Sunday, November 24, 2013

Writer's Block

Again, I haven't written in quite a while. For those of you who still even remember I do a blog, thank you for your patience. For the rest, you've moved on with your lives and have begun to ignore mine.

I have had serious writer's block for months now. I have had no desire to write anything, or have had nothing to write about. Some days there is a freight train in my head bearing down - ideas coming loud and clear. Ideas that make it hard to concentrate on any one thing, causing me to pack it up for another day. A day when my thoughts are more clear and concise. Obviously that day has been a long time coming. Other days, I hear crickets. Nothing. Not a thought to ponder, not a notion to perceive. 

I can contribute some of this confusion to my disorder,  Bipolar makes one slide back and forth between depression and mania in the blink of an eye. With the sliding scale being one of panic and anxiety. Finding the Eutheric (middle ground) state is not easy, and then to find the opportunity to write within that state even more difficult.

Today I've found it. A quiet Sunday morning, laptop in hand, nothing to listen to but birds outside, even if it is the sound of their frozen bodies crashing to earth. The cat is cleaning himself, and the coffee pot makes the occasional hiss. Short of that, it's the sound of the keys and my own breathing. Total relaxation. Total Eutheria.

This being my first post since March, I should write something profound. Trust me, I'm looking for it, keep in mind that I make this shit up as I go. Let's start with new developments in the life of a mid-life crisis. After all, that's what this blog is about! We've started a new tradition here at Wilsonworld, Sunday is Dr. Who and weird food day. Every Sunday since January a good friend of ours brings over a thumb drive containing this week's Dr. Who episodes. He's downloaded ALL of them, starting in 1963. And we watch. So far we've made it to season 16. In the midst of that we have begun to experiment with interesting dinner ideas, with Jarrod's eclectic assistance. Some are winners some are losers, but all are worth trying. If anything it has opened our minds to new ideas for dinner and made us all try new things. Even the kids get involved, not to mention they love Dr. Who. Jarrod is also a serious gamer, and always brings a selection of games in case we change our minds. It makes for an interesting day.

The second big change here is my son getting a job. He's working part-time at The Keg. It's not really a big deal unless you consider that it makes him actually grown up now. The realization that I am the father of an adult has not quite kicked in. He's planning post-secondary education, getting his license, working, and he voted for the first time this year. All the things that makes one realize that mid-life really has arrived. 

Thirdly, my youngest turns 13 this week. Last week we went to the High School information night, where she will be applying for the International Bachaloriate Program. This program is advanced academics with additional focus on community service, extra-curricular activities and more. When she completes the program she will be awarded three university credits, and her chances of getting into almost any school she wants will be greatly increased. It's a difficult program, and she must still be accepted, but she's determined. Even if it means taking the bus across town to get to school everyday.

But enough about the kids, they're vastly overrated. Kim is in training at work. Firstly for server applications, secondly for management qualifications. She's doing them both at the same time, so she's driving herself nuts. Soon, she'll catch up to me. This workload has given her the preverbrial get out of jail free card - we don't bug her if she wants to sleep, go out, or anything else. She's earned the right to do just about anything.

Finally, there's little old me. Still nuts. Still Bipolar. But with a few added features. I'm now a member of the Mental Health Connections program, which gives me access to many programs that I would not get elsewhere. For example, free gym membership! I'm also signed up for something called the Experiential Training Program, where I actually work for the Canadian Mental Health Assocation in some capacity or another. The idea is to get back into the workforce slowly while at the same time having my needs met by CMHA staff if I need it. They also help with job seaches, resumes, portfolios, and more of that good stuff. 

And with that you are caught up on my little life. My peace has now ended as people are starting to move around and start their days. I hope you all have a good one yourselves. Watch out for falling birds.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anti-Psychotic Dreaming

I just realized the last post I put up here was November 28, 2012. Wow, I'm really lazy. In that time many things have happened, almost all of them I won't make public. The rest, I just haven't felt like writing about either because of depression or maybe it just wasn't worth the effort. Either way, last night's dreams deserve mention.

I'm presently taking a slew of medication to control my Bipolar problem. They're all anti-psychotic meds with differing side effects. One causes short-term memory loss, one makes me sleep like a bloody narcoleptic, and one; my favourite, causes dreams that might be on par with an acid trip. Last night it kicked in. I want to get this down before I forget about it because it was so vivid and so strange. So sit back and enjoy a taste of my drug-induced subconscious...

