mental health coping skills

The Question of Non-Psychiatric Medications and Mental Illness: When To Draw the Line #drugs #medications #mental illness #bipolar #schizophrenia #mentalhealth #overthecounter

Mountain Goat, Jasper National Park, Summer 2020

Being on psychiatric medications can be a difficult situation and over the counter and legal drugs can make things worse if you aren’t careful. Many times in my life I have looked back and wondered what may have happened in my life if I had taken my medications as prescribed from the first time that they were prescribed. For me the first time was age 14-I am 48 now. I have asked my Doctor this question and he has told me that if I had done that at 14 I would be the exception-not the norm.

My illness is schizoaffective disorder with anxiety-I have an odd combination of having mood swings with symptoms of schizophrenia. The last time I was in psychosis it was a living hell. I had been given a replacement medication for the one that dealt with my psychosis and over time I began to get paranoid to the point of thinking all my neighbours could hear and see everything I did and were waiting for the chance to kill me. I was admitted to a hospital, but it took time for the new drug that wasn’t working for me to get out of my system so that the old one that I was put back on could get to work.

One of the things that often happens with me is that I will wake up and take my medications and then go back to bed. Prozac seems to have the ability to give me the sweetest dreams. But I can’t always do that–often if I get up at 5:00 am (like today) and take my medications, they will cause me to sleep as late as noon or later. I now have a part-time job that makes a schedule like that impossible to follow, so I medicate-with coffee and exercise. These may not seem like harmful drugs, but coffee is definitely a drug, an addictive and powerful one, and for me exercise–be it swimming or long-distance walking (my knees make it so I can no longer run, I injured them years ago) is what gets me out of my morning funk. The problem really comes when it is getting late and I know I will need a minimum amount of hours of sleep to work the next day and due to mania (mood swings) I am simply unable to slow down enough to rest. This can start a vicious cycle, needing more coffee, needing more exercise (often more than is healthy for my ageing body) and getting less and less sleep.

This is the point where I often find myself turning to over the counter drugs. Something I have found helps a great deal with short naps (they cause me severe nightmares sometimes) is to take a multivitamin before a nap. This is a positive over the counter medication that is largely harmless. But when it stops helping, I have turned to stronger ones. My first level of self-medication during times of little sleep due to nightmares used to be alcohol. I will never forget being 19 and living in a cheap hotel in Vancouver, waking from a very bad dream and being able to go downstairs, get a shot of whiskey and be able to sleep contently. Fortunately I didn’t do this every day, but still I would have binge sessions of drinking that I greatly enjoyed–which had to stop at a certain point. I did all I could, going to meetings and counselling. I even picked up other habits after quitting that had to also be dealt with like overeating and gambling, that I have now fortunately put behind me. I can’t stress enough that if you self-medicate with alcohol, and you are taking medications, it is just as bad as playing Russian roulette. You are playing a very deadly game. Compulsive gambling is a real destroyer of people and families as well. You actually become addicted to the hormones in your brain that turn on when you gamble, be it slot machines, video lottery terminals or garage poker games. If you have the tendency towards becoming addicted like I did, gambling will take over everything. All your money, all your time, all your relationships. Seek help.

So now that I have eliminated some of the less obvious medication, I should talk about some of the more obviously harmful ones. On occasion I take melatonin to help me sleep. This drug is a naturally occurring sleep hormone which I have cleared with my doctor. It definitely helps me get more hours of sleep and more restful sleep, but sometimes it can work too well. Sometimes when I take melatonin, I will wake up and feel exhausted, and all I can think of as I go about my day is how much I want to go back to sleep. And there is another thing about melatonin, a person (or at least me) can get used to it, or ‘develop a tolerance’ in a short amount of time. I try to take it rarely, and if I take it over the course of a few days, it not only doesn’t help me sleep, but it causes me to move and thrash around, never feeling settled in bed, and not going to sleep for hours.

