Saturday, December 18, 2010

"The Badger is Moving"

 Hi everyone, I am happy and excited to announce that I am moving my blog to it's own domain name effective now. is the new home to The Emperor Has No Toque, and I hope you all follow me there. While blogger has been very good to me, I feel that now that I have developed more readers it was time to get my own website. I have moved all my posts, comments and pics to the new site. I look forward to seeing you all there. If you were nice enough to add me to your blog roll, I would appreciate it if you updated to . Again thank you for all your support.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Words of Kindness From What Seems Like The AntiBadger"

  I am not know for my words of kindness and thanks, as I am usually seen as, somewhat polarizing and pretty dark. But I can not resist this post as it needs to be said. In a age where we have seem to have rotated back to the Me, Me,Me attitude of the 80s I am moved to emotions at the pure selfless kindness of others of late. You see, I am not always the nicest guy and I am capable of some pretty awful interpersonal issues. Yet despite my relationship dysfunctions people have been very kind to me and I am not sure why but I appreciate it and it makes me want to become a better man.

 I have had other people whos kindness has made me want to be a better man in my life one example is my late wife. I was a real train wreck when we met, worse than I am now, I know hard to imagine, but she saw some kindness and good and motivated me to be a better person.

 So now, after my season of devastating personal emotional collapse and relationship boundary destruction people have still reached out to me, and have supported me in my mental and physical battles. I have   had amazing words and acts of support which have moved me emotionally and deeply. I have had support from a friend who I had recently hurt badly by my actions who, put herself second to make sure I was ok after surgery. These are acts of true human kindness and caring in a manner which I cannot ignore.

 To Ignore these outreaches and acts would be a affront to the people who reached out, It would be a insult to them and their compassion if I did not take these gifts and work to become a better man. Now motived by these souls I will work on being a better friend, man and human. I may not always succeed but if I make a effort to change openly and honestly i will grow as a product. will my sometimes acidic personality go away, probably not and I hope I keep my edge, but I want it to be a better kinder edge.

 In this holiday season, when we are so focused on our own lives, families and struggles, I am see the opportunity for myself and others to reach out to people around us, maybe call a person who we cared about but hurt us or who we have hurt and work to mend some fences, even if the outcome is not a return to closeness that we once had, a repaired respect and friendship is an amazing gift from others. So I will take the gift of kindness that has been so freely given to me and move it forward outward, maybe just maybe I can help someone else like others helped me.

"One Block A Tale of Two Caregivers"

 This is a personal observation on the two separate levels of care within one institution of medicine. On Tuesday I entered Vancouver General Hospital for surgery on my spine, from the moment I began at the admitting desk friendly and supportive staff guided me to my pre-op care, where nurses prepared me, and doctors met with me and soon I was in the OR. All the time no one asked me with repeated questions or preconceived ideas of why I was there, or second guessing me. To them I was a man in pain with a medical condition that needed to be treated and they did so in a respectful manner. After I recovered I was taken to a modern hospital room which was clean, with TVs and a amazing nurse who showed real concern with my bladder and post op urination problems. She was always making sure I was comfortable and not in too much pain. I was treated by wonderful doctors who visited with me often and involved me in my own care with openness and candidness. I was treated with respect and dignity.

 In the early Fall I was severely depressed and made my way to Vancouver General Hospital emerg to seek care for pain, not physical mind you but pain all the same. I was shuffled off on a gurney down a side hallway where I was placed in different patient clothing than the folks there for physical treatment. I was questioned over and over again, telling my life story, my fears, and my experience with attempted suicide with a discounted no so caring manner. Treated to some degree like I was a hinderence to their emergency room duties. I was seen by two doctors who talked at me not to me, and I was shuffled off the the Pysch Unit.

 In the Psych unit  a block away from the modern, clean room I would eventually have my surgery, I was greeted by a old run down building, not so clean, old 70s beds, and dim lighting. The nurses stayed behind the counter treating most interactions with patients like it was a confrontation, or like we were pests. rarely reaching out to those of us in pain, again not physical but pain all the same.

 In most health care institutions, there is institutional stigma regarding mental illness. Rarely are MH patients treated with warmth, or mutual respect, but usually treated like opposing forces. Very few more facilities are newer, up to date or maintained as well as the physical health side of the coin. Mental Health care even though it serves a large and diverse population is usually the recipient of hand me down facilities and equipment. And yes some hospital staff offer different levels of care for mental health and physical health patients.

 This two sides of the same coin became very clear to me as I was in the same hospital in recent stays one for my physical health and the other for my mental health. While I was in my room recovering from my surgery I looked out my window and could see the building that I was once a patient in a patient in pain. One side of this building had boarded up windows like some old tenement and I knew that a person deserving the same dignity and respect that I was receiving  was getting the second tier of care. Stigma is not always verbal, sometimes it is brick and morter, policy professional attitude, and this needs to change.

