Hi, there. Thanks for visiting. I'm starting this blog as an advocate for mental and physical health. I'm a freelance writer and also own a home based medical transcription business. I was diagnosed in 1978 with paranoid schizophrenia and started to become acutely ill three years prior to that, unmedicated, frightened, confused, and in trouble with the law. I graduated from university with distinction the year I became ill. I've never regretted learning how to think at university. I struggled with my illness for 35 years and have reached the top of the mountain now, I think, or the other side, where the grass is greener and the path easier. There's hope for all of us, the whole human race, and never think there isn't hope or joy no matter your circumstances. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with mental illness in all its forms: depression, brain injury, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc. and your positive experiences as well as those lies and half truths society and even therapists would have us believe about ourselves.

We are different folks, and we are beautiful. The whole human race is beautiful. Let's celebrate life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome Piia!

I'm very happy to see Piia joined my site as a follower. I left a comment on one of your posts, Piia.

I just edited my last post. I think I was too hard on the charity, but I was hurt by their reaction. I think I was naive in thinking anything else of an organization. They perhaps didn't handle the situation well, but they also may not be fully informed.

I'm not afraid to be public but I am also discrete when I have to be.

Discretion is the better part of valor. I remember my mother saying that. She had secrets. I have no secrets. I lived most of my life in fear and insecurity. Perfect love casts out fear. And I'm surrounded so far by loving friends and family. I moderate the comments here because I realize some people who read a blog like this may be very ill. But so far I've not had that problem. However, I'm not getting involved in any forums other than Anne Collins, which has nothing to do with mental illness. This isn't a forum. It's a blog. And all are welcome who believe in the oneness of humanity, respect and integrity. Knowledge and "whatsoever things are true."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Causes of Schizophrenia

Only a few months ago I argued with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta that there was an environmental component to the development of schizophrenia in my case, and probably in all cases. I was told their "medical consultant" told them schizophrenia was decided in the womb. I got the impression they were teaching people and their members that we are "hard wired" to be schizophrenic from before birth and that there was nothing to be done about it. I found some research I sent them to say otherwise, but at the time research was scanty. Now I find it's everywhere. I know there is a genetic component, but I also know it can be triggered by environmental factors, just as a person can be born with a gene for diabetes but it doesn't necessarily develop unless a life style is followed which encourages it. says the following about schizophrenia:

What are causes of schizophrenia? Is it hereditary?

One frequently asked question about schizophrenia is if it is hereditary. As with most other mental disorders, schizophrenia is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically, and there is no single cause for this illness. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Genetically, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have much in common, in that the two disorders share a number of the same risk genes. However, the fact is that both illnesses also have some genetic factors that are unique.

Environmentally, the risks of developing schizophrenia can even occur before birth. For example, the risk of schizophrenia is increased in individuals whose mother had one of certain infections during pregnancy. Difficult life circumstances during childhood, like the early loss of a parent, parental poverty, bullying, witnessing parental violence; emotional, sexual, or physical abuse; physical or emotional neglect; and insecure attachment have been associated with the development of this illness. Even factors like how well represented an ethnic group is in a neighborhood can be a risk or protective factor for developing schizophrenia. For example, some research indicates that ethnic minorities may be more at risk for developing this disorder if there are fewer members of the ethnic group to which the individual belongs in their neighborhood.

Austin Mardon asked me to co-author an article with him for the Edmonton Journal, one of our daily newspapers, about the prevention of schizophrenia, which led to some very interesting research. I'll put a link to the article on this blog when and if it's published.

I don't think our brains are "hard wired" to the extent we were told, and new research such as that of neuroplasticity gives hope that we can change or heal ourselves. I've mentioned the book The Brain that Changes Itself and there's a video as well on that topic with Dr. Norman Doitch.

I'm reading a couple of excellent books by Dan Ariely called Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality with interesting explanations of human behavior. I'm guessing if I continued to take marketing courses these books would be mentioned. They don't concern mental illness at all, but any insights into human behavior are fascinating to me as we're all part of the human race, aren't we? We're all one.

An educated friend who's a retired university prof expressed concern the other day that those with mental illness pose a threat to society when they are convicted of a violent crime and are allowed back out into society, because if they don't take their medication or don't continue to be "treated" (according to her) they will reoffend. I said people with mental illness are no more likely to reoffend than others, and that the incidence of violence in mental illness is so rare that unfortunately the media jumps all over it when it does happen.

I had that experience recently myself when the volunteer coordinator of a charity for whom I volunteered successfully for three years suddenly sent me an email stating she and someone I didn't know wanted to meet with me right away, after I had sent her a link to my blog. It turns out that she had read very quickly the fact that the legal troubles went back 35 years and when I eventually called her (after many emails on her part and no direct contact) I found out she thought I may have "murdered someone". I was appalled and disappointed. That particular charity has not in the time since contacted me again other than through emails about meeting with me for an unspecified reason, and with an unspecified other person present. I finally found out the other person was the volunteer coordinator's supervisor. I withdrew from the organization and was eventually sent a letter confirming my withdrawal from the organization and signed with the volunteer coordinator's full name, no personal message, and she has not followed up at all since then although I've had to phone her on occasion to follow up regarding my friend, the elderly lady with whom I was matched, who ended up in hospital and requested the organization be notified. I've also followed up a couple of times but have received no response.

Previously this person would tell me "you're the best", etc. and suddenly because of a blog that indicates mental illness and trouble with the law -- they assume the worst. It could have been any kind of trouble with the law, and was.

I understand that any kind of trouble with the law is viewed by the majority of people as heinous.

In any case, it's attitudes like that in public life and private that will sometimes trigger an episode of mental illness in more susceptible individuals.

I might still write about it if I'm given the opportunity to publish articles on mental illness and the public's perception, particularly after the final court date in January when it will hopefully be put to rest.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Wow, I have another follower! Welcome, Bob. You're a regular contributor to the comments and I much appreciate that. I like comments. Maybe if I had too many or the wrong kind I wouldn't like comments. But right now I like comments.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Canada Post

I received this email from one of my brothers just now...

"Very Interesting Read... Keep this in mind!

Canada Post, " I learned something over Christmas that I feel compelled to share with you. This won't change your life dramatically or help you survive the apocalypse but it will save some $.

I recently mailed two identical packages via Canada Post one week apart. One would think that the postage should be exactly the same.

Pkg # 1 was mailed from a Canada Post Office. Postage came to $11.74. Since I knew the second package would be mailed in about a week's time, I bought sufficient postage for the second pkg while I was there.

When it came time to mail Pkg #2, I went to the post office in Shopper's Drug Mart. I handed the pkg to the clerk to be put in the outbound mail bag, I was informed that I did not have sufficient postage attached. The clerk proceeded to inform me that I needed to purchase an additional $6 worth of stamps. After explaining how I knew exactly what the postage should be, the clerk offered some lame excuse that Canada Post is unionized and they can say and do anything with impunity and if I wished to mail that pkg. From Shopper's then I needed to purchase more stamps.

I told the clerk to stuff it and took back my package and headed to the Canada Post Office, where I would raise hell... Much to my surprise, the Canadian Postal Clerk took my package, weighed it and tossed it in the mail bag, and it was on it's way...When I asked if the amount of Postage on the parcel was right she shook her head and said "yup, no problem"..

The Truth comes out:
Canada Post Offices charge postage for packages at the published Canada Post rates. Franchise locations such as Shoppers Drug Mart can charge whatever they like. So remember if you regularly mail packages at franchise locations (Shoppers Drug Mart,) you are probably paying too much. Franchise locations are found in shopping malls, drug stores and private businesses everywhere. From now on, all of my mailing will be done from a Canada Post location. Still perplexed by what I was told by the girl in Shoppers, I fired off an email to Canada Post for clarification.

This is the reply I got from them:

Thank you for your message to Canada Post.
A postal outlet is not a federal government agency and is not owned or managed by Canada Post. For example if the postal outlet is within grocery store or pharmacy it would follow the stores working hours, therefore if the store must be closed, so will the postal outlet inside. Only Canada Post Depots and Corporate Post Offices are obligated to follow the price of stamps and postal products that are legislated by Canada Post. Any commercial and private establishment may charge extra fees as a convenience to their customers. It is at their discretion to apply additional service fees to products that they sell. We suggest visiting a Corporate Post Office in order to avoid paying additional service charges that corner stores or other establishment may implement on their products.

Regards, Veronika Strofski Customer Service "

How's that for privatization?

How do you like your post office?

I'm bemused by the Postal Service which seems to charge for parcels whatever they please at these small outlets, and tell you what they please...some of you may know what I'm talking about who live in small towns or have small postal outlets and send mail internationally and both to and from the US. I've begun going online to print out labels for my parcels, using a tape measure and postal scale to determine the correct price, and choosing the cheapest option if I can. It always seems correct but I noticed at our little postal outlet the other day, and I've noticed this before, that a woman was charged expedited parcel as the cheapest way to send a small parcel, which would have been half the price. I wonder why they charge more? It seems to me somebody's making quite a bit of money on overcharging for parcels that could have gone out much cheaper...and I'm aware of that, as I see the rates online, and have the dimensions and weights posted on the Canada Post web site. I've never had a parcel returned. They're either poorly trained or are using a different scale and measuring system. But to ignore the fact that many parcels can be sent small package air or small package surface for a fraction of expedited parcel seems even dishonest. I once saw a man being charged $31 at this particular post office for a brown manila envelope and when he questioned it they changed the price to $11. I'm sure it could have been sent for half that...if anyone wants to question the Post Office about this kind of thing I have no proof, you know, just what I've observed. But I think the Post Office employees should be monitored more closely. Ours is private now. It used to be government. Stores have Secret Shoppers and the transit system has supervisors who check up on the drivers regularly. I think the post office should have supervisors who check up on post office employees as though they're customers and see what is happening. I used to work in an office where the mail was delivered at four or five o'clock in the afternoon. I phoned the local postal outlet a couple of times and was told once the carrier was there reading a book and they thought he'd completed his rounds. Lots of times I'd see him smoking in the Safeway parking lot with the security guard there. When we complained they'd tell us he had until five o'clock to deliver his was an office. Since moving into this apartment building I've had times when the mail was delivered late at night because apparently the carrier didn't show up at all during the day and mustn't have phoned in.