Here comes one drug that a lot of people argue is harmless, THC. THC is often found in pot and hash, and other cannabis products. In Canada it is a legal drug, but very few psychiatrists will call it a harmless one. It is known to increase a person’s chances of psychosis, especially if used at a young age. I haven’t used it in years, and even then I don’t think I ever paid for it, I only used it a few times, and one of those times was an utter disaster. I went to a party and smoked up as they say and quickly slipped into seriously warped thinking. By the end of the party a lot of people thought I was either a cop or a true weirdo and I got so paranoid I climbed down the fire escape thinking I was going to be killed by someone at the party. It may be something to laugh at now, but when it happened, it was far from fun, not to mention that if you use THC and drive a vehicle, you are truly taking your life in your hands because your judgement will be impaired worse than if on alcohol.

Well good readers, I would like to keep on writing, but I have a strong feeling that blog readers get a little bored if I make my entries too long. As always, feel free to reach out. I am always willing to discuss any mental health topics people suggest to me here, my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

The Question of Housing For People With Mental Health Issues #schizophrenia #bipolar #mania #depression #home #mentalhealth #psychiatry


 

One of the first and most essential issues a person with a mental illness has to face is that of housing. A good deal of people who are leaving the hospital or have been in the hospital/psychiatric ward for a while, is where are they going to do, and what are they going to do? Having something to do, ie a job/volunteer job, a hobby such as running, walking or swimming, can be essential to the well being of someone with mental health issues and should be given top consideration. I am so lucky to live in Edmonton, Alberta because I have a low income, and the city of Edmonton provides low cost bus passes and free fitness passes to me and everyone else who qualifies (mostly those with disabilities, but also seniors and others). It can be extremely helpful to have a YMCA in the city or town you chose to live in because they are known for providing low-cost facilities to people with low income or disability, and from what I have seen, they have some nice places.

The really big question a person with a psychiatric disability has to ask themselves is, should I live in a city or a town? The fact is, you are going to need some important services such as access to a psychiatrist and possibly a mental health clinic, plus pharmacy and reasonably priced meals and accommodations. When I left the hospital some 20 years ago, I had little choice. The first place I went was a group home where the woman who owned it wanted just extra income and free labour from her tenants. I needed to get out of there and nearly moved into an apartment on my own when I wasn’t ready just to get away from the horrible person that ran that place.

My social worker at the mental health clinic found another group home for me to live in, and in so many ways it was perfect. Everything was paid for in one lump sum, and all I had to do each day was show up for meals and get my medications. Sadly after living there for a very long time, one of the unqualified staff members seemed to want to go on a power trip and make an example out of me. I wasn’t kicked out, but I was asked to move into a subsidized apartment, something that was an excellent choice for me at the time. It was hard to keep my sleeping hours straight and I had to all of a sudden take care of a lot of things, but I ended up enjoying it greatly and was able to focus on the work I liked to do and I also no longer had to feel embarrassed that I was living in a place where I was treated like a child and stuffed into a house with several roommates. The rent subsidy was significant though, and it allowed me to have a comfortable existence without having to strain to work hard.

Something I really want to cover in my blogs as much as I can is the situation for people in the United States. I often consider how difficult it must be to survive down there on much less income than I get in some places that are more expensive to live in. Something my sister warned me about when she first moved out was that you really have to take care of your health. Brush your teeth all the time, don’t watch TV in the dark, don’t go out when you can cook at home, and share your place with someone if you aren’t married. All these little things, like fillings or glasses can be crippling to someone trying hard to make it on their own. Perhaps the worst part of it is that mental illness destroys families and family is all that some people have.

There are so many choices to make, it can be important to write out your plans and wishes before you leave the hospital (and show it to your doctor, he or she may find it encouraging to see you taking the reigns of your life). Once I was given some excellent advice, a doctor told me that I should look for a roommate who is studying in the psychology department of the University. I have to warn everyone that it isn’t a good idea to make close friends with people you are in the hospital or psychiatric ward with. These people are dealing with a lot of their own problems just like you are and this can make it very difficult to keep a happy home going.

So, the big choice is, city or country. If you have support, if you grew up in a small town and you have family there, I would say go ahead and love every minute of it. For those who don’t though, being in the city can be the only really logical choice. You will have access to so many more services, not to mention the large grocery stores that give way better deals than small town grocery stores that have cornered the market. Not to say you can’t find a medium sized town with most of these advantages though.

