Wednesday, 28 November 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, 11 November 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, 3 November 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.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Define batshit crazy

Define batshit crazy.

This morning I asked my children for an opinion on my behaviour. I have homework to do for the Mood and Anxiety Disorder Clinic meeting tomorrow, and for the most part I can fill out the questionnaire, but one question eluded me - Define your behaviours. I can't do that. There's a reason I had Kim going with me to the psychiatrist's appointments with me. There's a reason I relied on other people to tell me when my judgement was clouded or non-existant. I can't recognize behavioural changes.

For the most part I can see where I am now compared to years ago, but these changes have evolved over time and to me they're perfectly normal. I can also see where I have tried my hardest to create change, but even then I don't know if my attempts at change have worked. Only those around me can tell.

My son had a great answer to my question - "If I didn't know what mental illness was, I would have said you were batshit crazy."

Thanks Iain.

I know that my judgement is clouded by my condition. I know that some decisions I make are not really up to normal. Taking a bottle of Scotch on a cadet weekend last October is the best example of that I can find, but there have been other times where my actions, which seem perfectly normal to me; have been outright stupid. The problem is I can't see where my reality ends and the clouds begin. Parenting is a perfect example. It's very difficult now to be a parent - making decisions that I used to make regularly regarding discipline of my children and the running of the household are now questioned constantly. Am I being too harsh? Am I being too lenient? Am I being an asshole? Am I batshit crazy? I just don't know anymore. It makes it very difficult to be a father.

My children are very aware of what I'm going through, as is Kimberly-Ann, and are all quite supportive, even if they want to escape it sometimes. OK, all the time. But I don't think I'm crazy.

Crazy is such a negative word. Almost a comedic word these days, it connotation has changes somewhat with the advent of support for mental illness. You're more likely to see the word crazy being used in reference to a comedy sketch or someone perfectly normal doing something off the wall for a thrill or just for fun. You don't see the psych ward at the hospital labelled "crazy people ward". Even the word lunatic is out the door. I think my cat is crazy, but thats as far as the term goes around here. Except of course the video of my wife singing the Oscar Mayer Wiener song at the top of her lungs in a Wal-mart in Iowa. That was also crazy. But she isn't.

And I don't think I am either. Especially not batshit crazy. I have Bipolar Syndrome, which affects a person's mental state adversely, and I have no qualms about announcing that. So my children being honest with my questions this morning was both appreciated and an eye opener. If I have accomplished anything with this illness I have managed to educate them about the issues of mental health.

I am so happy to have such intelligent children, even if they themselves are a bit crazy.


Monday, 2 July 2012

An open letter to my son on his birthday

Happy birthday Iain. 17 Years ago today you came into our lives. You put your mom through hell at the hospital, it took almost 3 days for you to decide to make your entrance, but that's another story. We should have known then you'd be your own person at times, doing things your way. For the most part, you have!

You started your life in a small 2 bedroom apartment with no air, no car, no computer, not much of anything. I wasn't working so I was your life then. I fed you, changed you, taught you, and all the other things a parent does, while your mom worked. Mostly, I filmed you. The video camera was the outlet then. I took you for bus rides just for fun, or to the beach to you could just play in the sand.

You got older and bigger. We began to outgrow the apartment and moved to a rented house, and I started working. Mom and I were on opposite shifts so everything worked out. We even bought a van by then, even though it was used. You didn't talk until you were 2 1/2 years old. That started worrying me until your mother reminded me that Einstein didn't say a word til he was almost 5. On a trip to the Niagara region around that time we went to Marine Land, and you surprised us both with a loud "Look at the Whales Mommy!" We were both shocked, but happy. You just didn't want to talk.

You grew up in that little house, you learned to ride your bike there, you started school there, we played in the park around the corner, you made friends, and you hated cleaning your room. We loved dumping the lego box on the floor and building things for hours, and jumping in the pool on a hot day.

When you were six, you asked why you didn't have a brother or sister. Mom and I always talked about having a second child but the time wasn't right. We knew then it was. Your sister Riley came along a little later. You loved her from the start. You were finally a big brother and you took to the role with great enthusiasm. You tried to teach her all the things you learned while she was still an infant. It didn't matter that she had no idea who this face was constantly staring at her, you felt the need to protect and teach her. And you did.

You continued to grow, and so did your interests. Some were passing fads, some stayed with you. You learned to read early and never let up. Now it's a passion of yours to get lost in a book. You dabbled in the toys that the other kids were into, but you kept coming back to your favourites, like music, books, lego, bikes, and other things. We knew you were on the right path. And you wanted to make sure your sister was there too.

We moved again in 2004, after Nana passed away, and Papa moved in with us. You had a new school to contend with and you missed your old friends. But you started over. You made new friends, and we realized that our entire family lived within 3 blocks of each other. Papa settled in and you guys had the wonderful opportunity to learn from him. You even played soccer with him in the back yard.

You wanted your new room painted in Toronto Maple Leaf colours, and decorated the same way, but you still had an aversion to cleaning it! You found new hobbies and interests, you tried new things, like golf, and we never could get you off your bike or out of the pool. By this time you began using the computer, and wanted one of your own, of course, we said no! You were becoming more independent and adventurous with new friends and the new school, but always, you looked out for your little sister. You helped me around the house, doing drywall, learning to use tools, helping with fences and gates, helping with a new patio, and more. You learned to climb the tree, and discovered that girls really aren't so bad after all.

