Monday, December 15, 2008

Fierce love... ferocious affection

Dear People Who Love Others,

I read an interesting thing the other day on one of my favorite web-based time wasters. Here is the quote from

"My sister's boyfriend came to find her after she left him.
I greeted him at the door holding a shotgun.
I'm afraid of what I would have done if he hadn't walked away."

While I'm not an advocate of gun ownership in general, unless you use it to feed yourself and your family, I thought, what an interesting expression of love. What a fierce expression of love. This PostSecret resonated with me because of what you will read below.

I grew up in tandem with a girl from elementary school. Born less than a day apart, inseperable twins from separate mothers, we began a tentative friendship in grade 7, when we were entering into the strange new world of our teenage years. We spent our last years of elementary school fairly innocently, and even the first few years of highschool were unremarkable. We got into the typical troubles that other kids got into, experimenting with new relationships, dealing with temptations and the introduction of vice.

Somehow, in our last few years of highschool we diverged. She went away to school, I stayed home, and we diverged. I went away to school, she came back and stayed home, and we diverged even more. In that time, she sunk deeper and deeper into something that I can't articulate; bad choices, depression, a series of choices based on impulse... I don't know. But these things led her to a lifepath she didn't predict for herself in the optimism of her youth. She had dreams of becoming a writer; a dream that grew more and more distant as her grades sunk, and as she later found herself quagmired in the consequences of adult opportunities.

Her family watched. I watched. I felt helpless and unable to help her. I felt powerless to control her path, or steer her path, or even to offer guidance. And I didn't feel it was my place to interfere with her choices. I could not choose her friends. I could not choose how or where she spent her time. I could not choose what she put into her body. And I had no role in who she chose as partners in her relationships. It's not that I wanted, really, to control any of these things persay, but truly, I could often predict where she was headed for certain pain, and I wanted to help her avoid that because I loved her.

I have no idea what her family felt through all of this, but I can imagine. And I've heard the stories from my friend herself, of how her family had to bail her out of troublesome places from time to time. I'm sure these weren't easy choices for her family, there is a fine line between "enabling" and helping, but how can we watch the ones we love remain mired in the consequences of bad choices and circumstance?

At our most recent visit, over two years ago, her and I talked idly about life. She expressed a certain amount of regret, without ever specifying what it was she was regretful of. And I worried about her for all the things she did not say. The man she was living with was abusive. I knew the signs. Having to call in every 10 minutes, complaining of the consequences of raising his ire, and hiding the bruises under her eyes behind darkened lenses. I asked her about those, and she said that she'd provoked him. No, he's not such an asshole, I did it, I pushed him into it. He's rough around the edges, but he's really a decent guy.

A decent guy who happens to hit the woman he loves?

I knew there were no magic words that could convince her that she did not deserve any of her life as it was at that moment. All I could do was let her know that if she ever needed a break, or an escape, that she could come to my house.

I wish she would run to my house. And when he came looking for her, I wish I would be brave enough to love my friend ferociously enough to worry about losing my own sense of control.

I wish I could do more than offer an ear and a place to run to.

The season for giving

Dear People Who Love to Give,

I love gifts, but this year, I'm unusually poor due to a confluence of circumstances that have arisen and expectations that I just cannot fulfill at present. This is not a complaint, rather it is an unfortunate fact of life that has caused my previously (more) prosperous pocketbook to languish in pools of dust from lack of use.

In particular, I love to give gifts. As you can assume, it is fairly hard to "give" a tangible thing to another person when you don't have the means to gain access to tangible things.

And so, I've let myself off the hook as far as actual, real, material gifts go, and I plan to make the following pledges, and hand them out as gifts:

My gifts to you:
I promise to love you, the best I can.
I promise to listen to you when you have things to say.
I promise to be there for you in your hour of need.
I promise to care, and be concerned, and to worry about you should painful/unhealthy circumstances arise.
If I am able to, I promise to help you.

Simple things. I suppose if I were to summarize the list, I offer to my loved ones, to be the best friend that I can be. This gift won't be perfect, but I promise I will do my best.

Every Christmas I also like to get a gift for myself. In the past I've given myself new shoes, or a little piece of jewelry, or the luxury of a meal at a decent restaurant. This year, since my pockets continue to wheeze dust and moths, and since I can't even get gifts for my loved ones, I especially cannot afford a token for myself. And so, I will make a pledge or two to myself; and instead of gaining in material goods, hopefully I will gain in that special way that only the immaterial can allow.

The gifts to myself:
I promise myself good food, and a healthy life.
I promise myself the love of good friends, and the will to expect that from others and to seek that out.

Happy Holidays!
XOXO Olivia

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Dear Lovers of All Things Cookie,

My holiday gift to you. For those whose holiday celebrations involve fasting, I sincerely apologize for tempting you. Rest assured, this recipe will be waiting for you when your fast is done.

Do make these, they are soooooooooo good.

***GrownUp Chocolate Chippers, Perfect for Santas and People Who Like CoOkies***

3/4c. butter
1 1/4c. brown sugar
1 egg
2tbs. milk
2tsp. vanilla
3/4c. flour
3/4c. high quality cocoa powder
3/4tsp. baking soda
1tsp. cinnamon
1 package bitter sweet chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add egg, milk and vanilla, and mix until slightly fluffy. In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa, soda, and cinnamon. Stir with a whisk to blend well. Add all ingredients together, mixing until dry mix is incorporated into the wet mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Add 3/4c. pecans or walnuts for a nutty twist. Spoon onto oiled cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 mins, or until you start to really smell the cookie goodness.

With Holiday Cheer,

PS. If you make these, please drop me an email or a comment to let me know what you thought of the recipe.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Grrrrrr... Student Loans and Poverty

National Student Loans Service Centre
Somewhere in Nowheresville

Dear To Whom It May Concern Loan Officer,

RE: Student Loan Number: ##-######

The following is a letter that outlines my proof of income for the month of December.
Holiday Cheer,

In this glorious Christmas month of December, I predict a $0.00 gross income due to my continuing inability to secure permanent employment and also due to the drying up of employment in the ever reliable temporary work sector. It is possible that Canada's recent shedding of some 70,000 odd jobs has something to do with this, but one can't be too sure. I'm currently "on the list" at a temp agency, a wonderful agency, with kind staff, but alas, it seems they too are running out of tasks to delegate to lowlies like me. I've been out of work for two weeks, rather distressingly, and I can't imagine a call coming in announcing work any time soon.

Currently, the bulk of my "explanation about how [I'm] living without any income" is based on desperate appeals I've made to family members to pay for such incidentals as food, shelter, and electricity. I have been told by several family members that I should give up on my "big city" dream, and move back home to live with my parents and work at Zellers. This, despite my university education and multiple years of experience in the field of mental health. I don't have a problem with working at Zellers, it's just that I'd hoped, after investing 5 years of my time, tears, and energy, that I would be qualified to earn at least slightly more than the minimum wage.

As further explanation for how I plan to make ends meet, I am hoping that the $65.00 that is currently occupying my bank account will begin to mate vigorously, and will reproduce enough funds to cover my expenses at month's end.

Failing this fervent wish, and since I believe that prostitution contradicts my personal and sexually conservative values, I plan to pimp my rabbit to passersby in the town square for $5.00 a pop. I'm hoping there are no anti-prostitution laws that cross over to the domain of domestic animals, otherwise, my plan will be thwarted. If you would like to partake in a little rabbit-cuddle-action, call me at 555-555-5155 to arrange a meeting. I offer in/out services. Ask for Surly. Surly is very cute and soft. He has a velvety nose, and if you are very nice, he may lick your fingers for free. If you're not into rabbits, I also have a cat, but she is fairly skittish and tends to bite. If you're into biting, I can accommodate a visit with my cat for the usual $5.00 fee, plus a $3.00 "kink" tax. Ask for the Nervous Tiger if you are are interested in cat-cuddle-action that includes some biting.

And so, long story short, I'm relying on the generosity of family members, the benevolence of a kind friend, plain old ingenuity, and my credit card to make ends meet.

I hope this letter is satisfactory and gave you a bit of a chuckle.

PS. I would love a job. If ya'll are interested in hiring, I'm a skilled writer, and a very good teacher.

PPS. If you are interested in donating Christmas gifts to needy, unemployed-but-trying people, then here is my wish list:
1) A stable, meaningful job
2) A new laptop, as mine is dying
3) Maybe a Shopper's Drug Mart card to pay for my prescriptions
4) New glasses, as I haven't updated my lens prescription in 3+ years and the ones I have are old, scratched up, and are giving me headaches.

