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?

Ehem, 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

Reason #45 to Keep Living: Movement

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After reading through my last 101 Reasons to Keep Living post, I decided that “Movement” would be a fine companion to “Naps.” After all, movement (of the mind or body) is what makes me tired enough to nap, and the energy I gain from naps gives me the ability to keep moving.

Movement, for me, has always been a confusing dichotomy. On one hand, I love travel. Going from country to country, getting little to no sleep, learning new languages, making fast friends, experiencing foreign cultures, partaking in spontaneous adventures… These things have always held me enraptured. On the other hand, I have perhaps unrealistic dreams of owning a farmhouse complete with fireplace, overstuffed bookshelves, deep couches, rugs, cats, maybe two or three rambling kids… You get the picture.  Continue reading

Reason #42 to Keep Living: Leisure, Distraction, Variety

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Please refer above to the image which depicts a cat scratching at the face of a woman with buttons for eyes. Yes, those are beetles dropping from her clothing and hair. Yes, this picture should be a bit shocking, considering it comes from a children’s colouring book.

This image is of the “Other Mother” from the book Coraline, of course. It’s one of many fascinating drawings by Jill Thompson in The Neil Gaiman Coloring Book. Where the images in this book may disturb others, they calm me; they have provided me with leisure, distraction, and a sense of variety at the end of my long days of teaching and study. However much I adore my job and the children I teach, and however much I am stimulated by the literature I study, my brain is in desperate need of a break by evening.  Continue reading

Reason #41 to Keep Living: Understanding

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This photo was taken during a transition period: in the space of an hour before sundown. The world was not yet dark, but I could sense the shadows settling in. I couldn’t see the darkness, but I could feel it.

I am now sitting within my own transition period, and this moment before sundown has made me realize a number of things. It has made me realize I have been happy for a very long time now. That I have been very lucky. Through these bi-weekly blog posts I have been trying to be openly grateful for all of the minuscule, beautiful things in my life, but the words are not enough. I cannot express my gratitude for the health I have experienced, in body and mind, for the past eight months or so.

This moment before sunset, this dusk, has made me realize that mental illness has the tendency to be like the pain of giving birth. I have been told — because I myself have not had the experience — that labour pains are terrible, but after they are finished, they are finished. The memories fade. The scars don’t weigh deep in the brain. The same has held true for me and my mental illness. While I am sick, I am flabbergasted that many people don’t understand psychological sickness, that they think it a weakness and something to just “get over.” When I am not sick, when I am able to move through my days with ease and not much struggle at all, the darkness of mental illness lightens until I can see clearly again — or so I think. Continue reading

Reason #36 to Keep Living: Pain

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This winter has been the easiest for me in years. I’ve methodically incorporated wellness techniques into my schedule, including journal writing, daily gratification, a sunlamp, healthy eating (most of the time), consistent exercise, and medication. I have been efficient, productive, and social. I have been everything Western society claims one must be to achieve success.

But have I been successful? I haven’t written anything seriously my own in nearly a year. Worse than that, I haven’t wanted to write anything seriously my own. The desire to write comes sometimes, briefly, like the rank smell of cigarettes on the wind, and then drifts on by me. I write what I need to in order to get through my university courses, but my heart doesn’t settle deeply within the words like it always used to. Continue reading

Reason #31 to Keep Living: Resolutions on Illness

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I sometimes feel that I write too often about sickness, endurance, and healing. When will the illness, the writing about the illness, end? What will the resolution be? Will there be a resolution? Can there be? Then I remember that sickness, endurance, and healing are what this blog series is all about. It’s only natural that sickness should rear its malformed, energy-sucking, laughing head every once in a while.

I’ve had the sensation lately of reaching for an unreachable summit, a height so unattainable it exceeds my vision. I feel as if I’ve tried everything and exhausted all of my options. I’ve tried therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, yoga, sunlamps, journals — the list goes on. But, like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, mental illnesses and many other sicknesses are never resolved easily, and it is only patience and endurance that create healing.  Continue reading

“For a couple of minutes, his head bowed in an expression of mental effort, he stood motionless with the revolver in his hands and considered. ‘Of course,’ he said to himself, as if a logical, continuous and clear train of thought had brought him to an unquestionable conclusion. In fact, this ‘of course’ that he found so convincing was only the consequence of a repetition of exactly the same round of memories and notions that he had already gone through a dozen times within the hour. It was the same memory of happiness lost for ever, the same notion of the meaninglessness of everything he saw ahead of him in life, the same consciousness of his humiliation.”

— Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Sometimes, the internet is a beautiful place

Today my article, “When You’re Able to Work With a Mental Illness, but Still Live Below the Poverty Line,” was published on The Mighty. I was going to republish it here until I realized The Mighty‘s copyright wouldn’t allow me to do so. Whoops! I will keep that in mind for next time.

On an offhand but related note, the internet, though horrible at times, can truly be a beautiful place. Sites like The Mighty, with its immense group of contributors and readers, continually show me how important it is to share stories about sickness and suffering. The internet has provided a platform upon which we can do this. I am so proud to be connected to so many strong, talented individuals, no matter how virtual the connection may be.

Keep sharing, keep growing, and, if you must keep suffering, keep healing as well.