun. Then, when you have written it down, make a plan. It may take ten years, it may take two months, but until you figure it out you will be a lot less likely to follow through. And I want to mention something for the younger people who may read this blog. A wonderful fact about life is that as you get older, even if you get the same money you will get more money. How? Maybe you will be able to quit smoking and put $5 to $10 more in your pocket each and every day. Maybe you will strengthen your legs and learn the joy of walking and save on taxi fares or learn how to discipline yourself not to eat in restaurants but to prepare your own food. And another factor that comes into play is that as you get older more jobs will come your way, especially if you are able to overcome depression (perhaps through newer meds, or trying different ones) or other illnesses that can often make you feel like you don’t care about being a good worker. Anyhow, I hope this leaves my readers with a sense that they have learned something. Please don’t be afraid to comment and as usual, don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem which is meant to be themed to this post. All the best Dear Readers, and if you like my blog posts, please support my efforts to bring them to you and purchase a paperback or eBook of my writing from the ‘purchase books’ link above.
A Beautiful Soul, Loving and True
Does your soul long for things grander than the sky
You know, you can have those things if you really try
I have had many hopes and dreams that I held close
Wonderful things, only those I wanted the most
When I think of these things I see my perfect wife
A spacious home, beautiful car, all that’s good in life
I may never have all that I so deeply desire
But these goals keep my heart on fire
I never understood why some aim low
Never let their dreaming mind thrive and glow
Our time here is so short and it is a beautiful place
So why not run as though to win the race
Just ask your inner mind how you can earn it all
Give yourself a reason to get up each time you fall
Write down on paper all you want to have and be
You can have it all, this land is strong and free
I just want to ask if you do end up with more
Look back behind and hold open the door
There will be someone wanting to get through
Please remember someone held the door for you
We all must share the gifts that life lays at our feet
And when you do this people will say you are kind and sweet
Then who knows perhaps your future mate will see in you
Your beautiful soul, loving and true
August 10, 2015
There is so much about pills these days I thought I could write a whole blog entry on the subject. Above is a picture of me at my desk and you can clearly see that I am not the thinnest person in the world. The fact is, I weigh 260 pounds right now and I feel awful about it. As a young adult, I was 18 and could do 7 chin-ups, 30 push-ups and run for 20 miles if I had to, and that was when I smoked. Now, though I swim, walk long distances, bicycle longer distances and don’t smoke, I don’t know if I could do any of those things and it really comes down to the weight I gained taking the pills I am on. Of course a tiny pill doesn’t add any weight to a person, but what my pills do is make me so very weak and hungry that I have to be eating just about all the time. For some years now I have managed to hover around 250-260 which is better than gaining, but I really wish I could get to a healthier weight. Most of my younger days, including my adult years right up to age 30 I was 170 pounds, a significant difference. I met a young woman at a support group once who had been on a medication that caused her to gain weight and switched to another called Lamotragene and she lost a lot of weight. I thought all my dreams had come true but I went to my Doctor and tried out the drug and it left me so tired I could get very little done. I have to say though that I am very grateful for the pills that do this, they have kept me from having a serious breakdown for more than 14 years which is incredible and unprecedented with me. I also take a pill called Prozac, and I feel a bit bad, but the fact is I love this pill. I take it in the morning and often go back to bed for a few hours because after you take it you have the sweetest, happiest, most perfect dreams. Instead of my usual nightmares, I have dreams of high school crushes and large amounts of money and all kinds of pleasurable things. Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. I am very reluctant though to like any kind of a pill because it seems just about all of them create a dependence, a tolerance to the drug and all kinds of side effects no one may know about for a long time to come. I find myself taking a lot of ibuprophen and acetominophen for headaches and sometimes these drugs help me sleep a little, but I worry if they make me sleep because of a lack of pain or if they make you sleep because they are sedative. If they are sedative I am of the mind that I shouldn’t take them. It seems a bit silly to say this, but I have seen a lot of people who have allowed themselves to get addicted to pills, sadly my own mother was very much a saint in many ways but her and my Dad were of the belief that it was perfectly okay for her to be taking more than 10 kinds of pills despite repeated medical advice. Anyhow, I should stick