 In the coming years thanks to a single generous donor is funding a new purpose built mental health centre will be built at VGH. Our community is lucky to have received such a wonderful gift. But still attitudes cannot be funded and must change from within, and with education, compassion and care.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"What Happens in Crazy Does Not Stay in Crazy"

Photo by Liz Kearsley

For over a year I have been writing very openly about my life living with mental illness, and when I began little did I know the impact that it would have on me. My decision to blog openly, discussing my life's dirty secrets, fears, neurosis and other mental minefields was at the time a easy one. Hoping that by doing so I could just maybe make a difference in the way people view, people living with a mental illness as well as helping myself.

   I never really carried any shame with my Bipolar Disorder, I came to a personal place where it was not something to be ashamed of. Blogging all the while I was a inpatient in the Psych Ward and undergoing what some see as a controversial treatment of ECT was I no brainer as the treatment worked for me and I felt it should be talked about in the open. Yet I carried the shame and stigma of my other disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, as it carries much heavier stigma than Mood Disorders do. You  see people can understand the chemical medical reasons for Mood Disorders, but not their uglier step sibling Personality Disorders. Just saying it says, "Damn there must be something really fucked up with him, he has a Personality Disorder", which has no biological reason it is behavioral in nature and little understood.

  I admit that I do carry shame with my BPD, it makes me fear being around people as it might and has caused interpersonal relationships to fail. I can explain Bipolar in a reasonable manner. It for all it's craziness is predictable and fairly easy to control. But I cannot explain why I do the things I do that are attached to my BPD, and when asked by others I am at a complete loss, it baffles me and rides me deeper into my already existent depression. It is like gas on my depressive fire.

 Blogging about myself in a personal manner has put me out there exposed for everyone to see, the good and the brutally ugly. But I cannot put the cat back in it's bag that is the reality of personal blogging, the self exposure. While I may been seen as a crazy asshole to many, I hope that some still can see the decent man that is intertwined with his illness. A man that is yes on one side very ill and tortured by said illness, yet still tries to be kind.

 I am not sure if I still have a audience for my words or friendship, or if my blog make any difference in anyone's life or moves to assist in breaking down some of the walls of Mental Health stigma? I am battling with ending my public fight with my mind and returning to the safe world of anonymity. I am well aware that I am a polarizing personality that some find me to be pest upon the social media community. I also know that I have some friends who still despite myself are still my friends and support me. But I am scared to continue blogging and that is the rub. That if I continue to write so openly and personally I will do more harm than good.

  On Tuesday I will undergo my first spinal surgery and this is scaring the crap out of me. Why? Not because of the surgery it's self. I have little fear of dying or my chances of paralysis. I am scared because I know I am doing this pretty much alone. Much of my support system is either dead, out of town, or I have driven away. In a final act of "Fuck You Steve" my brain is having the last word, saying that I do not deserve the support I so greatly wish for, that this is the price I will pay this Holiday season for my shitty disorder that  I do not understand or did anything to bring on myself.

 Living so openly with mental illness can at the same moment be destructively painful and the ultimate in freedom. I have and am experiencing both and battling with effects of being crazy and out. I wish I was a better role model for mental health. But I am just trying to be a role model to myself because that is all I have right now.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Tomatoes, Handcuffs & Prisons Dirty Little Secret"

   The U.S. Prison system's dirty little secret is it's connection to providing cheap labour for private industry. For years prisons used inmate labour, on prison farms, and prison industries like making officer furniture and school desks for the states the reside in. While it is acceptable and encouraged for inmates to hold jobs and providing affordable products for use by the state, soon and quietly the scope of these industries have changed.

  One state in particular has in the last 15 years become harsher in it's penal system, Arizona. The state of Arizona declared war on crime and one county and one Sheriff in particular have become famous for it's treatment and prosecution of crime. Maricopa County and the self declared toughest Sheriff in the Country,
Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe is currently under investigation by the US Justice Dept. for corruption.

 Sheriff Joe along with the Governor of Arizona both helped pass the toughest and most questionable immigration policy in the US this spring, what is just coming to light is that law was also financially supported by the private prison industry. It seems that Arizona wants as many people as possible in it's public and private prisons.

  Here is where it gets very dark, and the story that few are talking about. The other night while on the phone with my friend John in NY, we browsing the Arizona State Prison website, looking at inmate photos, crimes and sentences. The ADC website also lists where the inmates are working in the prison and how much they are making per hour. It is well established that inmates make very little, between .15 & .50 a hour working various labour jobs within the prison. So while searching we found a job called "EuroFresh". we were both curious to what that job could be, so we hit the Google and guess what we found?

 "EuroFresh"  is a commercial Tomato Farm, providing tomatoes to the retail and commercial food industry. Their website says nothing about prison labour. We also found another job called "Hickman Eggs", well good old "Hickman Family Farms" website is full of family farm focused marketing, ecards about eggs, and videos of what a family operation it is, but they fail to mention they use hundreds of inmates as labour.