Papa passed away in 2009 and it broke everyone's heart, especially yours. You were with him when he died. You showed true love for him, and from that day I knew what kind of person you were destined to be - one with a bigger heart than most, and one who cared about his family more than yourself.

Your interests continued, you began teaching yourself guitar, and you're getting quite good at it. You even financed your own bass, and paid it off yourself. Your interest in computers began to take the shape of recording your own music. Please don't stop that, you never know where you'll end up with your talent. You were the reason I wanted drums!

Today you turn 17. You're not an adult yet, but you're far from being a child now. You still watch out for your little sister, and you argue with us when you don't see our point of view, but you're always there to help people in need, regardless of who it is. You have been there for me when I was diagnosed with Bipolar, and you learned to help me with that - even though you keep referring to me as your certifiably insane parental unit. You help your mother often, you cook, you clean (when threatened), you have a good group of friends, and most of all, you believe and understand what family means.

Happy birthday Iain. For all the good and bad that has come our way over the years, you have only started your journey into this life, and you're on track to be a wonderful person. I love you.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Summer's Coming

For the past year or so, or at least since I was diagnosed and started staring at walls more, I have woken up to an empty house. It's a chain reaction in here, Kim gets up stupid early, then wakes up Iain to do his papers, who then wakes up Riley to go to school, who finally wakes me up on the way out the door. This week I have woken up every morning to find Iain on the computer. I'm so confused. He's on exams so he isn't heading in at any regular time. 

Summer is almost here and the kids will be home all day with me. It's already started. The computer is the household entertainment unit now. We used to think that getting rid of cable TV was the best thing we ever did around here, the kids would have no choice but to find something else to waste their time with than mindless boob tube. But as it turns out like any other Darwinian scenario, when faced with the need, intelligent creatures adapt and change to their new environments. 

The little buggers still won't leave the house.

Now we have the computer, XBox, Wii, and a plethora of other devises that require some sort of cord to keep them happy and inside. All this and the summer has yet to even begin, however you wouldn't know that if you stepped outside - 20 seconds and you loose 5 lbs. of water that you can feel evaporating from the top of your head. I hate hot. And me being as cheap (and Scottish) as I am, refuse to put in the air conditioner. When the temp in here reaches 105 I will consider it.

One huge problem with the computer - I've started a home graphics business. I get dibs, they don't like it. Oh well, I'm getting paid, they're not. On that note, check out Ink Blotch Graphics on Facebook if you suddenly decide you want something designed for whatever reason, say your neighbour's Bar Mitzvah, or any major concert event you happen to be sponsoring, I can help you with that. (By the way, I'm really good, just thought I'd toss in some blatant self-promotion). 

Is anyone impressed that I haven't mentioned being Bipolar yet? Just wondering.

So this summer promises to be weirder than most. The kids are older now, which means they're harder to keep happy. I'm older now which means I'm seriously into a mid-life crisis (as well as sick). And it's hot enough out to melt the metal chairs on the patio. We have some projects going on as well, which are going way too slow for my liking, We're taking out all the carpeting upstairs and installing hardwood flooring. So far, only one room is anywhere near done, so we're sleeping wherever we can, I drew the short straw and got the living room couch. So hire me so I can finish this damn job!

We're planning to drag the kids kicking and screaming out of here too, This being the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, and we being history nuts, we're going to Summerfest to see the tall ships and re-enactments of the battles between Windsor and Detroit. That should be fun, if my sandals don't melt to the pavement. I would love to drive up to the Niagara region to see their festivities too, Queenston Heights and the Brock Monument are worth the trip on any day, but with the added events I don't want to miss it. Only problem is my car needs new front bearings and won't make the trip. That means the hardwood will get pushed back again.

Whatever you do this summer, make it worth your while for your kids. Make it fun for you too, personally I'd love to spend it in the Caribbean on a beach, but that ain't gonna happen, so we make the best of what we have, and enjoy what we can. I'm not letting my illness wreck this summer. It's not a vacation for me, I spend way too much time in here now. It's a family time that should be relished and preserved. 

Now with my luck, someone is going to hire me for a massive job with a ridiculous deadline that eliminates all these plans. As long as they pay me. I can only wish.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Trying to change the subject

For months now I've written about my struggles with Bipolar Syndrome. It's been all consuming in my life for the past year, and frankly it's driving me nuts. Learning to live with something new isn't the easiest task, and there are days where I feel I've failed at coping mechanisms. Days where I just want to curl up in my bed and stare at the ceiling fan. 

This is getting a little boring.

I'm not really handling this well, and not really getting better, I have a long road ahead of me. So given that, I will quickly lose readership. I sit here when the mood hits thinking of things to write about, experiences I've had or an opinion on some news story. In the past I found it easy to write about camping trips or idiots, or idiots I've seen camping, or cadets - a lifelong love of mine, or my family, whatever, I've written about it. I wrote extensively about my father's passing and his funeral/wake. I've written about childhood experiences that provide fond memories, I've written about about our veterans, and I am rather proud of some of my Remembrance Day posts. I still get hits from Google searches on those.

