mental health coping skills

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.

A Short Peek At the Mental Health System From the Inside, Written by a Patient With Schizoaffective Disorder

Very famous hotel in Edmonton where the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen and many other icons of 20th and 21st century have stayed.

Well dear readers, as the title of today’s blog states, I am currently a patient in a psychiatric ward. Right off the top of my head, I think it is relevant to note that life on a psychiatric ward is infinitely better than life in a psychiatric hospital. There are a few ways you can make your chances of going to a psychiatric ward better, the first of them is having written out a personal directive that specifies a specific hospital you want to be treated at, or a specific Doctor at a hospital you would prefer to be sent to in the case of severe problems. Another way is, when you are feeling well, to take a number of courses like anger management and classes on nutrition and other classes such as one on relationships or self-esteem. These will not only benefit you, they will increase the amount of time you spend between hospital visits. When medical professionals see that you are a person who heeds advice, and takes proper care of yourself in everything from taking your medication to keeping your shoes laced and tied up, they will be much more willing to fight a bit to keep you in a friendlier place. Location of nearby family visitors is also a factor they will consider. I don’t want to recommend it too much because I haven’t undergone the treatment yet, but there is a lot of buzz these days about the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how well it works.

So now you’re on the Psychiatric Ward. You may be suffering from depression, anxiety, delusional thoughts or sensory input. Your best bet at this point is to be as honest as possible with your treatment team. If you hear a voice that sounds extremely convincing telling you someone in your family is in danger, don’t make an effort to leave the ward. If you are really concerned, try and just phone the person you are concerned about. 99.9% of the time there will have been no such event. Then you need to talk to your nurse/doctor and explain what went on. This will make it so much easier for them to treat you. Was it an auditory hallucination? (did you hear something that was false?) or a visual one? (you saw something that didn’t exist or as is often common, you have a combination. One time I saw a TV change what they were talking about and I heard them talk about me, being both). When you first get to your treatment area, it might make sense to just rest, sleep, and eat for the first while. It is a really good idea (for anyone with a tense living situation not even related to mental illness such as a woman in an abusive home) to keep a bag packed with some items such as an mp3 player/iPod, some clean underwear and a change of clothing. You could also bring snacks and a book to read as well as a book of puzzles.

Quite often the first thing a person wants to know is how long they will be in the hospital. This is a good sign because people who don’t really care about the outside world may end up being kept under a treatment order for some time. I am not 100% sure about how the US system works, but where I live in Alberta in Canada, if you seem to be a danger to self or others, you will be certified and there will be no formal review of your hospital stay for 30 days. I have, in my many admissions, found that rarely does a hearing do much good. After attending many to hopefully get out of the hospital, only once was I released and I had to pour out animosity about how my father treated me growing up which helped make a bigger rift between him and I and also made me leave the hospital far too early to get feeling 100%. The best way to leave the hospital is to participate in group and one on one therapy, to be honest with the doctors and nurses treating you, to take your medications diligently, and to not drink alcohol or use street drugs. There are many more factors of course, but the best advice I received was not to take on the problems of others or to let them get in the way of me getting better. I think I will continue this post in the next entry, until then, stay gold dear readers, stay gold.

What Really Changes in Someone When They Have a Mental Illness?

First of all, in the more serious and chronic types of mental illness, when the more obvious symptoms begin to appear, there has more than likely been personality and other issues going on for a long time. I know in my own case, severe depression had existed as far back as the second grade, and kept on getting worse until other symptoms, like psychosis began to surface. When they did, the fact that my condition had been left untreated for so long, compounded the effect of the mental collapse that had me end up in a psychiatric hospital.

As I have been learning in my experience with the Schizophrenia Society, there are different symptoms that appear in different stages of the illness. Quite often this makes an accurate diagnosis next to impossible until a good deal of time has gone past. Schizophrenia begins with symptoms like depression and withdrawal from society and later the more ‘classic’ symptoms like hallucinations and delusions present themselves.

I feel the most important thing that someone can do when they begin to experience any kind of symptom is to seek assessment and possible treatment. If a major disorder is discovered, more than likely (but not in all cases) medication will be prescribed. It is incredibly important that this medication be taken as prescribed and not discontinued without supervision from a professional. At the age of 14 I was given meds and never took them. I often wonder how my life may have turned out if I had continued to take them. The bad news is that medications don’t work right away and can often have debilitating side effects. The good news is that medications are getting better all the time and also that your body will adapt to what you are taking and you will learn to manage the risks versus the benefits.

