Month: March 2019

The Poor, the Sick, the Homeless…

Video link at beginning and end of today’s blog

https://youtu.be/3sD-jBPxRAc

Did you ever look up at a soaring bird and just stand in awe of the miracle of flight? For the fortunate majority of us, this how the ragged pan handler, the twerking junkie or the heroin addicted sex worker sees us with our happy, healthy families. Can you imagine what it would be like to be sexually assaulted when you are too young to even understand what that was? Or to be beaten with a strap or punished with cigarette burns, then be taken away and shuffled through group home and foster home after another until, as a reaction you commit a crime and spend years being dehumanized? This is the reality of far too many people in our society, and when it happens, the victims one day find that drugs or alcohol can mask the pain. To feed habits like these and the aftermath of their consumption, sex trade, violent crimes, professional shoplifting, drug dealing and many more crimes come about, leading one day to jail and institutionalization. Why do we have jails and not addiction treatment or mental health clinics? Decaying neighbourhoods and not trade or vocational schooling made affordable and inclusive for the youth and adult alike? So very much has to change. I was kindly given guidance to make the below video, please click the link to view and feel free to contact me for book purchase or updates on my newest project.

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

https://youtu.be/3sD-jBPxRAc

Some of the Devastating Effects of Schizophrenia, Bipolar and OCD

 

I think back a lot to when I first went into a serious psychosis, almost 30 years ago when I was 18. I was working nights stocking shelves at a grocery store, I was doing my best to keep my grades up and my home life was near to intolerable. Of course, after being kicked out of school, things got worse. I kind of drifted around that summer after my final days of trying for a high school diploma. I had lost nearly all of my friends, I had never had a girlfriend, and even my parents and siblings wanted nothing to do with me. Naturally my first thoughts were that I had done something wrong, that I was somehow at fault. This is still a hard conception of the situation to live past. When you go into a psychiatric hospital and do anything the staff doesn’t like, you will be punished, and they will do their best to teach you whatever it is a person learns by being locked into isolation day after day, week after week, month after month until you are nothing more than an animal, in the staff’s eyes and your own. I don’t want to sound too harsh, in fact there were times when I was in the hospital and treated extremely well. In February I was a patient on a psychiatric ward and it was funny–the first part where no one really gave a crap was really horrible, but as I got feeling better and my medication started to take effect, it became a very positive experience. The food was good, there was a gym, a chapel. The staff really seemed to go out of their way to help and to actually listen and care. I am actually kind of curious though now, after 17 years what kind of detrimental effects could have happened to my brain and even my personality by being tortured in the way I had been.

One thing I do know is that my first hospital admission changed the entire course of my life. After I had been in the hospital three months, I had lost any and all work skills I had, I couldn’t go back to school, partly because I had missed too many classes, and also because there was no parental support even for me to just get the 10 credits I needed for my high school diploma. As I look back, it is hard to tell if I was a stuck-up, over-priviliged teenager or if I was just frightened at what I was going to end up to the point where my emotions shut down. All I do know is that there were in fact numerous members of the staff who shouldn’t work in a position of a person in care of vulnerable, disabled psychiatric patients. There was one guy named Wayne (yes, his real name) who swore to me if he ever saw me outside of the hospital he would beat the shit out of me because I asked him to stop playing the guitar at a time when silence would have been golden. There was a nurse who had me taken to the lockdown ward where care is a minimum, air is unbreathable, and everyone is an extremely serious case and most of them are violent, including the staff. She did this because I was trying to key out a tune on the piano and I guess she had decided I wasn’t good enough for her standards to even try and learn to play. There was once a patient who yelled insults at me and swore at me several times and then had the nursing staff try to convince him to press charges on me. I had committed the offence of trying to find out about something I was delusional about that he was supposed to be an expert in. I kind of think that if you lock someone in a small space for 5 months and refuse to do anything to help them with their mental health issues, it would almost seem reasonable that a person would defend himself in a fight, and that my reaction was more their responsibility. Had he charged me, it would have been the end of my life outside the hospital. People who are mentally ill who commit crimes are sent to a part of the hospital known as forensics where they stay at the leisure of whatever Psychiatrist they are assigned to, and it is very often years for even the simplest offence.