Depending on the state of your mental health, you may want to go the route I did and find a group home run by a charity. Places like this can be very supportive, understanding, and low-stress. Keep your eyes peeled for a subsidized/rent controlled apartment. What sometimes happens is really sad, a person leaves the hospital and has to go into a shelter, then forced by circumstance they take a small 10×15 foot housekeeping room and they not only face things like isolation and poor hygiene, they get lonely and often in these smaller rooming houses a lot of people can be lost in their addictions. All too soon it becomes tempting to make friends with these people and slip into their world. Before you know it, you might be back in the hospital but now with an addiction and a mental health issue. I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, this is information I actually read in a current textbook for social workers.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind when choosing a home to live in. You want to get the nicest place you can afford, but that may end you up right back looking for a rooming house. If you are healthy enough to not need a group home, why not partner up with a reliable person and rent a house and then rent one or two rooms to reputable students? Make sure though that you have your space and that the rules of living there are written out and understood. I lived in a house with roommates once and I found it difficult to deal with the fact that it was very hard to find a place to read quietly. Make note if any of your roommates play a musical instrument or like to play their music loud. Compromises can often be found.

I could really speak volumes on this topic, but I want to say here quickly that your first goal is to make that difficult transition from the hospital to more independence and then to transition from assisted living to independent. If you go to a group home, while you are there join a cooking class and look for home economics courses. I don’t know if I could ever leave Edmonton not just because my family is mostly here, but also because I get a great deal of support from the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta here. Make a list of what advantages you get in different types of places and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. Add up the scores and think hard about following a logical conclusion. Nearby clinic? Discount grocery store accessible? Can I afford this place? Do I have the skills to manage on my own, and if not, do I have people I can call for advice? What are some of the strategies I can take for coping with boredom and loneliness?

Look on the lighter side of things as well. If you can work your way up to having your own apartment, you may never have to eat liver and onions again. Think of how great it will one day feel to lock your door and go in your own bathroom and have a long, hot bath while reading a book and playing some light rock on a radio. Have a great day everyone, and never forget to reach out if you have to.     viking3082000@yahoo.com

Facing Rejection After Rejection and Keeping Going #mentalhealth #mentalwellness #bipolar #depression #mania #schizophrenia #schizoaffective #anxiety

 

Hello Good Readers!

I have had more people join me of late and I want to say I truly appreciate it. I have found that it really isn’t enough to have a website and a blog and put out good content, a person really needs to persevere diligently to accomplish something in this world. I have been writing stories now for a good part of my life and today I opened my mail to see yet another rejection from a publisher that I had kind of pinned a lot of hopes on. As a writer I kind of start to get numb to this kind of stuff, but even that numbness is something that isn’t good for a person’s mental health.

I wanted to sit down today and talk a bit about how rejection in this world due to mental illness happens. I have now written three memoirs (Through the Withering Storm, Inching Back to Sane, and Alert and Oriented x3, all available on amazon) and some people say I have a lot of courage to do that. I don’t think I have so much courage, the courage I see is in a person I worked with at the Schizophrenia Society who lost a child to suicide as a result of schizophrenia yet still goes out to tell her story and his story in hopes of helping people understand the illness more. This person used to say that in the 1960s, cancer wasn’t talked about. It was a dark, foreboding subject. When you got cancer you died, and all this stigma hurt people in many ways. When they started talking more about cancer, a miracle happened. More people learned how to self-test and were able to have medical intervention before the cancer killed them. Not everyone, but more people. Then we saw that people were being comforted, not shunned as someone with a communicable disease, talking about cancer meant there was also more donations to treatments and research. This is what I want to be a part of with schizophrenia. I am also diagnosed with bipolar, and anxiety, but schizophrenia is by far the worst part of my illness. The reason I write books and give talks to various groups is that I am very grateful that despite the tragedy of mental illness in my life, some wonderful doctors, caring staff and of course family members were able to help me enough so I could leave the hospital, and then start to build a life for myself that even a person without an illness would be proud of. The other reason I am bold in saying who I am is similar to why people who are gay want to be out, want to be open about how they feel, if you tell someone you have an illness and they ditch you as a friend or even family member as a result, that person isn’t much worthy of being your friend or loved one. I have had to make some tough choices.