The tower as it appeared in my dream.
I didn't add all the details, nor did I even
count the floors, but you get the idea.
I didn't want to spend all day on this.
I was sitting in my home office designing the new sky scraper that was to be my office. Once I was done, I picked a location and hit print. The wi-fi controlled 3D printer immediately began to construct the tower - 84 floors. I don't know how long it took to print the building, but I was soon moving into my office on the 42nd floor. I have no idea what or who occupied the rest of the tower.

Family and friends began to gather to celebrate. My car was in there too, again, I don't know how. My father showed up with his car, a 1952 Alpha Romeo sport. He had an entourage with him, his own friends some of which I knew, the rest were strangers. Somehow they all fit into the two-seater. It looked like a convertible clown car.

My father died in 2009.

More people began to gather. Now people in business attire trickled in; I assume they also work in the new tower. We were in a room that closely resembled a log cabin. Hand-hewn logs for walls, plank boards for a floor, no windows, and a great stone fireplace. Off to the distance I notice a bar. We, complete with our two cars, were in an Irish pub. While people drank my father handed me replica antique cars he said we could use. I argued with him because they weren't the same scale as the replicas we intended to use. I of course, lost to my father. I have no clue what the significance of the replicas were, except that we were sitting in our respective cars while having this arguement. 

More people came in. Everyone was talking about the upcoming wedding - in three days. There was a table set up near the door where people were depositing flowers. Strangely, all the same kind; mostly stems and leaves with small white flowers. The table quickly piled up. Some people simply entered, deposited their flower gifts, and respectfully backed out as if someone would ensnare them in some sort of trap if they entered. There was more talk of the wedding, but no talk of the bride and groom.

Later, there was news of a death in the family. I don't know who, as far as I knew every member of both families were already in the room. I looked around to see if any of them were actually dead, but everyone was drinking merrily. The news spread fast, everyone knew of the passing within minutes and the party turned into a wake. After all, we were in an Irish pub. (with two cars on the 42nd floor of a tower). The problem quickly became apparent, the wedding and funeral would have to take place on the same day, but which had priority? One suggestion was to lay the body out in the casket at the back of the church. Another was to.........

This is when I lost it. I either woke up here, or my brain just had enough. I've spent the morning trying to jog my memory, but there is nothing after this thought process. Maybe that's a good thing. I'm quite disturbed by the imagery in this dream. especially my father showing up. I know it's common to dream about relatives we've lost, but this was so NOT my dad. Everything about him differed in some way or another from the subconscious portrayal. Maybe I was dreaming of the way I wanted him to be? Maybe the way he wanted to be? I don't know. After all it was just a dream.

The night before I had a less intense and much shorter weird dream. I had joined the US Army, but I wasn't at any sort of boot camp, it was more like an academy. The uniforms were not military - short sleeve white collared dress shirts and navy blue dress pants. The shirt had a small patch on the sleeve the simply said US Army.

From the time I got there everyone seemed to know me, and all gave salutations as if I was a celebrity. I remember heading up to my classroom one day with books in hand. When I sat down I was handed a brochure with my name on it. Apparently I had won free flooring for my entire house from Marquis Tile in Windsor. So I still lived in Windsor, I have no idea where this academy was, what I was doing there, why I was known, and why I won. Again, just a dream.

So now you have it. This is what my medication does to me. I also apparently talk in my sleep. The kids have great fun when I crash on the couch and begin to chatter. One in particular I found amusing was telling Riley to cover her brother Iain with chocolate and put him in the oven on 400 for about an hour. I have no recollection of that or any other verbal dreams. But as long as I keep people entertained, that's fine by me. 

As least Kim knows that I can never keep a secret from her.

I promise to write again soon!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turning Tides

Once upon a time I relished being alone in this house. If I had the opportunity to spend my day alone in here on a vacation day, with the kids at school and the wife at work, it was pure heaven. I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I could take advantage of the time to play a game, or go for a walk, surf the net aimlessly, or raid the fridge, it didn't matter what I did. The fact was I could do whatever I wanted for a predisposed period of time. I loved it. I will admit now that there were days when I called in sick or took a vacation day to do just that - unwind and decompress.