So in a nutshell, here's what's happening around here that does not have anything to do with Bipolar.

• We're moving four rooms around at the same time and cleaning out the basement to accommodate that. In the end we'll end up with a spare bedroom and new flooring on the second floor. In the meantime, if you visit, don't expect a clean house.

• I've taken up Aikido in an effort to keep in shape. So far it just hurts.

• My son had all his hair cut off last night. It was past his shoulders in an attempt to be a rockstar, but he's now intent on joining the reserves. I am proud of him for making that decision. The military runs in our family and he's planning on carrying the torch.

• I am finally getting some freelance graphics work coming in, hopefully that keeps up a good pace. Not having a job I could use the income. Besides, working from home has some serious advantages.

• We helped my sister and brother in law move to a new house recently. Please don't ever ask me to help you move. 

• Kim and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary.

• Last week there was a bomb threat at a house around the corner, which can be a little disconcerting seeing that many police cars in your neighbourhood - every street was blocked off. At least it provided the  gawkers with something to stare at for a while. Nothing blew up.

That's really the just of it, a boring little life in Wilsonworld. 

This blog was originally intended as an outlet for someone in mid-life crisis. I'm still there, if anything, the crisis has gotten worse. At middle age my life has turned upside down. The question now is where do I go from here? I resigned my job because of the illness and have essentially become a stay at home dad and husband, not so much like several thousand other unemployed people in this area, but mine is different. So I have to find a way to re-organize my life and start off in a new direction. There are days where that seems like a distinct possibility, and days where I feel like I just want to quit. But I can't quit, I'm only 43. I have lots of life left in me, and I haven't even started my bucket list yet. It's been just over one year since all this started and I feel it's time to move on. Time to either shit or get off the pot. 

As Robert Frost said famously;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I just haven't picked the right road yet.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A little understanding if you will

Depression sucks. I've now been dealing with this condition for a year, and it sucks. Several times in the past I've written about my experiences with the disorder I've been handed - Bipolar, but it's the depression that hurts the most. 

Of all the posts I've written, one overwhelming constant from the comments (besides my friends giving me a cheery note now and then), has been people who are suffering from this disease from a depression standpoint. I have also taken the time to read other people's accounts of the disease and how it affects them, in my last post I quoted a book called 'An Unquiet Mind'. Whether you suffer or not, it's a must read. This woman is batshit crazy and made it through life hiding it and now teaches Psychiatry at a major university. It's really an unbelievable story. 

However, those of us suffering now can't imagine getting to that point yet. Hell, sometimes I can't imagine  getting out of bed in the morning. Yesterday I got dressed at 7pm, and that was only because I had to go to the store. I spent 5 hours sitting in my bed staring out a window. I didn't sleep, I didn't think, I didn't do anything except lay there existing. A lump on a mattress. No amount of thoughts - good or bad, would move me from that spot. Kim came home, obviously not happy about it, made Iain and I dinner, and did the dishes I should have have done. After dinner; eaten in silence, I again resumed my place on the couch. Yeah, depression sucks.

Today I'm forcing it. Today I'm forcing myself to get dressed, do some work around the house, have a hot bath, and write this blog. It's not easy at all. I'm pissed off that it has come to the point where I have to force myself to do these things. There used to be a certain amount of joy in these things. Going to work, going for a walk on a sunny day, even cutting the lawn. Not now, everything seems like a chore. 

I'm not alone.

If I've learned one thing since this journey started it's that there are millions of people out there suffering the same thing. Whether it's Anxiety issues, Panic, Depression, or any of the multitude of other conditions collectively labelled under mental illness, I'm just one in a million. My friends all know someone who suffers, some in silence, some are very vocal. I tend to be one of the vocal ones. Yet I feel alone.

There's treatment out there for this, psychiatrists prescribe medication, therapists provide comfort, organizations provide activities, hospitals provide beds for the worst cases, at this point I've seen them all. I think I've been lucky with the care I've had, but reading some other blogs and facebook posts, many are not so lucky. I've often joked that I feel like an American once I got sick because I lost my income and the care is costly. Not the medical care, but the toll it takes on the household. I'm lucky, I didn't get a bill from my 15 days in the psych ward. I don't get a bill from my psychiatrist, Even my therapist is free because I got into the Canadian Mental Health Association. I can't say enough about the work they do for those suffering. But I do feel for those who have lost everything because of an illness that has no signs or symptoms. Only the person suffering can truly understand it.

Depression is a joke in some circles. I've heard it for years - It's all in your head they say. OF COURSE IT IS! And how could someone not suffering from it possibly understand it? Until I was diagnosed Bipolar, I didn't either. All that changed last April. Now I get it. Now we have to understand it from the point of view of someone not suffering. 

Read up on it. Not just here, read other blogs, read medical websites, read anything. Depression is partially controlled by medication, but it's a serious condition that will always be with the person suffering. I don't know what set me off yesterday, but it doesn't matter today. Today I am pushing myself to be better. Tomorrow I will push again. And every day my friends and family will endure this journey with me. The same goes for the millions of others who suffer. It's not just them - it's husbands and wives, children, friends, workmates, anyone who's in contact with the person suffering. 

