Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Glimpse of Passion

"You're a writer - you need to write!"

The writing is happening.

I'm on a roll. I can't believe how much I've written in the last week.

In October 2007 I burnt out and realized the job I had been doing for the last 10 years was done. I had finished what I was supposed to do. Since then I've often asked the question, "now what?"

Over the past 4 years I've felt my passions slowly ebb away. I won't rehash the passion story, I did that a few days ago (see "I'm Back"). Last Saturday evening Heidi and I got a hint that my passions hadn't all died.

A small group of folks had gathered in the home of our friends Wilma and Cliff Derksen. We visited, engaged in Wilma's favorite group activity - going around the circle, taking turns responding to Wilma's 'question du jour'.  (Wilma, if you're reading this, please don't feel embarrassed. We love you and the circles are always interesting. I just couldn't resist a little poke). Near the end of the evening Wilma asked Cliff to read a couple of chapters from Mike McIntyre's soon to be released new book,  JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE: How Project Angel Cracked The Candace Derksen Case. 

I'm looking forward to the book release on Wednesday, November 16, 7:30 p.m. at Chapter's Polo Festival (across from Polo Park and the Stadium).

I need to back up a bit to give some background before I continue. On Thursday, May 26, 2011 Mark Edward Grant, the man convicted of murdering Candace Derksen, was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 25 years. The sentencing hearing was the concluding chapter on the Derksen family's long journey seeking answers and closure to the murder of their daughter so long ago.

That evening a large group of friends and supporters gathered at the Derksen's home to hear Wilma and Cliff's victim impact statements. They had decided not to read them in court and now had the opportunity to share their words in the safety of this circle of friends and supporters. Wilma, as she is wont to do, asked each person present to give her a word, something reflective of each person's feelings or response to the events of that day. I happened to be the third person to give a word and I wasn't prepared. I still hadn't sorted things out in my head. Later that evening I informed Wilma that my word was 'conflicted'. I would send her an email to explain. 

Mike Mcntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press was present in the circle. Mike was not only the Winnipeg Free Press "Justice Reporter" - he too had become a friend of the Derksens. Mike briefly talked about the book he was working on and asked for permission to include people's 'words for Wilma' in his book. The people agreeable to this emailed their 'word(s)' and consent to Mike through Wilma.

Jump forward to last Saturday. The two short chapters Cliff read to us consisted of our words for Wilma. I had forgotten about the explanation of my word (conflicted) that I sent to her, and I had no clear recollection of what I wrote. 

As Cliff read my words, Heidi and I saw a glimpse of the passion I still have for mental illness issues and the people affected by them. Five days later I'm aware of more than just a glimpse of passion. I can no longer hide the reality and intensity of the personal investment I feel about these issues.

Mike and Wilma have graciously consented to my sharing the explanation of 
my 'word' for Wilma here. Thank-you to both.

Here's what I wrote to Wilma:

My word was 'conflicted'.

I have been involved in mental health for more than 20 years - as a patient, a respite worker, an educator and advocate. Much of my work was centered around advocating for better services for people with mental disorders, for more comprehensive services, more opportunities for people to participate fully in our communities, and to reduce the stigma that impacts people living with mental disorders.

Every time I read or hear a news report that mentions the fact that a perpetrator of a crime has a mental disorder, I cringe. I wonder what role, if any, the disorder played in the criminal act. If it wasn't a contributing factor, I wonder why that information was included. Was it just another statement perpetuating the myth that people with mental disorders, especially schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, are dangerous, violent, liable to hurt or possibly kill someone at any time. I wonder what the whole story is.

 When I read that Mark Grant had been diagnosed with schizophrenia I cringed again. I wrestled with the question of whether or not I could or even would advocate for Mark especially because I know some of the impact his actions have had on you, your family and many friends. I really questioned whether his illness was a factor in his abduction, torture and murder of Candace. Nothing I had read or heard before and after the trial indicated to me that the schizophrenia played a role in his actions. Although illnesses such as schizophrenia are the primary factor in some tragic and horrific occurrences, I don't see that in Mark's abduction and killing of Candace. All I see, is that a man chose to act in an evil, and twisted way. Illness is not an excuse for intentional bad choices and evil behaviour.

I hurt for your loss and pain, I hurt for Candace's loss of life, I hurt for the tragedy of Mark Grant's life, and I am angered that the publication of his diagnosis will perpetuate the stigma of the violent, crazy, dangerous person with an illness like schizophrenia. The reality is that people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

I am glad justice has been served. I am glad this chapter has ended for you.

As I said, I feel conflicted!

Do you feel the passion? 

I do. I can't deny it anymore.


If you're looking for something to do Wednesday, November 16, 2011, head out to Chapter's Polo Festival (across from Polo Park and the Stadium) at 7:30 p.m.

Come support the launch of Mike McIntyre's book:

How Project Angel Cracked The Candace Derksen Case.

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