PPPS. Yes, I'm crazy as hell. I have a letter from my psychiatrist to attest to that fact, but crazy or not, at least I have a sense of humour.

PPPPS. If you don't laugh, you cry, no?

PPPPPS. It costs me $1.00 per page to fax these letters to you. Can I be repaid for that? $7.00, to me, equals eggs and bread. This is food for at least three days.

PPPPPPS. Did you know that vinegar is a great non-toxic, all-purpose cleaning agent? A 2 litre container lasts me (and two pets) a month! I mix a 1/2 cup of vinegar, a couple of drops of dish soap, and a cup of water, and put it in a recycled spray bottle. Tah -dah! All clean! It's great.

PPPPPPPS. Dish soap is really good at killing plant pests. Mix in a small squirt of biodegradable dish soap with a cup of water and spray on your plants. Tah -dah! No bugs!

Ah the things you learn when you are broke ass broke. :D

Monday, December 1, 2008

one day out of a year... January 31

Dear Cold, Humbled, and Huddled Masses,

I have heard of an interesting event taking place January 31st:

A Light in the Dark: A silent stand in the night.

A Light in the Dark is a quiet show of solidarity and support for people living with a mental health condition.

Let a flicker of compassion become a fire of solidarity.
Light the night with love and hope.

January 31st.
8pm to 10pm or later.
Light a candle, put it in your window.
That is all you have to do.

Are you a mom, a dad, a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, spouse, or friend of a person living with a mental health condition?

On January 31, be a light in the dark, and show your support for the people you love and for the people who love you.

Light a candle, or put a small bare lamp in your window in a silent stand of support.

Stand up against dark mythology. Be a light in the darkness of discrimination.

Show your compassion, show your solidarity - Show your light. January 31. 8pm.

Stand up and let the light shine in.
With love,

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Welcome... I've been expecting you.

Dear change,

Welcome. We've been waiting for you.

Congratulations to US President-elect Obama.

While I don't expect enormous changes coming out of his office in terms of social or political affairs, I do think that the election of Obama speaks to a larger movement.

For me, the election of President Obama suggests that one no longer needs to fit into a narrow definition to be considered a viable, competitive, or important person.

The election of a president who is relatively young, educated, and yes, of mixed cultural origins speaks enormously to the notion that our North American nations may be ready for a world that is more complicated, more plural, and more interesting than ever before.

We, as North Americans, are perhaps ready to admit that we are not a part of one single definable culture; but that we are a beautiful and haphazard quilt of a united ideology - An ideology that speaks towards movement, growth, improvement, and hope for humanity.

Change, this is our house; you are welcome here. You belong here.

Loving the moment,

Arise the Revolution of Hope

Dear Hopeful Persons,

(What is written below is a component of my application for enrollment in an academic program.)

/start quote
Why do you do something even if it is hopeless, when you should rather stop if you are reasonable?
- Anonymous

I was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 16 years old. At that time, this disease was considered "youth's greatest disabler." Schizophrenia is known to detrimentally affect an individual's natural trajectory of development, as it afflicts people in the prime of their lives, during the years where important decisions are being made about life course. The neurological symptoms associated with this disease make it difficult for young people to complete their interrupted schooling, acquire new skills, and to take on new responsibilities. The emotional, perceptual, and cognitive disturbances that the disease presents make it hard for the person to interact comfortably, and sometimes appropriately, in social settings. And those bizarre behaviours that manifest in one who is afflicted; the delusions, the hallucinations, and the interactions therein; affect how we as a society are able to relate to people who live with this neurobiological condition.

Having been presented with a set of life circumstances that is traditionally construed as hopeless, I would like to discuss what I call the doctrine of hope, because in many of the situations life has presented, I have noticed that it is hope that has propelled my action. Where I could not stand alone in a lamentable present, hope could stand with me to direct my gaze toward the future. Hope understands that present circumstances are temporary and faithfully believes that the future is mutable.

Hope, by definition, is a sentiment or a desire for a situation to have an optimal outcome. Although hope does not ensure what can be traditionally construed as a positive or good outcome; hope does reassure that whatever outcome arrives from the range of possibilities may be one that transpires for the benefit of the stakeholder(s). Notice that hope reassures; it does not ensure.

If we are to discuss hope, we need also to talk also about its absence, since the benefits of hope are elucidated by explaining the repercussions of its loss.

I have seen that the primary effect of hopelessness is inertia. Hopelessness is a place where subsistence and survival in the present become consuming and where propulsion toward a future becomes impossible. In hopelessness, a person is left to believe that he or she can only have influence over the circumstances of the present. The promise of hope, that the future is mutable, is lost when a person is locked inside a rapacious present.

The ultimate consequence of hopelessness is loss. If we are hopeless, we lose our ability to dream, since we cannot dawdle on wishes for the future in a demanding and expectant present. We lose our ability to act in our own best interests, since we cannot organize our thoughts to reconcile the present with the future in an effort to conceive of more than what we have and to build on the things we do have. Thus, if we cannot hope, we cannot dream of a future different from the present. If we cannot dream, we cannot act in the present for future intentions. If we cannot hope, we cannot act. Hopelessness robs individuals of their ability to act. Hopelessness infringes on self-direction. Hopelessness infringes on autonomy.

The doctrine of hope is presented here as a belief system. Since belief systems expect that thoughts are turned into reflective actions, a belief system that is integrated within the individual and their experience cannot, logically, exist in thought alone. A belief system must be expressed through acts. Therefore we must also expect that the doctrine of hope would express itself through the actions of its adherants.

It is likely that most of us can agree that due to life circumstances, it is possible, or even likely for some, that certain hopes cannot be achieved or even acted upon based on barriers such as access, economy, and the nature of the aspiration. My greatest concern, as a person who encourages social equality and justice for those who make up minority populations, is not that a person cannot act on his or her hopes due to some form of inequitability, but that a person is not encouraged to hope or provided the resources that may encourage them to aspire. My concern is that a person is not provided with equal opportunity to hope. Aspirations are an equalizing force. And so if one is discouraged from hoping, the likely result is deeper entrenchment of inequality and social injustice, since those hopeful thoughts that precede action are absent.

I discuss the doctrine of hope, because as an adherent, my beliefs have encouraged me to act so that I may achieve the optimal outcome that is reassured in the doctrine. Additionally, I write of the doctrine of hope, because of the injurious attempts that have almost thwarted my capacity to look beyond the circumstances of a needful and greedy present.

Up to 3% of Canadians will experience some form of psychosis in their lifetime. Most of these people are expected to recover and return to their "normal" daily life activities. (Up to 82% of persons diagnosed with psychosis and treated by early intervention programs are in remission at the end of 2 years. This figure is based on PEPP studies.)

Despite these large numbers of persons experiencing a major health event from which they are more likely than chance to recover, pervasive negative beliefs exist in the general population. (Recent CAMH studies report that 50% of Canadians believe that mental illness is an excuse for poor behaviour and personal failure. 25% of Canadians are afraid of being around a person with mental illness.) It is possible that negative beliefs themselves are not the issue. The problem occurs, however, when beliefs become acts. Since we have seen that "beliefs," like hope or faith can transpire to action, is it not possible then, that personal beliefs about mental illness can also propel a person to act? Moreover, if a belief is a negative and stereotyped belief, it begs the question: What kinds of consequences can we expect from these kinds of beliefs?

It is here where philosophy, politics, economics, and personal experience intersect and interact, and it is here where individual experience becomes a part of a larger sociopolitical experience: I have lived with the effects of negative stereotyped beliefs. Because of these privative beliefs, my culture, my society, and my political systems interact differently with me than they do with other Canadians.

The differential treatment I have experienced can be summarized like this:

I am not expected to be a contributor to my society. I am not expected to achive "normal" psychosocial milestones. I am not expected to have goals. If I do have goals, I'm certainly not expected to have the desire or motivation to achieve them.

It seems as though my childhood diagnosis was supposed to be the end of a life worth living. I guess I was supposed to give up on having plans and goals and the opportunity to hope for (or even to achieve) an enviable life.

Since nothing has been (or really is) expected of me, no one really sees any need to make any contributions to what is required to help me overcome my circumstances. My needs have centered around financial concerns, and securing a stable supply of medication. Achieving the latter is surprisingly difficult if you are "not sick enough" to receive social benefits. And achieving the former is even more difficult when you're not sick enough to receive charity, but you are impeded enough that conventional employment expectations interfere with your good health. Other needs focus on empowerment and autonomy, as experience has caused me to question my autonomy and my value to society.

