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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A poem for a friend #2

Emma's Garden
by Kenna Mary McKinnon

I slide my spade in the secret earth
looking for my mother's heart.
Look, she's there on the jet wing
silver in the stars
There is dust here in the memory
my cousins don't remember
quite the same.
They don't see us in the belt of Orion
just beyond the Dog star
Twinkling near the dawn.
All women stir like foxes
Kathleen in the north and Joyce.
I'm coming flying to you
Deep within the autumn
of the red gold noon.
Kathleen of the south
who like my mother, died.
They left me, still I search
those familiar women's faces
Kathleen is still there
Close by the Cliffs of Dover
So  long as I remember.
Motor to the west of England
looking for she who clung to me,
My mother and my Nemesis.
My parent and my fate
the music of my years
The soul of hands.
Still my spade in the place of hearts
turns up preachers, impotent men,
clamorous children, all who
will someday reach maturity
 and leave me.
Riding on the tip of centuries
I will you to remember me
I will remember you.
Still I cultivate my garden ripe with souls
Look for God
and remain faithful.
The shrill eagerness of Herod
condemning Christ
Pilate wipes his hands
What more may we do now
In this magnificent year
Than remain faithful
As I have with my spade thrust into soft
my mother's heart.
Golden on the Pleiades
And silver in the stars.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Death, Physical Ailments, Colitis and Weight Loss--and Gratitude!

A neighbor who was morbidly obese lost 100 pounds very quickly. I asked her for her secret and she said she developed colitis and was so ill that she couldn't eat I presume, and that's how she lost weight. Then she was so delighted with losing 50 pounds that she lost another 50 on her own by dieting. She looks fantastic and has recently also quit smoking. I hope she doesn't gain weight and maintains at least her present level of fitness. She's also riding a bike to work and back, something she couldn't do formerly because of her weight. I'm delighted for her. This woman has had many health problems including brain surgery when she was younger. I admire someone who is a fighter and survivor, although those terms are overused in my opinion. 

In any case, my neighbor is happy now, smiling and bubbly, and I'm very happy for her.

Makes me think how a physical illness can be turned to positives if one thinks about it in a certain way, as I do mental illness, which has certainly made me a better person in many ways although led to anguish for many many years. But joy, too, and I appreciate good health now.

We become more tolerant, perhaps, more appreciative of life when one has experienced pain, whether it be psychic or physical. In many ways people might think I'm trivializing pain or seeing life through rose colored glasses. I think at this stage of my life and this age, I simply recognize the truths that may be found in living through an incredibly rich array of experiences.

Certain physical diseases can lead to death. We've found that to be true this month with Jack Layton, leader of the Opposition here in Canada, who died of cancer last week; of Steve Jobs, who has resigned as CEO of Apple because of ill health, who's had pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant in the past seven years; of Margaret Thatcher who suffers from Alzheimer's; the major actors, actresses and musicians of my youth who are no longer with us.

Death is certain for all of us and we don't know the time or place. In North American society and perhaps European, death is the enemy. Yet in some cases it can be the "final healer." Those who purport to believe in a "better life" after death still mourn just as loudly as those who do not, or perhaps, from my experience, more so, and I've always admired what I heard about a certain traditional religious group in the US (perhaps the Quakers), who celebrate a death with food and song. Funerals are more and more becoming "celebrations" of life but it's interesting that even those who purport to know for certain what happens after death still mourn and fear death. I don't pretend to know what happens after death--I'm not that arrogant, and one of the beliefs that attracts me to the Catholic faith is that they don't pretend to know for sure, either.

I stray from the topic. My neighbor and her colitis, and the serendipitous weight loss. We don't have it within our power to control our destiny, but we can control how we think about it, our attitude toward death, our attitude toward sickness, our attitude toward health. Bad things happen to good people. There's no reason for it. Let's not try to pretend we know the reason why the universe proceeds as it does, perhaps as it should, and we are not gods to know why or to figure out all the answers. Faith is not an answer but faith in a universe where entropy reigns may be a better faith, a faith that we cannot kill Nature, Mother Earth will bring an equilibrium back to all we have done to harm her, and we may be arrogantly assuming that what we have done is more than it is, or more irreparable than it is. If humanity vanished from earth tomorrow the earth would remain, perhaps a paradise, perhaps to be extinguished in millions of years. I don't think our imprint is quite as important as we like to think it is.

