He calls himself the Osborne Village Lunatic, but ultimately, Daniel Lemire uses humour to hide the hurt of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Do you know the difference between an idiot and a lunatic?” Lemire asked. “Lunacy qualifies a generosity of spirit and a kindness of heart. And you don’t go to jail as often.”
Nearly 10 years after he was diagnosed with PTSD, Lemire is releasing a book, Rantings of a Mad Man, and hosting a fundraising event, Breaking the Silence, this weekend to help combat the stereotypes of the mental health condition.
Lemire is an avid writer and artist, who can often be found at Times Change(d) sketching musicians. Having creative outlets helps him get out of bed every day, he said.
“They dispel the poison, sort of like vomiting,” Lemire said.
“[PTSD] took away my career. It took away my physical, mental and emotional health. It’s not getting my crayons.”
Daniel Lemire was diagnosed with the mental health condition in 2005 after a terrifying incident in Lethbridge. He was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
Lemire used to teach woodshop classes in a Catholic school out west. One day, as he was stacking lumber near the back of his shop, he heard a table saw start up in his empty classroom. Then, some screams and a bang.
He came around a corner to find a student – not one of his own – who had sawed off three of his fingers. He later found out the student was on drugs at the time of the incident.
“My stress was caused by the safety concerns,” Lemire said. He battled back and forth with the school division to enforce stricter penalties for students who didn’t follow rules.
“The difference between my shop and a classroom is you can get killed in my shop,” he said. “I had a duty of care for the students.
“[The school division] didn’t respect my professional opinion on issues of safety and they didn’t care about my personal health.”
Lemire decided to leave teaching in 2004 to pursue other interests. He moved to Winnipeg and took up with his old university loves again: art and philosophy.
He met new friends in Winnipeg, like Neil Klippenstein, who helped pull him out of bouts of depression and stress.
“Twenty years ago, I went through a period of depression,” said Klippenstein. “My experience taught me that people need a friend. No one wants be alone with their thoughts.”
“I didn’t understand PTSD, I still don’t,” Klippenstein said. “But I treated him with dignity and didn’t kick him to the curb. Sometimes you need someone to bend down and lift you up.”
Lemire said Klippenstein was one of a few friends who pushed him to finish his book, which was eight years in the making. Lemire didn’t want to release the book at his Breaking the Silence event, but his friends pushed the idea.
“I didn’t want to bring attention to myself,” Lemire said. “But I’m not arrogant enough to disregard the advice of guys whom I respect.”
Breaking the Silence is happening Friday and Saturday (Nov. 14 + 15) from 2:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Gas Station Arts Centre. The event will be a symposium on mental health with panel discussions, a theatrical performance and an art sale, all surrounding the topic of PTSD. There will also be performances by Sweet Alibi and Ines de Viaud throughout both evenings and afternoons.
Lemire plans to donate all the proceeds from his art sale to one of his favourite charities, the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative. He said planning this event has helped keep him alive.
“With post traumatic stress, suicide is inevitable. The object is to keep it from being imminent. So if you’ve got projects that have a time frame, then you keep the imminent part at bay.”