I have no issues with accepting charity. I most certainly have no issues with asking for charity. As the child of a teenage mother with a father who suicided after wrestling his own demons with problems of mental health, my belly was filled by the generosity of Canadians. Thus I fully acknowledge that at certain times in my life, I may be especially vulnerable and so I may have needs that can only be met by the beneficience and graciousness of fellow Canadians.

Yet in light of my condition of mental health, multiple appeals for charity had and have gone unheeded. My appeals have taken the form of requests for academic scholarship, merit, social benefits, and humaneness. Paradoxically, these appeals have been denied most often due to my apparent good health, and my apparent lack of poor health.

I have had a hard time digesting the fact that if I were only a little more ill, I may be entitled to more support to access opportunity. It seems good health does have a cost, a cost that is counterintuitive in light of the gains our institutions, political systems, and social programs claim they strive to achieve; good health, autonomy, economic gain, and elevation of social status being among those things.

I have worked very hard, despite discernible odds, to become the person I am today and have achieved my personal milestones by clinging to that precious doctrine of hope and professing its power.

The experiences and perspectives I've shared with you here are not unique to me, and regretfully, due to constraints of space, they have been generalized to an extent that they have been reduced from concrete events to vague ideology.

I've done the work I can with the tools I have to promote the social changes that I thought were helpful for persons with a shared experience. I need additional tools of education and language so that I can effectively promote an agenda that I feel passionate and optimistic about; an agenda that would establish a precedent for reformation. I believe that the legal system is the ultimate form of advocacy, and I have a strong desire to contribute to that system.

I am asking for the opportunity to hope; this is the future to which hope has steered my gaze. This application is my act.

/end quote

Lotsa love (from a hungry hopeful),

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Straw That Made the House Collapse

Dear Homeless Dude Who Looked Like My Dad,

I see homeless people in my city every day. Every day I feel sad about homelessness, and everyday I wonder how we can fix it. And everyday, I hope to the deities that the work I do can help to prevent at least one more person from falling through that particularly nasty crack.

Usually it's easier to see how a person falls into homelessness. Sometimes you can see that a person is suffering from symptoms of mental illness. Or maybe you can see fairly obvious signs of addiction.

Note, these things don't justify homelessness, but they are obvious reasons that can explain why a person may not live independently in their own home, managing their own affairs.

Today, as I was on my ride to work, I saw a guy who looked exactly like my stepdad. This guy looked clean, he looked healthy, and he also looked homeless (sitting in a corner of a building's entry with a giant backpack, heavy coat, etc.).

I may be jumping the gun in assuming this person is homeless. I'd like to think he's a traveller, but I can't be to sure of that considering our current economic climate, and considering the things he had with him.

I'm left wondering, at what point do our tenuous lives collapse?

Which thing is it that tears down a lifetime (generations even) of effort to achieve a life of relative comfort?

And if it's no one thing, how do all things combine and conspire to create such loss? [Keeping in mind that homelessness is not just a loss of shelter; it is also often indicative of a loss of employment, relationships, and recognition within a community.]

How can a person find themselves in a place where they are left with nothing?

What can we do? How do we do it?

Searching for stability in unstable times,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sigh...Failure of Systems

Dear Failure of Systems (refer to my last post for details),

You suck.

Because of you, people are hurt.
Because of you, vulnerable families are torn apart.
Because of you, lives are ended and people become whispers of who they once were.

Fix yourselves. (Preferably sooner than later!)

I'm not making this shit up, and here is proof, as if you should really need it:
Below is a news article from the Globe and Mail on our system's most recent catastrophic failure.
Grisly killings expose system's failure

Hanging my head in grief,
PS. I'm not asking; I'm expecting.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dear Social Structures

Dear People Who Are the Policy Developers for Our Social Systems,

When you create criteria for your programs, it would be prudent to ensure that there are humans who actually fit into that box. And if so many don't fit into the box, it's possible you may need to adjust your criteria.

Please don't get defensive at the suggestion of change. I know a lot of time and money are invested in the development and implementation of social programs. Sadly, those who are responsible for developing those programs are often the ones who are least likely to need them. So yes, sometimes your policies are woefully inadequate, since the experience and education that would be required to develop adequate programs are not within your grasp. Despite the pejorative insinuation here, I would consider myself lucky to find myself bereft of such an education.

And yes, I feel comfortable telling you why your policies are insufficient to meet my needs. I'm sorry that your ego and education are incompatible with my experience. It's just that your rules affect my life. And who are you to dictate how I am to live? I have broken no laws by being diagnosed with a mental health condition, and so I expect, like every other citizens of this fine democratic country of ours, to be accorded the freedoms and privileges associated with my citizenship.

Goddam me and my uppity notions of inclusion and social equality, you may say. Goddam you and your discrimination, I say.

Furthermore, when someone comes to you for help, and you can offer none, be prepared to explain the next step in the same breath, so the person isn't left dangling in a chasm of despair, for their next step may be a leap into an unknown place... A place where they can never be found... A place they may never rise from if ever they are found.

And in that exchange, do not castigate that person for being inadequate both in sickness and in health. Being forced to bear the burden of illness was not my choice to make. Sadly, these kinds of things are written into the code of our being, and like cancers and other forms of hereditary illness, they are largely unavoidable, although I recognize they are possibly preventable. I worked hard to be as well as I am, and so pardon me for my imperfection. Pardon me for seeking you out and asking for help; pardon me for trying to accommodate this demanding blight that thrives in the dampest corners of my soul.

For what it's worth, I'm working to heal and to conceal it. I'm working hard to be like you... average. Know that it would be my greatest achievement to live out a sanguinely average life... but this seems as out of reach for me as it is to pluck the moon from its place in the universe. So please, spare me your cruelly upbeat rhetoric when I ask for help because we all know that appearances are deceiving. And for me, this type of deceit has become a carefully exercised art.

And so I beg you, when we feel every option within our sight has been explored, when all alternatives in our reach have been investigated, and when we wind up at the end of the chain of services with hungry bellies and empty eyes, please don't blame us for our ensuing self-destruction or deviance. If we can't have comforts of the flesh, at least spare us a little oblivion to fool our starving souls into believing they have been filled.

When we are promised everything, but given nothing, what other resort do we have besides deviancy or self-destruction? I'd love to know.

Trying to keep it together despite the odds,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trying to understand is not the same as understanding...

Dear People Who Want to KNOW,

I read this (excerpt below) in the Toronto Star this morning. This quote is derived from an article about a dad who longs to understand his daughter's experience.

For caring, exorbitant caring – about the meaning of a passing glance from a stranger, the look in a news broadcaster's eye on television, the fixed fired thoughts in one's head – is the psychotic's curse. ("Skinless" is a therapist's term for those who cannot tolerate stimulation.) "To depart from reason with the firm conviction that one is following it," reads a definition of madness from an 18th-century encyclopedia.

And, indeed, inordinate conviction is the chief warning sign of our delusions. For the patient to burn low, to be half asleep, to take no notice, is the medical goal – for the patient to live in a kind of emotional cordon sanitaire. Psychosis is the opposite of indifference. Indifference, therefore, would seem to be its logical cure.

The full article can be found here.

First, I think it is extremely important to say that I respect this father's committment to his daughter and her experience. I respect the raw emotions that his family went through. I respect that the father is trying to enter into his daughter's experience by himself participating in her treatments. And interestingly, I respect that he went so far as to try her medication... although, I know that in practice this is not recommended, nor is it necessarily safe.

My issue with the article is the simplification of the experience. The father seems to endorse ideology of an antipsychiatry and antimedication approach by suggesting that the fundamental purpose of medication is to create "indifference" in the person.

I would like to offer this father a different perspective, having myself crawled out of the long, dark tunnel that is known as psychosis: medication (at its worst) can produce indifference (lack of motivation, apathy, exhaustion, etc.), especially if the dose is too strong, and even more especially if the medication is a poor fit for the person. At its best medication produces the effect of organization.

Consider the neurological "causes" of psychosis: Dopamine is cascading through neurons at an unmitigated and uncontrolled rate. This neurotransmitter is partially responsible for the rate and strength of our transissions, and so the repercussions of this barrage are confusing for a person experiencing it. (Being high on pot feels a lot like the early stages of a psychotic break, by the way... the loose associations, the multiple layers of meaning in any given context, the sense of mental fog, etc. Interestingly, the "high" effect from pot is caused by dopamine cascading though your neurons.)

The problem is not that a person with psychosis "cares" too much about the events around them (suggesting that a person with psychosis is oversensitive), the problem is actually that a person with psychosis cannot control their attenuation of sensory stimulus around them.