 It is of no surprise that the State of Arizona does  not want migrant Mexican workers in it's agro industry when they are profiting of inmates. \why pay a migrant worker 4.00 a hour when they can pay a inmate .40 a hour?

 Is the State of Arizona and others providing private business with cheap labour when unemployment is at 10%? Are Judges and prosecutors sending people to prison for small non violent offences in order to supply private agro industry with a cheap never ending supply of workers?

  The largest employer in the United States is the Prison System, providing millions of workers, producing profit for large corporations. In my opinion this is creating a secret slave labour state and could implicate states in human trafficking. So next time you buy eggs or tomatos or god knows what, it just might be produced by some guy or girl who got caught with a bong.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"My Second Coming Out"

 I have done it again, I lied to a friend after I promised not to lie again. I have in a previous blog talked about the fact that I have a problem with lying. Through out my life I have hurt people close to me and have made it difficult and painful to be close to me.  I am also aware that by admitting this I am at risk of loosing whatever friends I may left or am beginning to develop as trust is a issue that once breeched is almost impossible to regain.

 I have openly discussed my bipolar disorder, and while it carries a stigma of it's own The other disorder I have carries a larger one. I also have Borderline Personality Disorder. I have lived in denial of this for many many years because of image that is attached to it. Coming out with this is not easy nor is it some kind of excuse or erasure of my actions.

 I accept full responsibility for my actions I am aware that it is damaging and hurtful and that the many will seek to distance themselves from me because of it. I am not seeking sympathy, I am writing this out of complete shame, I am in my heart a good person, but lying is barrier that destroys every relationship it touches so I am unable to be the good person that lies beneath.

 I have known about my Borderline Personality Disorder since I was a teen but rejected it. I did not want this label, because with it comes a great social stigma. denying it for so many years has caused so much damage and turmoil in my life, yet I was never at a point where I could admit this to myself or others and in doing so created great pain for those around me and myself.

 Coming out publicly on this blog for all the world to see may just be my bottom, like a alcoholic or addict, only once a person reaches their bottom can they get help. I may very well loose many more people in my life now and that is a fact I must accept. But I am tired of living like this, welcoming and celebrating one side of my mental health, while ignoring and denying another.

 I will seek help for this and will until I am on some kind of path to recovery, distance myself further from most people, until I am sure that the chances of me emotionally hurting others has lessened. I will still take care of my other medical needs and will face my upcoming surgery on Friday and in the New Year ahead. While my continued physical battles will probably be faced alone, I am prepared for that as well as that may just be for the best.

 To all I have hurt, I am deeply sorry and I am aware that my word means little, if you so choose to revisit a friendship with me in the future, thank you, if not, I fully understand.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Did Your Crazy Person Take Their Meds Today"

One common theme in my life since I came out as "Crazy" to be not so politically correct is Stigma I get from friends and loved ones. I am aware that many times in my life, my behaviors, and actions have given for good reason people in my life to pause and think, "Well Steven is Bipolar so I expect him to be a fuck up". This is a tendency that a lot of people roll into when they have a friend or loved one living with a mental illness.

  The people around us tend to think that we will go bat shit crazy at every and any moment of stress or crisis. While yes sometimes we do react to stressors differently than "Earth People", we do not always fall apart when someone over cooks our bacon, or tofu for you vegan freaks out there. I have and have had friends who will talk to me like I am egg rolling on the edge of the countertop just about to fall. I to have faced to assumption that my illnesses effects stops me from making any sound decisions in my life.

  These behaviors from people around us can lead us to closet our illness and not talk openly about them. So many other people I know who live every day with a mental illness will always mention this one nag that grates on them worse than Nancy Grace on 5 cans of 4Loco. " Have you taken your meds?"

 While I understand the worry and concern comes from a loving place, it usually seems like when ever we get excited about something or sad about something, someone, somewhere will ask us about our meds. Even when taking meds our moods may change, our illness may manifest in different ways, but it does not mean we are advancing in our illness or facing Thumper in the rabbithole.

Being open about Mental Illness brings on whole new sets of Stigma, and a lot of it comes from a loving place. Yes when I am manic I get sewing machine legs, I also get it when I am excited, or nervous. Same with my rapid talking. It comes and goes with my mood and will become pronounced when I am riding my Manic Unicorn to Fruitloopville.

  If someone you know is living with a mental illness, yes look out for them, I appreciate it when it done for me. But try and resist the "Have you taken your meds" line of questioning. It is a pet peeve of most of us with a mental illness. Also to others out there try and not assume that because we live with a mental illness that our cognitive  skills are less than yours. I am lucky to have amazing people in my life who see me not me with a illness. That is the most difficult thing for anyone who knows someone with a serious mental illness to do, is to see the person, not the person with a disease. I am also blessed to have a best friend who sees me as me.