So really though, as a person who has studied all this, wrote about it, taken psychology classes and wellness and recovery programs, what is the solution? I think that a lot of things have to be brought out into the open. We don’t need to treat all of our psychiatric patients in a facility 10km away from anything, hidden off where no one understands the problem as the local hospital in Edmonton is situated. What needs to happen is such places should be in the community, where even some of the more serious cases can function, with support, go to movies on their own, visit a mall to buy clothes and all that. It doesn’t help in any way to institutionalize people, especially when most of them are short-term patients. I got some good advice one time years ago when I was having a crisis. “You can go to the hospital, you can get in and be treated, but that’s no guarantee you will get any better.” This was coming from intake staff. And it was very true. That’s all for now folks, sorry for the negative tone of today’s entry. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. As a side note, I am now writing a compilation book of my poetry, with some blog material, many essays, and possibly photos, most of which was written during different stages of my illness in the hospital I recently was discharged from. If you are interested in getting a very limited edition of what will be a promotional run, signed of course, please contact me, Leif, at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will get you a copy.

The Way I Deal With Obsessive and Addictive Behaviours Along With My Psychosis

(Blog after photo)

This is another of the beautiful buildings in Edmonton, Canada Place. During construction I worked in this ornate structure with my Dad, painting numbers on stairwells in at least six fifteen storey stairwells. I had two other jobs plus full-time school at the time.

So, I can’t really tell you if I have an obsessive compulsive disorder. I do know that I often feel compelled to do funny things. As a child it may be touching every light pole as I walked past it, then it festered and grew to not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Soon I began to do increasingly odd things. Comic books seemed harmless until I hoarded and amassed thousands and protected them as though my life depended on them. Before that it was stamps, after that it was military clothing. At fourteen I ended up in psychiatric care and was given medication but no diagnosis. On leaving, though I would often dress up in camouflage or even military work uniforms around the house, I stopped doing it when I went to school. That was the age of alcohol and arcades, cigarettes and all-night sessions in front of the TV on school nights. Quitting any of these habits was so hard, but I showed little foresight knowing things like booze and smokes would ruin my life many years early. Every teenager seems to think they will magically quit before cancer sets in and that they themselves had discovered things like sex, drugs, and alcohol.

At nineteen, I made a vow to quit drinking. I went to meetings, tried to stay away from bars and managed to get six months of clean time in. Unfortunately I became more addicted to cigarettes and had a wicked addiction to coffee, all hours of the night and day. It all finally came to a head when I was in my 30s and I made some coffee one morning and lit up a cigarette, finished it and had another. Then I threw up on the kitchen floor. Something had to be done.

Persons with schizophrenia can have a very hard time quitting tobacco. It has been found that tobacco affects some of the same neurotransmitters that psychiatric medications do. It actually soothes extreme psychosis, which in my opinion is a condition far worse than torture. I didn’t quit coffee, but with the help of patches, a support group, a counsellor, a pharmacist and even a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions, I stopped smoking. It was the hardest and best thing I ever did, but it was almost too late. My breathing was seriously affected by 18 years of smoking and even now, 15 years later I am not recovered.

Coffee was difficult as well. It tasted good, it kept me alert, it seemed to stem the tide of urges to smoke. But perhaps worse than coffee I was addicted to overeating. This was not an easy thing to deal with in a group home where you pay one price for food and eat all you like. I ballooned from 170 pounds to 260. Even just looking at that number, 260 is staggering to me. I stayed in shape, I had a very physical job. Most of that weight was muscle, but a lot was fat as well. It took being diagnosed with diabetes to get me to cut down on my food. I have lost 40 pounds now but have a long way to go.