The "average" person is able to control the stimuli around them by focusing their attention on the stimulus that requires attention in any given context. Generally this is a passive and almost unconscious process. In the "average" brain, a stimulus from the environment penetrates the neurons which then mobilize to organize the meaning within the context. For example, when walking on the street in a crowd, one generally understands that when they hear a siren, they need to stop to look around and see how they need to respond. And so despite the sounds in the crowd, despite the bustling of moving cars and people, despite the visual stimuli of light, and shapes of buildings and people and trees; the sound of the siren takes precendence above all other stimulus, and so one would most likely focus on that one stimulus and therefore act as necessary depending on the circumstances.

From my experience, the passive process of stimulus absorbtion, interpretation, and organiation is detrimentally impeded in a person with psychosis. A person with psychosis is unable to filter through and focus on a particular theme or element of the stimulus that exists in the sounds of the crowd, the siren, the glare of the sunlight, the red of the emergency vehicle. And not only are they neurologically "forced" to attenuate to all of any incoming stimuli at once, their ability to make sense of the stimuli is also altered.

For me, it wasn't that I cared in particular about what I was taking in around me; it was that I could not control what to take in and what not to take in. I could not organize my attention for the life of me, and so all at once, everything became significant, even the things that were completely irrelevant to the context.

During a psychotic break, a brain that is unfamiliarly overridden with stimuli (caused by an influx of dopamine) also recieves a second punch: Not only does dopamine open the floodgates to hyperstimulation, but this chemical also primes the brain to make connections in an effort to "organize" those stimuli. And so in our human brains that are innately compelled to create order and to explain chaos, we now begin to make bizarre associations and start to manifest delusions in a very literal attempt to organize the influx of information.

Let's make no mistake, it's not so much that people with psychosis are more attuned, morally weak, sensitive, or lazy, or stupid, or any of the pervasive negative myths that tend to circulate: A person living with a psychotic brain is a person who is living with an overworked brain. A brain that won't stop revving its engine, so to speak.

From what I understand about biology, all organisms need rest. And rest often involves having a "quiet" brain. It was my brain's inability to passively organize the intake of stimulus that made up the greater part (and the most exhausting part) of my psychotic experience. My brain needed help to quiet itself so that it could better work through the process of organization. Part of helping my brain to be quiet was taking medication, but another significant part was ensuring that my environment allowed my brain some quiet time.

Futhermore, there was a lot of "training" involved... but that's complicated, and perhaps the subject of another post.

Organizing for clarity,

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Memories of My Era: The Age of Turmoil

Dear People who Sell Fear (and Those who Buy It),

When I hear people describe or reminisce about times gone by, the say things like, "It was the age of innocence!" or "It was the era of the enlightenment!" or "It was the Quiet Revolution!"

It seems that the days of yore have a lot of positive ascriptions. And I wish I would be able to remember my history with as much reverence.

Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to have a positive regard for the days of my youth. The times I have grown up in are times of confusion, frustration, and of deep dark closets creaking open.

In my short life-span on Earth I have seen major advancements in technology, and I have witnessed how it has torn us apart (as it paradoxically unites us in a vast network). These advancements have motivated people to question our human capacities and motivations; as we now, like never before, have a capacity to do the work of the gods.

I have seen how the scope of war has changed. It seems that wars are just easier to initiate, since all we really need to do is push a few buttons and move around a few big toys. And it seems that wars and strife have become a tool to suit economic needs instead of relieving oppression and promoting freedom. (Although, I'm sure a cynic could argue that most wars, in the end, are about economy, and always have been.)

Relating to the issue of war, North America is currently suffering as the economy reorganizes itself around emerging countries who are introducing new competition; thus destabilizing the status quo. All political figures recognize this as a period of transition, and all are scrambling for control so that their nation will wind up at the top of the heap at the end of the day. (Whenever that comes!) And in their scramble for economic success; leaders are engaging their citizens in battles at home and abroad that are exhausting and tormenting their people.

I'm now watching two countries endure elections. Elections that have major consequences for all. And as I watch the media coverage, all I can see is that the candidates are more interested in pointing out why their opponents are bad choices, instead of why their own candidacy is the good choice. In this, I see our fellow countrymen more divided than ever, and more rigid in opinion and ideology than ever.

To add to the list, political scandal and health and environmental crises compound the problems enough to whip the ordinary citizen into a froth of fear.

It seems the time of innocence is lost; and that our modern era of technology that was once hailed as the new enlightenment has come with a heavy burden: Change. And with change, comes turmoil. Welcome to the age of change; welcome to the era of turmoil.

Hiding behind my hands until it's over,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some things I wish I knew years ago...

Dear People who Suffer from Side-Effects Like Nausea, Dry-Mouth, Tiredness, and so on,

When I was first diagnosed over 10 years ago, nobody really told me much. Mind you, I think I was pretty young, and so I'm going to optimistically believe that they just didn't want to burden me with more than I was already dealing with.

I was put on medication pretty much within days of my diagnosis, and while it was clearly explained that there would be side-effects, there was never much followup about what that would mean, and where I could go to find help for my side-effects.

One of the first side-effects I noticed was hunger... I always had a low grade rumble in my belly that felt better when there was food in it. I think this side-effect exacerbates the weight gain problems that happen in a lot of people who take atypical antipsychotics.

My solution for this rumbling was to eat... all the time... but to eat food that had super high amounts of protein - and just to snack perpetually while avoiding large meals. (Since I was feeling consistently fullish from my perpetual snacking.) Luckily, my solution worked, since I managed to combat the rumbles, and I didn't gain significant amounts of weight.

Another negative effect of my medication was sleepiness. I was so tired all the time. My solution was twofold: For many years I arranged my schedule to start my dater later than everyone else so that I could sleep a little longer and to take an afternoon or morning off from school or work during the middle of the week so that I could catch up on sleep. This worked for me as a student and as a part-time worker, but has some pretty obvious limitations in the 9 to 5 working world.

The side-effect that bothered me the most was dry mouth. Because of dry mouth I have had problems with dental decay and with canker sores.

Little did I know up until about a week ago that there are actually products that you can use to help ease dry mouth and its associated problems. Why on earth did no one tell me this?

I remember telling my family doctor and my psychiatrist about dry mouth problems. And I know that more than one dentist pointed out that I may have dry mouth due to some of the things they saw. So why did not one of these health care specialists think to inform me about the things that were available to help this.

As a poor university student I often had to gather my pennies together so that I could get dental work to repair the damage caused by "insufficient oral lubrication." Now as an adult without dental coverage, I find myself still having to pay for dental problems that began long ago.

I really wish that someone would have asked me long ago about my side-effects. I wish they would have been specific in their questions. And mostly, when I complained, or when they noticed something was wrong, I really wish they would have taken it upon themselves to inform me of the things I could do to help make my life easier and more comfortable.

There is a lot of self care that is required when you have a problem of mental health. And sometimes it's just almost too much to bear to deal with the disease itself (and the discrimination issues it often carries). Why have I had to deal with the additional time-consuming burden of experimenting with schedules/organization/products when this information is out there, but just not readily available to me?

Is it time for a What to Do When You're Expecting (A Bout With Mental Health Problems) handbook for psychosis and/or other conditions?

Seriously. Shit. So much of my time and money wasted on problems that could have been solved before they even started!

Tucking her pennies away for another cavity,

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Introducing the SISD Award

Dear Fellow Members of the Human Race,

Based on the "if you don't laugh, you cry" adage, I have introduced an award for Addressed2Occupant. It's called the Stupid Is, Stupid Does Award.

This award is reserved for those people who have a strong desire to make the world a miserable place, and will be given to deserving people who have a strong focus on promoting social inequality and injustice for those living with problems of mental health.

Why anyone would want to promote inequality and injustice, no one knows. Perhaps for the same reasons people of African descent were at one time considered sub-human, for the same reasons women weren't allowed to vote, for the same reasons people wanted to kill off those of Jewish descent, and so on, ad. infinitum.

*sigh, sniff* (Allow me a moment to collect myself.) The impacts of inequality and injustice are frustrating and depressing, but are mostly heinous in their capacity to destroy lives. So in an effort to fight this, or at least highlight incidences of injustice, the SISD Award was developed.

Drumroll please, perhaps even cue the theme song from Star Wars:

*ta dah*

So please, when sharing your opinions, make sure to take your foot out of your mouth so you aren't forced to speak from your ass. Otherwise, the Fruit will find you. They will hunt you down, and they will mess you up. (Don't fuck with the Fruit!)

