Month: September 2018

The Long Path of Recovering From a Mental Illness (and Psychiatry)

I love skylines. I’ve seen more than my share of them. Once, in Vancouver while in a state of psychosis, hallucinating, I was nearly convinced that I had been pushed forward in time to the future and that I was actually on the moon in a replica of Vancouver. Desperately needing help and the care of a psychiatric facility, I called the police and told them I thought someone had put hallucinogenic drugs in my food. I was taken to a hospital psychiatric ward right away. One of the sad things about hospital psychiatric wards is something that is only a theory to me, they only really exist as training tools for Doctors who need to train in all fields and types of wards. This is good when the Doctors become psychiatrists, but psychiatry is not only an unpopular field, it is also among the worst paid careers for a professional, especially when one considers the average psychiatrist will most likely not finish their schooling and internship until they are as old as 30.

I wanted to talk a little today about not just recovering from mental illness, but also recovering from the treatment that a person goes through when they spend time in a psychiatric facility. The most obvious treatments that recovery time is needed for is shock treatments. My Mom had a large number of them and it seemed it was the only thing that would lift her out of her severe depressions. The sad part was that she would lose her memory and in her last years here on Earth, she was almost a different person (personality wise).

When I think of recovering from the treatment a person gets when they are mentally ill, I think of being treated for schizophrenia, bipolar, and anxiety. At different times it seemed that I had different diagnoses. What really came as a surprise to me was that until I was 44 years old I didn’t even know what my diagnosis was. In Vancouver, I had been labelled as a person with schizophrenia. In Edmonton, depression, and at a later time, schizoaffective, and what I thought for most of my life, I was at some point described as having bipolar disorder. Some say these are just words and don’t mean anything, but I would have really liked to know, I am not a simple minded person, I can research my illness and find things out that may have been beneficial to me. A young woman I know who had anxiety asked me how anyone could have it and not know about it. My problem was that, likely because I never talked to anyone about my difficulties, with the possible exception of my mom, I had no idea that these weren’t normal things. I was never able to express how I felt or communicate and develop friendships with others in my younger years, I thought it was just nerves and that I would grow out of it. I did to an extent, but there were many wasted opportunities in my life.

And of course when I talk about recovering from your treatment, I can’t avoid mentioning my last stay in the hospital when I was a patient for 6 months. I came out of that time period almost completely unable to handle life. Meals had been cooked for me, my finances were taken over by a public trustee. And my interpersonal skills had atrophied. Thank heaven my Dad was able to come to my place every day and take me for a walk. Slowly I was able to ease myself back into society, though I still have difficulties. But I’m on my own now and like to think I’m doing well.

Well Dear Readers, I am going to have to leave things at that. I need to rest. Anyone who reads this blog who resides in Manitoba I wanted to mention to them that my two memoirs, “Inching Back to Sane” and “Through the Withering Storm” are now available in the Winnipeg Library system. They have 3 copies of each book, so if you are in Manitoba and want to read my two memoirs for free, try and interlibrary loan. Of course it may be even easier to purchase the books from amazon.com, both of them and my 9 other titles are available, just go to ‘books’ on the search window and type in “Leif Gregersen” and you should be able to find all of my books and eBooks at reasonable prices. Best to all of you!

When Chronic Psychosis and Symptoms of Mental Illness Get To Be Too Much

please note today’s poem will appear after my blog!