One of the funny things about all of these addictions is that there are 12-step meetings for all of them. I don’t want to comment on any except to say they help, but anyone who goes into one of these should be extremely mindful that there are many sick people in the groups. In my six-month dry spell, it was a so-called friend from AA who dragged me into a bar and bought me a drink, sending me spiralling on a binge that nearly killed me. Overeater’s Anonymous was a great meeting though often dominated by women who can be extremely sensitive to anyone (like myself) a little rough around the edges.

In conclusion, I guess I would most like to quote a film by Frank Capra, “The Snows of Killamanjaro” where a man spoke of preaching only “Moderation in everything, including moderation.” More to come on this topic.

Behind Locked Doors When There Was No Crime

This is a picture of me when I was in my early 20s. I think one of the coolest compliments I ever recieved was when I showed it to a female friend and she said, “Wow, you really had the whole Val Kilmer thing going for you back then.” I suppose I had the advantage of good looks for a time, but there was so much going wrong withmy life. I think at the time I still hadn’t been able yet to be completely honest with my Doctor and I had some misconceptions about trusting a psychiatrist to give me the proper meds I needed. When I look at this photo it makes me a bit sad because I see the torn hand me down jeans, the jacket my brother gave me which was the only decent clothing I owned. The orange sweater is one my Dad gave me from his store of clothes. Around this time I was going to adult high school and met a friend who I still talk to to this day, but I have no real clue as to why it lasted this long. When I look at this photo it doesn’t even seem like me.

So, for a bit of irony I will tell you all Dear Readers that as I write this blog entry I am currently a patient on a psychiatric ward. I have been here a month and tomorrow I am going to go home for the weekend and I don’t have a clear idea as to what is waiting for me. All I really do know is that there is a lifetime of books, comics, video games and two places to sleep (along with a ton of frozen meat that I truly hope is still okay) that will be a great deal better than staying here. When I come back from my pass, if all has gone well I will be discharged. One of the odd things about this stay is how sick I was when I came in and how quickly I came back from it all. I did use some of the advice I put on this blog, but I have been very lucky to have incredibly caring and intelligent staff members to help me through, as well as being in a hospital where no expense was spared to make sure the mental, physical and spiritual needs of the patients have been met.

When I came into the hospital, I was in a serious psychosis. I believed that two men from the building I live in had come to kill me and possibly kill my Dad. It was a completely unfounded idea, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I stood my ground until the police, called by my Dad, came to intervene and get me in an ambulance and on to the hospital. Once I saw the police had come I relaxed almost right away and even talked with one of the officers who had seen me speak at his recruit class. But sadly that was where, for a while at least, that I had my last dose of respect from people who were there to help me. I got to the hospital and I thought that everyone was avoiding me and that I stunk horribly so I asked for a gown and a garment bag and went into the bathroom and changed right while I was waiting into a ridiculous piece of hospital clothing that barely covered me. Then, my old enemies anxiety and paranoia surfaced, along with the psychosis (split from reality) that I was experiencing. For a while I really thought I was going to jail though I had done nothing to warrant it.

After incidents I honestly have very little recollection of, I was sent to the hospital where I am now, but not to the quiet and comfortable ward I am on now, I was sent to the locked ward. I can’t even begin to describe how chaotic places like this can be. I did what I could, drank coffee like mad and read until finally I was put over to this ward. There have been some blips, but not a single fight here on the more stable ward, though for a while I still had ideas in my head that someone had a gun and was going to kill me. As I look back in hindsight, there was actually very little animosity. I mostly keep to myself here and try to read and help others when I can. I have to admit to a healthy bit of fear of some of the others, but as I adjusted even those fears dissolved.

I am wondering what tomorrow will bring. How I will cope with the shock of being home. When I went home the other day on a day pass, it seemed that the building was going downhill. For a while I had thought my only solution was to forget about my apartment and head to BC. After a visit and a talk with my building manager, I really don’t think that will be needed. I just really can’t wait to sleep as long as I want, drink tea when I want and not have to report in to anyone.