So consider those around you. Think about whether they are in the club, or know someone who is, and give them a break. It can be beaten, but I know I'm a long way off from that, but hope is a powerful tool. So is understanding and compassion.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Therapy can be fun!

I'm quickly approaching the first anniversary of the start of this whole mess pleasantly described as mental illness. Ironically, it's also my 18th wedding anniversary, so the question of what to get my wife for a present is becomes a little weird. Flowers? A night on the town? A quiet night home without the kids? Sanity? Who knows.

In the past year I've dealt with many issues that have literally been tossed at me and I feel like the lettuce in the salad. Mixed up. From Psychiatrists to therapists, to a two week stint in the psych ward, to outpatient classes on how to deal, to drugs. Lots of drugs. What scares me the most is that I'm just starting this path. While in the hospital I talked to other patients who have been going through this for years, and are worse off this I. I've read up on the issue of Bipolar disorder to great length, and Kim and my family have been a tremendous help in my times of crashing. One book I highly recommend is "An Unquiet Mind" by Kay Redfield Jamison. I was fascinated by it - she's a psychiatrist with severe Bipolar Syndrome. I'm stone cold normal compared to this woman - she's nuts. Her book follows her journey through her adult life an how she managed the disease (or in many cases, didn't).

After reading that book I knew there was hope for me. In January I started with a new therapist who on our first meeting gave me the book. I read it in two days.

It took from April til January to get the real help I think I need. I got into the Canadian Mental Health Association, who have provided me with a case worker, and I now see her weekly. It's a combination of someone to talk to and cognitive behavioural therapy. More importantly, someone to relate to. Kim is wonderful and has been there for me since the beginning, which according to her has been about ten years. All that time I thought I was just an asshole. Turns out I was un-diagnosed. Now my therapist has taken the reigns. This past week, she came to meet the family, and the conversation rarely turned to me. The two of them talked about how I've managed over the past months. I interjected every now and then, after all, it was my therapy session! It was a great meeting.

My psychiatrist is another story. I don't like him, but there is a huge shortage of doctors in that trade in Windsor. There should be 50, there's only 20. So we get who we get. Three times now he has actually given me shit for not getting better. Great bedside manner. Imagine a surgeon walking into pre-op and given a blast of shit to someone in need of surgery because they simply need it. That's how this guy makes me feel. On my last appointment, he insisted that my wife accompany me to the next appointment. Does he think I'm faking? It was also a pain in the neck to get him to understand that my meds no longer work. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks happen every day. Depression is so severe that I haven't even gotten dressed til just before the kids come home from school. I'm spending my days sleeping and sitting on the couch staring into space. In a nutshell, I really don't give a shit about anything. When I do, it's forced.

Medication is one third of this equation. The other two are therapy and self help. The therapy has been arranged but the self help is a little difficult when you don't care. He upped my meds finally, and they are just starting to take affect. Now I sleep all the time.

He told me I have no structure in my life. Wrong. I have structure, it's just really difficult to motivate myself. I'm starting with little things, like getting dressed as soon as I get up. I do the laundry and the dishes, and when I can, I cook dinner (it helps though if you know how to cook, and I don't). I signed up for Aikido classes through the CMHA, and I am really enjoying that, I help around the house, I help my family, I am developing a new structure. It just has to evolve from what I had before. I'm also doing some freelance graphics work, which keeps me current with my trade.

My therapist has been instrumental in getting this far. Up to January I've had nothing but the runaround - the hospital was a warehouse for the mentally ill, the outpatient program was three weeks of classes on how to deal with this - funny thing is that in our condition, nobody had the ability to concentrate on the material, such it was pretty much useless, and the shrink, well, I've already addressed him. Self help is only feasible when you can manage it on your own. I can't imagine how people with level one Bipolar (I'm level 2 - not as bad) manage that aspect. You're suppose to put yourself on a schedule and follow routines, you're suppose to meditate and practise 'guided imagery'. I can do these things to an extent, but it's still difficult to concentrate. I find it easier to concentrate on the ceiling fan spinning from a horizontal position on the couch. But my therapist and my wife are helping me. Lists to do, encouragement to get up, small chores or tasks, baby steps in other words.

I'm still having difficulties, mainly anywhere where there is a large group of people, made worse by the noise factor. It's very easy to find myself slipping into an anxiety attack in these situations. The trick now is that I know this will happen and I can somewhat prepare for it. My weekly sessions usually start with what incidents I had that particular week. Lately they have been diminishing and that's a good sign, but I have a lot of work to do yet.

I have met people on this journey that have been suffering for years with no way out. I'm approaching one year since my first breakdown. I know the road is long and winding. I know there will be many paths to choose, but I also know I finally have some help along the road. As the old saying goes, don't walk behind me, I may not lead, don't walk in front of me, I may not follow, just walk beside me and be my friend.

I know now I have friends that I can count on.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

'U' define Canadian

Living in a border town we are inundated with many things American. I live within sight of the Renaissance Centre - General Motors World Headquarters, in Detroit. I hear the ships on the Detroit River, I get Detroit news on three stations and only one Canadian station, we tend to use both metric and imperial measurements here, and the list goes on.