I love the concept of the postal service and depend on it as though for my lifeblood sometimes; my cheques come through the mail and my friends and family send cards, letters and parcels frequently. Seldom do they go astray, and often arrive before they were scheduled. It's the individuals they hire sometimes, especially here in Canada, who don't seem to be properly screened for efficiency and punctuality. They're well paid. I wouldn't be a mail carrier myself; too many dogs and icy sidewalks to contend with. But here in our apartment building there was really no reason for two cheques and a card with money in it to be sent back as "moved" in the interim when we had a substitute mail carrier, nor for the multitude of letters in the lobby which were misdelivered. Fortunately our regular mail carrier came back after a period of two or three weeks and things were back to normal. But I remember a time when a mail carrier spilled coffee, cream, and sugar all over everyone's mail and then delivered it that way with no apology. And the Post Office took out the complaint line...our previous mail carrier seldom worked on Mondays or after a long weekend or holiday, often delivered mail to the wrong suite, and was frequently very late or didn't show up at all. If he had a parcel he would cram it into the mailbox and sometimes so tightly it wouldn't come out, or came out damaged. He wouldn't ring our suites to tell us we had a parcel nor would he leave it at the office. He would leave a notice that we had to go to the post office to pick it up as he was apparently too lazy to deliver it to us or to the office so we could pick it up. Often I'd receive a notice that a parcel was there when I'd been home all day.

The larger parcels are delivered by a carrier in a special truck at another time of day, and she's excellent. She brings the parcel right up to my door, and is very pleasant. I keep candies and chocolate bars for the couriers and delivery people, and they almost always are inordinately pleased with the wee sweets. I do think they have a somewhat thankless job, but not particularly difficult.

The previous mail person kept his job for a long time, and probably is still sorting and delivering mail somewhere else...they do seem to have better service in the US, where a mail carrier also will post letters and parcels for customers. But I've read that the US Postal Service is in financial difficulty. Their postage rates are cheaper than ours. I don't complain about the flyers and catalogues I get because I think that keeps our postal service going, but it seems as though our rates are quite high and go up every year.

Once I left a thank you card with some candy for our regular mail carrier in the mail box. She thanked me with a note in my mailbox and seemed surprised that someone would remember her like that. I complain about poor service but I don't complain to supervisors anymore as I don't want to get anyone fired, unless they're really BAD! I did phone the post office and lodge a complaint about the cheques and money that had been misdelivered and returned as "moved". I will compliment good service and often have gone out of my way to speak to someone's manager and give them a kudo. But poor service and sloppy or rude communication skills just really irritate me. There's no reason for it; no matter how humble the job, do the best you can and be pleasant.

I think maybe for Christmas I'll slip a card with a $10 bill in it into my mailbox. I seldom see the mail carrier face to face as there's a large bank of mailboxes on the wall in the lobby and she goes into a locked room behind the wall to deliver the mail.

This post is a bit disjointed but I'm torn between complaining about the poor service and then complimenting the really good people. Customer service at the post office was very nice when I called and agreed "that shouldn't have happened." He also apologized. I wish more companies would realize how such a little thing like politeness and "thank you" and "I'm sorry" or "how can I help you?" go a long way towards promoting positive feelings for the company and stopping any hurt feelings that might go any further.

I notice since our regular mail carrier returned the end of October that no mail has been put up on the bulletin board or table in the lobby as being misdirected. And our mail is being delivered mostly before noon. I wonder what's going to happen at Christmastime when they get more subs?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thinking out of the box

I took a book out of the library on my daughter's recommendation of it called "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely. I'm looking forward to reading it perhaps this weekend. Apparently it explores the reasons we act the way we do, and it's not because of rational or logical thought behind our beliefs and behaviors. I thought when I first heard about the book that he meant we act on our emotions but that's not it. I hope to "get it" and see the world through different eyes, perhaps understand the behavior of other people better when it doesn't seem rational, and my own behavior and beliefs as well. I'm always open to new ways of looking at the world in an effort to get out of my little box and an established way of thinking.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Esoteric Properties of Truth

I've decided it's just too darn hard to try to reconcile the two sides of the universe as I see them, the flickering shadows that we know and the blinding light of ultimate truth. It's all rather esoteric and I don't know that anyone can do it. So I'm just going to do like the Dalai Lama and "shape motivation" every morning. Is it all about love? Or truth? And are they the same? I started this thread as a means of communication about mental illness. But that seems to be blending into simply life as we know it. We are all one.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What is Truth?

This is hard to explain, but I'm trying to establish a network of truth, like a spider web first as a framework, and then fill it in. There's the truth of things and then there's the shadows, like Plato's Metaphor of the Cave. I think it's all part of our truth as we don't stand in the bright light easily, or are comfortable in the glare, and have spent most of our lives in the shadows. I'm not talking about mental illness here although the analogy could be true for that, too. But very few people know the truth of things, and part of it is looking at the world from someone else's eyes not only our own limited vision.

That may be part of what I'm looking for.

It's like trying to reconcile the two hemispheres of one's brain. It can be done but with difficulty, due to the neuroplasticity of our brains (see Dr. Norman Doitch's book, The Brain that Changes Itself). So I'm trying to change my brain to take in a wider viewpoint to arrive at a more complete truth.

Of course, the ultimate truth and the means to attain it is love.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My 66th Year

Saturday, October 23rd is my birthday and I'll be 66 then, in other words, I'll have lived 66 years and be entering my 67th, yes, that's right, isn't it?

I have wonderful children, wonderful friends, and a great life. I'm not a wealthy woman but I have enough to be comfortable. I live a simple life and I don't hurt anyone.

I'm blessed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I've had 35 or more years of intermittent immersion in fundamentalist (evangelical) "Christianity." I really did enjoy the services at a mainstream church in the west end - quite a refreshing change - which a friend took me to for the past two Sundays, and of course, to each his/her own -- some people seem to enjoy the very small experiences with these "mom and pop" type evangelical churches and the opportunity they afford for friendships at least as long as they go to that particular congregation. I know there are some really good people out there who are embarrassed perhaps by the antics, hatred, and hypocrisy that goes on all over the world, but seems particularly prevalent in North America for some reason, where fundamentalism is almost political.

That's my fave hobbyhorse to ride at the moment but I'm not upset about it, just somewhat bemused.

There's a lot of fear, a lot of hatred, and a lot of misinformation. Will people ever change? Well, no. And that's my point. But we each can, in our own small way, attempt to shed light into darkness.

That being said, Judi's right, "there but for the grace of God go I..." I say that a lot with homeless and the downtrodden, and the misfits in society, but I didn't think to say it about the deluded. Of course, that includes me in recent past. Delusions are part of this illness, and how am I to know what untruths I harbor still? All the better to recognize those in others, which is a well known psychological trait - it's called projection, i.e. you hate and fear that which is in yourself.

Why I picked North America is because of the rise of the fundamentalist right in America from what I gather, but maybe they're just a very vocal minority. It seems that they've decided God is Hate, and miss the Spirit when pontificating about the Law - the only thing Christ really preached against in regards to the Pharisees which, if you'll recall, he relegated to hell in a handbasket. Not that hell in those days was meant to be eternal. The Greek word for "an age" was mistranslated as "eternity". Something like the priest who discovered in the vaults there had been a serious error in translation when the monks had copied the ancient scripts. "Oh, no,' the old priest sobbed, "It says Celebrate!".

It seems to me Islam has a very vocal minority, too. All this perhaps led to the rise of the Western extremes as well.

I prefer to believe in love.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Like autumn leaves

Voices, calling and laughing, were carried on the wind like fall leaves.

I got a call today from someone at the Schizophrenia Society here in Edmonton. He was calling me back about a call I made a week or two ago asking about advocacy. He left a message as I was away from the phone when he called. Austin Mardon, an advocate with schizophrenia whom I've mentioned here before (see link at side) told me I was an advocate just by being well and being open about my illness.

Certainly I'm well now, happy, and yesterday was a special day. I had a visitor who brought me small but significant gifts, and stayed for tea, and we chatted for two hours mainly about a different culture. Very interesting and a gracious lady.

I'm trying to be more clever in my words. My children are very clever. They write well and they both have a unique and charming sense of humor. They're smarter than I am. But I can train my brain. I've done so already to a certain extent. I've put a hold at the public library on The Brain That Changes Itself. A friend sent me a link to a radio broadcast featuring Dr. Norman Doidge, the author of that book. She suggested it may be a reference I could use in an article.

I'm going to try and get a fantasy novel published. So far I've concentrated on a mainstream novel, the first I wrote many years ago, and I may be more successful with a genre such as fantasy. I'll try to hone my inquiry letter and synopsis so they're acceptable and will try to send out inquiries myself. An editor who is a friend suggested I buy a copy of the 2011 Writer's Market and I'll do that. First I must do my homework and write an excellent letter and synopsis with what I've learned from hiring professional help to do so with my first book. I'll save money if I can find an agent myself rather than hire someone else to send out my inquiries. The friend said that it's as much work sometimes to get a book published as it is to write the darn thing. The book I'm trying to find an agent for is called Thunder and a Nest in Time. It's a time travel book involving the destruction of the earth at the end. Was fun to write.

Another friend is editing my most recent novel, which also is a fantasy. But she likes Thunder best, so I'll take her advice and work on trying to get that published. I think I'll stop writing books until I can get them published or at least find an agent for them.

I won't quit my day job just yet.