That is certainly not a comprehensive guide to medications, but I am hoping it may be a few helpful words. The other post-diagnosis problem is that people who have mental illnesses face things like stigma from others, and self-stigma. I know that I was so ashamed to have a mental illness that I left the home town I dearly loved and all of my friends hoping to start over. I often say the problem was that I brought my brain with me. I went to the coast, Vancouver, and made plans to join the military. For a while I had the time of my life. New people, new sights and sounds, places to see that I had no concept of. But I got sick again. I just couldn’t admit to myself (with the barrier of stigma and self-stigma) that I needed any kind of help. And not even my loved ones could do anything but worry while all this went on.

The fact remains though that I returned to Edmonton, sought treatment, finished school, started to write, and built a life for myself. When I am taking my medication properly and it is working properly, often even mental health professionals would not assume I have three major diagnoses. My bipolar is controlled by a mood stabilizer-rarely do I stay up all night or talk so much I drive people away. My psychosis is controlled with a time-release injection which keeps my thoughts firmly rooted in reality. And my severe depressions are also taken care of by an anti-depressant. Am I just like the person I was before the diagnosis and the pills? Maybe not, but I think in many ways I am a better person.

If you have doubts regarding your mental health:

-Seek help, even if it is just from an MD

-Get an assessment done. Find out what is wrong

-Work with your doctor and pharmacist to find medications that will help

-Give the medications time to work

-Find and work with a therapist who just may be able to make you feel better about some of the underlying problems that hold you back in your life

-Enjoy your life.

Fatherly Advice On Dealing With Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Here is my Dad, Leif the first. In my mental health recovery, he has played a very key role. Years ago when I was last hospitalized, he traveled in from out of town and sacrificed the tiny extra amount of money he had to bring me comforts such as cigarettes and such. No matter how angry or ill I became, he would visit every day–and I was in the hospital on that occasion for six months. When I finally did get discharged, I was far from a whole person. I needed the support of a group home to exist and get my medications, and I needed the support of my family, especially my Dad. He came through in spades, driving to my place, taking me to our beautiful river valley and talking with me and walking with me month after month. This was the only exercise and the only outside contact I could handle. One of my warmest memories of that time is a habit I used to use to kill time when I walked long distances. I would pick out a rock, then kick it and keep a close eye on where it went, then when I got up to where it was, I would kick it again and see how far I could keep going with the same rock. One day on a walk with my Dad, I kicked a rock for a while, then it went out of my path so I thought I would find another, but my Dad to my surprise had figured out my game and kicked the right rock and in that moment I felt as though my Dad and I both had a child-like concept of fun that helped form a new and strong bond between us.

Anyone who read my last blog will know that I have been struggling with a new medication and have been hearing voices. There are no words to describe how troubling this situation can be for a person already struck with many other mental health issues. I really thought neighbours could read my thoughts or that they were conspiring to harm or rob me. This is a highly unlikely situation, but it is so hard to ignore evidence that comes to you plainly in the form of a voice that sounds reasonable and intelligent. Added to that is the fact that mentally ill people, while experiencing psychosis are in an extremely vulnerable state. I really didn’t know what to do. Then my Dad gave me a simple solution: put on some earphones and play some soothing music. The amazing thing is, even though it seems so simple, it worked really well. I had a hard time at first discounting all the voices I was hearing as false and untrue, but after laying down and listening to music for a while, it was so much easier to realize that all of this was going on in my head.

One of the hard things about delusions/hallucinations/psychosis is that often a person is convinced that they are some type of God or wealthy/powerful person. I will never forget a roommate who became a good friend who once declared to me, “I don’t care what anyone says–my delusions are real!” I totally understood what he was talking about. When I first became ill, my delusions (they weren’t audible hallucinations like I more recently experienced) told me I had untold amounts of money, female admirers, intelligence, accolades and awards, and my choice of Hollywood Starlets to marry. To most it would be preposterous to think such things, but to my fragile mind it was an extremely appealing alternate reality to my own life situation at the time. Even after I was treated and properly medicated, I had in the back of my head the idea that somewhere out there a reality like that was waiting for me. This made medication compliance very difficult for me, so I went through cycles of lucidity, then went off medications and went as far away as California in search of falsehood dreams, then was so far off the deep end that I had to be forcibly hospitalized.

I really thought I had broken that cycle, so my recent foray into the world of paranoid schizophrenia caught me off guard. But one thing I do know is that my Dad, my rock of salvation (one level below Jesus) has rescued my messed up life numerous times now and I have to mature and learn to handle my own problems as his age advances. That’s about it for today dear readers, not much practical advice really other than that an iPod can be your best friend and even a tool an occupational therapist should utilize. Music is almost as powerful as the force that drives it, which I think in the end is love.