But to get back to the rejection aspect, one of the things that I feel is noteworthy is that I have always wanted to meet an intelligent and attractive woman who I could laugh with and love, and share my life with. But more and more I am seeing how my idea of a perfect partner just may never happen. Certainly at 48 I don’t think I could even raise kids at all. One of the things though is that many times what ruined relationships was behaviours surrounding chronic mental illness, things like my cigarette habit, which I have thankfully gotten over or the fact that I find it really hard to keep my apartment clean and organized and even have problems with keeping up with my laundry. For the most part I have overcome these things, I did quit cigarettes, but not soon enough to heal a relationship with a wonderful young woman who said she would continue to see me if I quit smoking.

One of the ways I deal with rejection goes back to something I feel can cure a lot of maladies, meditation. When you train your mind not to be all over the place and learn to control thoughts as you regulate your breathing and are able to focus, you can look so much more objectively at rejection. To make a quick point, I have known monks who are not married and will never and have never been in a romantic relationship and are completely whole within themselves because they have trained themselves to the point where they are happy and content in any situation.

There is another thing that I find helps me deal with rejection, that is just going onto YouTube and doing a search for inspirational videos. Some of my favourites are the ones when they show dialogue and training scenes from Rocky movies or have motivational speakers speak over action scenes of extreme sports. Watching some of these does to me what is so essential for me to succeed and to keep on working towards something, simply sitting down to work. I just got a huge rejection letter, and I decided I can make this bad experience into a good one by sharing these words and reminding myself of the things I do when I want to get back on the horse that bucked me.

It is interesting to look back at my life and some of the things I did for work that help me now. What is even more interesting is that some of these jobs had absolutely nothing to do with writing or creativity. One of them was working in a plastics factory, with these massive hot machines spitting out two ice cream pails every ten seconds for me to put handles on and stack. Doing this hour after hour, day after day taught me that a person can accomplish some incredible things with patience and determination. I worked in that plant for just two weeks but the money I made in that time gave me enough for a down payment on an incredible sports car that brought a great deal of joy into my life. I remember the summer I had it, I tried to sit down and repeat how I accomplished those impossible tasks in the factory and give myself a leg up for post-secondary education. I would get off work at the gas station I worked at and make a pot of tea, then sit and read all I could from the book “Les Miserables” this was an incredible book, partially in French and though it took me a couple of weeks, I accomplished the gargantuan task of finishing it, just a few chapters at a time. In the same night I would read one act of a Shakespeare play and it started me off on a love of language and literature that I am still maintaining. I even signed up for a French course after reading the book and not being able to understand parts of it.

Sometimes what can really help a person focus on a goal like I had, be it a home study course, a book they are writing, or even just bettering themselves physically in sports or fitness, is simply to turn off the TV. You don’t need to give up on it, but if you simply cut out a couple of programs or re-runs you watch that you find you don’t get a lot out of, there is so much you can do with that time. I have to admit though, today I watched about 3 hours of TV which is not like me but I only watched documentaries about space and astronomy. I am doing this because I want to expand my personal skills into being able to write science fiction. I don’t want to try and force opinions on people, but I am kind of against regular TV programs, with the possible exception of a few choice ones. I find TV programs (as opposed to movies) to be too unrealistic, too censored and worst of all, I find that it is almost as if the TV people were trying to teach us morality and other things without a good foundation on any philosophy or religion. You turn on a sex comedy with younger actors and you start to think all the world is an orgy and that as long as you use protection, it is okay to have all the sex you want and just get an abortion if anything goes wrong. Then you flip over and get a prime time show that is so completely unrealistic that it doesn’t seem to portray any type of real people at all. Movies on the other hand seem to let you think for yourselves, be able to express aspects of real life (some of the time). I don’t want to tell anyone what to think though or what to do, I just want people to think about what goes into their minds and how they are spending their time. And I honestly want to say that when I want to learn something, documentaries are great, but it seems nothing substitutes a book. But that can even be debunked as a theory because I have gotten some incredible courses from my local library, all free that taught me a great deal through videos and audiobooks and something called Gale courses. This is perhaps what I most want to say about rejection. If you can dig in and bear it, then get back up and learn from your experiences, and above all keep going back to working out your goals, nothing can stop you.

