Compulsive Eating and Other Behaviors in People With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #recovery

Hello Dear Readers! While you are here, please feel free to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis”. by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge to the right and then hitting the download icon                                                                                                                                        ————————————————————————->

 

I think a lot of people are very aware of the fact that having a mental illness and taking medications lead down the path to compulsive behaviour such as addiction and compulsive eating habits. What is perhaps the most odd is that those of us who suffer can either gain or lost a lot of weight. Whenever I think of illnesses like anorexia, I am first reminded of how depression and self-worth plays a major role, and that the illness sadly often ends in suicide or other deaths, then I think about a young woman I knew in school who was an extremely nice person and very attractive who died of a heart attack as a result of starving herself to nothing, then I also think of a young woman I met on a hospital ward who was attractive and intelligent and really wanted to live the life of a normal University student who had to forget about all normalcy because of her affliction. She was a friend and a romantic prospect to me and I haven’t been in touch with her in almost 30 years but it still saddens me that she had such a difficult illness.

The other way that medication and illness affects people is with gaining weight, and both the up and down sides of food compulsion can come with a poor diet that causes other health risks. Just to talk about some of my own lived experience, I feel that my ideal weight is around 185, provided I am exercising and eating healthy to maintain that weight and fuel my long walks, swimming, or weight training. For a long time, I had gone up all the way to 260 pounds. There were a number of reasons for this happening, of course I was eating more than I was exercising, though I was putting in a lot of heavy duty work at my job of setting up major concert stages. Where the problem came in was that in my thinner, healthier days I was restricted financially from eating too much, certainly from eating out, and now that I got a well-paid job I really liked eating out a lot. I loved to take my dad out for fish and chips or pizza and the $20 or $30 it cost me was nothing compared to what I was earning. On top of that, for some time then I had been living in a group home where I wasn’t restricted at all in how much I could eat. The problem multiplied upon itself. There more I ate, the less I wanted to do. One day, I stopped working for the stage people and started the more sedentary life of a writer, public speaker and teacher. I was by this time living on my own and I just saw no problem with eating all junk food all the time. Though I didn’t gain a lot of weight, it was an odd situation because I lost the muscle I had built up as a stage hand and gained more fat. Then came the most startling event of my life: I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

At first I didn’t believe it. I thought I was swimming away all my extra calories, I drank sugar free drinks and I was, as far as endurance went, in fairly good shape. Diabetes was a real wake-up call for me. It meant more medication (metformin) less food and careful choices of foods like no potatoes or rice or white bread. For someone brought up on French fries and potato chips I didn’t think I could do it.

Some years back, I had been able to fast and lose weight whenever I needed to. When I was diagnosed with diabetes though, I could barely even fast long enough to take the test to see if I had the illness or how bad it was. I remember having horrible food cravings through the night and only being able to drink water. After I got through that night though, added to the scare that diabetes will knock years off my life and kill me overnight if I let my eating get out of hand, I was able to start dieting.

I did so much to try and bring my weight down and it seemed to take forever. A couple of times I walked home from work-over ten miles and I did everything to change my diet. It seemed impossible, but I managed to get all the way down to 220 pounds. People said it was a huge change and that I looked great, and I felt really good but the same life situation that all of us with mental illnesses have to be ready for happened… I went back into the hospital with a severe psychosis.

One thing that was really good was all I had to do was tell the hospital I was diabetic and the nutrition/cooking staff did the rest. They got me some things that I really wish I could access, like sugar-free pancake syrup (man do I miss pancakes!). But I allowed myself to get complacent, I started buying snacks and making peanut butter sandwiches in the hospital. I went back up to 240 and it seemed like it would never relent.

I am now just a few pounds lighter than that 240, but I feel I have hope. I would really like to take more classes at this point in eating with type 2 diabetes because I have been on a limited diet. The Covid-19 situation has also caused me to switch to some inferior foods like salami sandwiches and other such foods. Another thing I find it really hard to do is to go without my snacks. There are times when I break down and buy sour cream, mix in some onion soup, and dip potato chips into the mixture. It tastes absolutely divine, but there is way too much sugar and salt and calories in this lethal concoction.

Another caution I should mention is that those of us who take psychiatric medications often end up with a dry mouth, and our saliva is our first line of defence against tooth decay. Today I thought I would have some popcorn with just a little salt and some non-hydrogenated margarine, and one of the few teeth I have left cracked in half on a hard piece of popcorn seed.

It is interesting to note that a friend recently pointed out that I have a tendency towards symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. As far as this goes, I don’t have much to say, but if you find yourself displaying any kind of compulsion, be it gambling or stealing or smoking and on and on right down to overeating, I always recommend two things: meditation to help you to learn self-discipline, and support groups and counselling. It is important to remember that there are many types of psychologists, counsellors and support groups. I found myself that while I was early in the stages of quitting drinking, a 12-step approach helped me the most possibly because there are simply a great deal of meetings all over where I live and I was able to remind myself daily, sometimes even three times a day that I really needed to change my ways, and as I got better I saw myself in a different light and started to understand how alcohol made my parents unable to deal with me and ruined relationships and such, and once the momentum had occurred to get me to quit, (it took about a year) I was able to continue without the meetings. As far as different counsellors go, there are non 12 step ones, there are 12-step counsellors, and Christian, Catholic, and so on. Don’t settle for a counsellor or support group that doesn’t help or doesn’t fit your unique individuality. And don’t allow yourself to become so emotionally attached to one way of doing things that you can’t back out when you feel it isn’t helping or move on to another counsellor or support group.

Compulsion comes in many forms, I have just tried to cover a little of what I know about eating compulsion. I don’t wish in any way for this to replace the advice of a professional. If you are having problems of any kind with your mental health, your best bet is to consult your family doctor who can refer you to other resources. If there is an emergency, call 911 or get yourself or your loved one to the hospital. It is so much better though if a person can be honest and open with a professional before their life starts to fall apart. I suffered with self-loathing and depression for a lot of years before I was able to be honest with professionals about my thoughts and when I did, medication was found and support and counselling was found that changed my life. I wish everyone the best, and as always, feel free to write to me for any reason, or if you have a topic related to mental health you would like to see covered in this blog.

-Leif Gregersen, viking3082000@yahoo.com

Managing Money, Mood and Medications When You Have Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia

Sometimes when a person with a mental illness isn’t at their best, money can get out of control. I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder which means I have symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I was also diagnosed with anxiety, and when you add the paranoia of psychosis to that and a high or manic mood, you are looking at a danger, especially with regard to your finances.