to my own problems in this blog, I just want to talk about one more pill, something that I find helpful but again somewhat risky. It is melatonin, a type of sleep hormone that is very effective in helping insomnia, but I have a strange problem when it comes to sleep. I am very much subject to milder forms of mania, the kind one gets when you just find yourself talking to fast, laughing too hard at your own jokes and being able to forgo sleep as long as you want to. If I am in one of these states, often brought on by excessive coffee use, there is little melatonin can do for me, and what it and other pills I have tried to help me sleep does is leave me pretty drowsy the next morning. I should note though, that melatonin has another interesting side effect, it actually enhances sexual pleasure, but I strongly hope no one takes more than a recommended dose of this pill towards that purpose. I can notice almost right away with melatonin when I take too much, it is a very unpleasant feeling and can come about just by taking a small dose three days in a row. You feel extremely restless and can’t sit or lay still and you just about have to get up and pace until the feeling goes away, which could take hours. I personally cleared use of melatonin with my Psychiatrist and only use it when I am desperate for a sleep solution. I hope some of this helps my readers treat their illnesses with more care, once again feel free to write me any time you like, I will do my best to answer. email@example.com And yes, there will be a poem today, just look below! (sorry, I will be posting photos of Toronto soon!)
I Can Feel It Coming Back
I once thought all the joys of life were done
But in reality they had just begun
After a time of pain life became just drudgery
I felt so sad for all I would never do or see
But step by inch, life built its way back up
I soon drank from the wellspring of God’s loving cup
I took a chance and flew away far from home
And soon I learned no one really wants to be alone
It was hard at first, I had lost a dear true friend
But love triumphed and we reunited in the end
I thought wealth was passed, happy times were done
It was just a different part of life newly begun
I still recall the moment when it all changed so wonderfully
Those simple words my sister said to me
Next time I see you, an Uncle you will be
From that time on life was happiness and glee
I have to also say I owe two precious friends all I achieved
With their support I did more than I could have believed
One friend had kept a forgotten draft of my book
Another angel friend had an editor take a look
Now I feel I am a valued piece of my beloved home
No longer broke and hurting, no longer all alone
It all took just a little step each day
And the odd marathon of effort I have to also say
Now I’m living proof that though things can knock you down
As long as you believe in you there will be another round
But I ask you don’t forget without love, family and friends
Dreams can come true but won’t fulfill you in the end
There is a trinity called love, hope and work you see
That can make all you dream really come to be
Never tell yourself that you can’t succeed, achieve
What occurs in our lives is always what we believe
August 9, 2015
Hello Dear Readers! Well, if anyone is interested, I am now participating in two blogs. The other one is on a site called ‘Goodreads’ and I am maintaining that one so I can blog about books, especially books that were influential in my life. Today I wrote some stuff in it about “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, which I thought was pretty good. I want to keep this blog going though, I kind of want to make it about mental health and other issues.
So, I don’t know exactly who all of my readers are. If any of you get a chance, pick up a copy of one of my books from the ‘purchase books’ page, in kindle eBook or paperback and let me know what you think of my longer works. Two of my books, “Inching Back To Sane” and “Through The Withering Storm” are memoirs about my lived experiences with mental illness, and I feel have a lot to say to people about how to deal with and manage and all things to do with mental health. I would love it if more people would come forward and tell me what they think, possibly these sorts of things could make me a better writer.
So today I wanted to talk about a subject a lot of people, especially those who feel they are ‘sane’ don’t like much to talk about-I want to talk about the mental hospital. I’m going to attach a video I made of Alberta Hospital where I spent a lot of time just below this and then after I will continue writing.
So, this was the place I spent 6 months in back in the year 2001. I only remember the year because it was the same year the twin towers were hit by planes. All that seems so surreal to me now because I was just getting over being very sick at the time and was actually still in the hospital.
The mental hospital can be a very unpleasant and frightening place. I think because of extended worrying and poor treatment there I developed a digestive condition that I still deal with 14 years later. I wonder though if the place had anything to do with it. There were people that made my life difficult, including my Doctor and most of the nursing staff and a lot of the patients, but I wonder if that would have been an issue if I hadn’t been so sick.