Back to why this month is special. October is a birthday month for two of my family including myself, at least two friends, and someone who was 70 yesterday. One of my friends is going to be 90 in a few days and she is on her way to Ontario to visit her son and his family. She does aquafit when the nearby pool is open and she tries to walk every day, although she uses a walker now since a car accident earlier this year. My other friend's birthday is a day before mine at the end of the month. An American couple we're close to who live in Nebraska have an anniversary the day after my birthday. And there are two birthdays in November, making fall a very busy season to send out cards and help celebrate. Of course, Canadian Thanksgiving is next Monday, too.

Like autumn leaves my thoughts are fluttering about my little pulsating brain tonight, tired but satisfied after a day in which I accomplished minor goals.

There are more major goals to set in place this month as well. Two of them my friends and family know, and there are more I've set myself.

I've had articles, poetry, and a play published, but my novels have not been published nor can I find an agent for them. I know they're good. I've been told they're good. I haven't tried until last year to attempt to find a publisher. I won't self publish. I can't afford it and I'm not prepared to fail at marketing them.

What motivates a person to persevere with a goal that seems elusive? I would say my motivation is stubbornness, but that's not a motivation. It's perseverance but that's not motivation.

I would say my motivation is love.

Without which I am a clanging gong, or the wind blowing through empty branches.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Multiple Personalities

I confess I haven't read Sybil nor have I seen the movie yet, although I intend to take it out from the library soon thanks to Bob. And Bob's comment is well placed, Sybil may indeed have been schizophrenic as well as having multiple personalities. I spoke without knowing the story. My point was that they're different diagnoses. I myself wondered at one time if I were a multiple personality but was assured I was not, and I understand now that the shift in perception was simply a part of the psychosis at the time.

I appreciate the chance to explore this topic. It's interesting but very unusual, not like the approximately 1 percent of the population who are diagnosed with schizophrenia. And apparently only 10 percent of schizophrenics are compliant with their medication. I learned my lesson and take my meds religiously. I get a depot injection every two to three weeks at my local medical clinic and also am monitored there. Fortunately, I haven't had to see a psychiatrist for many years, but want to find one I'm comfortable with, as the doc I saw last year but was unable to take me on for counseling at the time.

In some ways many of us would think our loved ones perhaps or others, or perhaps ourselves, have "multiple personalities" in that we are different in different situations and also, I've noticed, with different people. We all have different roles to play.

The diagnosis of a multiple personality is pretty well limited to Western society, I understand, and is sometimes challenged as being nonexistent and an artefact of therapy. I don't know. It's interesting what the human brain is capable of. The fact that Sybil (her real name was Mason) became better and actually cared for the doctor until the end of the doctor's life reveals perhaps, in the absence of medication at the time I would guess, that environment plays a huge role in such mental aberrations. Which is the theory, I understand, that early childhood trauma can cause such a split in personalities to protect the individual.

I think it's something that must be approached with caution. It's all too easy to diagnose and then be left with a label. One must be very careful of a layman's diagnosis, which I've heard, that someone's husband was "a schizophrenic" because he was "two different people".

We're all somewhat odd in our ways if examined closely, and I think acceptance is vital no matter if we're on the street and sorting through garbage, or if we're a university prof who appears to be on top of the world. We can't see inside the other person's psyche unless they choose to share, and I would say many live "lives of quiet desperation" who appear to be perfectly normal individuals or couples, or happy and well adjusted, until something hits the fan. I'm thinking of well known evangelists also, who have the world at their fingertips, but it isn't enough for them, and they deceive their congregations. They are all too human but have chosen to appear above other mortals, and then when they fall they crash heavily. If they're caught...I'm thinking of the Rev in Georgia now, head of the well known church, and of Jimmy Swaggart and others. They are not multiple personalities. They are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives - and power corrupts. They are just men.

Are multiple personalities sometimes an excuse? I don't know. I think it's reasonable that one may develop coping mechanisms that protect a child and later the grown woman or man from the effects of terrible abuse. Now that we have CT scans, PET scans, and EEG it would be interesting to map their brains.

In the meantime, I'm going to watch Sybil and perhaps read the book. There's apparently a movement afoot now to discredit the doctor who treated her and made the case public as doing so for financial gain. But both Mason and the doctor are dead so can't defend themselves.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


There seems to be some confusion about schizophrenia meaning multiple personalities. It doesn't mean that at all. And "paranoia" isn't necessarily paranoid schizophrenia. Many people are paranoid but not schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions and hallucinations. If one does not have those, and disorganized thinking when ill, then one does not have the diagnosis. But it can be treated with medication and successfully; however, compliance is a problem.

Also, I know of others who have done far better than I in many ways.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Way

I was thinking about what Austin said that I'm unusual in that I'm working yet have schizophrenia. Most schizophrenics are on a pension and find working too stressful, I suppose. I was wondering why and thinking back, I've had some wonderful bosses who understood when I told them I had trouble getting up in the morning and/or getting to work consistently. They were truly wonderful people. There was a time in the 1980s when I took temp jobs because I couldn't devote myself to a full time job. I always did what I could. The University of Alberta was very good to me when I couldn't work in 1990. I tried to quit and they wouldn't let me quit, and insisted at the time that I sign disability papers. My psychiatrist worked in tandem with them from the psych hospital and although I insisted "God would take care of me" she finally convinced me that was God's way of taking care of me! So I signed the disability papers and was able to have an income from long term disability until I got on my feet. I usually worked part time also, and my wages were taken off the disability payments, but I was raised as well with the work ethic and didn't consider a life time pension although I could have had one. I have one very special delusion and obsession to thank for my dedication to becoming better. I thought if I became well I would be acceptable to a particular person. She was like a star. And I thought for most of that time I may be gay, but I'm convinced I'm not. I don't live that lifestyle and I don't have those inclinations for other members of my sex. It's simply a delusion and it was an obsession to become better so that I might be acceptable to someone who offered me help at one time. I now have a plan, hatched with the help of my therapist, that if it should happen again (the delusion and obsession about contacting this person) that I will contact my therapist and/or my family doctor, and/or a good friend here, and will work it through that way. I now have tools at my disposal and I'm so glad. The obsession tortured me for almost 35 years and now it's over. I did what I did to garner the court case that's now going on, and it worked in a peculiar way...I'm better and realize that I was wrong to pursue the truth in this fashion, but really, at the time in April 2009 I wasn't well enough to realize there were other options. I'm very sorry I created the trouble I did. And I've paid for it I guess, but the truth is more wonderful than any lies I've told myself over the years -- no one wanted to hurt me, and my recent decisions may have made someone happy.

There is a young woman who contacted me yesterday from my 12 step program. She is hurting and needs support. I was less than helpful at the time she called me, being busy with work and also not sure if she would help herself so to speak, but that's not for me to say, is it? I want to call her today and offer what support I can be. After all, it's taken me 35 years and if people gave up on me (which I'm sure they did at the time), they would be happy to know that I'm where I am today. I remember all of them, and I remember the wise things said, and I remember also that I would not take direction, which I interpreted as control, and insisted on doing it my way. Well, I did it my way. So why shouldn't others?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who is Austin Mardon?

This week I met the recipient of the Alberta Medical Association's Medal of Honour for this year. I had the privilege of writing an article about the event for him. We had coffee at Starbucks on Tuesday morning. His name is Austin Mardon, PhD and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1992 at the age of 30. He received the award for his advocacy on behalf of those with schizophrenia. A link to his website is now on my blog. Check it out. He's received numerous awards including the Order of Canada.

It may be the beginning of an interesting acquaintance. I was hoping to meet a community of like minded people through this blog. He said give it time.

He is a writer, explorer and researcher. A friend of mine had seen some of his articles and I got in touch with him with the assistance of the Schizophrenia Society here in Edmonton.

I don't know where my efforts will lead me but this could be interesting. I'm thinking of redoing some of my articles with a focus on general interest as Austin suggested and submitting them to a community newspaper.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I don't understand Twitter. I don't trust Facebook. I don't know what an iPod 4 looks like in reality or what it does. I think it's not a good phone. I don't recognize any of the new movie titles or who plays in them unless it's Richard Gere or Katherine Hepburn or Brad Pitt - yes, I know Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie because I read newspapers! I asked my children a couple of years ago to recommend some current musicians and they did, so I'm still listening to Duffy, Black Eyed Peas, and Amy Winehouse. I think they're very postmodern because before that my favorite singers were Elvis Presley, Sonny and Cher, and the Irish Rovers. I think Clint Eastwood is the guy who starred in "Dirty Harry" not a very clever Hollywood director. I'm an anachronism.

My 17-year-old grandson may live to see the world in 60 years, maybe 200 years, who knows what his life span will be then? The world that babies born today will grow up in and know as familiar is alien to me, as alien as a planet that circles Arcturus. Baby boomers and seniors are being slammed in the press as using up all the Social Security and all the health care. Aren't we good for something? Employers seem to like our work ethic and our education. We tend to be frugal. Faint praise indeed.

If it weren't for my children and grandchildren I would be obsolete. I don't want to sound like those who don't have children and/or grandchildren ARE obsolete. Sorry to sound that way. Of course you're not. But speaking strictly for myself, I don't think I would be very smart in the ways of technology to understand even the little I do if it weren't for the younger people in my life. And that being said, they don't have to be my children. For those of you who don't have children, simply being in touch with the previous generations in a meaningful way and listening to what they have to say would be the same thing. I don't always listen, it's true...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Poem - the Metal Foot

I once wrote a poem about a woman with a piece of twisted metal in her leg. She was trying to walk but could only hobble "to the burning rim of time." In the meantime, she watched others "past the breakers" and they "seemed to ride the wind" while she could only watch, immobilized and crippled. That was how I felt when this illness began in the mid 1970s, that long ago, and just now I redid that old haunting tragic poem:

The Metal Foot
by Kenna
September 7, 2010
revised October 4, 2010

The wire was twisted metal
But my leg has healed its sore
Like a boot of steel and plaster
Till my feet can touch the floor.