Interviews with Steve Jobs are interesting. He doesn't eulogize technology as one would think he would. I've noticed people are like lemmings, get in the herd or on the bandwagon, to mix metaphors, and don't think out of the box, perhaps because of a lack of experiences in life.

Which brings me back to my own gratitude that I've had the experiences I have. In jail? I can write about it. Locked up in a psych hospital for six months? I can write about it. Been abused? I can write about it. I'm a writer and I love it. I love to learn. Got a university degree? I did, with two small children, a house and yard to look after, a part-time job the last year, and as a single parent whose husband had died a couple of years previously. Experience with religion and churches and their members? Ask me. Poor? Ask me. Richer? Ask me. Sick? Ask me. Dysfunctional family, dysfunctional friends, abuse? I've been there. Good health? I have it. Lost weight? I did. Quit smoking and drinking? I did. Hurt people? I did. Sex? Let's not go there. Gay? I understand. Promiscuous? I've been there. Celibate? I've been for 14 years. Alcoholic? I was. Outcast from society? That was me. Successful businesswoman? Yes, I am. Published writer? I am. Good friends? Yes, I have good friends. Creative? Sure, I do caricatures, write poetry, make my own cards. Martial Arts? I've done it at a white belt level (beginner), Buddhism and other faiths? I've studied some, talked to adherents, attended a few meetings. Catholic? I might be entering RCIA this fall. Miscarriages? I've had two, one at five months after a motor vehicle accident. Baby out of wedlock? I was 17, couldn't go home again. Adoptive child found me 38 years later? Yes. Had children? Yes, three, two I raised with the help of relatives for a couple of years when I was very ill. Married? Twice. Husband died? yes. Divorced? yes. Lived in the US for a few years? yes. Born in Eastern Canada? yes. Lived in five different cities throughout my life? Yes. Lived on a small farm? yes, for 12 years. Lived in cities? Most of my life. A Canadian? Yes, lived here all my life except for three years when my husband and I worked in Oklahoma in the mid-1960s. A proud Canadian, glad to live in this country. Traveled? Eastern Canada, West coast, Eastern USA, Oklahoma, Texas, married the first time in Montana (eloped), Mexico City where I cooked Christmas dinner for my daughter and 40 of her friends. Went hunting and fishing? Yes, hunted a bit as a child to put food on the table, and as a new bride went fishing. Sexual abuse as a child? Yes. Operated farm machinery when I was 11 years old? yes. Made my own bread for a family when I was 14? Yes, and looked after the house, garden and livestock for a summer. Husband, parents died? Yes. And more.

We all could make lists like that. Try it and see what you've learned. I learned a lot and I don't regret it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Old Hippies

My Old Volkswagen Bus

We painted our Winnebago orange and put decals on the side
It wasn't the same though as the two of us in 1972
Crammed in a Westfalia van with bicycles on top
 and babies in the back, ketchup on the rug
It wasn't the same at all when we camped beneath cold stars
in a 2010 motor home from California though we
painted it orange and put flowers on the side.
Our RV with "countless creature comforts" and a "smooth ride"
seemed to our paunchy and arthritic bodies less a joy
Than our old Volkswagen bus when we were youths.
But was it the old bus or was it that our joints were supple then
And we were happy two of us with the babies in the back
Before our paunchy and arthritic bodies slowed the pleasure
of a home in Riverbend and cash to buy
a new RV so we might see our children
in California or perhaps the West Coast
It's not the same
My arthritic knees can't bike no more
The neighbors stare at our old van
in the back yard with flowers growing from the windows.
It's pretty and I'm getting old but still the new RV
Like my brain remembers Mama Cass and flowers
And is happy, shiny, new like my husband and I were
In 1972. Perhaps our children and their children will remember
The Winnebago orange and
decals on the side this century not last
Like we were to our parents then,
A symbol.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vacation to Southern Alberta

My vacation pictures

 I just uploaded the pictures this morning as we returned home only late on Wednesday evening. There are descriptions, for anyone who's interested. I was gone for three days but it was wonderful and relaxing. I'm taking the rest of the week off work as well. We went to southern Alberta to the Lethbridge area to visit my eldest son. My sister and her husband also drove 2-1/2 hours each way just to have lunch with us. Met a forum friend who lives in Lethbridge as well. Also we drove to Writing on Stone national park to see the pictographs by First Nations People sometime in the distant past. We took a short hike to see one of the most well known, but they're very worn and my little camera didn't pick them up well on the rock.