One of the worst things about having a mental illness is that a person can feel pushed, or even bullied to lend money when they have any and pushed away when it comes time for money to be paid back. My past is littered with such incidents. There was one person, who at the time was my best friend, heard about me getting $6,000.00 as a disability payout. I wasn’t all that careful with the money, and my friend said that if I loaned him $2,000 it would be paid back with interest. He told me that his dad had screwed him over and I knew he was a hard worker and well off. Then, he disappeared. Nowhere to be found. I finally called him up one day and his answering machine said he had moved to Australia and wouldn’t be back for a year. I was very nearly livid. I called his dad who offered to make good the debt but after he told me this person hadn’t gone to Australia I chalked it up to eccentricity and said I could wait. This so-called friend called me up and was very angry with me. He said, almost exactly these words: “I’ve borrowed money before. I’ve borrowed a lot of money, and this isn’t how things work.” I couldn’t believe I had been taken again. I recommend anyone who has a psychiatric disability right off the top that they not tell anyone other than perhaps their spouse how much money they have saved or as income. It really is none of their business, and the words, “I don’t have it. I simply do not have it.” are excellent ways to politely tell someone you are not a lending institution.

One of the problems with having a mental illness is that a person tends to get very lonely, and when they are lonely they become vulnerable to predatory people. I had one guy offer to sell me his non-functioning truck for $100 and I was very excited to get it and hopefully get it running. Instead, he told someone else about it as well and sold it to them for the same price just about the same day I was going to buy it. One has to watch people for warning signs and sometimes it can be extremely important to pass up a small opportunity to get some benefit so you can avoid a major disaster in the future. The warning signs with the guy with the truck were extremely noticeable. I was over at his house once and bought a pack of cigarettes off of him because I had run out and he had a whole carton. We sat down to chat and he kept literally reaching over me to get cigarettes out of the pack I had purchased from him. I almost couldn’t believe he felt that was okay. But the real disaster came when I sold him an old car I had sitting. I think I asked him for $200 for it or something to that effect. It was running fine, it just had a loose bolt on the alternator that I had fixed but forgot to tell him to keep an eye on it. He had the car for weeks, ran into curbs with it, mistreated it and wouldn’t even let me help him change the oil and service it. Then through his own neglect the alternator came loose and he called me up demanding I remove the car and pay him back every cent he paid for it. How such people can exist is beyond me. Even a new car isn’t returnable simply after one kilometre has been put on it, and a new car runs around $15,000.00. He thought I should have protected him with a warranty for less than a single day’s pay. In a way I was also at fault because my dad had told me many years back in no uncertain terms that you should never buy a used car from anyone you know.

I could go on and on, but I just really want to emphasize that if you have a mental illness, keep a tight hold on your wallet. Do not ever lend money, and if you find yourself being bullied into lending money, be firm and make an outrageous request like they give you something worth twice the value of the loan to hold onto until they pay the money back.

Thanks to a third person that I have decided not to put on this list, I really got into trouble. Again, part of it was my own fault. I applied for and received credit cards and lines of credit which I could have paid off fairly easily if I were able to work even a few days a month on top of my disability benefits, which was allowed. Instead, another so-called friend ran up a debt with me of $6,000 and then I had to make up for the shortfalls in my income by buying on credit. Then disaster happened and I went into the psychiatric hospital for a very long stay and the social worker there decided that mental illness hadn’t humiliated me enough and that I should also declare bankruptcy. The worst part of it was that they wouldn’t even allow me to use any of my credit cards for things like tobacco or other needs. I spent almost 6 months in the hospital wearing the same pair of jeans. I do things a little differently now. I do have credit cards, though it has been extremely difficult to get them, but the two cards I have come with such low spending limits that if needed I could max them out and pay the full amount off in cash the same month with my disability money after I pay my rent.

When I was in the hospital for six months, I lost all control of my finances. One of my doctors, through sheer spite, using words I used to describe him to his face when I was ill, put all of my decisions with a public trustee. This was such an incredible disaster. I found a job not long after getting out of the hospital and in one case someone stole a set of keys and my employer went to my public trustee and got her to pay (out of my money) for new locks for an entire high-rise apartment building. It literally ruined me and the money was given up without a fight or dispute, the trustee simply took my money and handed it over. I soon got a very well paid job as a stage hand and was doing well enough to not mind spending a little extra on things like editing for my first book, taking my dad out to supper often and even getting a car. Then my charming and charismatic friend came along and kept making false promises that he was going to build me a website for my book and that he was very skilled in advertising when in reality I don’t know if he had ever completed high school. That cost me $4,000 and it seemed to go on and on. Lesson learned: Don’t lend money! You are not a bank and you can’t afford to solve the world’s problems or operate better than a bank.

All that is very relevant to a lot of you I hope, but I do also want to give some advice on how I was able to save money, get out of debt and build my life back up again after it was destroyed by a six-month psychiatric hospital stay and a number of ‘friends’ that I would have been much better off without. I had been through so much when I was in the hospital I wasn’t capable of doing a lot of things and my future looked really bleak. I ended up finding a spot at a group home which helped immensely. It was expensive but it covered everything. Food, room, phone, power. I had a few problems with the staff there (actually I think I had a problem with all of the staff) but it really helped me get on my feet. I lived in a nice house, I had a few friends in my same situation, and the staff even went out of their way to put some fun in our lives with movies and sports outings and so I managed to get by. I moved out of there for a while and my sister had noticed that my condition seemed to have deteriorated and so I went back to the group home and spent five years there, then I think they simply got sick of me. They did something for me that perhaps should have been done much sooner. They got me into subsidized housing. It was the right time for it. I was paying $800+ at the group home for rent and my life wasn’t my own. I was having a major problem with having to pay for convenience store food and delivery meals because I couldn’t seem to convince my roommate to stop stealing my food. I asked if I could put a lock on my cupboard and they said they didn’t want the place to have an institutional feel to it. Then, they went into our house where three males that didn’t smoke lived and pasted up large no-smoking signs all over the place. Pure idiocy. They kept on trying to get me to load groceries even though I was barely eating any and paying for them. These little things went on and on.

I would like all of my readers to benefit from this blog but I don’t know how these sorts of things work in the US. I know that people with a psychiatric disability get a lot less benefits, if they can get benefits at all, but whatever situation they are in, if they can handle cooking and shopping they should try and find a subsidized apartment. Many churches have such buildings, in my city the Schizophrenia Society has a subsidized building specifically for people with schizophrenia. Get out there and look. I don’t know if I just got lucky or if the government standards for places like mine are strict, but I live in an awesome building. I even was able to find some part-time work through the agency that runs this building and more like it. Basically, I get very low rent and I found a way to get a subsidized bus pass and free use of city fitness facilities, and life has become pretty comfortable for me. I have to be very careful with things like alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. I know for a fact that I would be in a horrible financial situation if I consumed any such product. I also make a point of putting on a backpack and walking three miles to the large grocery store where prices are better rather than shop at small local places. It is really important to watch every penny, to write things down and plan them out. Even if you don’t feel you are up to a part-time job, it can be very important to get a volunteer job for many reasons. One is that it gives you work experience. The second is that it gives you a life, a place to go, things to do, friends to meet and even more important, self-respect. Keep your space clean, and don’t accumulate objects. There are many times when I take and purge out all of my extra possessions simply because I have a bad habit of over-buying. Why subscribe to magazines when you can read all you want for free at the library? Why buy books for the same reason? Spend your money keeping your quality of life as high as you can. Make sure your laundry gets done on a regular basis, make the effort to bathe and brush your teeth. These activities make it easier for you to get along with others and saves tons of money in things like dental bills. I have been working part-time and living in a fairly sparse apartment (though it is large) and so when I have a little money extra to spend I like to buy second-hand signed and numbered prints from a well known Canadian artist. They look wonderful on my wall and the value of this sort of thing has a good chance of going up in a few years. Some other ways to save money is by getting a quality product rather than a less expensive one. My parents had all the amenities of life in their house despite a low income because they would save up for and research things like blenders, toasters, ovens, stereos, and just about anything like that.