In May 2011 I had my nervous breakdown and everything began to change. I was first on EI sick leave for 15 weeks while attending therapy for my undiagnosed issues. Later, those diagnosis was carved in stone as Bipolar, and things changed for the worse. But that summer of 2011 was one long vacation for me. I was still on payroll and bringing home some money, so as long as I didn't miss any appointments, I was free to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted. I spent long days walking - sometimes up to four hours. Just exploring the city. I went into bars I'd never seen before, stores I'd never thought to patronize, and yes, spent long days at home enjoying the silence.

In the fall of that year everything changed. I ended up in the hospital psychiatric ward for two weeks followed by three weeks outpatient intensive therapy. Then, in January of this year I started going to the Canadian Mental Health Association for treatment once per week, and now I'm in the Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic once per week. All the while getting medication adjusted on a regular basis. Tomorrow I have to have a blood test before 9am. This is just getting normal. The new normal. No more carefree days. No more vacations.

My days of lazing around when nobody is here are gone. I've had almost two years of this and I'm actually getting bored of it. When people are here I'm comfortable. It doesn't matter what floor they're on or what anyone is doing, but it's now comforting to me to have someone around. Today, I have a little more than half the day to myself (I have yet another appointment this afternoon), and as soon as my daughter left for school I felt myself getting uneasy. Not anxious, not scared, just uneasy. As if something was off. 

I could spend my day doing chores, there's still laundry to do, and a floor to lay down, but those end up on the back burner fairly quick. Especially on days when the uneasy feeling escalates to a full blown panic attack. Last week, it was severe depression. I never know anymore what the days will bring. Everyday is like a lottery with me only ever getting the consolation prize. So I've taken to bothering my friends and family during the day. I have some that spend their days at home so I drop in on them. I have a coffee and some conversation and carry on with my duties. It's a way of keeping my sanity in a situation that ironically enough I used to plan for and relish. Now it's routine and boring. 

I have some ideas to get back at it. Ideas that will make me some money and keep me busy, but until those ideas pan out, this is life. I will rely on my therapists and my family to keep me going. At the very least I've been able to reconnect with some old friends I haven't seen in a while, but this has been a shitty reason to have to do that - you should never loose contact with those you hold dear. Right now, I'm going to go play with my cat.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spread the word about Remembrance Day

In past years I have written extensively about Remembrance Day. It's not a holiday, but it should be, we all know that, but I treat it as one. A day to stop everything and reflect on what our war heroes did for us. They gave their  lives for our freedom. They died for us. It's just that simple.

Canadian troops going "over the top" during training near St. Pol, France. October 1916.
Photograph by Lt. Ivor Castle (Canadian Army)
This year I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what to write. I can't find it. It's just not there. The feeling I have towards the day are strong but the ability to find a topic new and interesting, that hasn't already been said, is difficult today. As a former military officer and now one with a mental disorder, I find myself conflicted. I want to write about our heroes, but I can't find it within me to do so.  

This morning I started my day discussing the two world wars with my 12 year old daughter, and she was eager to answer questions and ask them as well. That got the ball rolling. I'm proud of her for listening and having the talk with me instead of tuning me out for some dumb Facebook game. I'm proud of her for caring enough to actually recite back some of the things I said to her. Hearing my 12 year daughter recite the phrase;

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent. The great war was over.

That almost brought tears to my eyes. It also opened them. 

For years I have been working with cadets, and each year we participated in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Windsor. There's an incredibly strong military presence here, and the Windsor Cenotaph is always jammed with military units, cadet corps from all over the place, veteran's organizations, dignitaries, and finally spectators. It's truly a sight to see. So many people that you would be lucky to even glimpse the service you are attending. We even get representation from the American veteran associations - being a border city our legions work very closely with the Veterans of Foreign Wars branches, as well as others. I've always moved by the enormity of Windsor's turnout. Even with the veteran's ranks getting thinner each year, there seems to be others filling them back in again. 

I've noticed that lately those ranks are being filled in with youth.

Over the years I have made several attempts to do my part with the process of remembering. I have done school presentations complete with soundtracks and slideshows, I have argued with my publishers to include more about Remembrance Day in our papers (when I was working). I have involved my children and taught them about the day and what it means, and more. Sometimes these attempts at convincing others to care works out in a positive way, other times it falls flat. One school presentation I did (with me in full uniform), met with such animosity that the teachers themselves were at the back of the gym talking it up, never mind the one hundred or so children I was presenting to. It was terrible. Nobody seemed to care about the message.