Here more than anywhere else, it's really hard to define 'Canadian'. Sure we like hockey, we're laid back, we take a different view of the world than most other nations; I still believe we're a peacekeeping nation rather than a fighting one. Our economy isn't in the toilet like many other countries, believe or not. We don't have quite as many boarded up homes around here from when the bottom dropped out of the housing market in the states. Detroit is a mess - take a look from Google Earth and you can see entire blocks laid waste and nothing but empty areas of urban overgrowth. It's really too bad what' gone on there. But here, we still thrive.

I have met many Americans here, most have been quite nice, intelligent and to look and talk to them you would never know their origin. I've also talked to some close minded idiots. Not by choice, believe me. I remember one guy being completely amazed that we had a McDonald's restaurant here, and another guy who thought that all of our cars would be different than American cars. (I really don't know what he was getting at there). I didn't have the time or the inclination to tell him that many cars on American roads are built in Canada. That would have made his brain explode.

Of all the things that make us unique, nothing stands out more than our language and speech. Having worked in publishing for many years I am a grammar nazi. I hate things being spelt incorrectly and used inappropriately. I walk down streets and read signs and when I see a mistake in the spelling I want desperately to go in and smack the proprietor. We use the Queen's English here. That means one thing to most people - extra useless letters, mostly 'U'. For example - humour, clamour, colour, cheque, endeavour, neighbour, etc. Our language is a combination of American and Queen's English, also heavily influenced by our own french heritage. We also have this nasty little habit of switching letters around just for fun, for example - centre instead of center.

I always corrected these idiosyncrasies when I was working, and always will. It's a small thing that bothers me, even though I could pick more important battles. But our identity is not yet truly defined in the world. Canadians as a people are generally boring in the eyes of the world. We don't start fights, we keep to ourselves, we travel a lot without saying a lot, and we play a lot of hockey. Ironically, our national sport is lacrosse. Figure that one out. We tend to take on traits of European nations instead of following the lead of our largest and closest neighbour, the US. We have a parliamentary system, we have a governor general, we still consider the Queen our head of state. But we also have the Canadian Football League. We seem to be towing the line between two different cultures. There's nothing wrong with that, I just prefer to create our own identity and not have one thrust upon us.

So we raise a glass to the maple leaf. Even though one of my neighbours flies the star spangled banner.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Tree

The tree was our play place in 1978. It was an old oak near the edge of a field that my friends and I would spend hours playing around, on, under and in. Someone at some point had nailed boards to make it easier to climb, I guess they had hoped to build a tree house someday, and never got around to it. But that didn't matter to us, the tree was so sprawling with branches that several of us managed to get into it at once and play.

When you're nine and hiding in a huge oak tree you feel like you're on top of the world. You can see roof tops, and it feels as if birds fly under you instead of over you. We were fearless there, nobody ever felt like they would fall out, and nobody ever did, but that didn't ease our parent's fears about the tree. To us it was a wonderland.

Summer days were spent there. It was our meeting place, our starting place for adventures, we even tried to finish the tree house at one point, but we weren't allowed to borrow the tools we needed from our homes. Long summer days turned into long fall days, and eventually we'd have to leave the tree to it's winter state, stripped of it's foliage, then we played in the snow, under the tree of course.

From the tree we could see our school - Roseville Public; way off in the distance, across a huge park. We could also see the townhouses that made up Roseville, and the farmers fields that at that time came right to the edge of the park, and only yards from the tree. Sometimes we would play hide and seek in the fields when the corn was up, until we were chased out or left for something more adventurous to do. But the tree was always our way back. We never got lost as long as we could see it.

I only lived there for a year, but that was one of the best summer's I'd ever had. When we moved away I didn't think about the tree too often, being as young as I was I found other places to occupy my energy.

But I never forgot about the tree.

Last night I had a panic attack that was worse than any I've had in months. Kim sat with me and walked me through a peaceful place. In her calming way, she directed my thoughts to a tree in a field, on a bright summer day. A tree so big it's shadow cast out across the waving grass a hundred yards from it's source. As I calmed myself down, I saw my tree. It was like she was in my head. My memories immediately fell back to 1978 and being a young boy playing with my friends at the tree.

It's still there. My son and I went for a long bike ride a while back and we found ourselves in Roseville. I found the tree. It was still healthy and large, but not as big as I remember it. The boards were gone, but I could remember where every one was. I stood there for a while staring at it, and a flood of memories came flowing back, my friends, the branches, meeting under the tree, all of it. The field in the back is now full of factories, but the park and school are still there. What bothered me most though, was that the tree was now on private property of a factory, surrounded by an eight foot fence. No longer would young boys be climbing it. It was so close, yet so far. But at least it's a part of my youth I can still see, even if I can't climb it anymore.

Thank you Kim, for bringing this memory back to me.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Making a list and checking it twice

I posted that as my Facebook status the other day, and for some unbenounced reason everyone thought that my mental illness had taken over and I thought it was still Christmas. While I have had many bad days, delusions have yet to take place. Hence the list - I'm working on not having delusions.