The Troubles of a Person With Schizophrenia, Bipolar (schizoaffective disorder) and Anxiety #meditation #mentalhealth #depression #teenager #psychiatry

 

My life seems to come in chunks, good and bad. I think I live more in my dreams than anything. It hasn’t happened in quite a while but I used to dream about teenage crushes. Two of them in particular, I can’t name them here, but if they read this they would know who they were. One of them sat behind me in what became my worst year of school, unless you count my last year when I went completely insane and was arrested in my school hallway and taken to a mental hospital.

 

The first one was really something. Funny enough, I saw a young woman recently who reminded me of her a lot. She was Asian and had the same cute face and smile the original crush did. Aside from that, I know very little about this first crush. All I really know is that she will go to the ends of the earth to not even talk to me. I can understand, I was never much to her other than a few shared moments in class. There was this one time, years after that horrible year when I ran into her and she commented on how good I looked loud enough so I could overhear. I didn’t know what to say that time and walked away, and by the time I got back and had decided to talk to her she was necking with another guy from our high school that I didn’t particularly like.

 

The second crush was a girl I met at summer camp one year. She seemed to suffer from depression or something like that but was very attractive and intelligent. Her and I did see each other a few times, just as friends. Then one day an overwhelming wave of self-guilt made me decide to stop talking to her. She never called me back.

 

Years later I called her up when I was drunk and just about suicidal. It was after I had gone to the hospital and I was feeling even worse about myself. But I called her and we talked for a long time. Then I didn’t call her again for over a year. When I did call her I was on the verge of another breakdown and as we talked I slowly slid over to the other side of that fine line between insanity and normalcy. The last communication we had was me writing a letter to her asking if she wanted to marry me. I was so sick and deluded I thought there was all kinds of money and potential job offers and scholarships. In fact I did qualify for one scholarship, I would have gotten a degree paid for by the US Army if I enlisted. I had even written a test and was making arrangements to join. Trouble was I had destroyed my knees the year before running too much while I was in training to join the Canadian Military—who wouldn’t take me because of my psychiatric record. All of these things—the delusions, the messed up ideas plus whatever horrible pain and depression was boiling up underneath must have scared her. She changed her phone number and refused to return calls or letters.

 

What really gets me is somehow when I feel really depressed, I want to contact those two women, the second one especially since we had an actual friendship. I have never had the desire to stalk either of these women, I just somehow feel that they are a connection to times that I didn’t fully understand. I think the biggest part of all that is when I was severely mentally ill and in a hospital, I got very few visitors and less phone calls. Part of me, perhaps the unconscious part of me that still battles my demons underneath a layer of normalcy wants to think they cared, that someone cared. But the truth is when I honestly look at the past, I was almost a ghost as a teenager.

 

I did have a few friends in school, the best of them were the people I had met in Air Cadets. Trouble was, when I was finished grade ten I was convinced I wasn’t that kind of person anymore and quit cadets just when I started to really make friends and advance in rank. I decided to cut all ties with cadets, I wouldn’t even sit with people that had been my friends for three of my most critical teen years.

 

And so, after grade ten I focused mostly on my studies and jobs. The thing I keep thinking about was how I went out and found a job and saved money to buy a car, then I got a pizza delivery job which wore out my car and cost most of what I earned, and it all seemed so useless. Work for money for a car. Get a car. Get a job where your car is essential. Wear out your car working and drive so much you get sick of driving. It didn’t help that at this time I was suffering from crippling depression and the early symptoms of schizophrenia.

 

When grade 12 ended and I didn’t have the grades for University or the money for tuition, or a place to live if I had either, I found myself feeling pretty lost. To think of spending 12 years with all those people growing up, learning, developing. I hadn’t had one girlfriend among them or was even allowed to go to my own Grade 12 Graduation ceremony since I was a few credits shy of a diploma. I think a lot about the people I wanted to have as friends. There was one guy, a bit of a mama’s boy who I shared an interest in Star Wars and football with and was on a few winning teams with. I had known him since grade two but despite all of those things he was pretty cruel to me at times. Still, he was a huge part of my life, as much so as my brother but school ended, and I never saw him again and I feel a sense of loss over it. I often wonder if everyone faces friends who are cruel sometimes. I often think about being taunted and teased and wonder if it was my reaction to it rather than how it made me feel that made it all worse.