Keeping our streets clean one mess at a time,
O. + the SISD Fruit

Dear Robert Quinn from Japan,

robert quinn from Japan writes: Well, I see Emma's posted, so I feel duty-bound to kick sand all over her comments, and every other certain-to-be-offended sufferer. You, the hordes of mentally ill (20% of the population, according to Michael Kirby...why is it old soldiers fade away but old Liberals end up with lucrative government sinecures? And when you factor in the multitudes with cancer, spina bifida, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, heroin addiction, existential ennui, etc., it's a wonder there's anyone capable of showing up for work), who spend their days feeling misunderstood, picked on, ignored or suicidal, may be missing the big picture. A nurse with many years of experience once told me such is what happens when one-pound babies survive. For whatever reason--bad luck, bad genes--there's something wrong with your wiring. Sorry. But it could be no amount of money, drugs or professional bafflegab will help. Long ago, a lion would have spotted you lagging behind, distraught, and...culled you. All things considered, that might not have been the worst thing to happen, in a circle-of-life sense. Maybe you really would be happier dead. The question should be: Could I feel worse than I do right now if I top myself? And if you're dead, and an atheist, the answer has to There are organizations other than the Mental Health Commission that can satisfy your sincere longing for an EXIT from emotional hell. No pain, no shame. / (excerpted from the comments section of the Globe and Mail.)

Dear Robert,
While you do reserve the right to have an opinion in all matters, sometimes you just shouldn't voice those opinions. Why? Because they can fall under the legal classification of "Hate Crime."

Hate Crimes are defined as abusive/aggressive/aggravating/victimizing behaviours that are directed towards individuals (or groups) based on their cultural or religious backgrounds, their sexual orientation, their disability, age, gender, identity, or political affiliation.

So, my dear Robert, in your lovely comment, you have not so subtly told a rather large group of people who fall under the umbrella of "disability" that they simply do not deserve to live among the rest of the members of the planet. Furthermore, you also suggested that said group of people engage in what pretty much amounts to mass suicide.

Legally, this constitutes verbal harrassment.

So fuck you very much for your abrasive, unwanted, and ignorant opinions. Since I can't track you down to bring you to justice for your crimes, I would like to impose upon you the most serious of curses that I have recently learned of: May the flies of a thousand camels infest your nether regions.

Sincerely yours,

PS. robert quinn from Japan is the first ever winner of the SISD award. The Stupid Is, Stupid Does Award goes out to those wonderful people who have a bizarre desire to make the world a crappy place for all.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Globe and Mail Series: Breakdown

Dear Readers of Newspapers and Other Things,

I tried to post this from work the other day, but the text seems not to have made it, although, oddly enough, the title did.

Anyways, this post was referring to a recent series done by the Globe and Mail of Canada about the mental health crisis.

It is a fairly comprehensive series that outlines many of the issues that relate to problems of mental health.

Unfortunately, the publications of the Globe fell victim to the same tendencies of many other publications of this nature: It outline the problems, but it doesn't explain what is currently being done. Also, the Globe tended to combine very different forms of health problems under one umbrella of "mental illness," often using those words in their headlines, despite the fact that the article spoke about only one specific condition.

Everyone with a "mental illness" understands that problems of mental health a pretty specific and don't fit neatly under one catch-all umbrella. Depression is not schizophrenia, is not bi-polar, is not anxiety, and so on. Every condition has its own profile, its own precipitating factors, its own treatment, its own course for recovery, each has its own outcome, and sadly each has its own brand of stigma/discrimination.

Frankly in all of that great reporting, I had serious problems with the glomming together of the variety of mental health conditions. Throwing all of these health conditions into the same pot doesn't allow us to tease out the idiosyncratic issues related to the them. For example, we are unlikely to think that someone with depression is capable of murder, but we easily make this kind of association when we hear that a person has a diagnosis of schizophrenia (even though these associations aren't correct). I think we need to differentiate in our writing, so that we

Anyways, here is the link to the Globe series: Breakdown: Canada's Mental Health Crisis.

Keep up the good work, Globe!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Happy Things To Make Us Laugh

Dear People Who Now Feel Sad Because of My Previous Posts,

Sorry about the last few depressing posts.

When life brings you down, you need an lolcat. I swear, this website is what keeps me going:

With Love and Humor,

What do they see when they start on their path?

Dear People With "Lived Experience,"

Little hypothetical story here to clarify the nature of this post:

Okay, so say you're 20ish or something. And you've been dealing with some problems of hearing voices, and thinking that people are out to get you. And maybe you've been hiding away from people and neglecting your hygiene.

Somebody says, let's get you to a doctor to see what's up.

So you go. You do some tests. Some of them are pencil and paper tests. Some of them are verbal tests. Some of them are performance tests. Maybe others are medical tests.

Tests come back, everyone's suspicions are confirmed: you are now diagnosed with a condition you've only heard about in the movies. Schizophrenia or maybe even Bi-polar if you have some cycling going on.


So you look at your life. What do you see?

Based on the media, it's not a rosy picture.

Based on public perceptions, it doesn't seem to be any rosier of a picture.

Based on the statistical likelihood of being gainfully employed, well, the picture is just nosediving now.

Based on discriminatory laws across the world the picture just sinks to unfathomable proportions. (limitations of travel, limitations on insurance, limitations on housing, limitations on employment, limitations on serving your country or your community, limitations imposed by the way the legal system is organized... limitations, limitations, limitations... )

So with a diagnosis, I see a lot of limitations. Funny thing is, I only see these limitations after living with my diagnosis for 11 years. I'm no longer a child living under anyone's protective wing. I'm an adult, trying to carve out a life for myself. When I was younger and living with my diagnosis, these things just didn't affect me, since I didn't really have to move outside of my comfort zone too much.

To be honest my diagnosis is fucking hard to deal with in the real world... The real world being the world that dictates that I need to find a job because I have bills to pay, and I need to feed myself and my ravenous furkids. The real world that makes me crave the companionship, friendship, and intimacy of a lover. The real world that tells me that one day I may want to have children, and god forbid, achievable dreams! (The real world that tells me that all of these things are "healthy" and are "milestones of recovery.") And now that I'm starting out in my adult life, I'm seeing exactly how profound my limitations are. And I'm seeing the barriers that life forces me to hurdle just to reach those milestones... achievements that seem relatively effortless for people standing on the other side of the fence.

And the paradox in all of this is that I've tried to find the best place for me in this world. I shaped my life consciously from the time I was diagnosed to find a place where I would have the greatest likelihood for personal and economic success for someone of my education and experience. And so I thought I found my "place." And I'm looking at that place, I'm standing on the threshold watching everyone move around and interact in that place, and I still don't fit in. I'm beginning to think I just don't fit in anywhere.

Too sick for the "real" world. Too healthy for the services and amenities provided to people who live with a diagnosis like mine. Too different ideologically from the people who are trying to build a new, supposedly inclusive, system... a "new" system that paradoxically believes that by labelling me and "outing" me, it is setting me free.

I'm not trying to get anyone down. I'm not trying to make anyone feel helpless, even though I'm feeling a little helpless at the moment.

I think what I'm asking is: What can we do about it?

How do we fix this?

Why do I, after living with this disease for 12 years... after spending nearly 12 years learning how to cope and make sure that I am the healthiest person I can be... why do I have to deal with THESE particular issues now?

These "particular issues" being issues that relate exclusively to social injustice and discrimination.

If the disease itself doesn't kill you, the injustices that come along with it certainly will.

When we talk about suicide and the despair of mental illness; the despair isn't having to live with the disease. The despair isn't really about having to wrestle with symptoms or deal with medications.

The despair is about the social injustices we confront. The social injustices that affect us on a day to day basis. The social injustices that tell me that I'm not equal to every other person in the country I live in.

This is what kills us off when we stare down that long tunnel of life.

What do WE do? This issue is bigger than me. This issue feels stronger than me. I'm at a loss. I really am.

My instinct is to fight. But what does that mean? What am I fighting? Who am I fighting? How long is the fight going to be? What will it cost me, and what will it achieve?

I keep telling myself before I go to bed that when I wake up, tomorrow will be a better, brighter day. Tomorrow I will wake up, and I won't have to worry about my safety, my comfort, or my security.

I think the only thing that keeps me going is my hope for the future, since my present is a very grim place.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a brighter day (and sorry if I killed your buzz!),

*tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow will be a better day, tomorrow wil be a better day... *

Dear Cruel World

Dear Fellow Sufferers,

Yes, folks, the world is a cruel place.

I hate to post after such a long time and be so cryptic, but life is such at the moment that every place I turn to I have nowhere to rest my weary soul.

I'm tired.

I want stability.
I want to know that I will be able to have a roof over my head.
I want to know that I will have food in my mouth.
I want to know that I can have the life I dream of having, and have the life that is promised to every person who "plans" and "does the right thing." (Whatever that is!)