And the wind is running with me
While the scent of flowers play
With my friends who ride the breakers
With our faces bright with spray.

For this best of running coolness
And this newness angels put
I am flying I am singing
Through the metal cloven foot.

For my face is bright and yearning
And my legs are strong and brown
I soar PAST ephemeral lovers,
High where the surf has blown.

The wire was twisted metal
But my leg has healed again
I climb barefoot on a moonbeam
Where my sisters also ran.

All those friends and lovers
Those women, men and boys
Are singing like the angels
With one mighty sounding voice.

And the wind is running with me
Through reverberating halls
Shouting where the wire has twisted
From my leg and crippled falls.

It was the wire that threw me
That hated turning steel
No more its pain constrains me
Crushed helpless on my heel.

For my face is bright and yearning
Like a flower turned above
I soar past my ghostly lovers
To the patient arms of love.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Golden apples in a frame of silver

I've been thinking that people don't know how valuable they are. In particular I thought of my new therapist today, who perhaps is feeling that she isn't of great help to me when she has been invaluable, and I take her suggestions seriously and find them very helpful. I did a caricature of her a couple of weeks ago and gave it to her last week and she didn't recognize herself. I'm not tooting my own horn but it looks like her. She commented that it looked "cute" and I thought, well, you ARE rather a cute small lady, and she apparently doesn't see herself that way. The same with my sister, who gave me hell earlier this year and I turned myself around because of it, although I didn't like it at the time (living in the past, doing stupid things, etc.) and my daughter, also, who tried at one time to communicate with me when I was stuck in my unreal worlds and unable to reach out to sanity. My wonderful son Steve who has been a constant source of comfort and support, my son Ward who has never turned against me no matter what dark secrets I divulge, and my friends who have stuck with me loyally and sometimes vociferously in favor of my position when it wasn't really warranted, I know that! So many people, the volunteer worker at the charity, the lady I volunteered with, even my lawyer and the people I've had contact with due to the court case, all have been very helpful and supportive when I've needed it and indeed at this point in time I deserved it because I've changed. I guess I'm at a stage in my life now where I'm reaching out more and can accept the help. I'm not at war with God and the world anymore. And I realize some of my former mentors and counselors were simply all too human, not my saviors at all, and indeed looking to me to be strong when they were unable. I'm strong now, always have been strong, but often have been wrong.

I'm trying to work the world the way it's presented to me, to take this lifestyle seriously, but not earnestly, simply to work it in every way the best possible way I can do so, and to have fun at the same time as it's not to be taken seriously in that's not a game, though, and although this world may be an illusion, it's reality for me, and God gives me challenges and opportunities that I may make the best of them, and I will! It's an illusion in a way and in another way it's a testing ground. I've found Judi's quotes from Deepak Choprah fascinating and very helpful, but deep -- I confess to sometimes not understanding him altogether but get the gist that it's the path I'm on right now, and converges from Christianity but still is the Truth. And the sheep know their Master's voice, whether it be in another language or another country or another realm of experience, I know my Master's voice.

I've also learned to substitute an obsession with focusing on reality and the many people in my life, to try to see myself and the world from their point of view if possible, to put aside my own selfishness, and to think of random acts of kindness or gifts that don't cost monetarily but could be meaningful. I may never know if they are, but I'm a happier and more fulfilled person because of it. And a person I leaned on for years is free. That was my heartfelt wish for most of the last 35 years and it's finally come true because my family, editors, friends, therapists, lawyers, and God almighty himself have given me love and guidance that are like golden apples in a frame of silver, that precious to me, and I am rich beyond imagining.

Thank you.

Plans for Fall

Well, again, there was a misunderstanding on my last post. I seem to be prone to that. I really am working on it. It involves seeing myself and the environment through the eyes of others and I have a lot of trouble doing that. I'm not talking about being a people pleaser but of being aware of other realities, other than my own, that is.

I've withdrawn from the charity for the time being, anyhow. I think that's fair to them. But at least it's on good terms and I think we understand one another. They didn't ask me to withdraw. I did it voluntarily. Part of it is time, as well. I've been volunteering regularly for almost four years now and I'm working on a booklet for the lady I volunteer with, which involves many hours of taping and then transcription. We'll have more time to work on the booklet if she can find someone else to read her mail and address her cards, too. And I find I have to shake up my life a bit every now and then to see if it's still appropriate to where I am on my journey. I like to volunteer but I'll keep up the friendship with the lady I volunteer with, and so far I'm putting in just as many hours as she hasn't found someone to take my place yet.

I'm thinking if I volunteer again at some point I'll look for something completely different, maybe something that involves groups. I'm good at one on one but a group would be fun, maybe volunteering in an extended care centre or a community league or athletics or something like that. Nothing that involves writing or computer work as I do that all day anyhow.

I wrote a tribute to my mom, who died four years ago this August, but it won't be published for a couple of months. It was supposed to be in the September issue of "Edmonton Senior" but they apparently didn't have room for it, and there's an article on sports and the disabled or elderly that I'd rather have in there for October. So maybe mom's story will run at Christmas time, which would be nice.

A friend from Nebraska sent me a calendar that has a special section for fall and how we feel more creative in the fall, want to make something, scrapbook, sew, or bake, and that's true for me now. I haven't felt that way for many years but I seem to be energized this fall and am doing a lot of baking, caricatures, and writing, as well as just planning for the winter. I suffer from SAD in the winters, have for about 30 years now before it was even a diagnosis, and found last year that an antidepressant just taken for the winter months was very helpful as well as a light box and trying to get out more during the day. It's hard to get outdoors here due to icy sidewalks, snow and cold, and the short dark days which are sometimes unsafe to venture out into (I don't drive so do a lot of walking and take the bus). But like my dad always said, "I refuse to let them make me live in fear".

I plan to go swimming a bit this fall and also take up jujitsu again as soon as I get a monthly pass. I walk quite a bit, sometimes 10,000 or more steps a day, sometimes only half that. The apartment building in which I live has a gym which is nice, with a treadmill and a recumbent bike. There are walking areas nearby and a little park.

So plans for fall.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Starting over

I talked to the very nice volunteer coordinator at the charity today and got most misunderstandings straightened out. They have absolutely no problem with the mental illness but according to their insurance policies there would be an issue with the court case. They thought I have a criminal record. Probably my fault when I posted about the court case I might have made it sound as though I've been found guilty or perhaps you know -- hurt somebody in the past. I didn't. Well, at least I hurt a lot of people emotionally but not really slaughtered anybody or anything to my knowledge. I don't have a criminal record. I discovered today, as a matter of fact, I'm starting over where I left off 35 years ago and should have had the wit and wisdom at the time to follow guidance. I think that's wonderful, that I can start over, and not hurt anyone in the process this time, as I truly love so many really wonderful people that I wouldn't be capable even of hurting anyone now, I think. I'm quite excited about starting over and making a good life for myself, which I have actually anyhow, but it will be better, and my understanding will grow as the therapists talk to me and vice versa. I know that, as I have good therapists now, and am willing and able to work with them. I'm eager to work with them and just know there are many more wonderful epiphanies I haven't yet discovered.

I want to thank everyone -- all my friends, family, and "lurkers" -- who have been so faithful and loyal so far.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Letting go

Judi said,
What do you think this means: "The whole path to love could be described as learning to let go..."? Let go of WHAT? Ourselves, perhaps? That is, our minds and egos and our personal realities?

How does this work in practical terms in our relationships with other people (not dogs)? With God? The Universe?

I recently have interpreted letting go as letting the other person go but perhaps it means our own egos. I certainly think love is not possessive and allowing our egos to become involved suggests possessiveness. Originally, long ago, I thought letting go meant not having anything more to do with the other person, in other words, kicking them out of my life and then waiting for them to come back. Ummmm....

In practical terms it makes for freedom in our relationships with other people. I haven't thought about God and the Universe or how it affects our relationships with those rather ineffable entities, but as far as other people are a reflection of our relationship with God and the Universe (think Allah Ben Abdul and the angel...he loved his fellow man and his name led the list!)...then I think letting go allows the 12 Step saying to be truer for us, "Let go and let God". Maybe some don't understand that but I think a person with addictions perhaps has to learn that in order to stay sober or whatever the addiction of choice may be...the Universe is perhaps easier to understand and comprehend than God, unless we have a small vision of a small God. God and the Universe being somewhat the same.

So letting go IMHO may be necessary for freedom, and freedom of choice as we understand it in Genesis, or "free will" understand there are other realities out there besides ours and respect them. Certainly letting go implies respect for the other person, too. And also I'm thinking of vitriolic people whom we do have to let go in every sense of the word because otherwise they'll poison us. There's no room for toxic people in a healthy relationship.

It also implies that we can't change other people. We can't even serve as good examples.

I think letting go of one's ego essentially might mean letting go of one's exclusive rights to a single reality.

And that begs the question of the old concept of absolute truths such as Beauty, Truth, etc. that the ancient Greek philosophers held so dear. Is there such a thing as an absolute Truth? As absolute Beauty? I used to think there was. Now I'm not so sure. I think absolute Truth, if there is such a thing, would be God or the Universe, and we'll never find it unless we do let go of our own egos and our own limited realities.

I might talk about this some more with my friends, but I know certain fundamentalists believe in their version of the Truth and no one else's. That's scary and again begs the question, are these toxic people? Or simply very selfish? I've tended recently to think of them as toxic and avoided them, but I might try to open a dialogue with some of them about it and find out for myself. After all, my own version of reality could use some alternate universes, as well. And an alternate universe may very well be simply an alternate reality.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Deepak Choprah

"In practical terms surrender means letting go. Although you don’t realize it, reality isn’t a given. Each of us inhabits a separate reality. Your mind maintains your personal version of reality by buttressing it with beliefs, expectations, and interpretations. Your mind blocks the free flow of the life force by saying, “This is how things must and should be.” Letting go releases you from this insistent grip, and when you let go, new forms of reality can enter.