 

There were other people, high school friends who I’ve tried to keep in touch with. One of them has a habit of trying to say things that will hurt me. This one particular guy was my closest friend in school, we hung out together a lot. We took trips together, knew all the same people. But there was some kind of clash between us. All I could really describe it as would be some kind of alpha male conflict. I think there were times when I was cruel to him as well. One time he played his head games with the wrong person, a close friend of my brothers and he got beaten up pretty bad over it. He came to me and said basically that my brother could be one of his witnesses in court for the assault and I told him plainly that my brother hated his guts and wanted to see him get beaten up. I guess I kind of did too and there really was nothing he could say or do about it. From what I understand he is still living in our old home town and working for one of our friends whose dad left him an insulation business. Haven’t talked to any of them in years but I have been featured in our home town newspaper a number of times. I would call him up and offer to buy him lunch some time, but I just know he will say or do anything he can to knock me down.

 

And so, the life of a writer continues. As Tennyson wrote so beautifully (I paraphrase) “I go on with a deep sense of longing and regret, among new faces and different minds.” What I have found is amazing is that I have shed the shallow friendships and relationships of school days and have not only found friends among some of the most wonderful and intelligent people in Edmonton, but I have been able to keep my family relationships going and they have expanded to include cousins and far off relations I have now only met over the Internet. It isn’t easy to live with schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, but I have been getting back from this world what I’ve been putting into it. I also learned something new from Canada’s favourite astronaut Chris Hadfield. “Everyone you see, all of them, are struggling in some way.” This has been a huge revelation to me and is helping me not to hate or judge those who have shunned me for my mental illness or simply have a desire to hurt or ‘cut me down to size’ with comments. It also really makes me want to get back into meditation. In meditation, one clears their mind of all thoughts (though this seems impossible, with practise it can be done) and one learns to train their mind to think more clearly, act more kindly, and much more. The truth is, I have a pretty vivid memory and I spend a lot of time going over in my head people who have hurt me intentionally or no, out of necessity or not, and I can get stuck in feeling bad about myself, about my body image, about how worthy I am to have friends and a nice place to live. It all comes down to just finding a comfortable place, clearing your mind then breathing gently in and out to the count of ‘in-one’ ‘out-two’ if your mind starts to wander, just gently go back to the start and try to get to ten. The amazing thing is there is no goal, no right or wrong way to do it, at least in the simple ways I have been learning about. It’s just a great way to unclutter your mind and put yourself back in control. I would like to talk more about decluttering your home when you have started to declutter your mind, but that I will leave for another time.

Drugs Other Than Prescribed Medications For Those With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #depression #mania #psychosis #psychiatry #drugs #alcohol #recovery

 

I can recall a wise friend of mine once telling me about his experience in AA meetings. He said not only that he had been diagnosed with it, but also that in the 12-step program he was in, people with bipolar disorder were greatly over-represented.

Something that I often have thought about is, how do people go from regular people to alcoholics and then addicts? I watched a very insightful TV miniseries that came out of Britain called Traffic which was mostly about Heroin. I found it interesting in many ways. One of the things that was enlightening was not only that there is a huge problem with heroin addiction destroying lives in Britain, but that the opium poppy, which is what heroin is derived from, is grown openly as just another cash crop. I don’t know all the places that it is cultivated, but in another documentary I saw about the present war in Afghanistan, American and other countries’ soldiers are instructed not to harm the opium crops or obstruct any of the farmers from cultivating them. It seems so tragic that this problem could be cut off at the source but it is a very complicated problem. First of all, the Afghan farmers who grow the opium poppy don’t get very rich of their crops, they barely earn enough to feed their families and it would cause such extreme hardship if the crops were destroyed and forbidden throughout the whole country that there would be starvation and death to follow.

Another thing that must be considered is that if the production of opium poppy crops went underground, there would be a great deal more profiteering and violence surrounding it. Opium has existed for thousands of years in Asia and there are large numbers of people all over the world in serious dependance of the drug.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to instruct a poetry class in a homeless drop-in centre that had a safe injection site. The purpose of me teaching this subject was to help people to be able to express themselves about how they felt about the opiod crisis. This referred more to things like fentanyl and oxycontin, though heroin and other needle drugs are used in the community. What I learned from this experience is that a great deal of the people who end up homeless and addicted start out just like any normal person. They go through school, get work experience, find a job, and then one day they have the unfortunate experience of painful illness or injury. They may get benefits for disability, but a lot of them have to rely on savings and selling possessions like vehicles and houses just to put food on the table. These people get prescribed pain killers and soon find they can’t do without them. Then something happens (in a lot of cases) where the person realizes that street drugs work better and are much cheaper than designer painkillers. Then we open Pandora’s box and before you know it, the person is addicted and homeless. Then of course there is another side of it, a childhood trauma, often sexual abuse makes a person so incredibly ‘messed up’ for want of a better term that they turn to drugs to blank out the pain and the nightmares and bad memories.