One of the main reasons I had to be there had to do with my own mistake. I had been on a dosage of 1000mg of a certain pill and I thought it was doping me up too much and cut it in half. Just that small change was enough to make me very sick. The fact is though, that the staff there do a lot to try and accommodate people in the hospital. There was one staff member who would often take me out for walks, there was people there simply to talk to and play cards with (staff) but all I seemed to be able to do was worry. It really scared me that after that hospital visit I would be unable to have any kind of relationship with a female, that I would never travel, that a lot of my life was over. What is a bit scary is that those things may have happened if my Doctor had gotten his way and kept me for 2 years as he had wanted. But my medication was brought back to the old level, I got a lot better and even quit smoking. I can also recall a fun day when we went bowling and I got the top score. And when I got out, life improved. I used a tactic to do this that I have worked into my life for a very long time. The way it goes is, no matter what, no matter how bad things get, you should have goals to reach for and try to accomplish at least one of them each day. Now I have traveled, I am back in touch with a lifelong female friend, I have a great job and my writing is becoming known all over North America. I started out with very little, but I pushed myself and got a job as a security guard, saved up my money and bought a nice computer, eventually a used car and by luck got an even better job for way more pay working as a security guard on movie sets. Who made all this happen? I couldn’t tell you, but I did have to keep working harder, doing more, taking all of my medications and keeping up with my responsibilities in my home and at work. Will this work for anyone? I couldn’t say really, I just know that my life is very blessed.
But, in the middle of that ramble, I will leave things so I will have more to write next time. Thanks so much for reading this far, scroll down just a little further for today’s poem, and keep checking back because I brought my camera with me and Toronto is a beautiful city to photograph. All the best!
Throughout My Days I Need You
My dear friends I dedicate this poem to you
Because I have come to learn it is true
Without your devotion and love I never could write
Though sometimes words do come through
Words that are fresh, sweet and new
Like now deep inside the night
But I often think of dear friends I have lost
And the terrible cost
Of wanting to seem too tough to care
I pray that once more our paths will cross
And that I never again casually toss
Away the beautiful love that we shared
As I sit and remember fondly the times
When true friendship was mine
I wish those I hurt back in my life
But it can be hard when in the past one was unkind
To change all those minds
Of those you turned away because of deep down strife
Always, forever hold onto those who are dear
Don’t be left shedding a tear
Because the worst thing is to be alone
Keep your loves and your family near
Be always ready to lend an ear
That is the only way to truly have a home
And when you have people to care for
You’ll find you don’t need much more
I’ve learned as I write out my words
And always be ready to walk out the door
Life will indeed give you much more
And feel the joy of knowing your soul’s longing was heard
Well, good readers, it is now 3am and for some reason I feel compelled to write about insomnia. Just about everyone gets it, especially people with mental health issues. A lot of questions pop up, like is my medication making me sleep too much, should I go on sleeping pills, and on and on. Personally, I have one pill, called a PRN which basically means I can take it as needed, called Rivotril or Clonazepam. If I ask for it, I can get a 0.5mg little orange pill and it often relaxes me enough to sleep. One of the most important things I have to remember though, is that if I don’t get out of bed at a reasonable time, I will have problems sleeping even with the pill.
One of the things I like to do is swim laps and sit in the hot tub at my local fitness facility (thank you Edmonton city government for making these facilities accessible for those with low incomes!) If I get in enough laps and don’t sleep too much, I find that I am more than ready to get a good sleep in that night. How much exercise is right? Hard to say. I try to get in the pool and do laps until I’m tired, and if I have any energy left over I take off my flippers and swim a few regular laps and even add in push-ups and chair dips afterwords. Whether or not it helps my sleep to sit in the hot tub is hard to say, I do like to sit in the hot tub for a few minutes before a swim just to get all my joints warmed up to lessen impact on them from going right into an exercise.
