Relationships for Those With a Mental Illness: They Can Be a Godsend or a Disaster

One of the difficult things about being a writer of the type I most enjoy being is that you need to be honest with yourself and your readers or you are simply wasting everyone’s time. I have written two memoirs which have done reasonably well in local sales and the odd trip I took. I even managed, for you Manitoba readers to get my works into the Winnipeg Public Library. In my memoirs, you will be able to look into my ‘soul’ as it were as I experience loneliness and severe depression which developed into bipolar disorder, then later schizoaffective disorder. It was a nightmare really, and the worst of it all was how it affected other people in my life. When I first got sick, my dad, who I fought with constantly was in tears every time he thought of me locked up in a psychiatric hospital, not making sense, completely insane.

I know things were extremely hard on my mother as well because she was in University trying to get herself a teaching degree and she not only had a serious bowel condition, she had unexplained seizures, most likely from the stress of exams and the fact that her youngest child was now labelled and certified crazy. Still, to me, that wasn’t the worst of it. I was a very athletic and possibly attractive young man when I first got sick. All through high school different girls had tried to get my attention, but I also suffered from severe anxiety at the time and shied away from having girlfriends, though I did go on a few dates. After I got sick though, my mind made up a lot of things. I was extremely delusional, and having hallucinations that were incredibly real. These delusions formed a new kind of reality for me to experience in which I thought women could be seduced with the wink of an eye and that everyone I knew, even the married couples played around. Where the crux of it came was when I was out of the hospital for a short time and I went out with the intention of getting as drunk as I could, and had been given instructions to ‘go out and get laid’ by just going to a random bar and picking up a girl. This was so completely unlike me that I literally had no clue. I remember going into one nightclub where there were a lot of really gorgeous women. I don’t doubt if I had the experience and skill that the average run of the mill pick up artist does, I likely could have gone to a hotel or something with a girl I met there. But instead, there was a young woman who I hadn’t seen since junior high in the bar, a young woman who was extremely kind to me and very extremely attractive and she made a big deal out of seeing me to her friend. That was enough. That embedded an image in my subconscious mind, it was kind of a dream come true. But she wasn’t what my delusions eventually made her out to be. Shortly after that I was in the psychiatric hospital and thoughts and voices kept telling me she was going to help me, that she would take me to top psychiatrists in Switzerland in a private jet, that she had billions of dollars and nothing in the world was out of my grasp. Part of me knew I was delusional, that all this was false. Still, the memory of her, at the height of her beauty built an intricate conglomeration of false ideas that were supported by my hallucinations. Over the years when I would get extremely ill or lonely I would write to her. I somehow wanted to be charged with something so that I could hear in person what was going on and I could get rid of the incessant voices and delusional thoughts. On the positive side, medication made me better, but this young woman would never talk to me again. A few years ago I tried to explain to my nurse/therapist that I couldn’t seem to avoid these thoughts and I wanted to find out if there was a way to deal with them. She somehow thought I wanted to contact her and resume this so-called relationship and she nearly shouted at me saying she could be married with children by now (which from what I understand she is). I felt pretty shitty about what she said, and so when I had a chance, I went to talk to my psychiatrist and told him about the letters and the obsession, and that I thought I was a stalker and wanted help. There wasn’t much help he could give me except to say that if I were a stalker I wouldn’t have come to him to ask for help. That made me feel a lot better.

What doesn’t make me feel better is when I find someone I can relate to who I find attractive and we get along really well, and it seems they misunderstand and greatly fear anyone with my diagnosis. I was what I thought a good friend with a woman I worked with a few years ago and I really thought we had something. I loved her company, she was funny and sweet, she even seemed to really care when the smallest thing happened to me. Then all of a sudden one day I confronted her over something and she said she had only stayed friends with me because she didn’t know what I would do if she stopped. What really got to me was that she wasn’t worried about me harming myself, she was worried about me harming her, something I could never think of doing. Even the woman mentioned above who was in junior high with me is totally insulated, from me by my choice. I don’t know where she lives, I don’t ever see her, and if I do happen by a female from a failed attempt at a relationship, my anxiety just about paralyses me.

What is hardest I think is that I do have a fairly good image of myself, but it is one that is so easily crushed. I suppose some people could consider me pathetic if they wanted to get their digs in me, but the truth is I don’t even know if I should try and get into a relationship at 47 at all because with my bipolar and anxiety and symptoms of schizophrenia, it just may ruin me. When I was a teenager, I went through so many crippling depressions, and during one period of them my mind was stuck on a young woman I met in camp. I eventually stopped calling her around age 16, then out of the blue contacted her on my 20th birthday. We talked a lot and it seemed we got along so well. Then, at the worst possible time of my whole life my delusional thinking came back and I even hallucinated that her and I had a relationship that was more than just friends. She got scared and cut off all contact. I didn’t understand at first but later she told me she did that because she thought I was a psychopath (I have psychosis, but a psychopath is someone born without a conscience) That was the last I ever talked to her, and it took me seemingly forever to get over it. One of the weird things is that I run into a lot of rejection for various reasons. There was a friend of a friend who I met and wanted to hang out with and one day the friend who knew her said for him to not bring me over to her house because she didn’t want to associate with someone as old as her father. It was true, but it was just one of those times your age kicks you in the teeth. There is more, a lot more. Anyone interested, I encourage you to read my memoirs. If you can’t afford a copy, you would do me a huge favour to request your library bring in my two memoirs, “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane” which can be found at amazon.com find links to these and other books by me under ‘books’ on the main page.

Ciao

Leif Gregersen

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