I'm not asking for big things here. I just want to have some shelter, and some food, and someone to keep me warm at night. I want to be able to dream about the things that other folks get to dream about... like having kids, maybe going for a trip somewhere, maybe I'd even dare to dream of the things I'd like to accomplish before I kick the bucket.

I want to know that people can love me and be in my life without sacrificing their own lives and security.

I just want to know that it's going to work out, for all involved.

If this were only about me, I really wouldn't care. But there're others involved. And it bothers me that everyone who touches me needs to think twice before they can do anything with their lives.

I've done the best I can. Really I have. Now it's your turn to hold up YOUR end of the bargain.

Please. Just do the right thing. All of you.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

see... it's not just us!

Dear doctors, people who go to doctors, and people who look after doctors,

I found an interesting article today that describes how doctors, like the rest of the population, are susceptible to mental health problems... However, according to the article, doctors are very unlikely to seek help, fearing that it will affect their professional status. (The link is available at the bottom of this post.)

"Some doctors believe the stigma of mental illness is magnified in a profession that prides itself on stoicism and bravado. Many fear admitting psychiatric problems could be fatal to their careers, so they suffer in silence."

In an ironic twist, doctors are one of the groups that are LEAST likely to seek treatment for mental health problems, despite all of their education about mental health. And even more ironic, doctors are much more likely than than any other demographic to suicide. (Sadly, they are the most successful at suicide attempts because they have access to drugs and metabolic information that regular old folks don't have.)

"A psychiatrist in the New York area who asked to remain unidentified said he had suicidal thoughts every day for several years. But in medical school in the 1980s, he said he was so embarrassed about seeking help for depression that he went to a pay phone instead of his dorm to call a therapist."

So, isn't it interesting that the very people who keep us healthy are the most likely to have serious issues of mental health?

And doesn't this point to the fact about the detrimental effects of stigmatization? Doctors are so afraid to "come out" about mental illness because they fear it will affect their careers and their status.

"There could be reasons the stigma would be worse for doctors, "but you can come up with just as many reasons why physicians would be better equipped to acknowledge" mental illness, she said."

It's a strong indicator of how pervasive the effects of stigmatization are when some of our most informed citizens (in terms of understanding problems of mental health and their effects) are detrimentally reluctant to seek treatment for their own mental health issues. Very interesting how what's good for the gander is NOT good for the goose... very interesting, but mostly, very very sad.

Here's the article.
Medical know-how, access to drugs raises suicide risk for doctors

Wishing everyone good health,

Thursday, May 8, 2008

olivia is a tired hamster...

Dear fellow hamsters,

Today I am tired. Tired of jogging in that perpetually spinning wheel of life, doggedly chasing... well... not much. I'm tired of organizing the details, details which are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. (Although, there really is no 'grand scheme' that I can see.) And I'm tired of desperately trying to keep it together, when the natural propulsion of my current life events actually wants to cause things to unravel and erode.

I am tired of feeling sick, and tired of feeling tired. And I'm tired of trying not to look sick and tired. And I am tired of making excuses for why I feel sick and tired.

I'm tired of feeling guilty, like I can never do enough, and when I do do enough, it somehow winds up not being enough, or it is the wrong thing. And I'm just plain tired of trying to please and invest in others, with no hope of a return.

And I'm just plain tired. Understand? Just let me sleep without calling, without asking for something, without making me feel like I need to be doing something. For one day, maybe a week, just let me sleep.

Off to take a nap,

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

definitely *not* keeping it together...

Dear savers of face (addendum to previous post),

Just so you know, it's probably okay to have a meltdown. And I think most people can empathize with a meltdown.

About two days ago, around midnight (my meltdowns usually happen at night for some reason), I had a mini melt down.

I had spent the previous five days feeling extremely ill (due to my neverending flu), and I just crawled into bed beside my boyfriend, and began whimpering.

He said, "Awww... sweetie, what's wrong."

Big mistake on his part. Personally, I think if someone's crying, and you acknowledge that crying, I just makes them cry harder... At least it does in my case!

So I start blubbering about how I feel like such a loser because I've been so sick, and how I suck because I'm unemployed, and how I feel like such a burden. I went on and on about how even though I feel sick, I feel like I have to clean and do all the house stuff, and I feel like I can never let anything fall apart, and how everything needs to at least look decent, if not fantastic. I blubbered on like this for about 30 minutes, all the while feeling guilty, because he had to wake up for work early in the morning.

And he, the eternal darling, murmured, "Honey, it's okay to let things unravel for a little while. You don't have to be on top of everything all of the time. I don't care if things are messy, or if you don't feel like getting dressed. And who ever comes over? Just take care of yourself while you're feeling shitty, and let the rest do whatever it's going to do."

It was like a breath of fresh air!

So, it took awhile to digest what he said; but today, I let go.

I laid in bed until past noon. I didn't do any dishes. I made my SO cook. And I pretty much read and watched TV all day.

You know what?

The world didn't stop. No one said anything about anything. And, best of all, I actually feel better.

Letting it unravel, one thread at a time,
PS. "Letting go" seemed to have some karmic advantage, since I got my first call for an interview this afternoon! Woohoooooooo to letting go!

keeping it together, even when i really just can't!

Dear fellow savers of face (you know who you are!),

I like to "save face." Saving face means that you are in a position where you have lost some element of your personal dignity, and you try to recover a shred of that dignity in whatever way you can.

Say for example you go to pay for your groceries at the store. You know you don't have much money in your account, but you're pretty sure you have enough to pay for the groceries you've picked out. You swipe the card, tap in your PIN, and wait... wait... then the machine beeps and flashes "Insufficient Funds!"

What do you do?

It's pretty rare for anyone to say, "Oh, shit! Look how poor I am! I can't even afford $20 worth of groceries!"

Usually a person will say something to the effect of, "Aw, crap, my cheque didn't go through!" or, "What the? My boss was supposed to deposit my pay! What an ass!"

Then you either whip out a credit card (if you have one), or scrounge through your purse to pay part cash and part debit, or (horror of all horrors) you slink away from the register and abandon your groceries whilst muttering excuses.

My version of saving face is a system of survival unto its own.

I grew up po'. I grew up po' and went to school with all the rich kids in town.

When you grow up surrounded by kids with all the right clothes, who live on the right side of town, in the right houses, you sort of develop a complex.

Growing up with all these kids who had all "the toys" was not easy. (Mind you, it was easier pre-ipod, pre-cellphone, and pre-laptop, and so on.) I worried a lot about fitting in.

It was pretty easy to hide the fact that my family lived in a not-so-nice apartment... all I had to do was make sure that no one came around to visit me. It was pretty easy to hide the fact that I was not up with the latest video games... all I had to do was pretend that studying and playing were more important than games.

It was a lot harder to hide the fact that I simply looked different from the other kids. Those kids had the brand name clothes, and the expensive shoes, and the pretty jewelry, and the funky new accessories.

I did not have those things. But I tried. Confronted with the "indignities" of poverty (or relative poverty), I tried to save face.

I learned very quickly that if you don't "look right" then you won't fit in. So at a very tender age, I became meticulously focused on my appearance. I tried to always look nice... to take care of my hair, to keep my clothes clean and fresh looking, to make sure that my outfits always matched and fit me well. I even went so far to harass my financially stretched family to go out and buy me some of those brand name clothes... I wound up with some second hand brand name sweaters that I was thrilled with!

When I was diagnosed, so many moons ago, with psychosis, that meticulousness, and how it had kept me socially viable (when I might have otherwise stuck out like a sore thumb), stuck with me.

Psychosis imposes enormous indignities on the people who live with it. Psychosis causes symptoms that seem strange or frightening to those not familiar with the disease. People who live with psychosis often face discrimination as a result of the ignorance and mythology that persist about this condition. The media, our friends, and even our families claim that murderers, rapists, and molesters must be "insane;" inadvertently diminishing the dignity of every single person who is truly afflicted with the condition of psychosis by placing perverse criminals in the same category as someone with a serious and life-altering biological disease.

So I knew that this disorder would somehow affect or at the very least distort my personal sense of dignity. And I knew I had to save face (again).

I knew very deep inside of me that I could not "look" sick. I knew that people would judge me if I somehow looked "different" from everyone else. My hair could never be unkempt in public. My outfits always had to be perfect. I always had to be properly dressed and accessorized for every occasion... even if I did not feel like it... even if I really could not afford it.

Now, as an adult, living on my own, this sense of "saving face" takes on a whole new meaning.

I sit here, seven days into a flu (now on the healing end, I hope!) and I look around me and think, "What can I do to make this place look better?" Because for some reason, to me, if *I* look good (and by extension, my surroundings look good), then all must be well... even when all most definitely isn't well.