Really, what it all comes down to is in the title. Money, meds and mood. If you have recently left a hospital or may in fact need to go to one in the future, learn to reach out to resources that can help you. Focus first on getting a psychiatrist and affording medications through blue cross or other programs that work for you. Then, do a bit of research on getting free or low-cost counselling. You would be surprised how helpful and empowering it can be. If you are a smoker, make plans to quit, but also make sure you buy enough to get you through the month. I can’t even imagine being a smoker where I live because it costs around $15 for 25 cigarettes. That would be hundreds of dollars a month I could be saving for a trip or my retirement or even a second-hand car. But if you’re hooked you’re hooked, might as well enjoy it and make sure you don’t have to do without. In my experience (I smoked for 18 years before quitting 16 years ago) you can’t quit when you are constantly wondering where your next cigarette is going to come from. Then comes mood. Mood can be influenced by how you manage your money, how you keep your clothes and house clean and how well you eat. Start simple with the eating. Try to get a portion of protein, a good cereal in the morning, and a few servings of fruits and vegetables with nuts to snack on (moderating each of these). Add a daily walk to that and you will find your life will go so much better. I literally was a mess when I got out of the hospital 20 years ago, but by following the money, meds, and mood principals, I ended up doing well.

Well dear readers, that is all for now. Been getting some great comments lately, thanks so much. As always, if you would like me to cover something specific in this blog, let me know. viking3082000@yahoo.com

Those Little Multi-Colored Pills in the Hands of People With Schizophrenia, Bipolar, and Anxiety

 

Just about anyone who is reading this is going to know something about pills. There are just so many of them. Myself, the last time I got sick (read my book “Alert and Oriented x3) it actually wasn’t a problem with a pill, it was a problem with a new, fancy injection that would last longer, feel better, help me more, and cause me to lose weight. Problem? The thing didn’t work and I ended up losing a month of my life pacing the halls of a psychiatric ward, thinking there were spies everywhere and that people on the ward were plotting a horrible death for me. I even imagined that people I knew on the outside of the hospital were on the ward and were controlling me and laughing about it.

Then there is what I call the long hospital visit. This had happened almost 20 years ago in 2001. At this time, I had been taking a pill called Depekane, a mood stabilizer and somehow I thought that since I had been well for such a long time that I could lower the dose. I really wish sometimes that they would offer people with mental illnesses immediate, intensive training as to how pills work. Lowering my deplane was literally the worst mistake I have ever made. I slowly degraded into a person in an extremely poor mental state, and ended up walking out my door one day to find the main door to my building was jammed and all of a sudden I was convinced someone had rigged a bomb in the building and that they were sealing me and my neighbours in to get rid of me. It may seem funny but those are the kinds of things that go on in your mind when you experience psychosis. I have the unfortunate situation of also having anxiety and depression along with my psychosis and mood swings.

My depression and anxiety was very apparent when I was younger. As a child I would constantly walk looking down. It was so bad that I ended up with neck problems. I was very quiet and had few friends. Social situations terrified me. I can recall later on in junior high going to dances that I never danced at. Then I found alcohol and all of a sudden I could push through my anxiety and have a lot of fun. There was a problem though. I was a twelve-year-old dancing in a fifteen-year-old’s body and I never treated the girls I made advances on very well. There were some incredible times in high school though, there was a young woman named Patti who seemed to take a liking to me. She was beautiful and played piano and loved classical music as I did and even once made a comment in my presence that she thought I was good looking. All that really happened was that we went to a movie on a double date with my best friend and his girlfriend who was her best friend. It was nice but it never became a real relationship.

One of the big things about that time was alcohol. I didn’t see it as the poisonous, addictive and brain-cell eating drug that it was. I saw it as me being able to talk to girls and feel relaxed. The problem dogged me for a long time, when I was 20 some friends invited me camping and I hadn’t drank in 6 months. I thought that all at once I could just forget about my pills and go back to the party animal those friends once knew, but it ended in disaster so bad I don’t even want to continue. Simple lesson: Don’t mix medications or other drugs with alcohol.

To speak of another drug, there is of course pot. One time I went to a bar to see a band and got invited to a party that was going on after the show. I had been drinking a little but took a couple of hits on a joint and got excruciatingly paranoid and again made an ass of myself. My simple solution? I found 12-step meetings. I no longer go to them, but if you think you have a problem, even if you just drink a little and have a hard time not doing so and you are on medication, I endorse going to meetings fully. All the advice I would like to give is to try and get to one every day, look for a sponsor who has 5+ years of sobriety and to follow the literature you are given, read it until you have memorized it. I did that, and in the end of my meeting days shortly before my sponsor passed away, he said that we don’t have a cure for alcoholism or any addictions we are dealing with. We just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

Now to get back to pills before I bore you too much, I just wanted to talk a little about over the counter pills. I want to mainly talk about sleep aids, but there are many more natural/herbal pills that have made a lot of claims. I am very unsure of a lot of them. One thing I take which I cleared with my Psychiatrist is Melatonin. It is a good sleep aid but often makes me sleep in late. I also have permission to take an occasional clonazepam/rivotril. This pill can help calm me down a lot, it is the newer version of valium that is supposed to be less addictive. Trouble is, the drug is still pretty addictive! At least once a week I stop taking it for a few days and the first day of that fast is usually spent sleeping. I really emphasize that any unnecessary pill should be considered very careful for interactions and such by you, on google, and by your doctor. The psychiatrists all pretty much know what they are doing and have the schooling and the vocabulary to look up pills in a CPS (compendium of pharmaceuticals and specialties). I should emphasize here something a lifeguard at my pool told me once (she was studying to be a doctor) She basically said to me that any kind of problem with any part of the human body is best deal with with exercise. I don’t exactly know how that works for every problem, but I do know that if you get a workout in each day you are definitely going to sleep better. Alcohol may get you to sleep but it blocks some of the sleep that renews and refreshes us. Well, that blog went on a lot longer than I thought! Thanks to everyone who has downloaded and read my new book!! Take care people, and as always if you would like to see a topic covered in this blog, please let me know.

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!

 

Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen

Alternative Recovery Strategies For Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Before I begin, I just wanted to remind my readers and new followers that my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” is free to download and share and can be gotten by clicking on the photo of the bridge with two towers to the right of this blog.    ——–>

 

                                               Tanya Behm, my incredible boss at the Schizophrenia Society

Let’s admit it–Covid-19 is on everyone’s mind these days. For those of us who have mental health issues, the isolation can be almost like a prison sentence. I know I am really having a hard time because I have a dear friend who I was starting to get to trust me more and realize more that I am a person before I am a mental illness, and because of social distancing and my friend’s need to take care of family members, we haven’t been able to get together in ages.