I'm working on fixing the thing in my head before it gets worse. The little part of my brain that says 'you're sick, I'm proof, and you're getting worse'. It's the Oblong Blahblahgetcha or some stupid latin medical term, I don't know. I have learned that my particular illness is the misfiring of serotonin and a couple of other chemicals to the synapses - too much misfiring. The extra chemicals cause me to over stimulate and eventually crash. That's the basis of the panic attacks. I am therefore on meds called SSRIs - Selective Serotonin Release Inhibitors.

To put it in a short term - it stops me from firing all barrels at once.

But the other side of that coin is depression. For that, I need a kick in the ass. It drives me nuts that one day I can be running around doing all kinds of things with all kinds of energy, and the next, I can't get out of the chair. Hence my list.

I have to put everything in writing now so that I get things done. It used to be called the 'honey do list'. Now its the 'get off your ass list'. The main difference is the author.

I have resigned my job, something that scared the hell out of me for the longest time, even though I knew I would never go back to it, but I held on to it because of hope, hope that I would come around and go back, the logical side of me never saw that, only the delusional side. So resigning has added several items to a list - getting my record of employment, getting a letter from my psych explaining why in order to apply for EI, etcetera.

I had a particularly bad week last week, and went to the hospital on my own accord to see a crisis worker, more crap to the list. I have to get my referral to the Mood and Anxiety Clinic and send it to the CMHA.

The crisis centre wants me to get a referral to another psychiatrist, hence one more thing on the list - a visit to my family doctor with a name and a doctor's name. I also need more bloodwork. Side note - I used to have a terrible fear of needles, now I've had so much blood taken since I got sick that I don't care if they take it out of my tongue.

And so much more to do, I won't go into all the details. So I'm not thinking Santa's around the corner, I'm not going completely nuts, I'm just putting yet more ducks in a row. So many in fact, that I dream of ducks. Too many fucking ducks. All lined up in nice neat rows.

Such is the process of the modern medical system. Lists, weird dreams about ducks, and strange un-pronounceable body parts. I'm going on 10 months since my diagnosis of Bipolar, and now it's more of an inconvenience than an illness. I guess that's progress.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Everything for a reason, for everything, a time

For most of my life I've been living my father's lies.

He lied to us from the day we were born about his history, his experiences, his past. He kept everything truthful from us, except his generous spirit and sense of humour. He couldn't fake those, for those were the qualities that beyond everything else is what he's remembered for. Not his military service, not his jobs, or his fetish for building models, but for nailing my mother's shoes to the floor. That's the dad I remember.

All our lives he forbade us from researching his family. When my mother was bit by the genealogy bug years ago, he shook his head and said "why bother - they're no use to us dead". My mom just shook her head and told him to go back to his doll houses. (another hobby - he built doll houses and gave them away to needy kids). Before she died in 2002 my mother had managed to trace portions of our heritage back to the Huguenots in France, and proven United Empire Loyalist Status. She uncovered many mysteries and interesting stories about our ancestors, and for that she left us a legacy of knowledge. We know, at least on her side, where we came from.

Dad just shook his head and reaffirmed to us that he did not want that route taken with his side. We willingly obliged him, and short of his stories, never pursued his family.

Dad began getting sick around 2006. Eventually dementia wore its way in to his wonderful head and heart. He began getting his stories mixed up. His facade was falling. He began to mistake his children for his siblings, all of whom he said died in the Coventry blitz in 1942. He always said he was the only one who survived because he was off at war at that time in India and Burma. One day he said something to Kim and I that unravelled everything - he said "I wonder if any of them are still alive?"

Kim and I both looked at each other, and knew then that the stories were fabricated. We knew he had led us all down the garden path he created for us. Now we needed to know.

Knowing that his time was short we began having leading conversations with him. Kim is especially good with this, she had a bond with dad that none of us could, and she began asking more questions, which he freely answered, without straying too far from the wartime storyline. Bits and pieces of a former life were coming through.

We knew then that somewhere in Scotland, we had cousins, and possibly aunts and uncles.

We never broke our vow to dad. We did not pursue anything at that time. It wasn't until he passed away in 2009 that we decided we needed the right answers. My sister did all the dirty work, sending away for documentation from the Scottish government. These docs proved our theory - we had family there.

For the past two years we've been following leads with no luck. This weekend, we struck gold. Several weeks ago out of frustration I posted a Facebook message to dozens of Wilsons in the area in Scotland we knew the family originated. The message was full of names and dates that would surely convince someone also related to these people that we too were family. I also wrote on that message that if this doesn't apply to you, please forgive our intrusion and move on with your lives. One person replied on Saturday confirming that he is indeed our cousin.

We found a living relative in Scotland.

After 43 years of lies, we are closer to truth than ever before. The elation of that moment will stay with me. I stared at his message for the longest time, and could not reply. I could not even read it to Kim - I called her over for her to look at. Then I called my sister and read it to her - she started crying.

This person was skeptical, and wanted proof we weren't scamming him. I understand that in this age of electronic deception, and we had to find him proof of who we really were. I can only imagine his reaction as well - he are these people from the other side of the world claiming to be cousins. We gave him proof and answered his questions. But we have so many.