So everyone, please know, that sometimes looks are deceiving. Even when someone looks great, when they're home looks wonderful, and when they seem to have it all together, that person may be hiding behind appearances, hoping that no one will notice what is going on underneath.

I have to go clean something now.

Always hiding, even when I'm too tired to hide,

spm... self portrait monday!

Dear people who like pictures,

A new feature, here at addressed2occupant: Self Portrait Mondays! (Aka. SPM)

In honour of having the flu for a total of 7 days so far, this portrait is of me, being sick, feeling like my nose has been sucked up into my sinuses.

Wishing you good health,

Sunday, May 4, 2008

dignity is hard to come by...

Dear fans of music and people who feel the burn of daily life,

I love a good line. Some people just really know how to say something, without needing to say much.

I love these lyrics by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah:

"So go salvage some of your human dignity,
'cause it'll be a long hard road."

For some reason, I think that people don't think enough of themselves. The ennui of daily life, with all the complaints, and aggressions, and all the saddness, and the irritations... the ennui eats away at us a little, day by day, by day.

We don't see our sadness or frustration or anger. We don't see that we are leaden with the burdens of our daily lives. These ennuis build up slowly, like grains of sand on a table. As we move about our lives, the grains are added, one by one, by one... until the legs of the table begin to wobble beneath the weight of its burdens.

These song lyrics remind me, that no matter what negative things happen in my daily life, I am human, and I deserve respect, kindness, and to be treated in a manner that is free of judgment or stereotyped thinking. Nobody has a right to impose their burdens, anger, or general shit on me.

So every day, I salvage my dignity by standing up for my beliefs and convictions, by commanding respect from those who would rather put me down than see me as an equal, and by offering the same dignities to every single person I meet... respect, kindness, and freedom from judgment and discrimination.

Forever yours, in dignity and in respect,

more comments on post secret postcards...

Dear post secret poster (and anyone else who works with people with mental health problems),

"I work as a counselor for people with mental illness and it scares me how much I can relate to them. I'm afraid of ending up like them."
See this secret on :

I can relate to you too! Wow! Isn't that amazing?

I can relate to your desire for a happy, fulfilled life. I can relate to your wishes for people who love you unconditionally. I can relate to your need for arms you can fall into when you feel weak, tired, afraid, or unhappy. Arms that will support you, and warm your heart in your coldest and loneliest hours.

I can relate to the notion that some aspects of your life might be dissatisfying. I can relate to feelings of frustration, anger, or despair. I can relate to thinking I'm not being paid enough for my skills. I can relate to wanting a better home, or car, or job, or better health... or even just more energy!

I can relate to feelings of low self esteem. I can relate to feeling unloved, or unwanted, or just unneeded. I can relate to feeling useless, incompetant, and frankly overwhelmed; feeling like I can never do enough, or that the things I do don't even matter because the problems of the world are so big... and I... well, I am so small.

Isn't it amazing how much we can relate to eachother?

Or does this scare you for some reason?

Why does that scare you?

Are you afraid of me?

Are you afraid of being "like" me? (Whatever that means!)

Relating to you in more ways than you will ever know,
PS. Sometimes I'm afraid of winding up like you too!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

bleah! i have the flu!!! :(

dear beloved readers,

so sick... can't post... flu!

psychiatrist thinks i "look great!"

at least someone does! i feel like poop!


talk to you when i'm better,

Monday, April 28, 2008

laugter... the best disease ever!

Dear people who like to laugh, and those who don't,

If laughter is infectious,
then that is a disease we should all want to catch!

Hoping to catch something,

opinions vs. sex

Dear people who like to mouth off,

Opinions are like legs.

Don't spread 'em if you can't deal with the consequences.

Keepin' it real,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

don't keep me waiting... it makes me anxious, but mostly impatient!

Dear Psychiatrist,

I met you for the first time at that appointment. Overall the appointment went well, I think. You seemed kind, energetic, motivated, and most importantly, caring. I like it when people are caring, because it means that if the proverbial shit were to hit the proverbial fan, then you would be there to help or at the very least, to offer guidance.

Honestly, I was a little nervous to meet you, considering the potential implications of a visit gone wrong. I mean, your sole job is to judge the status of my mental health; that kind of scrutiny is pretty intimidating, you have to admit.

(Remember all those years ago when you defended your thesis? That's almost how it feels to meet a new psychiatrist.)

I knew that the first thing you would analyze was how I was dressed, and how well I was groomed. You would then look to see how I responded to conventional greetings, whether or not I made eye contact, and whether or not I responded to your outstretched hand.

As we chatted, I know your brain would tick away to make sure that my time sequencing was correct, that I was aware of my current surroundings and relevant current events. I knew you would also look for signs of anxiety in my body language, signs of thought blocking, and I knew you would be analyzing my ability to relate concepts and ideas into a unified and coherent dialogue. You would also continue to make sure that my body language was appropriate and that my affect related to the content of my speech.

Yes, you had a lot to do in those 20 to 30 minutes we spent together. So I sat in a hard little chair, waiting; reading to keep my mind off the intense scrutiny I was about to fall under.

I have to admit, I was a little pissed that you kept me waiting for 30 minutes while you discussed your latest research project with that guy. And yes, I could hear every word as I sat in that dark little hallway that doubles as a waiting room. Your walls are very thin; therefore, you may want to consider keeping your voice down the next time you proclaim that "it's okay" to keep your patients waiting after your coworker asks if he should meet you later to talk more.

For thirty minutes I sat in that little chair, my bottom growing numb, reading, looking at my watch to note the time, and occasionally squeezing the tissue I was holding. For thirty minutes, that lowly little tissue soaked up the evidence of my anxiety and allowed me to offer you a dry hand when you came to greet me for the first time.

I really did not mind waiting. I didn't really have much to do that day.

The next time it happens though, I might actually have something to do, and I may feel compelled to remind you that time is money, and I'm not getting paid by the hour for these appointments.

Your anxiously impatient patient,

Friday, April 25, 2008

consumers are people who EAT a lot, and people who SHOP a lot...

Dear people who persist in using the outdated and derogatory term "consumer,"

I am not a consumer, fuck you very much. Calling me a consumer to my face will get you a strong admonishment and a rather long lecture on the history of that word. The history of that word isn't pleasant, and in fact, it is downright insulting. And the word consumer is as derogatory to me as the "n-word" is to a person of African or Caribbean heritage.

Here is a little bit of the history of the word consumer (excerpted from my previous post):

"If you don't know what the word "consumer" is, here is an explanation:

Consumer is what the mental health professionals call people who have mental illness. People with problems of mental health are called "consumers" because historically people with mental illness have been dependent on health care and social services... Their logic in using this term is that people with mental illness "consume" social services in the same way that people with money voraciously consume products on the market.

This is a dangerous term because in the word "consumer" is implied that people who require the help of health care professionals and social services don't give back to their communities. It is implied, by using this word, that people with problems of mental health only take from their communities. Examples of giving back include volunteerism, using experiential knowledge and skills in the workplace or to help peers, contributing to the community and social services through paying taxes, and so on.

I LOATHE the term consumer."

So in my quest for equality for everyone and in my quest to free all individuals from systematic oppression, I say we should do away with the term consumer.

And if you're wondering how in the world the word "consumer" is systematically oppressive; think of why white people are no longer allowed to say the the word nigger. Seriously. Think about it.

In the event that you need some help with this analogy, I will help you through it. Although I'd like to think that most people don't need me to hold their hand through a thought experiment...

Think about how the n-word evolved. Think about how it is/was used. Think of the people this word is applied to and how they feel/felt about that word. Last, think about why we no longer use the n-word.

Now, think about the c-word. Think about how it came to be. Think of how we use it, and who we talk about when we use that word. Think about how those people feel about that word. Last, think about why we should no longer use that word.

Draw a little chart if you think it will help you.

Keeping the pots of controversy abrewing and hoping you're thinking over there on your end of our fibreoptic connection,

PS. Email me if you need me to spell things out for you. Above all, I am here to help and to educate.

forgive me (proverbial) Father, for I have lost... my motivation

Dear (proverbial, because I'm not religious) Father,

Father, forgive me, for I have lost my motivation. At least I think I have. I feel I have...

I am currently "between jobs" as my too kind and supremely diplomatic friend put it, after I told her that I am an unemployed dirtbag. In truth, I have been "between jobs" for about four months now. Granted, I have been dealing with health problems and waiting on a contract that keeps getting pushed back, but still, that does not stop me from feeling like a giant sack of shite every day. (My health problems are of the "physical" variety this time around, as opposed to the "mental" variety... as if that distinction should actually exist in our day and age, so please don't worry too much, dear readers!)