Along with my PRN Rivotril, I also have the option of taking a hormone you can get over the counter called Melatonin. I cleared this with my Doctor and I think the only thing I really have to note about this is that I can’t take it every day. If I take it too much I find that I get an almost painful restlessness through mostly my spine that often makes it impossible to sleep. Now and then, when I have taken my pills and it is getting late at night or early in the morning and I can’t sleep I find that sometimes turning upside down in bed or even going downstairs to sack out on the couch helps.
One of my problems is that a lot of my life focuses around laying in bed. Most Doctors will tell you that all you should do in bed is sleeping and intimacy, but I write letters on my iPad, make phone calls, read, listen to music and many more things that I am sure don’t help. Another thing that I think doesn’t help my insomnia is that I take naps. I haven’t discussed this with a Doctor, but I have heard information that I can’t confirm that it is very bad for a person to sleep a little here and a little there. Sleep can be such a nice experience, as I mentioned before when I take my Prozac in the morning and go back to bed I have the most wonderful dreams and general feeling of well being for a few hours.
So what are the solutions? I will try to recap. One would be to get exercise, a good idea for anyone. Even if you just get out and go for a walk or go up a few flights of stairs it will be beneficial. The second is medication. Sometimes I find myself needing Tylenol or Advil or even Gravol or Robaxacet and sometimes cold and flu medication. These things can help me sleep but I am very concerned about getting dependent on them so I use them only when needed. It seems I often need Advil just about every day due to headaches, but that is a bit of a different situation. I have noticed that when I take an Advil I can take a nap and have a very peaceful and happy feeling. The next step is to try not to nap, then to try not not to lounge around in bed if you can avoid it. One other thing about staying in bed I should mention is that simply from your orientation against gravity, when you lay in bed too much, especially when you take medications, you can get acid reflux. I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid this malady, it can be very painful and disturbing of a person’s natural cycles. My Mom had acid reflux so bad she required an operation at one point to increase the size of her wind pipe just so she could breathe and eat properly, she had been bedridden for her last five or six years.
So what have we got-use drugs sparingly. Don’t nap. Exercise. Try to fill up your day. Only sleep in your bed. Avoid sleep aids that cause dependency. Getting the right amount of sleep each day is good for your well being, your feeling of healthiness, and almost definitely your moods. When I pull an all nighter, I often find that my temper gets much shorter than normal and I even get a little paranoid and angry. There are some good sleep aids out there like Melatonin, I have also had some good results just from taking a multi-vitamin, which, at least in me, seems to keep me from having nightmares, and also by taking what is often labelled stress vitamins which contain some B vitamins among other stuff. Above all though, these are things that you should clear with your Doctor, I can only speak from my own experiences and everyone’s body chemistry is different. I hope all of you can have a good rest, and as I say often, Good Night Sweet Princes and Princesses, and may a thousand angels sing thee to thy resting place. I kind of stole that from Hamlet, the final scene, but still a nice thing to think of when you are on your way off to dreamland.
park with my favorite person, my Dad
Well dear readers, I have to apologize for not posting anything for the past few days. I had a real surprise when I opened my stats page today, I actually broke my record of 42 views in one day and it now stands at 48. The reason I didn’t post anything is I was simply feeling a bit burned out from writing a great deal. I have been going to workshops and book signings, I even went to a book launch today and did some great photography for it, but I won’t bore you all with that here. I have also been working diligently on a Young Adult Historical Fiction Novel which seems to be coming along nicely. On Wednesday I took advantage of my local library’s writer in residence program and had a very nice young woman work with me on the first 10 pages of my YA book. When I first had it looked at by my dear friend and mentor Richard Van Camp, he said that it seemed rushed. It was in fact rushed, I sat down and wrote the whole 23,000 word mess in just two days. After Richard suggested taking more time, adding more detail and a few other things I went over it and added another 8,000 words. In the past day I have been editing the work line by line and have added probably about another 1,500 words to the total. These seem like grand tasks, but I have to stress that there were times in my life where I accomplished very little in my writing other than improving my typing skills in chat rooms.