I would like to say though, that having this time to myself has really sparked some incredible creative spurts. I don’t know how many people who read this blog are writers themselves, but I am guessing there are a few, and I am also guessing that many others could benefit from using creative writing in fiction or non-fiction, or poetry. Something I have been doing is I already had a full set of the Twilight Zone videos, and I am going back through them to watch over. There is something sort of magical about those old Teleplays, one shot, one episode was all the writers had to grab people and shake them out of their boots. I also have been watching “The Outer Limits” on Netflix and sometimes the original Star Trek as well. The thing is, whether you are in space or in the backyard of the girl next door wondering why she suddenly grew an antennae, when you delve into the world of the imagination, you are getting out of your house if only for an hour.

Time in isolation is so difficult for people with schizophrenia and bipolar (and just about any other major disorder including depression and so on). It can become important to force yourself to do something. I used to keep my mind active by getting a book of variety puzzles at a magazine stand. I loved to solve logic problems, and decipher scrambled letters (anagrams I think but I’m not sure). And thanks to some kind souls, I also have some pencil crayons and an adult colouring book. Despite all the things I could be doing, sometimes I find it really helpful to just tune the world out and sit down and colour in some pretty flower patterns or whatever. It becomes a way to leave my world without leaving. I even remember being in a very serious ward in the hospital and a young guy convincing me to sit down and draw a picture of a lion. We both got into the task and halfway through he said, “See, we’re no longer in a mental hospital.”

One of the best things I could recommend to people who read this blog who haven’t already done so is to start a blog of their own. It is possible to get a free or low-cost website as I did through WordPress. Mind cost me some to start up but then I found a free course from the Library that allowed me to use my own knowledge to maintain and update my website. Now what I do is take pictures as much as I can, then use the best ones to introduce a topic and share my experience. There is something very powerful about sharing your story with others. Those people often become close friends and share their own stories and before you know it a bond exists. This is why support groups an 12-step groups are so effective, the main thing they do is share their stories of what life was like before they recovered, how they recovered and how their lives are better now.

So, if you get a blog, keep a journal. Write down ideas that come to you of things to write about that week or that period you want a new blog to come out. Use your story, and do some research on what has worked on that topic for others. There are so many formats to choose from, one that has always interested me but I never explored was to have an advice website where people write to you and ask questions and you answer them (of course anyone who does want to ask me something they want to see here, feel free to contact me at my email: viking3082000@yahoo.com) then you can try to add posts on a regular basis, and the world will soon open up a door for you. I had so many opportunities stemming from this website, from being hired as a managing editor of two online mental health magazines to simply growing a following of over 600 people. But writing can do so much more for a person, even if they never publish a thing,

Most psychiatrists will recommend to a patient that they keep a journal just as I do to my students (I teach creative writing at a local psychiatric hospital). This has power because a journal can become a friend you can talk to about anything. You may be ashamed to admit that teenagers upset you when you first leave the house in the morning and see them smoking and hear them laughing, but you can always express these feelings in your journal. Once saved, you might one day be able to go back over that journal and possibly get an idea of writing a short story about a man who gets taunted by teenagers but is in fact a scientist who shrinks them down to tiny size to teach them a lesson. As you keep writing things like short stories or poems, these kinds of ideas will come to you.

Something else I have as a hobby is model building. I love to assemble tiny reproductions of airplanes from famous battles. This sort of thing takes time, energy, and concentration, and when you are done you can get a bit of wire and hang your creation from your ceiling to show it off. Really anything that engages you is great.

This is the point of my blog where I usually start talking about going to the gym and the pool. But in Edmonton where I live, all pools and gyms are shut down. I have been trying to take up the slack in my exercise routine by walking long distances. Sometimes I will make an excuse to visit my dad or a store on another side of town and then walk all the way back, even if it adds up to ten miles or more. There is something so empowering about the rhythm of each step, the feel of sun on your face and being able to breathe fresh air. I have learned to make my own mask to wear by watching the below video:

Surgeon General Shows How to Make Face Mask

I would actually like to see face masks become mandatory, but, along with social distancing, they are the best way to prevent the spread of this deadly virus we have going around. What I do also do when I go out for my long walks is I take routes where there are few if any people on the sidewalk. Long-distance walking can become tiresome and time consuming, but if you have no other way to exercise, it can be a lifeline.

It is also important to keep your strength going, the way I have been able to do this without going to the gym is buy purchasing a couple of ten pound dumbbells and doing twenty or thirty repetitions of a circuit of lifts, and then adding in some push-ups and even using a chair to use ‘dips’ to strengthen my arm. I have also found it useful to shadow box using my coats as a punching bag. Once again, anything that pushes your limits, engages you, makes you feel healthy is going to make your life easier.

With just a quick Internet search, I found a few resources on something else that could be helpful, online resources, information, and support groups for people with Schizophrenia. The website is at:

Please click here for more information

I encourage you to try this one and look deeper. And please come back and share your experiences with me, I would love to hear from you. In the mean time, please download my eBook “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the Tower Bridge and let me know what you think of it!

Best,

Leif Gregersen

SOCIETY’S MAGIC TRICKS ON THE MENTALLY ILL AND HOW OTHERS SEE THEM

always seek an elder’s wisdom! and if you like this blog, please feel free to download a copy of my latest book, Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis, just by clicking the photo of the bridge at right

 

There are a lot of ways society has tried to make many things seem like magic or sorcery. It is interesting to note that magic and sorcery were mentioned in the bible. My own way of explaining that is that there were mind and mood altering substances far back in our history such as many forms of alcohol and drugs, and those that used them were thought to be practising sorcery. I wouldn’t be surprised that modern day pharmacy had its roots in the powders and elixirs that were once attributed to witches and warlocks. Even the milder drugs like pot change the way you look at things, it can disturb your concept not just of how you feel, but of how others perceive you. THC can in a way be a self-induced form of insanity for want of a better term.

Some years ago I found myself at a gathering at a bar on the edge of downtown Edmonton, and I was invited to a private room with the band afterwards. I wonder when I look back if there was something else in the joint that was passed around because I had a couple of small tokes and went totally loopy and paranoid. One of the things I did was to try and show off by taking the medications I was on and tossing them onto a coffee table. I mistakenly was thinking that people would know what drugs I was on and want to try some of them to add to their high. I also went into someone’s room and borrowed the phone and left a half-hour long message to my ex-girlfriend, who was living with her boyfriend at the time and when I returned I was so convinced that everyone in the room wanted to kill me that I climbed out the window and down the fire escape then walked about 3 miles home instead of waiting to share a cab home. It is experiences like these that often get people confused about pot and other drugs, (alcohol included) I know of a few people who swore by the medicinal properties of cannabis. One of them had MS and had actually gotten a letter from a politician allowing him to smoke it (before it was made legal). I just heard of a young woman I have known for quite a few years having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and treating it with pot as well.