We took some photos of the University of Lethbridge at dusk and the trestle bridge, which is just across from it. Also saw a spectacular sunset and a jet trail serendipitously in the sky over the sunset before we left. It was getting pretty dark.

I'm physically not as active or fit as I was a year ago and I have to do something about that. I want to take more trips in Alberta and see more of my province. It's a huge area and I haven't seen all of it yet although I've lived here most of my life. I want to hike and explore, and I want to be ready to do that without tiring.

A sound mind in a sound body makes for a very fun time. And I had a fun time this week.

I didn't post the photos of family and friends on public view on Flickr. But I got some nice pictures, and also of my sister's Scottie dog Angus. He's so cute and smart, too--my sister will tell you that!

Moi in front of the trestle bridge--a sprig of flower in my teeth
I haven't taken a vacation for three or four years. I had so much fun I want to do it again soon. Maybe even take the bus somewhere by myself if my friends are busy. And now is the time to lose those 15 pounds.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Two Poems

Ritalin Sky

by Kenna McKinnon

Oh, Ritalin sky
All cream and grey and cozy
Sun coming up
On my subconscious rosy
Peach-colored thoughts
Heart like lambskin leather
Oh, Ritalin sky
How you've changed the weather!


Pamelor oh Pamelor
How you make my feelings soar
How I love Nortriptyline
On which my psych is rather keen
And there is nothing better for
Bipolar folks than Pamelor.

by Pill Shakespeare (aka Kenna Mary McKinnon)

Physical Health

I'm excited to be writing about physical health as well as mental. A forum friend has started a blog on health challenges and it reminded me that one of my goals when setting out this blog was to focus on physical as well as mental health.

Exercise is so important. I see many younger seniors my age and older who keep themselves fit and are vibrant and youthful in outlook and mobility; many others who are old before their time. I'm not a fitness aficionado by any means but walk a lot, mainly because I don't own a vehicle. I have a driver's license but choose to walk or take the bus. Of course, it also means I sometimes cadge a ride from a friend. I try to pay them back with gas money or a meal and otherwise seem to get along okay without a car. If I lived in a different area it would be more difficult to get along without a vehicle, or if I lived in the country. Still, taxis and buses are cheaper than owning a vehicle. I gave away my beater car many years ago to someone who needed a vehicle for work. That's another thing. I work at home so don't need to get out every morning and evening.

Eating right is another clue to a healthy physical lifestyle. I'm lucky that I'm not allergic or sensitive to any foods that I know, although a friend suggested I try a gluten free diet as I have trouble getting a deep breath often. I suspect that's psychological, but as I said in my last post, often psychological problems have physical roots and vice versa IMHO. I don't think the two can be separated easily. I think the danger is when a person focuses on pain or discomfort and doesn't simply let it go. You know, my 12 Step Program has a motto "Let Go and Let God." Or just let go of people and precious ideas you may have had since childhood. They're not important enough to ruminate on and make us unhappy or stressed. I'm just learning that now. Like e.e.cummings said in one of his poems, "hatred bounces" and so do anger or painful or uncomfortable thoughts.

That being said, I can talk like that because I have no real physical problems other than alcoholism if that's physical (I haven't had a drink in over 18 years), and I believe it is, and schizophrenia, which appears to be a chemical imbalance or genetic, triggered by stressful events. I'm okay now, though. But maybe something I was born with? Triggered by distress?

Nobody really knows the reasons for these things.

I'd be interested in comments on keeping oneself physically healthy, though. I suspect diet, exercise and positive thinking are as important as genes but certainly we have to play the cards we're dealt in life. Some would say mental illness is more debilitating than a physical illness. Certainly it's hard to function without a functioning brain.