Reason #55 to Keep Living: Making Space in a Crowded Mind

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Although I’m a detailed person when it comes to my schedule, my teaching, and, most importantly, my writing, I have never liked the act of organizing. Making phone calls, memorizing dates, and attending to trivialities puts my mind in a state of foggy uproar.

Unfortunately, if you are familiar with the Canadian health care system (I live in Ontario, and this is the system I am talking about—it could differ from province to province), you will know how agonizingly slow and complicated getting appointments can be. There is the receptionist for the family doc, the receptionist for the surgeon; there are referrals and booking times and addresses and phone numbers. Oh, so many phone numbers. Don’t talk to me anymore about phone numbers… Continue reading

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Reason #54 to Keep Living: Grief

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Grief is pain. And it is a reason to keep living.

I know, it seems paradoxical at first. But bear with me. Grief is pain. In fact, grief feels a lot like mental illness, but grief has a source for the emotional pain where mental illness has none. In this way, grief is a little bit of a relief. It’s purposeful. I can see the point behind it. I can feel something intrinsically human in my own pain and the pain of my family.

Also, grief is fantastic in the way that it brings people together. My grandma died this past week, and I have seen more of my extended family in the last five days than I have perhaps in my entire life. Continue reading

Reason #53 to Keep Living: Progress

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Photo taken by WordsFest London staff

This is, and always will be, one of my biggest reasons to keep living.

On Sunday morning, I had the privilege of reading and speaking with four other writers at WordsFest in London, Ontario. This is the kind of event I couldn’t have been part of three or four years ago — partly because of health reasons, and partly because my writing was no where near good enough to be read in front of a room full of people. My writing still needs A LOT of work, but opportunities like this remind me that I am progressing, and that my constant work and practice is getting me somewhere.

As a writer, signs of progress are sometimes few and far between. I will take what I can get, and this one was more than enough. Continue reading

Reason #52 to Keep Living: Routine

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Because I’m a person who believes creativity and spontaneous adventure to be life-giving, it was very eye-opening for me to discover productivity and a certain solace in the schedule I set out for myself during the past few weeks. I had been living half-healthy for a long time, drifting always between exhausting illness and the ability to function.  A routine was nearly out of the question, especially one that took me away from the house for long periods of time.

Then I discovered that I was suffering from low iron and a variety of other minor, but (thankfully!) definable and treatable, maladies. With treatment and time, I was able to follow a routine again, and I realized for maybe the first time in my life the value of repetitive action, of predictability, and of time away from the house. Continue reading

Reason #51 to Keep Living: Birthdays

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I’m sorry this post is a day late: yesterday was my 23rd birthday, and the day was a little too jam-packed to construct a proper blog post. Here is a photo of me about to blow out the candles on my cake. I love cake, so I was pretty happy.

I was also surrounded by family. These are the people who helped me get to my 23rd birthday in the first place. Because for a while I didn’t believe I would make it to my 20th, 21st, or 22nd. Now here I am at my 23rd. I couldn’t feel more accomplished or more surprised at my own perseverance.  Continue reading

Reason #50 to Keep Living: Gratitude

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I am — we are — halfway to 101 reasons to keep living. Above you’ll see a (rather simplistic) collage I made, including some of the photos posted throughout this blog series.

Beginning with my first post, “Color,” I intended this series to be specifically about mental illness. 101 Reasons to Keep Living certainly has been about mental illness, but it has been more about mental health in all of its facets and about life in general. Because, unlike other illnesses, mental illness is intricately connected to every part of our lives. It may be genetically transferred, it may be rooted in human physiology, but it is undoubtedly shaped by our environments.

Despite experiencing my regular ups and downs over the last two years, I have found joy, inspiration, and beauty in my everyday activities precisely because of these blog posts. My “environment” has never seemed so spectacular.

So, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for clicking, reading, and showing me that you care. Thank you for discovering your own reasons to keep living.

Thank you for surviving, really. That’s all I’m trying to say. All of these posts, all of these pictures, are only to thank you for surviving. That’s the gist of it. Thank you for living and for writing about it. Thank you for following me in my own survival.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, only fifty-one more reasons to go! Continue reading

Reason #49 to Keep Living: Rejuvenation

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It has been a very, very long time since I have felt rested in any sense of the word. Perhaps as a consequence, all the writing I have done in the past five months or so has been forced (at worst) and usually uninspired.

I wrote the final exam of my undergraduate degree just under a month ago, and it has taken that long to rediscover my “normal” self (if there is such a thing as my normal self). Some time away from the city — see the picture above — and some time spent with my rather carefree brother helped to fight my fatigue. During the last couple of days I have experienced actual excitement and a sense of purpose with regards to my creative writing. How extraordinary! I had nearly forgotten what a difference inspiration can make. Continue reading

Reason #48 to Keep Living: Staying Offline

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Disclaimer: I did not take this photo; my brother did while climbing a tree in order to get a closer look at this long-nailed, big-lipped buddy. I was down below, on the ground, watching the magic unfold. In another, blurrier photo, the porcupine shows his orange teeth in what looks like a smile, but is probably closer to a territorial snarl.

This all happened in a forest far away from the internet. I spent a week at a camp, not going online once, and found it heavenly. I have always been a proponent of “less screen time,” but I often fail to achieve my own ideals, what with this blog and various social media outlets pulling constantly at my attention. I didn’t realize until I spent this week away from computers how much these distractions were affecting me. Recently, my creative writing has been scarce — partly because my focus was previously on academic writing for summer school, but also partly because my mind was much too scattered to produce a coherent narrative.  Continue reading

Reason #47 to Keep Living: Achieving My Goals

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Tomorrow I will write the final exam of my undergraduate degree.

Wait, what?

Ahem, yes. Tomorrow I will write the final exam of my undergraduate degree!

If you’ve been following my blog for a little over a year, you might remember my post, Time and Too Many Monsters: Why I am Leaving Formal Education, in which I professed my reasons for dropping nearly all of my classes in the early spring of 2016. For a short synopsis, my decision had both to do with persistent mental health issues and a stagnant, frustratingly dreary existence that went along with university life. Continue reading

Reason #46 to Keep Living: Passing Time

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The photo I wanted for this blog post was one of me completing the final essay for my undergrad degree, but it just so happens that not many people like to hang around taking pictures of me sitting with my laptop, especially when I usually tell them to bugger off because they are distracting me. Instead I have this photo of the sunrise on my cottage lake. The water is quiet and mist-covered at six o’clock in the morning, and this photo will serve well enough to represent the passing of time.

I am usually the opposite of grateful for the passing of time. I don’t like to see years go by, let alone months or even weeks. Recently, however, the passing of time has seemed the greatest blessing. The passing of time means the end of summer school, monotony, and exhaustion. The passing of time, in fact, means more time. Continue reading