You only have to take a ride on a roller coaster to see who gets more enjoyment out of the experience–those who clutch tight with white knuckles and clenched jaws or those who let go and allow themselves to be carried up and down without resistance.

Letting go is a process. You have to know when to apply it, what to let go of, and how to let go. Your mind is not going to show you any of these things; worse still, your ego is going to try to prevent you from making progress, since it believes that you have to hold on in order to survive. Your only ally in letting go is spirit, which sees reality as a whole and therefore has no need to create partial realities based on limitation.

The whole path to love could be described as learning to let go, but letting go all at once isn’t possible. This is a path of many small steps. At any given moment the steps are basically the same: Awareness begins to substitute for reactions. A reaction is automatic; it draws upon fixed beliefs and expectations, images of past pain and pleasure residing in memory, waiting to guide you in future situations. Memory has told you, in a fraction of a second, that your reaction to, say, a big dog, should be fear.

Overcoming this or any reaction requires an act of awareness. Awareness doesn’t resist the imprint of memory. It goes into it and questions whether you need it now. In the face of a big dog, awareness tells you that you aren’t a small child anymore and that not all big dogs bite. Being aware of this, you can ask if you need to hold on to fear. Whether you wind up petting the dog, ignoring it, or withdrawing is now a matter of choice. Reactions result in a closed set of options; awareness results in an open set of options.

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future. The past is closed and limited; the future is open and free."

Adapted from The Path to Love, by Deepak Chopra (Three Rivers Press, 1997

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A thorn tree doesn't bear figs

Do you want to provide others with good memories?

Your children, perhaps, or friends? It's all up to us to carve out that slice of life that leaves good feelings. It's not enough to be right.

"It's more important to be happy than right."

"It's more important to be righteous than right."

But I don't like the term "righteous". Reminds me of middle class Christian aphorisms. Being fed pap rather than meat. None of us are "righteous". If we are, it's a negative term.

I love my children to tell me when they have good memories. That's more important to me than gold. And it's important to reframe, I think - I wish I could do that more expertly, and I wish I could advise my loved ones how to do it.

"We haven't all had happy childhoods. But we all have a chance at a second childhood, and our second childhood is up to us."

In regards to my recent past, I've hurt someone. Through this truly dreadful illness, and often while I was unmedicated, I harassed someone who didn't deserve it, and I misinterpreted the situation. I misinterpreted the situation badly because I needed a savior so desperately.

I'm trying for more balance in my articles and poetry, too. And trying to realize in my regular life that I'm not the only player on the stage. Indeed, there's a world beyond the stage.

I'm withdrawing from my volunteer work. I just think it's the right thing to do. I'm still a friend to the lady I volunteered with.

I went to a movie today, "Prince of Persia." Interesting about destiny and lives intersecting. I think that happens, really it does. People have helped me from all walks of life and I've ended up a happy camper, no matter the negative memories from my past. There must have been joyful moments because I'm a happy and positive person and how did I get this way? It's a mystery to me. Must be that old Hound of Heaven pursuing me. It must be caring hearts who surrounded me.

I believe all will be well.

You're known by your fruits.

"A thorn tree doesn't bear figs."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Fine Line

I'm done now with spectacular disclosures. I think it's wise and prudent to be balanced. For example, no big angst if people know, but it's like having blue eyes or two brothers and a sister, part of me but not necessary to advertise unless it comes up.

I accept and welcome guidance but for some reason my timing is often satisfactory. And I'm in danger of obsessing about ANYTHING given my predilection for extremes. I don't want to obsess about this, any person, a church, my work, illness or lack thereof, past, present or future. I want balance.

So it's a part of me, yes, no secrets, but I'm not going to enter a float in any parade, either.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where Angels Fear to Tread

You know, for anyone following my blog, I've added a caution not to do what I've done in terms of disclosure without much thought and consultation with wise people. That is, wiser than I am! This is a form of therapy for myself after a lifetime of secrets and living in fear. I'm coming into the sunshine. But I have a lifestyle that can stand censure and scrutiny, I think, and some people could be very badly hurt by doing what I've done. Please don't if you're considering it.

I appreciate the support, and I have received nothing but kindness in my life here in the "real" world, too, but there's going to be times when I'm facing censure, I know that.

If my parents were alive I could never do this to them. If my children were younger and in school I could never do this to them. That in spite of the fact I think it's right. It's right for me, at this time, at this place.

I'm a different person because of it, too. I don't know where it will end. I have faith as a grain of mustard seed. And that's sometimes confused with foolishness. But this is not foolish. This is the right thing at the right time for me.

I'm going to try to find a church community. A church for broken people.

But if you're broken, please find help. Don't disclose first to the world without being on a firm foundation. I sought help first.

That light sure feels good, though! It almost feels like love...


I guess before now I couldn't risk censure, and I was too uptight to discuss my dearly held "secrets" for most of my life. That was a dark and scary place to be. It just is the right time now. To everything there is a season, I really believe that, and of course, many other people have skeletons in their closets but just can't risk disclosure. I think it's wise to carefully think it over as I did. In my case this is part of what I believe will lead me into the light out of an emotional prison of my own making. Nobody else did it to me. Nobody else made that prison; constructed those bars; nobody even censured me except for dishonesty and insincerity at one time.

I don't recommend disclosure for everyone. Please don't do as I did without much thought and consultation with wise people. But for myself, after a lifetime of secrets and anguish...

"If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed...nothing shall be impossible to you." Luke 17:20 KJV

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A church for broken people

I went to court today and something may be resolved. I was accused of criminal harassment in April 2009 but dating back to 35 years ago when I first became ill, and I insisted I was not guilty but when I heard the complainant is in fragile or frail health, I immediately changed my plea to guilty to spare her the trauma of appearing in court. I go back to court on December 21st. First I'll get a psych assessment and pre sentence report in the meantime. My lawyer commented I'm more centered and more at peace than she's ever seen me. That's true. I think this is good. But it's been a long time coming, to come to terms with a delusion and obsession, and sitting in the courtroom today I thought, I've lived in fear of discovery all these years and it's an illness. I never meant to hurt anyone. But I'm responsible and I did the right thing at last, although I've never done the right thing before.

I also got in touch with the pastor of a church I battled with recently, although we've made our peace, and there's a reason I hung on so tenaciously to that pastor and that church, too. It's a church for broken people.

And I'm getting more involved in my 12 step program. I went to a meeting tonight and volunteered to chair the meeting in October.

The next four months will be interesting.

This is the end of something and the beginning of something else. I will never again try to keep secrets, nor will I hurt anyone. I will let this woman go and I will never again think anyone is trying to control me or be exploitative towards me, because it isn't true. And if I don't like someone I will let them be and perhaps I'll find out I like them after all.

So that's the story.

It's good because it's turned more than one life around this past year.

I'll be 66 in October. I may have another 20 or 30 years to live and I want to live them well, and be able to play off the stage of my own limited life so I see that other people live and breath beyond my little scope. It's not all about me and that's very freeing. But in another way, it's the discovery of myself as an adult and not an infant reacting to a world that is but dimly understood beyond her own needs.

The Hound of Heaven pursued me and if you don't understand the context of that comment please google "Hound of Heaven" and read the poem.

Thanks, Sue, your comments on Tuesday were well taken. I mention it because I think your comments on that day are particularly important.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Sea Change

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust

Do you know the definition of a "sea change"? It's a sudden and precipitous change, overwhelming and instantaneous, that's my take on it. And epiphany? A sudden insight. I don't know. I could be wrong. I think I'm facing a sea change, and it's because I've decided on it. I did something recently at some cost to myself for someone else. Now it's all about me. And it's all about you.

I've been wrong for most of my life.

Just something that's a fact. I'm not groveling about it. But I've been wrong about most premises I was raised with and told as truth even, or especially, by therapists and pastors. It's not weakness to need somebody. It's not weak to ask for help. The weak should not be despised and trodden upon. We should be allowed to fail. We learn from our mistakes. The most successful people make the most mistakes. Our parents were mistaken and may have abused us. It's good to compromise. Sometimes it IS all about me. Sometimes it's not. I don't have to entertain my friends and family with elocution. I can be silent and still accepted. God doesn't hate homosexuals. God doesn't hate sinners. We're not ugly and evil. We're not going to hell if we don't believe in Jesus. Hell doesn't last forever. We'll never know everything. We won't even know most things. Nobody understands God or his ways. Post modern fundamentalists or evangelists are the post modern Pharisees and if anybody is going to hell in a handbucket it's them. It's silly for homosexuals to marry other than to obtain legal rights under the law.

I've been wrong about friends and family. I won't avoid people I don't like. I'll let them be themselves and maybe I'll even grow to like them as different than I but equal.

Nobody on earth is my savior. I won't set anybody up for failure. My best friends are fallible. I make more mistakes than anyone I know. To sin is to err or "miss the mark".

It's been all about me, what takes place in my little brain, the delusions, the obsessions, the beliefs, the attitudes, the behaviors. I'm okay. I'm the Wild Rover but the Wild Rover doesn't hurt anybody anymore nor does she "spend all her money on whiskey and beer". I haven't had a drink since 1993, coming up 18 years, and I quit smoking in 1985. I'm not promiscuous. I like to have fun. I'm okay but I in my 66th year must change because God created me to be more than a little person in a little box without love or insight for my fellow human beings. He gave me life. My parents gave me life, like Liza Doolittle's father said, "I gave her life." I have been given talents and I won't bury them in the ground but I need help and I'm not strong to continue without support. Perhaps it's best the mainstream papers haven't accepted my articles on mental illness yet. Perhaps it's too soon to completely come out in the open.