I am also fond of relating the story of mid-20th century psychiatry and drugs like LSD. Psychiatrists were encouraged to take LSD so they could better understand their patients who had delusions and hallucinations. The father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Frued was known to liberally prescribe cocaine to his patients. I don’t know how bad these situations got, but I do know in both cases that once the drug was no longer available in these ways (legal prescription, etc) a lot of psychiatric patients had a very hard time managing.

There are so many things that we are told to take on faith that we see with rose-colored glasses that they are no less than magic. A new car is promoted as more reliable than any car ever, with more power at better fuel economy. People get tricked into thinking they can buy this car with all their savings and never have to buy another car or even be outperformed by a newer car. The sad reality of planned obsolescence, proven time and again (just look at 40 year-old cars and how much they have rusted or broken down) that once were touted to be just as “magic” as the cars of today. Marketing does this to us a lot, whether it comes from a billboard or a review or a commercial.

One of the problems living in a society with this kind of “magic” is that money and ambition are encouraged. Work harder, buy more, feel better, get more work done, work more efficiently, rise in your organization, get more stuff. Die rich. Something I have been learning since my mid-forties is that how much stuff I have has very little to do with my happiness. My happiness has so much more to do with personal recognition from friends and family, and yes, even some of the people who follow my work. I got interested in the teaching of Marie Kondo and some other Minimalists and I have truly found that it is so much better to have one working computer than five older crappy ones. It is so much better to have three sets of clothes and a couple extra t-shirts and work shirts than to own more clothes than I can keep up with washing and finding a place for.  Two hundred books and ten thousand comic books seem to be a wonderful thing, but if I can never read any of them because they are poorly organized, scattered around, and drowning in each other, the truth is I am much better off with just having one or two books that I read and then donate or trade in at a used bookstore, and also taking advantage of the library system. Having fewer possessions has made my living conditions better, allowed me to work more efficiently and not feel overwhelmed all the time with a messy house, dirty dishes, and paper and stuff all over. I have a long way to go with downsizing my possessions, but if a person can look at something they own and really think hard about whether or not this thing truly makes them happy, and then makes a hard decision to sell it or donate it or clean it and organize it properly so you can get use out of it, they are going to feel so much better all over and get so much more done.

This Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) method really is magic. Marie also has a regular show on Netflix where she goes into people’s homes and transforms them. The greatest thing is that she doesn’t get people to pay someone to clean, which rarely if ever has lasting results, she teaches them how to organize, tidy, dispose of unneeded things that they may have an emotional attachment to. Once you do this for someone, you don’t just clean their house, you change their life.

One has to become a critical thinker I believe to be able to function without being brought into some of the traps out there that destroy so many people’s lives. When I was 14 I started smoking and it took away my money, my health, and it made me become ostracized by a lot of friends. There really was no magic in smoking other than the part where you satisfy your craving for nicotine and for a short time you feel good. I will never forget the day at the end of my grade 10 year that (thanks to stuffing off, starting to drink alcohol, and to a great extent to smoking cigarettes) I went from class to class to get my final grades and I failed more than 50% of them. I was devastated. I have to say though, a person raising kids should keep as much of a watchful eye on them around the age of 15. I don’t blame my parents, but both of them smoked and my dad drank and both of them allowed me to smoke and drink, and school, which was most important to me, and then Air Cadets, which came in a close second were screwed up beyond salvation. I never did end up going to University as a result of my poor showing in grade 10. Something I have found out though is that to this day almost half of all cigarette sales are to people with mental illnesses and the tobacco companies know it.

Probably one of the most important things that should be impressed upon the impressionable is to make goals. Goals are so powerful. Goals get you moving in a direction rather than a person just moving and not knowing where they will end up. I think it saved my life to decide from a young age that no matter what I would do, I would end up a writer. If I had a clearer idea of how to do that, had written out my goals, and applied some simple logic, I could have thrived at school and done what I most wanted much earlier in my life. I have heard that when a young person has at least one positive influence in their life outside their family, they are so much more likely to not have drug, alcohol or other problems. This is why programs like big brother/big sister are so amazing. The real magic in our world doesn’t come from fast cars or smooth whiskey, cold beer or satisfying cigarettes, it comes from our love, respect and caring for each other.

I hope some of this at least makes sense, I know I tend to just blurt out my writings in my blogs sometimes, but I really hope to reach people with what I say. That will be my last point. One of the best things a person can do with big decisions is to seek out advice. I have been so lucky to have my dad in my life who is a very experienced and intelligent man and whenever the smallest or biggest thing happens I can count on him. There are others though, my sister is very smart too, and I have a friend up the road who is older and very kind and intelligent who I seek out for advice. The trick is to weigh carefully how good the person will be at giving advice. If you want advice on buying a car, talk to a certified mechanic (and always get one to look at a used car before you buy it) not someone who just uses a car. If you want advice about saving money, look for classes where you can learn from people that don’t get a percentage from what you invest, but instead are highly qualified and knowledgeable about a person’s needs and capabilities. Thanks to everyone for reading all this, please contact me or comment if you have questions, as always my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

The Mentally Unsound Zombies That Walk the Night

Before I begin, just wanted to remind you Dear Reader that you can download a free digital copy of my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” by clicking on the tower bridge to the right

                                                                                                               ————————————->>>>

Walter Warren Miller

Have you ever had to wait for a bus in a sketchy part of town after dark? I live in an interesting neighbourhood and had to walk a friend to the bus and I was really surprised at how there are two types of human existence, the one that people show on the outside and the one that comes out after dark. Due to the Covid-19 virus, there were few people on the street but there were still some, and the bus wasn’t running very often so we had to sit for a while. It was kind of an interesting learning experience because my friend has some fears of people around him that perhaps are rational, perhaps have to do with his illness. He got nervous and was talking about all kinds of things, he kept doing something therapists will refer to as mind-reading, he tried to think ahead of all the other people out on the street and I was very concerned for him. This friend has just recently tried to make a decision to stop using illicit drugs and was also telling me about some of the things he had gotten himself involved in. I really wanted to step up and try and offer him some solutions, but all I could really do was stay there until the bus came and listen. One of the things that surprised me is that a guy came past and asked to bum a cigarette and my friend gave him one, then I think in a round about way he tried to ask if anyone around was selling heroin. That really opened up a can of worms for me. I don’t want to sound like I’m ranting, but I grew up in a generation that was supposed to have a war on drugs and as I have gotten older I have been learning that often even the US government was supporting drug imports in different ways to finance some of their darker operations, and I have also seen (I am not 100% sure, but as it is an American policy it may also have been a Canadian one) film where a military leader explained that they didn’t want to stop the growth of opium crops because it would harm the people they had come to help. There are many more facets to this line of thought, there is the concept that when a person buys illegal drugs the money they are spending goes to support terrorism. Now terrorism itself is an interesting word. Is it terrorism to defend your home with your very life and strap a bomb to yourself and try to get aggressive foreign agencies out of your country but not terrorism when you do something like was done in Viet Nam where agent orange was used to defoliate the countryside and it nearly destroyed the country, not to mention killed a lot of Americans. I’m not trying to side with the people that flew planes into the World Trade Center, but there seems to be a lot of shaky moral ground on both sides. I don’t blame the troops, they are there to follow orders, provide for their needs and that of their families, but when I hear the police come to the street outside my window every single night to chase off people shooting heroin in the lobby of my building, I really wish something more could be done. A lot of these people are dying in this area because they think they are getting heroin but instead are getting much more powerful opiates and they overdose. I do happen to know there is hope for even the worst addicts, though I don’t feel that safe injection sites are the most effective ways of dealing with this issue. I have known people who were addicted to heroin and got off of it by going into a methadone program. There are even countries where serious addicts get a visit from a nurse once a day who gives them a very low dose of heroin, not enough to make them high, but enough to make their desperation and cravings go away and they are able to function, experience a huge difference in quality of life and their families often even start to trust and accept them again.