This is me, Leif Gregersen at 46 years old (taken today). I am living independently which is a new thing for me, at least while my mental health is good. I have been in my own apartment for two years and handle pretty much everything. Most of the time I am hard at work at my computer, but there is a symptom of mental illness that I wanted to talk about that has very little to do with being manic or experiencing depression. It is kind of a state that medications sometimes induce. It is very difficult to put a name to, but basically, you take your medications, they help with your symptoms, but in a way you feel very detached from your own existence, even your own voice and body. Most people can function very well despite experiencing this side effect, but it has its problems. For me the main problem came when I was stable and on meds for seven years, and felt as though I had made a full recovery. I started to get just a little bit mentally ill and I slacked off. I hadn’t been to see my Psychiatrist in a long time and had started getting my prescriptions from a family Doctor. I hadn’t made a full recovery. I have my doubts that anyone can fully recover from a mental illness, especially one like mine. I am diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, and I take pills for all of them. These illnesses occur at a cellular level. I am nowhere near any kind of doctor, but to my understanding, an illness like schizophrenia (which I have some symptoms of, hence the diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder) occurs in the nerve endings. Our nerves communicate with our brain (which is best explained as a bundle of nerves in an extremely complex and beautifully designed or created, cohesive whole) by shooting near transmitters from one nerve to the next at lightning speeds. All of our information comes to our brain this way, and might tell you where in space the fingers of your right hand are located, or if something is hot to the touch. Mental illness causes these communications to become distorted. There are a great deal of medications that can help these symptoms, but just about all of them have side effects, and many of them don’t completely remove all the symptoms. What I wanted to talk about was how I can look in a mirror or look at a picture of myself and feel a strangeness towards the person looking back at me. Then of course there is something I think everyone experiences, you see yourself and can’t believe that you are ageing. It seems like just. a whisper of time since I was six and in my first year of school, a blink and then I was in grade 12 and about to go off to face the world. Nothing seems real and this is something I hope will be addressed in meeting rooms where medications are developed.

I don’t want to sound so negative though, I actually had a phenomenal day today. I taught the first of a series of classes at the psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Edmonton and I seemed to really connect to a lot of people in my class of around 8 or 9. And just last week I spoke to three small classes of health professionals and I really felt like I was in my element.

I apologize for not having a poem today. I am going to open my word processor and perhaps look for an older one and post it below. Ciao my dear readers. I set a new record, the other day this website got 95 views in just one day. I don’t mind at all doing this for free, I just hope you can follow what I feel is a useful guide to what I write about.

-mental illness is no person’s fault, it can be either random or inherited

-people with mental illnesses need the same love and friendship that everyone else gets

-stigma destroys lives. It isolates people, it makes them unable to find jobs or housing

-mental illness is not a death sentence

-one in five Canadians and Americans will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. show you care and reach out to help someone who is mentally ill. buy a homeless person in distress a sandwich. Be the person who steps up to talk to someone obviously having problems without judging and just be there for them.

Lastly, for all my Alberta friends, enjoy the weather, it isn’t going to last!

-Leif Gregersen

-viking3082000@yahoo.com

Here is a poem I wrote, I apologize if it is a repeat:

Suicide

I know you’re hurting but don’t think you found a better way

Before you waste your life I have some words I want to say

Each one of us, your friends fears to take a chance

And each one of us has failed at romance

Please don’t give up trying

Giving up and giving in

When it comes to love

Is almost like a sin

You have to understand love sometimes fades

The way we all see it you weren’t to blame

You put body, mind, and soul into being a friend and lover

And now that your love is no more you can’t recover

Just keep something always in your mind

You have looks and youth, there is every chance you will find

A new path to happiness once more

Though you may wait a while and find it on a distant shore

The time will come for you then you will just need to go through that open door

You will not regret starting fresh and finding someone new

Right now, those of us who care fear greatly for you

Too many young people gave their lives away

For hurt feelings that would be gone so soon, literally in days

The final choice is up to you

Only you can decide what you do

But my friend I will say anew

So many people care for you

Bipolar, Psychosis, and Depression

It’s a bit interesting that I took this photo of the Alberta Legislature Building. Just a couple of days later I got a letter from one of the offices in here, of the Deputy Premier who is the minister of Health. Due to my work, my writing and efforts to reduce stigma and help people to cope with bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other illnesses, I have been asked to be part of a committee that helps set policy on mental health treatment in Alberta. Please scroll past today’s poem for a look at today’s mental health coping skills blog entry.