I think at this point it might be useful to state that there are some drugs that end up as gateway drugs, but attitudes and concepts of this are changing. Now, even experts are saying that the real gateway drug is trauma. But I have known some people who were in recovery who told me about how they got started. In my own case, I actually used THC before I even drank alcohol in amounts sufficient to inebriate myself. I only did it a handful of times but things happened when I did this. I found in doing it I made the only strong connection with my older brother of my early teen years. Soon after I started smoking cigarettes and then I began to drink, just a little at first, but soon I was getting drunk every weekend, and soon after that I was drinking at least something every day. I almost couldn’t understand why I started to like alcohol so much because my dad was a drinker and I blamed a lot of my problems on his aggressive behaviour after his daily intake of at least 12 beer. I remember being so worried he would get an impaired driving conviction or that one time when he was driving drunk with the whole family in our van he would go off the road at high speed and kill us all. Looking. back, that could have been where a lot of my life-long difficulty with anxiety came from. I always felt (at school with bullies) that my health, safety, even my life was in danger. That anxiety stunted my social growth. I never had a girlfriend in school, never went to a single school dance. I did know a couple of young women and had a date or two but I couldn’t even look females in the eye, I was so ashamed that they would find out how messed up I was. Then came a cadet dance. Just about every time I went to a cadet dance I just sat in the corner, but this time, a friend brought a large quantity of beer. I got really drunk and came very close to having sex with two young women in the same night. It was a deadly connection I made in thinking that alcohol equalled calming of the nerves, which equalled sex. It took me a long time to quit.

Around the age of 20, I started to take psychiatric medications on a regular basis and I tried to quit drinking. Then I nearly killed myself one weekend drinking extremely strong rum on a camping trip. I blacked out everything after my first drink. I took my medication after drinking and vomited all over the place and alienated friends completely that I had known for years. Luckily though over the years I was able to keep control of the drinking and I used THC very few times. What scared me though was going through my early to middle adult years and finding out that friends had done such drugs as crack, morphine, cocaine and just about anything a person could name. I wanted to cut ties with them but as a person with a mental illness I had few friends so it was difficult.

Along the way I developed some theories of addiction that I think are relevant to share. Sometimes, people use drugs to self-medicate away some of their mental health issues. I recall a party I went to where I downed a bunch of beers quickly and then was bouncing off the walls in a state of mania. I thought, as I thought that alcohol meant more female attention, that alcohol also meant a release from my depression. For as long as I connected good times with booze I was unable to stay quit for very long. Fortunately maturity really helped me and at this point it has been years since I drank or used drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Some people who are really successful, like high-priced lawyers or rock stars end up doing a lot of drugs and I think I understand why. They work extremely hard, rise up to the top, have everything they ever imagined, but deep down they are just ordinary people who need things like love and satisfaction in life just like anyone. Their lives seem empty or they regret that things will never get better and in this time they turn to drugs. It’s astounding what some rock stars have done, like Stephen Tyler of Arrowsmith admitting that he had consumed literally six million dollars of cocaine in his life.

Mental illness can lead to addiction. Substance abuse, and this can lead to homelessness, and alienation and eventually even your life isn’t worth that much. What I feel has to happen is that people need to learn more about themselves, possibly through therapy, group therapy or 12-step meetings. What needs to happen is that a person has to rebuild a world view. They need to come to understand the importance of living the clean life, the good life, the advantages of being stable and trustworthy and the steps they need to take to become that way. It starts with abstinence, but the work isn’t done with just that. My wise friend from the 12-step program, now departed, once said that “We don’t have a cure for addiction, we just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” With that I will leave you dear readers. Remember you can write me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com and that my books are available on amazon.

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