I feel kind of happy right now because we had our first warm Spring day. I decided I was going to take a ten-mile walk to a mall in the far north end of Edmonton and it was glorious. Wanting to proceed with caution, I used a home made mask. For those of you interested in making your own mask, try this YouTube video (click on the highlighted text) halfway to my destination, there was a young woman who seemed to be having an extremely hard time. She was frail and skinny looking and was dancing around, her hair and clothes a mess and a bunch of clothes and scraps laying on the sidewalk around her. My best guess was that she was going through withdrawal, but what real difference is there between addiction and poor mental health? I wished I could help her, but that would have meant taking so many risks. Instead, I walked around her knowing there was little I could do, and that at least with it being warm she wasn’t at risk of exposure. An hour or so later I came back to this area and I thought I saw a small child sitting on the sidewalk. It wasn’t a child, it was the dancing woman and now she was sitting and trying to stick a needle into her arm. It was extremely disturbing to watch. What a person has to understand is that whether or not someone chose to be there, they are deep into a state where all they can think about is their drug and getting more of it. They don’t care if they steal or harm someone, they don’t care if they have been told their needle use has gotten them infected with HIV or Hepatitis, they just need to shoot up. I hate that I have become jaded like this, but I have something in my life extremely important. I have a family that loves me and depends on me and if I were to stop and try and help everyone I see in this sort of state, I would soon be of no use to them. I may even be on drugs at some point myself. No one can really say they are immune to addictions. People who abuse alcohol often think they are a step above those who abuse illicit drugs but they are seeking the same high and may never be able to break free from their problem. Not to mention that for a significant section of the population, alcohol gives a pleasant high, a feeling of ease, of confidence and pleasure. One day an alcoholic may want to see what one step higher would be like, it happens every day all over the place. A person who feels confidant that they never did hard drugs and didn’t drink until they were 18 or 21 is just as much at risk of serious addiction as anyone.

Working a while back in the inner city, teaching addicts and disadvantaged people about poetry to better express themselves in a book we were creating, I learned there is a pattern: first, a person drinks some and does minor, soft drugs. They work say a labour job and one day they are injured. As they are healing, they are given opiates as painkillers. Then they take some time off and one day they will discover that buying drugs off the street is much less expensive than prescription drugs. Soon, a tolerance is reached and more drugs are needed. From there it can be all downhill. More drugs, less ability to manage their own life, loss of employment, savings, family support and on and on. It is a deathly evil trap.

What I really wanted to say with today’s blog is that I honestly feel that our society needs to look at drugs and those whose lives it destroys in new and more progressive ways. Is it right to allow a country to export huge amounts of poppies that can be made into opiates, opium, heroin and more. Is it really Christian (or Muslim) to look down at these people and not do anything to help them manage their lives or get off drugs and alcohol. I have been a strong speaker against the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I don’t like people getting labels that put them into a box. But we are doing this with addictions all the time. And the plain fact is that addictions are a mental illness just like bipolar or schizophrenia. What we have to try and understand as well is that often people fall into a deep hole of drugs, pills, and booze because they have a serious mental illness of the more traditional type and they don’t know any way of dealing with it other than to mask the pain by doing what is called ‘self-medicating.’

The last and most unfortunate part of mental illness and addiction is something I even have a very hard time talking about. Things like child abuse, childhood sexual abuse, trauma, and sometimes all these things rolled into one can often cause a person to be mentally ill and even more often cause them to have addictions. Alcohol has a unique ability to stop REM sleep which means if you drink enough you don’t get nightmares. PTSD is something that a lot of people have, from any part of their lives. I know a lot of firemen and police officers, and I am sure ER nurses and paramedics have a tendency to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t know the statistics for Canada, but in the US for sure a lot of retired cops eventually commit suicide due to a breakdown of their mental condition. Countless others become alcoholics and alcohol abusers.

As a short added point, it is important to understand that things like cannabis are not harmless drugs. In Canada, cannibis use and cultivation is legal, but the truth is that if a person starts using it before their brains are fully matured (around 25) they tend to give themselves a 40% higher chance of developing a mental illness that includes psychosis. Psychosis is pretty scary. You see things that aren’t there, hear things that haven’t been said, get grandiose or disturbing thoughts, and before you know it your whole life has fallen apart. I hate to end on a sad note, but it really affected me talking with this friend today. Anyone out there who has some praying they want to get done, his name is Damien and he could use some divine and local intervention to save his life.

 

God and Spirituality: A Sunday Sermon About Mental Health and Mental Illness

Hello Dear readers. just thought I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the chance to check out my sister site, Dear Ava (click here) for great Mother’s Day gifts and a wonderful blog.

I have some exciting news, I am near to getting approval to start to distribute two of my other books for free as eBooks here on this site. Please stay tuned and click the Tower Bridge photo———> at right to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” —————————>

I wanted to share a great review I received about this book from the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, so here goes:

Leif Gregersen provides up-close, first hand insight into the world of schizophrenia. Known as potentially the most devastating mental illness accompanied by horrible societal stigma, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and especially mis-characterizations of those living with and recovering from schizophrenia, Mr. Gregersen humanizes this illness by his own lived experience. Most importantly, we see a person, not just a diagnosis. We see his identity as he tells his story. His identity is not rooted in symptoms and pathology but in purpose, meaning, and how he wishes to help others to become more compassionately present with those with mental health challenges and their family members and friends.   This whole process or journey is now called, “recovery.” Recovery is living beyond the limitation of a mental illness with meaning, purpose, a sense of identity and resiliency, social inclusion. Mr. Gregersen lives a life of recovery.

