So, I have been sitting here for about 15 minutes now trying to decide how to give this first blog post a title that will catch somebody's attention. Given how much I want to share in this first post about my life before writing the first stories in the Small Town Slashers Series, I hope I have settled on a good one.
As the title suggests, a career (hopefully) in writing was not part of the original plan. I have always enjoyed writing and considered the idea of publishing something in the later stages of my life, but my calling in life was teaching. I have so many fond memories of teachers who went the extra mile to show us the wonders of the world that can be unlocked with the lockpick of knowledge. Their dedication to both their craft and their students really inspired me and I cannot recall a time I did not at least consider teaching to be one of the two paths my life would surely take (the other was that of a lawyer, but we can discuss that at a later point). However, the thing that made teaching my first choice, was the manner in which some of those extra special teachers went above and beyond to help me with my special needs (antiquated term, I know, but it's the one I prefer for describing myself).
I was born nearly a month late and, as a result, my fine motor skills were weakened. I required the assistance of a speech pathologist and a special counsellor for developing my ability to use my hands for basic things like eating, writing and tying my shoes (which I hate doing still to this day). In addition to these struggles, I have had AD/HD most of my life, though it wasn't diagnosed until the late stages of elementary school. I have also struggled with my mental wellness since I was 8 years old, leading to a diagnosis of stress-induced acid reflux at age 12 and severe headaches (like migraines but that medication does not work for me) starting at age 15.
I was always fortunate to be very bright and got bit by the bookworm at a very young age. Started writing/drawing with crayon my family adventure books before I was 8. However, the struggles I have had to face in spite of my intelligence are what helped me to learn to empathize with any person who faces a difficulty to learn. It is for this reason, alongside my desire to see that every child feels like they belong at school (another post at a later date), that I became a teacher.
However, even after succeeding at University, getting bachelor's degrees in the Arts (Sociology, with math as a minor) and Education, my mental wellness prevented me from pursuing my career straightaway. My grandmother became ill with Alzheimer's during my time away and, watching her fall apart destroyed something inside me for several years.
Eventually, I managed to recover and found my way back to the world of education. I spent a couple of years working as a tutor and lunch supervisor. I cherish these years, as I was able to do the kind of work supporting students with learning difficulties to find ways to adapt to their classroom environments and make the space work for themselves. Seeing those kids apply the skills I taught them to improve their ability to focus on and retain the things they were learning gave me a great sense of fulfillment, and a part of me wishes I had remained doing this sort of work.
Yet the dream was to have a classroom of my own and, when the opportunity presented itself, I could not refuse. For two wonderful years I worked in the northern wilderness as a grade 6 teacher in a remote location. Having grown up in a small town, I had no problem adapting to the isolated area and thoroughly enjoyed the hiking trails surrounding the community. Speaking of which, they say that the people make the community and truer words have never been spoken of a place like that of Chisasibi. Though I am not of Indigenous Heritage, I was welcomed and embraced by the community like a member of the family.
Then I made the worst decision of my career and tried to move to the high school system. That year, I learned a few things about myself that I had not realized. First, the high school system for education is not one that meshes well with my special needs. Second, my specific approach to teaching and classroom management requires more meaningful development with the students than what I could achieve with them in a 50-70 minute period daily. Finally, I was still easily triggered by the setting itself, reminded of my past bullying, and thus was never able to feel comfortable in my skin while teaching there.
Ultimately, this led to my first large burn out. I foolishly tried to push through my feelings (DON'T DO THIS!) and keep teaching until my suicidal ideations began to creep back in and bring thoughts I hadn't considered since I removed myself from Ritalin permanently at age of 23 (after using it on and off since 14). Thankfully, I had my beautiful wife with me and she was able to help me choose to seek help instead of harm (THIS! FOR THE LOVE OF THOSE WHO NEED YOU...THIS!).
I managed to get counseling and onto some anti-depressants. These helped immensely, though it took time, and I was forced to remain off work on a medical as result for pretty much the remainder of that year. It was during this time that, encouraged by Anick, I was able to write the first two novellas in the Small Town Slashers Series (yes there is another story waiting to be published).
At the end of that year, we tried to relocate and start fresh in a new place. Sadly, I continued to struggle to find the support I needed for my special needs in this new place and, as a result, I left the teaching profession. I do miss the children and the experience deeply, but if I have learned anything through all of these experiences, it is that self-care has to come before you can help others. Right now, I need to take time for self-care. Maybe I might return to teaching some day, or perhaps I will be lucky and make it full-time as an author.
However, what I would like most, is to end this blog post with these 3 things:
1) A super huge thank you to anybody who reads through this post. It means a lot to me that you are here.
2) If you are struggling with your mental wellness also, I would love to hear your stories. While it is true that I want to build a community of thriller lovers and newer writers here, I also want it to be one that is supportive of Neural Divergence, Mental Wellness and all those interested in learning about these. Please reach out if you want to talk. As Red Green liked to say, "We're all in this together."
3) Finally, in a pinch, when I am hurting and feel like giving up, I read a poem called "Don't Quit". My parents gave me a copy of it for my first birthday after I had expressed a desire to end my life, and it has been the difference in many instances where I had nobody else to turn to. If you need something concrete, you can find a copy of it by clicking the link below:
With Peace and Love 💕,
P.S. here is a picture of Kaiba the Pug, the Head of our Marketing Division 😍💖
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Darker Thoughts from a Small Town Mind
Regular blog posts from the author of the Small Town Slashers Series on everything from the writing process for my next books to the daily struggle of living with depression and social anxiety.