But that kind of reaction cannot let one feel discouraged about teaching others what this day is about. This day is about the sacrifices people made willingly and without remorse. There's no way that we should ever forget that. And it is the duty of anyone who cares about it to pass along the passion to those who may not care or even know why we do this. 

Today in Windsor all government lands that contain flags have lowered them to half mast. I've already heard people asking why. This annoys me. You shouldn't need to ask today. Those that do ask need to be taught to care. Those who know already should pause in front of them and lower their heads in honour of those who died. Not just for two minutes at 11am, but all day.

Today has another special meaning. For the first time in several years our forces are home from Afghanistan. 158 died there, and many more have war wounds that will never heal. These wounds include PTSB, which has already claimed returning soldiers who decided to take their own lives rather than live with the trauma they witnessed. So the dying and suffering continues. 

So today, stop and teach someone. Stop and give a lesson to someone, whether or not they care, stop and explain the importance of Remembrance Day. Wear your poppy and know why you're doing it. Not just because it's a major source of revenue for the legions, but because it makes you remember. Hell, for that matter buy a pocket full of poppies and pin them on people who don't have one. Where it with pride over your heart.

And Remember.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Changing Seasons and a New Disorder

A while ago I said I was going to ease off on discussing my medical situation, I myself think it was going too far and this blog was becoming so one-sided that I may as well change it's name, never mind what the readers were thinking. The simple truth is, my life has become my illness. I haven't written much lately because it's difficult to find subject matter that really stirs my writing ambitions.

The news is in everyone's face everyday, Facebook is getting old, frankly it's now a book club and a vacation picture post site. So nothing new there. There have been new things in the house, I have finished rebuilding two bedrooms, new floors and paint and other decor, Halloween has come and gone and once again we went nuts with the spider web in the yard - 1200 feet of string rigged into webs complete with dropping spiders and a guy in the coffin, and more.

Other than that, it's the life of a stay at home dad. Dishes, dinner, laundry, cleaning, and the like. For a person who had worked non-stop for almost 20 years with graphic design shops and cadets, it's a bit of an adjustment. An adjustment that I'm not taking well. But that's the hand I've been dealt, so life goes on. Thankfully being Bipolar is not the end of one's work world or creative life. I will eventually be back on track. But for now, this is reality.

I haven't said anything here That hasn't already been said in previous posts. Except for one thing, now I'm on Lithium. My medication has been increased quite a bit because the panic attacks, depression and anxiety is actually getting worse. Personally I think the psychiatrist increased my meds because my wife came to my appointment with me dressed as a zombie, but I'm entitled to my opinion.

What worries me now is the change in season. People with mental illness typically suffer from an additional disorder called SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. I love getting out into the sunshine on a nice day and going for a long walk. It clears my mind and eases my pain. The sun gives one essential vitamins the body needs, as well as a warm happy feeling. In a word, the depression eases. In visualization therapy exercises when I'm having a particularly bad episode, it's a tree in a warm meadow that I see myself sitting under. In my mind it's real. So in the nice weather, the park, a slurpee and a warm breeze can make all the difference between depression and piece of mind. Come winter, that won't be an option. Only the tree in my mind will help.

I am not looking forward to this winter. I am not looking forward to the new disorder added to what I'm already suffering. The walls will close in on me. In intend to get out as much as I can, but I hate the cold. I hate the winter. So the goal is to keep busy in the house, get some long overdue projects done, spend more time on the drums, blog more, and hopefully get more graphics business on the go.

I have a couple of immediate concerns before I get too far ahead: this month is the tenth anniversary of the passing of my mother. November 13th will be one of the hardest days I will encounter for quite a while. Remembrance Day will not be easy again, no military affiliation anymore means I can't wear my uniform to the services, and it's only been a couple of years since my father - a veteran; passed away. The brightest note will be my daughter's birthday at the end of the month. One event at a time. That's the way I have to take it.

My wife gave me some good advice yesterday; you can't grab onto the future until you let go of the past. I don't know who said that originally, but to me it's profound and full of hope. I don't want to let go of all my past, the memories of who I was still make me who I am now, but if I could go back and change selections of the album of my life, I would in a heartbeat.

So for those who were reading my blog, I thank you, and apologize for the lapse. I will endeavour to be more prolific and more importantly, positive in the coming months. This will be my outlet and my effort to stave off the onset of the SAD disorder.

If anyone else feels they suffer from this, please comment. We'll get through it together.