Dr. Chris Summerville, D.Min., CPRRP, LL.D (Honorius), CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

So what is a church really? There are so many loose definitions. I was talking to my cousin on this topic a short time ago and really we started to get down to what the Buddhists believe, that the place of worship is a place of refuge. I admitted to him that my place of refuge, before I started going to church on my own was a library, specifically the library in St.Albert. One day shortly after I stopped collecting comics I started watching a wonderful series done by Levar Burton (Geordie Laforge from Star Trek: The Next Generation) called Reading Rainbow. He used to talk about all kinds of reading, and even how picture books can have a value. Since I loved reading and comic books were no longer cool, I started at the children’s section of our city library and looked for things that sparked my interest. One of the first books was one about the FBI. It had a lot of pictures and some easy to read text, but the funny thing is I learned so much about the FBI (former the Treasury Department) that I have a working knowledge of the agency to this day. After that, I worked my way upstairs to the adult sections and I think I started out with history books. I was fascinated with World War Two and I was a cadet at the time, so a large knowledge of combat and weapons came in pretty handy when friends and I got into discussions about our mutual passion. I went on to pore through photography books, books of old old cartoon strips, comedy books, and even managed to sneak a book about nude photography past the librarian. For years when I had the time I would head to the library and read as many magazines as I could. When I lived in North Vancouver on the coast, I was so much of a regular at the magazine stand the Librarians knew what I liked to read and got to know me. Then of course there were the novels I devoured, especially if they had a historical or military theme. It was almost a natural progression for me to become a writer. What the best part of it was, was that after being released from the psychiatric hospital and being low income and not having too many friends, writing was the perfect thing for me. I didn’t have to have qualifications or degrees, I just had to be able to put pen to paper and all my reading experience served me well. When I told my cousin this and asked him what his refuge was, he said it was his stereo. He has worked in some of the top music stores in the country, he is an accomplished band and studio musician, and to him music was his refuge. I encourage anyone with stress in their lives that either have a mental illness or not to find something to take refuge in. For a lot of people it can be a musical instrument, especially a piano. I used to carry around a harmonica even though I wasn’t very accomplished at it, I liked making sound and trying to play songs and find rhythms. For a while I also tried to play guitar, and even with my horribly limited knowledge of it, when I sit down with a guitar I enter a whole new world.

One of the funny things that is starting to happen is that I am becoming such good friends with my cousin that I am now helping him to write things, and he is starting to give me advice on how to write songs that he hopes to later put to music. But there are so many more things you can do. With the pandemic and all, I went and bought myself an expensive model of one of my favourite WWII planes, the B-25 Mitchell. I am looking forward to blocking out some time for it and watching with excitement as the plane begins to take shape.

Of course, through all this I think the best advice I have gotten when I talk about my books and my walking and other things that keep me going was from my psychiatric nurse. She simply said that my mental health is the absolute priority. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if I got ill again and had to go in the hospital. No one trusts you there, a lot of sick people who may even be unable to grasp ideas like covering up a cough or wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is all about. So I am doing my best to make my appointments, and to take all of my medications. I have noticed that when I get a bit out of kilter with the isolation, I tend to forget about my medications sometimes. I do get all of them in blister packs which is great because you just have to pop out the pills you need at that particular time of day and you are fine.

I am so lucky to have not only a course of medications that work well for me, but also my body has adapted to the medications so now they work really well on my symptoms but allow me to pursue certain things like my extra long walks and writing sessions. I can’t prescribe medications for people out there but I can say that if you get active in your treatment, listen carefully to your psychiatrist and ask a lot of questions, and perhaps even work through some of your issues in group or individual therapy there is a major chance you are going to make a full recovery, even go back to work. I guess though, since this is a Sunday blog that I should put out a request for a very special client of mine. She lives alone and has Tueurettes syndrome, she can’t stop swearing and doesn’t leave the house and feels very ashamed of her illnesses. She is truly a very kind lady and was nice enough to get two of my books from the library and read them.

Just to talk. little about church again, people often refer to a place of worship as a church, but really no matter how many solid bricks in the building, that isn’t a church. The people who attend the church, who participate in giving and sharing and working together and supporting each other in a Christian walk, those people are the church. I don’t want to get too far into it all, but you are welcome to post comments that I will respond to. I guess I would like to close by defining spirituality and religion, if I can get it right. Religion is for people who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back. I would encourage anyone who attends a church, or even just wants to live a better, less stressful life to try to embrace the spiritual. Remember we are all immortal souls in need of love and caring, young and old. Avoid judging people, and if you see them hurting, why not help and maybe even tell them about how attending a church, reading the word of God (the bible) and learning to pray can transform just about anyone. Good night dear readers, more to come soon!

 

A Tightly Woven Web of Mental Illness and Mental Health

Hello Good People! If you have any need of gifts for Mother’s Day, or wanted to have a look at another blog, I have partnered up with another blog website called Dear Ava. Visit them here: https://dearava.com

I know most of you would like to get into the meat of my blog, but I wanted to mention a couple of things. First of all, there is a photo on the right hand column of this blog —————————>                                         and if you click on it, you can download a free copy of my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” Those of you that read and enjoy this book could really help me out by doing one of two things: one is to write a review of it for amazon, and the other is to consider becoming my Patreon sponsor. The reason I am asking people to pledge me money is because I am switching to offering my work for free or at very low cost because I decided it is more important to help others and reach as many people as I can than to get rich, but still I have expenses to meet, so I am asking those who can afford it to visit my Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/leifg and consider sponsoring me for $5 to $8 a month. For those that do sponsor me, I will regularly send new content I create, such as short stories and poems, and have special offers open only to those who are able to sponsor me. Now for the blog at last!


So, I have been thinking a fair bit about something. The first and most prevalent thing going through my head is that right now I am extremely sane. I don’t know if anyone out there has had the opportunity to take a WRAP course (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) but part of what they teach about is to try and get to know your illness or addiction. As you get to know it, you start to look for signs that first of all you may be having a stressful day and then writing out different coping strategies you have to help you get through it. Then you go to the next level and you try to be aware of when you are sliding into the danger zone of your addiction or mental health problem (this is not accurate of course, but I would encourage others to look up and read up about WRAP on their own and definitely consider taking the course, and if you have a mental health issue it isn’t a bad idea at all to download the app from Google or The Apple Store and fill out all the information so you have all of your personal coping tools written out for yourself) there is more, which I will try to explain in a moment, but something I have been learning to do lately is simply to be able to tell when I am falling asleep. I don’t know how many others have the same problem I do, I know insomnia is a curse of people who aren’t working and take medications. My problem is that unless I take something to help me sleep I will only sleep 1-2 hours at a time, then feel the extreme need to have a snack before trying to go back to sleep. This packs on the pounds in no time and I have been struggling not just with not feeling rested during the day, but also with gaining far too much weight to be healthy. I have even been diagnosed now with diabetes, and having a heck of a time lowering my weight to improve the condition.

Anyhow, to get back to the indications that I’m asleep, it often takes me a fair while to fall asleep, and I have to lie down stone still for quite a while. I try to notice when my thoughts become garbled and when I am thinking of things that don’t make sense. This is when I know it is time to sign off and try and rest as much as I can. This method is also extremely useful, along with tools given me by taking the WRAP course, in keeping a close eye on my sanity in general. At one point I made an actual list, but over time I have been just keeping the list of indicators I may be having a ‘breakdown’ in my head. One of the most serious ones is when I am being paranoid. Last time I got sick, I became deathly afraid that the people in the apartment next door to me could hear all I did and were angry at me and literally wanted to kill me because of the noise I was making. I started tip-toeing around the apartment, opening my cabinet drawers with extreme care and caution. This is an extreme thing, but I have now tried to become more aware of when I have rational fears and when I have irrational ones.