Yesterday we arranged a group chat that lasted about 2 hours, and just got to know one another. We asked a few questions, but tried not to overload him. He's younger than me, so he's not of a generation that knows the answers readily. But he is willing to dig for us. That's a great start. That's the beginning of a relationship that we hope will first off bear fruit and answer the lies, and secondly, open relations between one family on 2 continents.

We found the answers we were looking for. The feeling of overwhelming jubilation set in. Last night I couldn't sleep. I just kept thinking about the weekend and what we've found.

I wonder if winning the lottery feels like this. Somehow, money can't compare to the feeling of having your heart lifted so high.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Huge Elephants

I'm about an hour away from doing something that will affect me greatly. It scares the hell out of me.

My diagnosis has messed up everything I know in the past year and I've had to make a lot of difficult decisions. But everything to this point pales in comparison to the one I have to make this morning. I will be meeting with my psychiatrist soon to decide whether or not to go back to work. Part of me wants to, but a bigger part of me realizes that I can't - not in the job I have waiting for me in it's present form.

The medication and therapy has not worked as it should and I'm still having major issues. Most days are good, but bad ones are enough to make everyone around me cringe. The fear and panic associated with the disorder is unbearable at times and I just want it to stop, but I have to let it ride it's course. No medication helps. No soothing music, or calm voice helps, I just have to ride it out. There is progress on this, I'm getting a referral to the Mood and Disorder Clinic this morning, problem is the waiting list for that program is six months long. I'm also on the list for a CMHA worker to begin working with me soon. (Canadian Mental Health Association).

So here I go, into the unknown yet again, list of questions and arguments in hand. Hopefully I can make more progress today, but the one elephant in the room isn't shrinking. He's growing. Gotta stop feeding that damn elephant.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Things that annoy me today

Let the rant begin.

  1. February. Even though it feels like March, it's still called February.
  2. American politics. Being Canadian, I can't - and won't - even try to understand them.
  3. Bipolar Disorder. If you've read this blog, 'nuff said.
  4. Hollywood. There are no movie stars anymore, just people they found on YouTube. I still don't understand the Kardashians or Snookie.
  5. Mortgage Companies. Or anyone else that can take over your bank account. Let's go back to mattresses like our grandparents did.
  6. The Syrian Regime.
  7. The Iranian Regime.
  8. The Sudan Regime.
  9. The American Right-wing nut job wanna-be Regime.
  10. The City of Windsor and it's attitude toward spending millions without any purpose.
  11. CNN
  12. Fox News
  13. The corporate policy of building things cheaper so we have to throw them out and buy new ones every three years filling our landfills and breaking our bank accounts.
  14. NSF fees for things that weren't your fault.
  15. My psychiatrist.
  16. SOPA, ACTA, or whatever that bill is called now.
  17. Kim Jong Un. I just had to get that nutball in here somewhere.
  18. Random Judges who can overturn government legislation because they don't like it.
  19. Telemarketers. Yup, they're still there even though we're on the 'don't call list'.
  20. Schools that play more movies in class than teach anything. When we try to decide on a movie, my kids say "no, we saw that one in class last week".
  21. A complete lack of financial assistance to people suffering from mental health issues in Canada. That would be me.
  22. The fact that EVERYTHING requires a credit card today. Face it, some people don't want the stupid things!
  23. Rising food and gas prices for no reason.
  24. Canadian politician's pensions.
  25. Things being left in the same place in the house everyday, and everyday I point out where it's supposed to go.
  26. The hype over the Superbowl halftime show and ads. It's just a friggin' game.
  27. The amount of crap in my basement.
  28. The amount of crap in my head.
  29. The amount of crap in my to-do list.
  30. The fact that I can't part with any of the aforementioned crap.
  31. Genealogical roadblocks. Where the hell are all you people!
  32. Lack of funding for youth groups - Cadets, Scouts, Guides, etc.
  33. People texting me and wondering why I won't text back. Face it - I won't.
  34. Reality shows. Spend some money and bloody well entertain me. These shows are crap.
  35. Steve Jobs. Really, did you have to die?
  36. Anyone else who's died lately. I want a word with you when I see you again.
  37. People who win the SuperMax lottery. Just because I didn't.
  38. Writer's block. The reason for this rant.
  39. Medication side affects. You wouldn't believe some of the shit I've endured.
  40. And finally, Robert Plante won't re-unite with Led Zeppelin. What the hell is the world coming to? Are you that arrogant? You're today's asshat.
The opinions here are my own, if you don't agree, please feel free to comment, I'll feel free to delete them.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The battle inside my head

So far I've found that being Bipolar has absolutely no perks, unless of course you revel in the idea of a constant shift from depression to manic states.

I don't.

The past few days I've been smacked with the former, and it hasn't been easy for my family.