Everything happens for a reason and if I've done all I can reasonably do I might examine the facts, and the consequences, and the ramifications. I teeter on the brink of a sea change.

I have a therapist and I have the opportunity to consult with others who can help. I'm going to ask them for help and I'm going to change. It's about me and it's about you. I learn to let go slowly but I'm going to let go. And those who are control freaks are to be pitied because I was there once. It's a confining and scary place to be, to control and to attempt to change others. Now I'm going to control myself. I'm going to change myself.

And I'll have a blast doing it! Watch out world, this is but one more adventure in a series of adventures, and you, good friends, help more than you know.

I need the help. But ultimately I'm responsible for myself.

I was never coerced nor manipulated into this illness. It was precipitated by love. I was born with the genes and before I die there may be a cure. It was the best thing that ever happened to me because:

I am a human being!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye

Remember that book? Holden Caulfield dreams of being the catcher in the rye. He will catch those who have fallen. I may not remember this book clearly but that stays with me for some reason; the Bridge Over Troubled Waters, the Catcher in the Rye.

This winter is going to be better than last winter, I think, which was better than the winter before. I know it sounds premature to think of winter in the middle of August but it's something like thinking of winter roses that bloom in the cold and dark in our souls. The roses I hold in my heart have no thorns. I've learned to let go. I've learned to be less selfish. And I've learned to put someone else's welfare first. It's not all about me and if I start in to be just too selfish or clinging, or take myself too too seriously, then please someone point it out so I can change.

A pastor pointed out to me once that my beloved cost/benefit analysis could work with a group or (and this is my interpretation) with someone else's benefit and my cost, in other words, what is the cost to me compared with the benefit to someone else?

This makes me very happy to think about. There is so much of which to let go in life. Let go of selfishness, let go of delusions, let go of suspiciousness and paranoia, let go of control, let go of a situation which has gone on far too long like the Hatfield McCoy feud. It amounts to freedom when we finally let go of a person or situation; freedom for them - happiness and ultimately liberty for us.

I've been guilty of many errors in life.

By far the worst was selfishness.

Few understood the catcher in the rye. Few understood the bridge over troubled waters. Many think they're cool concepts. They make a good book; they make a pleasant song. I thought they were cool concepts. I thought they made a good book; a pleasant song.

I didn't understand the Catcher in the Rye.

Here is my outstretched hand. It's empty.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Greatest of These

I've been loved in my life. And I've loved. But never more than now. Because I have the capacity and the desire to be kind to someone who may be suffering as I suffered many years ago, from an emotional or mental disorder, and I know I can't directly help her. Those who know me well, know the situation, and to those who do not, all that matters is that I made a decision more than a year ago to embark on an adventure which involved baring myself to ridicule and censure, and in so doing, I inadvertently involved others.

I'm talking about my decision to lay bare and fight the delusions and obsessions which remained of my little psychological disorder, to make public the battle shared with thousands of other human beings, and certainly without the intention to do so, perhaps to hurt someone who reacted to the initial episode with compassion and strength.

So there was my descent into hell and its environs 35 years ago, and the gradual ascent.

We learn from our mistakes. And I made many.

I learned faith. I learned hope. I learned love.

But the greatest of these is love.

And I learned that means letting go. It means this is not all about me. It means there are people in my life who are hurting, men and women. They are hurting and I love them and I can't help them.

I can't help them; never did - perhaps never can.

"Vanity, all is vanity...said the preacher." The Bible KJV

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is there such a thing as "normal"?

I received notice today that someone I cared about once is "very fragile" and I don't know what was meant by that term, nor do I have any way of finding out. I don't know if she has physical problems or mental or emotional problems, but I suspect the latter. If so, I have hope that she, too, may overcome.

"We can overcome, we can overcome, we can overcome one day...
Deep in my heart I do believe
We can overcome one day..."

And I would wish for her that she, too, will overcome, and I know she will. She will do it without me now although at one time in my distant past I might have helped. I can no longer help other than be gentle with an action I started a year ago which may have hurt her. She can overcome.

Thinking there is a psychological problem is far easier for me to deal with than believing she has a serious physical problem. A psychological problem is my country, after all. I know it can be healed.

There must be a norm by which to gauge the rest of our behavior, but it seems to me to be relative. Our friends often seem normal on the outside but are they really living "lives of quiet desperation"?

I would say mental illness is not normal until confronted with the statistics, then what do you say? So many living with anxiety, depression, SAD, OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoid illnesses, ADD, autism, neuroticisms of all description. And finding joy and meaning in life.

I don't think we're flawed. I think we're compassionate and interesting.

I once drank alcohol to excess because I found it resulted in oblivion and an initial transient improvement in my mood. That got me in no end of trouble and it's been more than 17 years now since my last drink. My drinking no doubt contributed to my very unhappy second marriage and anguish for my children.

Drinking can stop. Psychological anguish can be turned into sunshine and a meaningful and rich life. It can be done.

I see a fellow human being in every person who stumbles and falls. There but for the grace of God go I. There are no White Rabbits in my life anymore. I was mistaken.

The charity is as charity does. No problem, whatever happens, and I must phone my friend associated with the charity with whom I visit every two weeks to gently say, I am your friend and will remain your friend, but perhaps our helping relationship may change.

Bad things change and good things change.

"And it's no nay never
No nay never no more...
Will I play the wild Rover,
No never no more..."

I'm still the Wild Rover, aren't I? Some people like me that way.

The White Rabbit

I received the majority of my comments on my last post about the Mad Hatter Syndrome, haha, and I appreciate my good friends who replied but I really don't want to cross that bridge until I come to it.

I wonder sometimes what makes the difference between today and twenty years ago when I started my long journey into peace, happiness, and freedom.

Is it people?

Friends and acquaintances who offered me a hand when I was too proud or confused to take it?

I didn't recognize a good friend at the time.

I'm remaking my past right now. I'm reframing the negatives into positives so that I have a happier present and a more promising future.

So I can say to the White Rabbit when he invites me to tea,"thank you, sir, I will," and to the Red Queen when she threatens to cut off my head,

"You're all just a pack of cards"...

You see, I took myself and this lifestyle much too seriously. Life is a playground for us if we but choose to view it that way. Like the saying goes, "I want to be used up not rusted out".

My father always said, "I refuse to let them make me live in fear."

I think our memories are very selective. I'm not being dishonest by remembering the good. It's like refusing to watch the six o'clock news on TV. Do I really want all those negative images burning themselves into my brain? That's not to say I'm in denial or that I don't recognize the pettiness and meanness that takes place around us every day, and impacts particularly on those who are a bit lower on society's totem pole. But there's so much that's inspirational and kind, too. Why not choose that path?

And why not believe in the good in humanity? The alternative is bitterness and isolation.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Is Alice in Wonderland alive and well?

I volunteer with a local charity and have sent them a link to my blog. They want to talk to me about it. I would guess they have concerns. Their reply was by email and not a request or a question but a statement that someone I don't know wants to meet with me next week or perhaps the coordinator will meet with me the week after. That's all I know. So I sent them a polite note withdrawing at least temporarily from my work as a "friendly visitor" and letting them know I'm not available for a meeting until after August 23rd. This is the first test of my efforts at advocating. I'm sure I did mention my diagnosis previously to the volunteer coordinator but perhaps not. I won't insist that I did. Interesting and not an unexpected development.

I want to contact the local paper again, too, to see if the life style editor is back and if he would be interested in publishing either one or a series of my articles. Another person who has schizophrenia writes for them occasionally.

I'm very grateful for my good friends and the people who do understand. The others must simply be educated. And it's true, people don't know what to think or what to say when confronted with someone who doesn't fit their idea of the "norm".

There must be a good quote to put in here but I can't think of one.

Thirty-four years ago when I was really ill the University of Alberta was more than understanding and I wish I were able now to go back and be then as well as I am now, if that makes sense. My efforts at advocating for those with a psychiatric condition seem akin to the physically disabled a couple of decades ago. The only difference is the behavior issues when the illness is untreated and I understand that. But treated, we are just like anyone else. It might be a long hard path to understanding and acceptance.

Do they really think I'm the Mad Hatter?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Adrift in my City

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. " Friedrich Nietzsche

The homeless man on the street shook my hand, crossed himself and said he was a Christian, in a unique effort at ingratiation (or perhaps not), and asked for help. I bought him a sandwich loaded with roast beef and vegetables, and a Pepsi. He ate it outside the restaurant. He had wanted money. I do not ordinarily give the homeless money. It has to be a real good story, a feeling inside me of mutual humanity, a look in their eye of naked truth, and it's only happened twice in the five years I've lived in this neighborhood that I've given coins to the homeless.

Does one take a risk in kindness? I've never been hurt by being kind. I've been hurt by being foolish, flagrantly liberal, and a poor judge of character. Never by true kindness tempered by reason.

Last Christmas Eve I made bologna and cheese sandwiches, bought mandarin oranges and candy, and put them in a big basket by the dumpster outside with a note "to my homeless friends". Late that night I looked from my window on the 10th floor to the alley outside, and saw footprints finally in the snow, approaching the basket; I couldn't see who took it, but next morning the basket was gone and there were more footprints in the snow surrounding where it had been; the orange wrappers neatly in the dumpster, a candy wrapper on the ground. I hope they shared it. I hope they weren't hungry or cold, and I hope they found a safe and warm place to sleep. I'll never know.

On Sunday, a rather cool summer day the first of August, it is a coffee with cream and three sugars for the homeless woman on the corner downtown, who swears she gave $5 to a "friend" an hour ago to buy a ham sandwich for her, and that she hasn't seen him since. I carry the coffee back to the scarred and dirty woman, and stir it for her because she is holding a plastic bag in her other hand.