The next thing that will indicate to me that I am near the point of needing help is when I start to think that there are people from my past who still want to help me become rich or own great things, or even marry a certain person I went to school with many years ago. Thinking about this one person at all is distressing, but when I start to think that she is contacting me, which she would never do (this person is happily married and wants nothing to do with me) then I know that I am in psychosis. The first thing I should do when this happens is to try and find a way to contact my doctor and see about being checked in to a psychiatric ward or psychiatric hospital.

What is truly great is that right now I feel very comfortable in my own home, I don’t worry at all about my neighbours, and I even have a close female friend who has made me totally forget about this girl from my past. At one point I was thinking about her so much I actually approached my doctor with the concern that I was a stalker. It was good to hear from him that if I were a stalker I wouldn’t be telling him about these things though he couldn’t do much to help my unhealthy thoughts about this person. Again another positive thing is that I have never gone out of my way even slightly to see her or approach her and I really don’t want to.

One of the greatest things about literature, and about being a writer is that you can play with and explore things that haven’t quite happened. Yesterday I found myself writing out a story about a middle aged man who was obsessed with a woman to a point of comparing every female he saw to her, and as the story progressed, he met a young woman online who he actually thought was the person he was obsessed with conspiring to finally fall in love with him. I would just love to be able to put this story here on the blog, but the truth is that if I did, it would mean that in the eyes of publishers, this story was published and it would significantly decrease the value of it. If anyone really does want to read it, and take advantage of more creative content from me, I encourage you to become a Patreon sponsor, it would do so much to help me get my work to a public that it can really help a lot. Once again, my Patreon profile can be found at https://patreon.com/leifg there is no obligation to do this though, and if you can’t or don’t want to sponsor me, you will still get this blog and you can still download and share my book all you want. Take care dear readers, and for those who are able, I thank you for your support!

What Not to Say to an Expecting Mama, and a Little About Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Please don’t forget if you haven’t already to download a copy of my new book at right———->

It is totally free to download and share and gives an excellent snapshot of what it is like to be in a psychiatric ward for psychosis. Just below the link (the picture of the tower bridge) is a video you can view of me reading from the book and explaining parts of it.

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have partnered up with a website called DearAva that runs a blog that often deals with mental health issues. I will be posting some of their content below, if you get a chance, check out their site, it’s kind of a nice one. I just wanted to say a few things about pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a very difficult time for women, I have even heard that becoming pregnant is likely the greatest risk a woman can take with her health. The person goes through so many hormonal changes that often the woman who has recently had a baby will go through a very serious and severe depression known as postpartum depression. I have a family member who had a child and never stopped having depression, which normally only lasts a short while. Aside from the physical risks, which I won’t get into, there are some things that people with mental illnesses have to consider. Something that really irks me is when people imply that if you have a mental illness you shouldn’t have children. This was a decision my mom had to make, and I want to honestly say that even though I have been through some pretty difficult times, and had to deal with a lot because of my genetically inherited mental illness, I still totally think it was worthwhile that I was put here on this Earth. My mom had three children and we all loved her dearly and have so many wonderful memories of growing up and having her as a parent. We had a chance to learn so much from her that was passed down in her family, and all of us have had some wonderful times. Along with a genetic illness, my mom passed on something incredibly worthwhile, she passed on her intelligence and love of learning, which has brought the three of us to places we thought we could never go.

Regarding an actual pregnancy though, if you may be pregnant, it is important to find out as soon as you can because if you are taking psychiatric medications you may want to actually go off some of them for the health of your unborn child. This should only be done with direct supervision of a psychiatrist. This can make for an extremely difficult time during pregnancy, many of us need our medications, but if you consult your doctor you may be able to find alternatives that are shown to be less harmful. It goes without saying that a person should never smoke or drink during pregnancy, or even be around smoke, and it should also be said that it can be extremely risky to be around marijuana smoke or to smoke it yourself, not to mention all the other recreational drugs out there.

As for my views on love and marriage, I just wanted to briefly state that since I was young even when I didn’t go to church, I have felt that you shouldn’t sleep with anyone you don’t plan on having a lifetime commitment to. This is because it can be so difficult for one parent to raise a child and it is the child that ends up being harmed in these situations. I don’t mean to preach or even to advise anyone on this, it is just something that I believe, and I also believe that a person shouldn’t get married with the intention of having children unless they are financially secure enough to do so. All that balderdash aside, please enjoy the below post from Dear Ava

What NOT To Say To An Expecting Mama

We’ve all been there. A dear friend is pregnant, and you’re bursting with excitement! You may want to share your own experience with pregnancy and childbirth, or you may want to give her the best piece of advice you’ve heard when it comes to raising children. While many things can be taken in stride by pregnant women, there are a few zingers that you’ll want to steer clear of, even though you have the best of intentions.

“Wow, you’re huge!”

This, or any other comment on her weight or size, isn’t a good idea. If you want to comment on her appearance, the appropriate sentiment is, “you look beautiful.”

“Sleep while you can.”

Pregnant mothers-to-be are exhausted from growing a tiny human, and the last thing they need to hear is how they may be even more exhausted when the baby arrives. If you’d like to be helpful, offer to come over after the baby arrives and clean, cook, or hold the little one while she showers and catches some much-needed zzz’s.

“Say goodbye to your free time/ hobbies/ relationship.”

New moms know that their entire world is about to change, and they’re likely working hard to wrap their heads around just how different life is going to be once their little one makes their appearance. Talking about how their life will change for the better – they’ll be so in love with their child, they’ll have a new respect for their partner, they’ll get to experience the best parts of being a little kid all over again – is a much better way to go than saying something negative.

“My childbirth experience was horrible.”

Mamas, especially first-timers, are often terrified at the idea of giving birth. While it can feel like a bonding experience to share horror stories, do so out of earshot of an expecting mom. Setting her up to even more anxious than she already is to have her baby doesn’t help – it only creates worry.

“Are you sure you’re eating enough/ aren’t you eating too much?”

A pregnant mom’s diet is between two people – her and her doctor. There’s no need to comment on how much or how little she’s eating. There’s no way to know whether she just got done fasting for a test, or if she’s so nauseous she’s struggling to keep down ginger ale and saltines. If you’re in a situation where there’s food, ask her if there’s anything you can get for her so she can sit down and relax.

It can be hard to know exactly what to say to a pregnant woman. Erring on the side of staying positive is always smart. If you’ve had a child before, it can be tempting to share your wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) experiences with a mom-to-be, but tread lightly. Encouragement, positivity, and excitement are always welcome, while judgment, shame, and questioning of one’s decisions are not. When in doubt, ask her how you can help her get ready for her bundle of joy to arrive, and be on call for questions and support when the baby arrives.