 

McCauley Fall

 

Memories of long, warm sunny days

Best friends and true love by your side

Being so young, naiive in so many ways

But still being tall enough to ride

 

Summer comes and goes so fast

Soon it’s back to work or school

Nothing that good was meant to last

That could be a second golden rule

 

In summertime so many years ago

I met the one I thought was meant for me

But I was never able to truly grow

Until I could set my true love free

 

It seems we need to spend our time

Enjoying things in life but soon moving on

Not letting go is almost a crime

Since one day soon all our days will be gone

 

Hello Dear Readers. Many exciting things have been happening, but still I must remain vigilant not to slip into bad habits. The other day I was experiencing a bout of mania, my mood went almost uncontrollably high until I could get my medication and get some sleep. Sleep is so important, and yet falling asleep is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I sometimes use sleep medication, but I try to do it sparingly. There are a number of problems with trying to medicate sleeplessness. The first one is that I often feel that I don’t get as good of a sleep when I take a pill. Then, it is commonly known that sleeping pills can cause memory loss. And then there is the addiction factor. As a person who has experienced depression, manic-depression and anxiety, I feel I am very prone to addiction. I had a huge problem giving up alcohol after my teen ‘party’ years were done, and I also had a hard time giving up gambling, and I don’t even want to get into smoking. One of the interesting things I was talking to a small audience today about is that when you have a mental illness, nicotine actually acts in similar ways to psychiatric medications. I talk about this as a person with lived experience with mental illness, and there was a perfect example last time I was in the hospital, of course before I was able to quit smoking finally. I would wake up, go into the TV room in the hospital for a cigarette, then I would see the news and it was incredibly convincing and disturbing that the TV would talk to me and about me and I would hear other ‘voices’. Then, I would have a second smoke and things would calm down. After that, a third coffin nail would make me just about normal.

So I had the opportunity today to speak to three different small classes about mental illness and my own experience with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and anxiety. I have taken training in public speaking and I really enjoy talking about things that positively effect people and how they go on to deal with those who suffer from illnesses like mine. I get paid a little, and it often seems that I will connect with one or two people who will purchase a book from me. I do have ten books in print (available by messaging me or going to the Edmonton Public Library, Smashwords.com or Amazon.com) but when I go to give talks about my lived experience as a psychiatric patient, I just bring my two memoirs, “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane”. To anyone who has read my books, I am currently working on another which will contain the full story of “Through the Withering Storm” but will include a lot of other types of my work, sort of based on this blog. I will post when this book becomes available.

It seems funny when I look at myself. I am nearly 50, I have back problems, knee problems, hip problems, weight problems, issues with bipolar, symptoms of paranoia likely due to schizophrenia. I even experience psychosis quite a bit, but I feel better now than any time in my life. I am able to live on my own, I have incredible friends, my Dad and I are getting along just as good as when I was his little boy. It is so amazing. And when I think of how sometimes when I am alone and my thoughts wander I sometimes entertain ideas of suicide, it really is scary, because I would have missed out on so many things and really hurt a lot of people who know me or are related to me.

I used to have a roommate who suffered from schizophrenia and he told me that quite often his two voices, Jesse and Taylor, would tell him dirty jokes while he was trying to work out. He would tell the jokes to me and some of them were actually kind of funny. I wondered if they bothered my roommate, and he told me that he liked hearing new jokes. My reaction was to say,

“John, you aren’t supposed to enjoy schizophrenia!”

I will leave you with that dear readers! Please feel free to look around the site, I will be entering a 24-hour short story writing contest tomorrow, so there will likely not be a blog. Have a great day and hey-let’s be careful out there!

Leif Gregersen

Mental Health as Winter Approaches. Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Disable

This is a picture I am kind of proud of, taken with and edited by an iPhone 7. This was pretty much the last all-green day I went out taking photos. Now comes the long struggle to deal with the low sunlight hours of winter that have been known to cause a great deal of people to suffer from depression and other mental illnesses. It was a grim sight, but once, right on the very bridge I took this picture of, I saw a man who died by hanging himself off the bridge. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD is a very serious issue and suicide is a tragic loss for all those left behind. As a last comfort, Edmonton is now a dash of every colour possible.