A young man comes by while I'm waiting for the bus and asks for directions to the University of Alberta. I tell him which buses to catch. He leaves and walks down the street. I watch him go. At one point I think he's going to catch the wrong bus and I run after him, but he crosses the street to the appropriate stop. On my way back I pass the homeless woman holding her coffee. I slip a dollar into her hand. She is surprised and of course, pleased. I'm wondering if I am a sucker.

Will I regret helping others? I live on a limited income. People who don’t know me sometimes think I have a lot of money…it's a question of priorities. I pay my rent, my groceries, my taxes, my utilities, my insurance policies, my few amenities, and any other outstanding bills. I put a little every month into savings. Then gifts. I give back just a little to a world that has given me so much. Because there but for the grace of God go I. And what goes around comes around. And because I have hurt others so much in the course of my illness and my life. I've hurt myself; I've been in situations and places of ill repute and consorted with dysfunctional and destructive people; I've been cold and hungry; I've been dishonest; I've been jobless; I've been friendless and lonely; I've been feared and despised; I have emotionally neglected my loved ones. I've never been homeless and starving, but I know what it's like to be an outcast, many years ago. It's been twenty years since I was last hospitalized, since I last had a "breakdown", since I was last jobless or friendless or despised. But I never forget from where I came.

I'm not always kind. I can be acerbic. I can be outspoken and intolerant. I can be suspicious and argumentative.

But my illness and the road I've traveled alone for so long hasn't been so solitary after all. There were helping hands and friendly faces. The illness hasn't been so devastating that it would destroy a human life - mine - it's made me stronger and more compassionate.

I'm striving to show more tolerance because I have a tendency to think, if I could do it why can't they? They? There but for the grace of God go I!

I spent most of my life in a box of my own making, a keeper of secrets. These posts are my way of saying, "You can do it, too". You can come out of the shadows. We all can give though it might be only a smile and a handshake.

"People will forget how you looked, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

"Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets." Dr. Paul Tournier


The Soup Stone

"I swear you could taste the chicken and tomatoes and the noodles and the marrow bone
But it really wasn't nothin' but some water and potatoes
And the wonderful wonderful soup stone
" - Bobby Bare lyrics
A good friend doesn't have to be a perfect friend. Imperfect friends are best. They understand me. They're like the wonderful soup stone that gives flavor to my days when things are dry.

Their hearts are kindly and their intentions are pure.

I thank you, good friends, for all you do and all you are. And you can be family. You can be children. You can be virtual friends, old friends, new friends, or strangers who open a door for me or give me a seat on the bus when I'm tired. You may be someone who forgives me without being asked.

You could be someone I last met two years ago, who wants to help me out with a new idea or project. You are brilliant and you are caring, and you are my link to humanity at a time when I may desperately need a friend. You don't always know who you are. But you may recognize yourself. I hope you do.

And I thank you.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Sweet is for Hershey Bars

"Affliction is the wholesome soil of virtue, where patience, honor, sweet humility, and calm fortitude, take root and strongly flourish."
David Mallet

Ah, yes. I was described by a friend today as "a sweet person who has problems".

I answered him that I don't have problems. I have schizophrenia.

I occasionally have challenges. I haven't had problems for years.

And the closer I get to a date that many people would dread, the fewer challenges I experience, the happier I am, the more anticipation for the future and a favorable outcome, the more patience I show, and the more peace I experience. That date is a court appearance in two weeks. I'll tell you all about it after it's over, but it's been going on since April 2009, and it's going to end on August 18, 2010 unless it's once again postponed.

I've had a lot of flak about this situation from presumably well meaning "friends" and family. It's something that couldn't be helped; I made a decision; and I think it was the right decision. Whether it was the right decision will be decided in two weeks. I must beg forbearance until then.

A fig tree cannot bear thorns.

By your fruits are you known.

Am I saying I'm a fruit? [wicked grin]

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I Am a Human Being

Have you ever laughed at (or told) a sexist, ethnic, or racist joke?

I have. There are entire ethnic groups,unnamed here, who are the butt of "jokes" in every community, particularly groups which are more visible in that particular community. I recently laughed at a "blonde" joke and told one in return. I am of Scottish extraction - am I frugal or do I like my whiskey? I've laughed at myself, too, seeing a tad of truth in some of these stereotypes, but more than that, a sense of brief superiority to the group named if it's not my own.

"Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. Generally speaking, stereotypes are not based on objective truth but rather subjective and sometimes unverifiable content-matter." *

It can be argued some of these jokes are in good humor and should be taken so, and I agree - often people with disabilities will share jokes about their own disabilities. But consider the feelings of those who are not like "you". Would you like to be singled out? I was hurt once by someone who commented on the initiation ceremony to be considered part of the Schizophrenia Society. That person who joked about it didn't have a mental illness nor did he understand the hurt a stigma or stereotype could inflict.

I used to have schizophrenia but we're better now.

Or - if a person with multiple personalities threatens to commit suicide, is that considered a hostage situation?

Personally, I think these are hilarious. But I'm on the other side of the mountain. I've climbed that rocky trail and come out the other side. I can laugh about it now. There are those who are still in agony and self doubt. I may be insensitive to my own community of people.

Do persons of other races or ethnic origins share jokes about themselves? I've learned they do. But it is hurtful and insensitive to assume a joke is harmless or that an individual has "no sense of humor" if they take offense. There's an old saying, there's truth in humor, and I've heard many slurs thinly disguised as "jokes". Or individuals who wound deeply and then protest they were "only joking".

Have minorities become too vocal? Have they risen too abruptly from obscurity and prejudice?

We, the mentally ill, are still immersed in obscurity and prejudice. And stereotypical thought: in the media, the public, and those who are charged with caretaking.

I am a person. I am not a "case". I am not a statistic. But it's estimated that one percent of Canadians have schizophrenia. Yes, you're right, that's one person out of every hundred.

And how many suffer from the multitude of forms taken by other mental illnesses? Bipolar, anxiety disorders, depression, OCD and so on. The stats of one percent for schizophrenia probably approach epidemic proportions for mental illnesses as a whole. Yet we are for the most part silent.

We are stereotyped as having "split minds" - that is the meaning of the term schizophrenia if you check out the root words in Greek. Any psychiatrist would tell you that's not true. Our minds in times of crisis can perhaps better be described as "splintered". We don't have multiple personalities. That's a myth. Unless they've changed the diagnostic criteria since I checked last.

Who am I? I am not a stereotype. In the words of The Elephant Man, "I am a human being".

Let me tell my jokes. My harmless jokes. And tell yours. But don't tell me I have no sense of humor if I don't laugh at thinly disguised prejudice, hatred and fear. And please, TELL ME if I offend you with my own attempts at making light of a serious situation. I was told once to take this lifestyle seriously. I often don't, particularly recently as I've become more and more comfortable in my skin, more trusting, and less conscious of intended slights when they don't exist. But be careful of your motivations when you laugh at or tell a racist, sexist, or ethnic joke! Or when you betray my humanity.

We are all human beings. All prone to error. But what has hurt us more, the wounds of a friend or the wounds of an enemy? The wounds of a friend are faithful, the Good Book says, but only if they are meant to build up and heal, and not a thinly disguised put down.

Do we stereotype ourselves? Is there truth in our acceptance of "I'm nuts" or "you're crazy"? How much power do words really have?

Do the hurtful words stereotype us? Or do we allow it by passively accepting or even encouraging...hey, I have an idea, and it's worked for me. Let's laugh at it, show them who's crazy (not us), or "we may be crazy but we're not stupid" - let's rise from a textbook definition of who we are and let them get to know us! Get to know us, you poor excuse for a human being! Love us! Laugh with us! And let's share the absurdity of the human race.

With all our stereotypical variety and challenges, there is hope and joy in every precious life on this planet, and this may be the best there is for us.

I used to have schizophrenia but we're better now. LOL

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Paradox of Loneliness

"Although some individuals have healthy relationships, the majority with schizophrenia (60% to 70%) do not marry, and most have limited social contacts."*

We are lonely in our illness. Yet we drive others away. The paradox of serious mental illness and relationships.

I've been married twice. Once before my diagnosis. My first husband was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971. I started to show signs of serious illness in 1975. I was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia in 1978. My subsequent social contacts tended to be dysfunctional. I married again in 1982 and divorced in 1987.

I now enjoy a variety of generally healthy friendships but am frightened of intimacy, I would say. Does a diagnosis of schizophrenia condemn one to a lifetime of social isolation?

I once thought a loving relationship was impossible for me.

A psych told me years ago that medications were overrated. A half truth? Medications are much better now. Medications enable us to live almost "normal" lives. But we must also learn the machinations of coping. Of recognition when things are going wrong. I must learn to want to be close to another human being, to not be afraid, to trust. I must learn to share myself.

I don't know how.
"We'll drink a drink a drink to Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink,
Savior of the human race.
She invented medicinal compounds
Most efficacious in every case."

♪♪ ♪
♪ ♪
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ (The Irish Rovers)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We need more role models

I called SZ Magazine today to order more copies of the Summer 2010 issue as I have an article in there. And the founder and CEO answered the phone! It was Bill MacPhee and I was thrilled to talk to this icon -- briefly, it is true, but he took my information and will send me the magazines. I told him, ending my call, that I don't have a lot of role models.

Let's amend that. I didn't have any role models. I hacked my own way through the bramble patch (thanks, Sue!) to the shores of a foreign sea and launched my craft alone to face the wind and waves. Oh, yes, others would have helped. I replied by barricading myself on the first rock I reached, making a moat with mental sharks; I didn't know any better than to be an island in the middle of the perfect storm, battered on all sides, hurting my friends and family and myself most of all -- what role models were there for me in those days, the 1970s to the 1990s, other than therapists who told me I would never work again? I may have overlooked some individuals who could and would have helped. I don't know. I felt I wasn't worthy of those who would befriend me positively, perhaps those who had been there before (I didn't know; will never know). I was a rock. I was an island.