My partner saunters off to work every morning. And I bury myself deeper into my blankets, thankful for one or two more hours of sleep, dreading that I have to wake up and find things to occupy myself with that day.

Four months ago, finding things to do was easy, since me and my SO had recently moved into a new apartment. I occupied my days with painting, arranging furniture, cleaning, and organizing, while simultaneously trying to manage my health problems. He went to work. It was a great formula because we were both contributing to building our new life, just in different ways.

All of that is done now. There are no more changes to be made to the apartment. There is not one curtain left to hang, or one measly door to paint. He goes off to work. I wake up to another day... another day of feeling like a dirtbag.

So I sit, every morning, on my couch, and wonder, what the hell am I going to do with myself today? And I think; I feel like a sack of poop. I feel like all I do is cook, clean, and waste a lot of valuable time that should be spent working and earning an income.

The other day I visited my too kind and disgustingly diplomatic friend. We had a chat about what we were up to recently. I actually haven't seen her since I moved into the new place four months ago.

I told her how I haven't really done much in the months I've been at the new place. But I told her about the work I've done on the apartment. The furniture I've refinished, the rooms I've painted, the shopping I've done to get the place looking somewhat livable. I chatted about the gardening I've done, and the more that I plan to do. I told her about the meetings I've attended in order to "harvest" the job that I'm waiting on in the hopes that it will open up soon. I told her about the book I'm trying to write. How I sit for about four hours a day, three or four days a week, tap tapping on my digital computing machine (erm, my craptop). I told her that I'm averaging about two pages a day during those sessions. I talked about this blog that I've started. I talked about the books that I've read. I talked about the pets that I feed and give love to every day. I talked about all the baking I've done since I've moved in and so on.

At the end of our chatting, she interjected, "Wow, you sound pretty busy!"

I looked at her in total disbelief. I was shocked that she had said that; totally and speechlessly shocked in fact.

Here I've been beating myself up for being "unmotivated," and my friend, my blessed, wonderful, generous friend, in one simple sentence totally put my life into perspective (at least, the last four months of my life, anyway).

I guess it's all a matter of how we look at things, huh? And it's possible, that my goggles are a little screwed up or something, given all the hangups I have about wanting to be a "contributer" not a "consumer." How else do you explain why I've been castigating myself for the last three months?

Here's to waiting one more week for that mythological job to open up... and here's to one more week of "doing nothing!"

The busiest, yet most unmotivated, girl on this side of the pond,

PS. If you don't know what the word "consumer" is, here is an explanation: Consumer is what the mental health professionals call people who have mental illness. People with problems of mental health are called "consumers" because historically people with mental illness have been dependent on health care and social services... Their logic in using this term is that people with mental illness "consume" social services in the same way that people with money voraciously consume products on the market.

This is a dangerous term because in the word "consumer" is implied that people who require the help of health care professionals and social services don't give back to their communities. It is implied, by using this word, that people with problems of mental health only take from their communities. Examples of giving back include volunteerism, using experiential knowledge and skills in the workplace or to help peers, contributing to the community and social services through paying taxes, and so on.

PPS. I LOATHE the term consumer.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

oh, to be this innocent and happy again!

Dear animal lovers,

Can you remember the time in your life when you had that optimistic enthusiasm for absolutely everything?

Uh... neither can I. But this video is cute, and it will make you want to be young again. Or, it will make you want to be a puppy again. (Hey, whatever suits your fancy! I'm not the one who has to put up with your unusual proclivities!)

Introducing the infectious enthusiasm of Willow the Puppy.

Just click on the grey text and the YouTube video should pop right up.

Hoping you'll catch something (The happiness bug, people! Get your mind out of the gutter!),

you people are strange... really...

Dear people who do not like animals,

People who love animals don't get you and are very wary of you. Quite frankly, we think there's something wrong with you, and we are actually a little afraid. *O.o*

Just sayin'.

An animal lover from way back,

PS. This post is not referring to people who are afraid of animals or to people who can't have animals for health reasons... so don't get your panties in a bunch.

This post is referring to that minority of the population that has a genuine distaste for all life forms that are not human... generally including animals of all species and plants.

Usually these are the people who want to replace their lawns with astroturf, and they chop down the gloriously ancient (and beautiful) trees on their property, and they mutilate any leaf that has the misfortune to have strayed on their lawn.

oh feline master, i am forever your indentured servant!

Dear cat,

I love you, even though you vomit... often... on the hard to clean shag rug.

Next time, could you try aiming for the hardwood that is about 6 inches from the spot on the rug where you regularly puke?

Your kitty momma,

ghosts don't scare me... they make me sad

Dear invisible woman I saw sitting on the street on a freezing winter day,

Yes. I saw you. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone who passed you saw you, even though we all pretended not to in our rush to get to where we thought we had to be.

You were sitting there, on a small chunk of cardboard, bundled in your scruffy sweaters and coats and scarves. If you were a different person, you might have been very warm, but you weren't someone else, you were you.

Homeless. Invisible. Alone, as you sat among the post-holiday rush passersby, you with steaming tears running in rivers down your weathered cheeks, many of us with gift cards and holiday cash burning in our pockets.

If we had acknowledged you, it would have forced us to consider your plight... perhaps even to have empathy for it. We would have wondered what unfortunate series of events in your life collided so that you to wound up on this particular corner, on this particularly unforgiving day. Maybe we would have wondered how our actions or inactions contributed to that unfortunate series of events.

It is possible that acknowledging you would have made us question the things we have, and why we do not share our things, and why we continue to want more and more things, while you have very close to nothing. It would have made us ponder, for a second, why we have become comfortable with this.

Had we acknowledged you, it would have forced us to stop and help you. If one person had stopped, maybe others would have felt compelled to do the same. But since no one stopped, no one gawked, and no one really even glanced, everyone felt justified in moving past you without a hint of acknowledgment.

Hundreds of people must have walked past you in a matter of moments. No one even looked in your direction, and when one of us had the misfortune to glance your way, we looked through you as if you were a ghost, as if we were suddenly interested in the bank of dirty snow behind you.

I'm sorry I was one of the people who walked by. I just want you to know that.

With great regret,

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

no, i am not crazy... let me explain...

Dear readers of the previous two posts,

Ya'll are prolly thinking, what the h-e-double hockey sticks is she talking about?

Well, those two posts are essentially criticisms of Scientology, and really any institutionalized dogmatic thinking that makes false promises.

Scientology, in my opinion, is an especially dangerous breed of cult. It is dangerous because it offers cures to people living with mental health problems. Unfortunately, the cures that Scientology offers are costly to access, and due to the secrecy surrounding the activities of the cult, it is impossible to substantiate the claims that the 'cures' actually do anything besides rob vulnerable people of their hard earned cash.

Scientology, in my opinion, preys upon the vulnerable; those living with mental illness, and those looking for quick access to a better life.

I think the people who are a part of this cult are participating in and endorsing a mass delusion. And for those who think mass delusions are impossible, go do a little research on the subject, and you may come to see that such events are much more than a theoretical possibility.

With Scientology the saying, 'He went in normal, and came out crazy,' is truly applicable.

A concerned informant,

g*ddam you neurons!

Dear my neurons and neurotransmitters,

Hey, you! Yeah you! You bastard neurons, and you shitty neurotransmitters... Oh, yeah, you dick-head enzymes too! I'm talking to all of you! Listen up!

No. Don't ignore me! I know you can see me looking at you disdainfully, and I know you see me wagging my finger at you angrily!

Your job is to work in harmony. I don't know the secrets of that harmony, and there are a lot of people out there who have invested a lot of time, energy, and cold hard cash to learn how you function in that requisitely synchronous manner.

Since your job is pretty important, and I'm sure you are aware of what you are supposed to be doing: Stop slacking off! Jackasses!

If you continue to slack off, I am going to go find some Scientologists. Then I am going to shrink them down with the shrink ray I invented during my last psychotic break. Then I am going to snort them and command them to find you.

Do you have any idea how nasty those little buggers will be? They are going to get all dark ninja on your ass and make you behave. And whoever doesn't comply, will be eliminated, as per the code of the dark ninja Scientologists.

And don't forget, those ninja Scientologists are masters at covering their tracks, so you won't even know what hit you.

Your master, even though you show no respect,

PS. For those who don't know what a dark ninja is: Good examples of white ninjas include Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Rapheal, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame. A great example of a dark ninja master is Shredder, the evil nemesis of the Turtles.

/tongue in cheek