When the depression hits, you don't want to do anything, or should I say, you 'can't' do anything. I keep telling myself to get off my ass and do something, but the nature of the beast brings me back down to a fetal position again. I try to entertain my self with books, games, even chores, but most activities are dropped under the pretence that I'd rather sulk. Depression just plain sucks. I've found my safe place is here in the house, so I don't like going outside, even though yesterday it hit double digit temperatures, I should have enjoyed the walk to the meeting with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

That was fun. For just over 2 hours I sat with a case worker going over the past year's trials and tribulations. She was good about it, and it was with good purpose, I now have a case worker (or will within a month's time, they're a bit busy). She brought me back to the first day I found I had a problem and moved forward from there. Not an easy thing to do - I've been through so much since last April and remembering it all was quite difficult. Dates, medications, breakdowns, family issues, all of these had to be logged. All of these had to be pulled from an already strained memory. Retelling the same stories though, is getting old. There are some instances that are quite vivid and I don't want to keep talking about them, but I have to, for example my 2 week stint in the psych ward.

At the end of it I was shaky and full of anxiety again. Even though it was a productive meeting. I came home with a package full of new information and places to go if the need arises, a referral to the Mood Disorder Clinic, which is at a hospital by physician's referral only - I have to have my psychiatrist enrol me for that. Not to mention there's a 6 month waiting period to get in.

She saw right through me. She noticed my shaking and heard in my voice that I want nothing better than to put this past me and get back to work, which I do. These walls, comforting as they are, are closing in. Not to mention the lack of a paycheck.

Yup, I want to get better.

The manic part is sometimes preferable to the depression, but not much. Last weekend I went on a rampage cleaning the family room and storage room. This of course had the obvious affect of knocking me out. Once done, I crashed. This manic episode, where one tries to do everything possible in the shortest period of time can be dangerous. Some people that I've talked to turn to the bottle or drugs when this happens, some run, some get violent, I clean. Whatever the manic state creates in a person, the ending is always the same - crash and depression.

Hence the past couple of days. Today is new, I'm alone in the house listening to Rachmaninov, having a coffee and writing while the sun shines through the front window. It's all good. I know I have some laundry to do today, and I have some other things I want to get done, but it's early. Relaxed as I am, it's difficult to tell what will happen an hour from now that will change everything. It really sucks.

Some episodes over the past months have started this way - a beautiful sunny day where all is good with the world, and suddenly I'm in an ambulance. (I still don't remember police in my kitchen last November when I passed out in an episode). So being alone is a double edge sword; I relish the peace and quiet, the music and the freedom to carry on as I wish, I always have, but there's the ever present fear of having the day go horribly wrong.

So today I will put stressors out of my mind, I may not even check the mail. I will do what makes me content and calm, and I will get through it. I may even enjoy it. Writing this is the first step to that. I don't even care if anyone reads it, to me it's therapy, and necessary. Readers of this blog have been good for my mental state, your kind words and compliments on the writing boost me up, but it's difficult to do. I re-read the comments to feel better. I never however, re-read the blog!

So to those of you who have played that part, thank you. You have helped me get through this even though you don't know it.

That and the anti-psychotic meds.


Thursday, 26 January 2012

Keith Wilson - Graphic Designer

So today I've decided to be self-promoting and selfish. Call me shallow, but I have done some pretty good stuff over the years, and I want to share them. There's a reason though, so hear me out.

Graphic artists are a skilled trade. I went to college for this, and have spent almost 18 years developing my skills in print publishing, corporate identity, marketing campaigns, copywriting, and more. Good work is worth the money one pays for it. I'm not cheap, but there are much more expensive artists out there who I see as gouging their customers. There are also people who think that because they own a PC that has basic pre-installed software, they can design anything. Therein lies the problem. They're taking my business.

People would rather do it themselves than pay me to do something professional and worthwhile. Even some of my previous clients have gone this route trying to save a buck. I don't blame them, but because of their actions two things have happened: 1) My profession is becoming obsolete and 2) The design work you see out there is just plain crap.

Maybe I'm a little one sided on this issue, but it really bothers me.

Here are some pieces that I've done over the years that I'm rather proud of, you be the judge. I'd welcome any comments, good or bad. One thing I always told up and coming designers is that you must maintain humility in this business - somewhere down the line someone is going to hate something you've done, and you can't be offended by the criticism. Personally, I welcome it.

First off, my graphics business logo...

Next, a poster I designed for our cadet corps reunion. 12x18 gloss print. This one I'm rather proud of. This was part of a larger campaign to advertise the reunion, including smaller posters, tickets, and a facebook page.

This one is a marketing piece for my employer, done up as a leave-behind for sales reps advertising our printing capabilities. Double sided, bi-fold.
This is the inside spread of the piece.

Finally, a double page spread from a magazine I worked for called In Business. Each year we put together a huge spread on the North American International Auto Show. It usually ran 8 to 12 pages depending on ad sales, and this example was my baby that year. The 12 pages took me an entire week of painstaking work selecting the photos to be used, taking the backgrounds out in Photoshop and finally working them into the spreads. This is the intro spread.

So this is just a taste of what training and experience can do. I'm by no means the best at this job, I have worked with some amazingly talented designers over the years, and they each deserve their own credit. But this is my blog. You can view larger versions of these and other pieces I've created over the years at my online resume at

As I said, I'd appreciate any comments. I'd also appreciate the opportunity to blow our horn as a trade. Graphic arts usually costs companies money, but if it's the look you want, it's worth it.