The following poem first appeared in the Boyle-McCauley News

 

The Forgotten Book

 

On my floor forgotten lies a book

Its cover bent all it seems to do is gather dust

The dismal hum of the summer fan

Licks its pages until it seems alive

This book once had been my hopes, my dreams

To take me places I never dared to go

This book was more than mine it was me

It was written by my hand inspired by my soul

I poured everything into its pages

And now at 5:00am as the sky brightens

I haven’t got the energy to pick it up

I should file the thing; get it out of sight

But I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it

There on my floor

I may be a hermit to some

Old books covering my furniture and floors

Old junk filling up the spaces in between

But among all that will be that book

Hopefully long after I am gone

To tell my story

To somehow let me live on

If only on a page that few will read

Leif Gregersen

 

Good morning noon or night dear readers! It has been some time since I have written a blog, I apologize but feel I have a relevant excuse. I have been given a new pill which is being used to taper me off one antipsychotic medication to another that will have less side effects and only needs to be administered once a month instead of every two weeks. Add to that the pulling of a tooth and the week long use of painkillers and penicillin and I was a bit of a wreck. On Friday I am going to be speaking to an inter professional group, (actually three of them) at the University of Alberta Medical School and I am going to need to tell them about how all of their jobs fit together (I will be speaking in front of dentists, doctors, nurses and more). Something I continue to talk about is how psychiatric medications often cause dry mouth, and saliva is the first line of defence we have against tooth decay. So it follows that, even though they may not know it, dentists play a key role in the treatment of someone with an illness.

More will be said on that topic, but today I wanted to talk a bit about how winter affects us. Unless you live on the equator, in winter there are much fewer hours of sunlight. Many doctors believe that everyone needs a certain amount of sunlight to regulate their moods. Many people with bipolar disorder use a ‘light box’ to make them feel better in the winter months. Some even have headsets with UV light shining into their eyes wherever they go. I don’t know how effective this is, but I do know that midwinter can be a very difficult time for me to get through. This summer has been wonderful, I invested in the best walking shoes I was recommended and have been walking sometimes up to 20km a day, enjoying the hot weather and sunshine, and I have also lost 30 pounds in the process. When winter comes, getting my daily exercise will be much more difficult. I will walk, especially to the grocery store, but it may well go down as far as minus 40 (40 below). This means I will slip and slide at times when I walk, and it also means that my skin will get extremely dry, worse if I go swimming for my exercise, but I have stocked up on video games, movies and books of all kinds, plus I will be working a couple of days a week if all goes well.

Another thing I know about the middle of winter (in Canada) is that around Christmas, the psychiatric hospital and psych wards fill right up to capacity. This makes it very difficult to get help if you are suicidal and in need of treatment. It is an interesting problem one faces because we really need more trained psychiatric staff, but to hire more staff, more must be trained, which can either mean lowered standards of training, or incentives from the government. The biggest problem faced in my own workplace, the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta is that mental illness is not a popular target for funding. There are solutions out there, but I am hoping to spread the word that much of it is down to the general public, not the patients, the staff, the teachers or the government. Much of it comes down to changing attitudes towards mental health. Stigma kills. Literally. A fact we stress when I give presentations for the SSA is that 1% of people in Canada (300,000 people) have the illness of schizophrenia. (can you imagine providing space for that many people plus trained staff if needed?) out of those 300,000 people, and I also like to stress that they are people, 10% will die by suicide as a direct result of being stigmatized, being isolated as a result of stigma, and possibly even not feeling any sense of care or self-worth as a result of stigma. I don’t know all the answers, but I will try and document what I can on this blog, so stick close dear readers, this will be a wild ride!

Leif Gregersen