It's always a bit risky to adopt a member of the opposite sex as a role model. Let's face it, it just is, as in the 12 step programs they used to say one's sponsor mustn't be a person of the opposite sex. To avoid 13th Stepping, haha, a little insider joke there. It's changed now. A lot has changed, and a lot has changed for the better. But to get back to my point, I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable with my enthusiasm at finding someone who is so open about his schizophrenia and has succeeded as an entrepreneur and speaker of note in a very tough and rough world.

I'm delighted to read and hear of Bill MacPhee, and would be thrilled to meet others like him. I would be thrilled to be a role model myself, in what little and limited capacity I can. Two members of my family other than I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I hope to bring them out into the sunshine, but I don't want to embarrass them, either, so they regretfully will remain unnamed and uncelebrated. But they are heroes, too, in my opinion; both high functioning as myself; both polite, gentle, and intelligent men. No, they are NOT the two children I raised by myself with the invaluable assistance of my brother and his wonderful wife, as well as my first husband's cousin, and much misguided effort on my own. But there does seem to be a strong genetic component in my birth family, perhaps stemming from ancestors in Scotland long ago, as my maternal grandfather's history is not known. The two children who have accompanied me on this journey since their birth are strong, bright, successful individuals whom I fear may always bear in their inner psyches the scars of my emotional neglect and yes, emotional and mental abuse. I loved them. They are the jewels in my crown if I were Queen. But my feelings were in boxes, locked away in a maelstrom of confusion, anger, and fear. I compartmentalized my feelings, on the advice of a therapist I saw in the 1960s, years before my first breakdown. The craft I sailed so bravely after my first husband died in 1970 was leaking by the time I met my nemesis in 1975.

My role models were pirates and villains gleaned from books, movies, and songs.

Now there are real life heroes, flawed and funny and falling down on their faces into cream pies thrown by life itself, getting up and laughing and crying rivers of tears -- hugging me and loving me and allowing me to love in return. Thank you, friends and renewed family.

Yes, I fell out of the boat. Oops, here the water's fine. The shore is silver sand and I see a Blue Lagoon.

Who needs a boat?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Come out of the shadows

I've had various diagnoses throughout the past 32 years, including SAD, paranoid schizophrenia, schizoaffective, depression, and bipolar. Being misdiagnosed means not receiving the appropriate treatment. I was put on a medication for bipolar at one time which produced severe acne and necessitated frequent blood tests. This may not have been necessary, as I terminated the medication voluntarily with no ill effects. That being said, at the same time, I was on a handful of major tranquilizers, antidepressants, and a medication for side effects. No loss when I stopped the "mood stabilizer". I've heard this particular drug may be put in the drinking water of prisons to involuntarily "treat" the inmates who may exhibit signs of a mood disorder and disrupt the system. Is this true? I don't know.

I'm speaking here of the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was misdiagnosed. A family member suggested massive doses of vitamins at one time, something she'd read about, and I did receive ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) in the early 1980s because of suicidal ideation. I read a book once called, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" which I thought was excellent, although it is fiction, and mentioned it to a family member, who thought instead a book about depression was more appropriate for me. So many people who thought they knew better than I about the machinations of the illness within me. At one time I was told by a minister I "couldn't work, of course". I was told by a social worker I don't "have" schizophrenia, I "am" schizophrenic. The same social worker sadly shook his head and said "I'm sorry to hear that" when I told him my diagnosis. My psychiatrist told me I was doing well by "coping" when I told him I was on a plateau and wanted to be self actualized, a term I'd studied in university. He told me I should be satisfied with coping. I was told by staff in a psychiatric hospital that I would be in and out of mental hospitals for the rest of my life. I haven't been hospitalized since 1990, when I stopped taking my medication for a couple of months just prior to that, a very big mistake. I've faithfully taken a depot injection every two weeks for 20 years since that time, never missing an injection.

Medication is very important but it's not the whole story. My psychiatrist was partially correct -- I learned to cope and then went beyond that to the joyous and self actualized life which I enjoy now. It took a lot of effort and a lot of trial and error, and much understanding on the part of therapists, family, and friends. Much effort, some misunderstandings, much forgiveness on all sides. I've worked even while I was in a hospital, taking a bus to my place of employment for a part time position, and returning to the hospital at night. I've owned my own successful medical transcription business for more than 11 years now. I'm a published author. I have a university degree with distinction. I'm respected and almost no one would suspect I have a mental illness. I usually tell them. There are few secrets in my world. But there was a time when I hid it; when I was frightened to be "found out"; when I was ashamed and kept my illness a secret. It's an illness like arthritis or diabetes; can be debilitating, but properly treated and with medication, a person can live a normal, fulfilling, and joyous life.

I don't want to make it sound as though I don't sometimes struggle. Even often. The darkness closes in on occasion. But doesn't everyone struggle? A wise man once said the majority of people "live lives of quiet desperation". If that's true, my illness has given me an appreciation of the peaceful valley beyond the rough slopes. Are they taking the word "normal" out of the dictionary? I don't think they should. But really, the degrees of "normal" are almost infinite. Is anyone really normal? And what about the millions with disabilities? Some have spokespersons like Rick Hansen or Christopher Reeves or Helen Keller. Who speaks for us? We must come out of the shadows. A man by the name of Bill MacPhee came out of the shadows. Successful, dynamic, and a businessman who owns a publishing company and spends much of his time as a speaker and entrepreneur, I don't know Bill as well as I would like to, but I came across his name when I submitted an article to his magazine (SZ Magazine), and was privileged to share a couple of emails with him. He is my hero. Bill has schizophrenia, was hospitalized six times, attempted suicide once, spent time in three group homes. He pulled himself together, let's say, in a way that only those of us who share the same diagnosis can appreciate as superlative. There are others. Who are you? What are your stories? Will you share? And what of those whose illness manifests itself more insidiously, negatively, with more dark power? There's hope.

There's a cliche. Come out of the shadows. Well, then.

Come out of the shadows.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Meanderings of a senior mind

I notice I have a small group of lovely followers, and I'm proud and happy to call them friends. I'd welcome any more comments from anyone. I volunteer with a charitable organization as a "friendly visitor" and today sent the volunteer coordinator a link to this blog. There are no secrets in my world.

A friend (Sue) has suggested I link to other blogs or sites with similar interests, and I'll look around and if I find any that seem suitable I'll ask for permission to link to their site. Sue mentioned strength in numbers and indeed, if you check her profile, you'll find a link to her blog, The Bramble Patch, which is certainly worthwhile.

I still have to figure out (or be told) how to put links into "Different Folks". In the meantime, I'll simply cut and paste here another article I wrote which I'm trying to get published in a mainstream journal or newspaper. It hasn't been edited so might be rough but it reads as follows:

My Struggle With "Split Mind"
by Kenna McKinnon

I don't know if my experience with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia is different from anyone else's. I know how I can get, even on regular doses of psychotropic medication, which I take without fail. My body chemistry can act up anyhow. But most of the time I'm like anyone else; you wouldn't know I have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness. Schizophrenia. "Split mind". No, I'm not a "split personality". That's a misapprehension. Rather, when I become ill, my thoughts become fragments like confetti sweeping in a windstorm through the tunnels of my tortured brain. I become confused, disoriented, frightened. And very suspicious. The motives of others seem sinister and threatening. I feel threatened. The world is hostile. My best friends appear to be enemies. I react with confusion and anger.
Be calm. I won't hurt you. I'm a frightened animal at those times. Approach me gently, as you would a wounded deer. Realize my physical boundaries may have expanded. Don't attempt to touch me or invade my boundaries. Sometimes even being in the same room with someone else is too confining for me, too close. Threatening. You are dealing with a frightened human being. Be gentle, be calm; don't be afraid to call the police if a mentally disturbed individual appears violent or not amenable to reason. Most police officers now are trained to deal with the mentally ill. They will likely take her for a psychiatric evaluation, to a hospital, to a doctor. For help. Perhaps to re-evaluate her medications and available therapy. So to particulars of the reality of her world, the hospitals, the jails, the friends and family who do not understand -- she will welcome the help in most cases, in particular if she is homeless or drug dependent and has no place to go. The mentally ill are often turned out on the street now to fend for themselves. Homeless, unmedicated, they medicate themselves with drugs and alcohol, they beg and busk and collect bottles for a living. They talk to themselves on the street or the bus. They sleep on park benches and in bus shelters. They wheel their earthly possessions in purloined shopping carts. Some ride bicycles trailed by rough homemade wagons. Some are on pensions for the severely handicapped. Others turn to shoplifting or petty crime. The majority are harmless. There but for the grace of God go I. I was fortunate. I had a job. I had friends and family. I had help. My genes are strong and resilient. I am high functioning. I respond well to my medication. Others are not so privileged. I never forget where I came from.
We need understanding and love like anyone, but more particularly when we are down and out. We have learned tolerance and compassion. We don't give up, those of us who have chosen to live and live well, but many of us have low self-esteem. Give us a gentle smile. Give us a helping hand but expect us to help ourselves. We are self correcting. Present reality to us in a patient, firm manner and reassure us we are not in danger. Suggest we evaluate the efficacy of our medication. And laugh with us. We all have developed a wonderful sense of humor; a sense of the ridiculous and sublime; a sense that we are a jest of God.
I am responsible but not responsible. Therein lies the paradox. My persona at times of extreme illness may frighten you. Don't be frightened.
I am a wounded deer, looking into a mirror where the wolves of my illness abound, and then the wolves howl once or twice at the surge of Fluanxol through my bloodstream, at a positive caring word from a friend or stranger, and slink back into my brain -- now approaching the subconscious, approaching the limits of humanity -- where there is a human being in need of understanding and compassion. Now the wolves are gone and I remain head up and somewhat ashamed, tolerance and love renewed for myself and my friends and family. "Split" no more; whole, kind, loving -- I am you.