An Orillia man who made headlines for his pursuit of medical assistance in dying (MAID) has published a book chronicling his journey with homelessness and back to a place of hope.
Tyler Dunlop’s book, Therefore Choose Life: My Journey from Hopelessness to Hope, takes an autobiographical look at homelessness, mental illness, and the day-to-day experiences Dunlop has had in his travels across the country — from Vancouver to Halifax, and many places in between.
“The book is all about my journeys across Canada, reflections on the social system, and my struggles with mental illness and addiction,” Dunlop told OrilliaMatters. “It’s a very personal part of my soul, and I opened up and allowed myself to be vulnerable. It’s literally an open book — no pun intended.”
In January, Dunlop came into the spotlight for his pursuit of MAID, when he felt there was no other viable way out of his struggle with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction.
Ultimately, he could not get approved for MAID, as it is not yet permitted for mental health purposes, and many people reached out to OrilliaMatters to see if they could offer him some help in the intervening weeks.
One of those people was Collingwood-based writer Tim DenBok, who helped Dunlop edit and compile his book for publication over the past several months.
DenBok had read a number of Dunlop’s letters to the editor, noticed he had a talent for writing, and suggested he share his story as a means of helping others facing chronic homelessness, mental health issues, and addiction.
“One of our main goals in doing it was to help people who are in a similar situation as Tyler, who have no hope, and perhaps (are) struggling with mental illness as well,” DenBok said. “We’re hoping to help them see that they shouldn’t give up, and that they can find a way out of the darkness that they’re struggling with.”
From his experiences in school, with his faith in Christianity, as a musician through his 20s, to his experiences on the streets across the country, Dunlop provides a rare glimpse in his book into the mind of someone who has experienced struggles like his, DenBok said.
“Tyler is a gifted writer. He’s very smart,” he said. “He’s had some amazing experiences, and he approaches the book … from a perspective that is very unusual, and he gives an inside look at what it’s like to have mental illness and to be struggling with trauma and addiction and homelessness, and books that do that are very uncommon.”
DenBok said the book challenges the prevailing assumption people who experience homelessness are, in some way, simply not trying.
“We’re hoping to smash people’s stereotypes of people with mental illness and people with addiction and trauma and homelessness, because I think a lot of people, unfortunately, are judgmental towards people that have those struggles, and they just assume — without evidence — that they’re not trying,” he said. “People just aren’t right, and we’re hoping to change their minds about that.”
Although Dunlop continues to experience the effects of addiction and mental illness, he hopes to become an advocate for those living with similar issues, and he has abandoned his pursuit of MAID.
“I’d like to write more. There’s a lot of issues that I’d like to write about. I would like to become a staunch advocate for people experiencing disadvantage in any form,” Dunlop said.
“I’m starting over at 38 years old, and it’s exciting, and I’m a little nervous, but I’m hoping I can bring some light to the world.”
Dunlop’s book can be found on Amazon.