What I kind of wanted to discuss today though was the whole concept of ‘Inching Back To Sane’. This is of course, the title of a book I wrote which you can find right on this website for sale, but it is also kind of a mindset I have about recovery. Before I explain too much, let me say that I strongly believe that a man (or woman) who has one friend is a rich man. We all need a friend, whether they be a member of our family, it is of course ideal that they be a life partner, but your friend can be anyone. Together people can do so much more than they will ever get done alone. Back in 2001, just after 9/11, which was the same time that I was released from the mental hospital, I was in a very poor state. Somehow my retired father was able to make time each and every day to drive to my house, pick me up and take me to the park and we would walk. Walking is a fantastic exercise I think because it is low impact and generally good for the soul. Even the Buddhists talk about something called ‘walking meditation’ where you get into something of a rhythm and focus your mind and cleanse your thoughts. So anyhow, my Dad would come and get me and was very understanding and we would walk through the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and after a time I was able to be fit enough to quit smoking, and my mood and general situation improved greatly and then before long my Dad and I were going to different parks and then with the advent of less expensive digital cameras (I never did have luck with film cameras) we started taking pictures of birds. I became almost obsessed with photography but I still liked doing it with my Dad and went on to do magazine work, newspaper photography and I recently saved up my dough and bought a very nice little Nikon D3200 with a regular and a telephoto lens. My Dad has filled the wall of his apartment with his bird photos and basically something really special came out of my Dad’s effort to help me recover from the shock of spending 5 months in the mental hospital.
This adage, this concept of taking small steps and maintaining them until great things happens applies to a lot of things in life I think. Years ago I made the decision that I wanted to be a writer and I started out with short poems, then longer ones, then short stories which I eventually tied all together into a book. By chance I met an old friend who knew a professional editor who I hired to turn the book into something publishable, then after being unable to find a publisher I learned how to self-publish and have gained a lot of respect from friends, co-workers and family members and even members of the general public as far as my writing goes. I should mention also I suppose that when I wasn’t writing I was reading as much as I could get my hands on and went to great lengths to increase my collection of poetry books and through a lot of that time each day I would force myself to write a journal entry that filled a page.
All that I have really covered before, but here I just wanted to encourage people to lay down goals for themselves, achievable goals, concrete, written out goals. A distant goal of mine was to publish a book even before I had written my first short story or half decent poem. At the time I didn’t even own a pen that I used for anything other than writing down women’s phone numbers in my little black book. But I set down my goal and then had something to move towards. Even the horrors of becoming severely mentally ill and facing the treatment I went through didn’t deter me. Another goal I remember setting for myself years ago was to have a sports car and a motorbike. Not long ago I had both, thanks to a ruling by the government with regard to deductions made to disability payments plus my awesome job setting up concerts. So for anyone who reads this, I want to quote the title of the YA Novel I am working on. The title is “Those Who Dare To Dream” and I suppose I could change it to a catchy phrase like ‘great rewards come to those who dare to dream’ which sounds a little hokey, but it would be great if someone read this and felt inspired enough to write out what they want out of life, where they want to be in ten years and be able to come back and tell me that they did these things. These goals are different than New Year’s resolutions, of which 99% never seem to get done. I did set one for myself this year, which was to lose 20 pounds but I think what I’m discussing is something larger. Something you need to get very specific about. “I want to have $150,000.00 to put down on a house in ten years” is something like that. You can set smaller goals along the way, just like when I was discussing “The Richest Man in Babylon” you can say first I want to improve my work performance to get a 15% raise, then I want to put 10% of that in a savings account and reward myself with the other 5% with a vacation to the coast.
For those of you who read this who feel their whole life is a mess and that things will never turn around for them, I want to say that you can set goals to make yourself feel better, for example you could say “I am going to get myself on better medications over the next year until I can feel good enough to work 10 hours a week as a volunteer and make it to church at least twice a month”. You don’t have to conquer the world, but it would mean so much if you could just improve your own life a little. I know it has for me and that my life has become the biggest dream come true I never even imagined could have come about. But, at the risk of sounding manic I will pass on any more commentary. I would love it if people who read this would send me feedback, I can be reached as always at: firstname.lastname@example.org