When Psychosis Causes Hallucinations Which Causes More Psychosis

 

So here I am, 17 years into recovery from a lengthy hospital stay for acute psychosis. In that time, I have mostly been on an injectable medication every two weeks, and it has done a really good job of keeping my head straight. Now, a new medication or two has been developed, and supposedly they are better. One of the advantages is that the new ones only have to be administered once a month rather than every two weeks. So, after a lengthy debate/discussion, my Psychiatrist puts me on one of the new ones (I don’t think it would benefit anyone to know the name of it so I am going to leave it out). But the difficult thing is that it seems I have been taking the previous medication for so long, then when it was stopped, I have been having symptoms of severe schizophrenia, something that hasn’t happened before. The world is a scary place with schizophrenia in it to confuse a person already struck down with bipolar and anxiety. It is a very hard thing to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. When the worst happens is almost always in a public place, often a restaurant or shopping mall. I start off feeling fine, and then I get quiet and begin to listen to people talking around me. This is something I used to do in my late teens when I lived in Vancouver. I hadn’t yet perfected my set of social skills, and I would listen in on people and then, though trying not to be rude, I would join in on what they were talking about. I often gave the excuse I was from a small town, but that was pretty much a lie. Still, I met a lot of people, had friends nearly wherever I went, and often count those times as some of the best ones in my life. Now, that habit I formed, for lack of a better term, torments me to no end. I sit, and there is a cacophony of voices and noise, then I begin to tune in on a specific conversation or sound, and it slowly starts to turn into words and sentences I seem to recognize. If I am unlucky, which has happened a few times in the past weeks, I interpret what was said as a direct threat and suddenly have a very strong desire to leave, whether I have to eat or sit with someone or any reason really. This is when I start to look and feel disturbed (I think) and at that point, I honestly feel that some people can sense my anguish. Then one of them may make a comment or a joke and if I overhear it, or misinterpret it, then I start to feel justified that people are plotting against me and things get worse. This has been my world since Christmas Day when I laid in my bed not wanting to make a sound, listening to the heater/radiator in my bedroom start to sound like two men plotting my demise in the stairwell. It is hard to explain how destructive this psychosis can be. I met a friend at a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and as the meal wore on, I keep trying to not let people see me, couldn’t look the person I met with in the eyes, and my voice kept on getting quieter. I have been trying to take steps to deal with it, but I fear it will take time and extreme effort. One of the ways my nurse/therapist was helping me to learn was taking deep breaths, holding them for a couple of seconds and then slowly releasing them, causing you to get beyond the “fight or flight” mode and also distracting you from any false voices. But she was also careful to caution me that there is really no magic pill that will end my auditory hallucinations. One of the things that I think could be an issue is that I have been playing a number of violent video games which I have stopped, but still kind of long to play. One of the best suggestions came from my Dad, who saw my Mom go through this for a long time. He suggested that I simply put some music on an iPod or iPhone and focus on the music rather than the troubling talk. I hope some of this helps people out there who may be experiencing psychosis, as always, please feel free to comment or contact me.

A Christmas Poem With the Theme of Giving and Poverty

Sorry, no blog today, just a photo and a poem!

 

Poverty Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

December 29, 2018

 

I was maybe seventeen not too much more

I thought that being tough and cool meant you would score

Women wouldn’t ever bother with you if you were poor

It seemed I had to show off, get off, then show them the door

 

It was messed up for a teen, no one really wants things that way

One-night romances hurt everyone who goes along to play

Adolescence was a difficult time for me in so many ways

You didn’t have to add a girlfriend’s pregnancy or lover’s nasty disease

 

I tried to quit drinking in hopes of changing in time my teenage days

And it felt pretty good when people gave me encouragement and praise

But I secretly could only think of cold beer and going back to my old ways

 

I met my school angel years ago shopping; we needed the same thing

She looked like she also needed a friend, which made my heart sing

I looked deep in her eyes and just forgot about everything

 

Her hair was dark and short, and brought out her light white soft skin so well

I didn’t even consider the fact that I probably looked like hell

I just saw her soft, caring, lovely, dark brown eyes

She was not ashamed to need crutches, this woman wore no disguise

 

My heart sank down to my stomach because I realized it was true

This person was too lovely for me and there was nothing I could do

Then she looked right at me stopped, smiled and waved

It was like I could do no wrong, like my life and my soul had been saved

 

That moment of bliss later carried me though so many unhappy times

I think of my angel when problems large or small arrives

Knowing that writing poems doesn’t pay the bills

And I need to set down my pen, feed myself with my other skills

 

But still I want to immortalize these powerful feelings of love here on this page

Partly because when one is young poetry seems the perfect way

I’ll never forget that moment when I was truly in love at first sight

I still could never say if it would have gone right

 

We stayed close, then I was in a state of confusion and pain

I wanted to talk to someone from the past who still knew my name

But when you have a problem that drives family and friends away like mine

Sometimes even existing around others can be seen as a punishable crime

 

Years before, with my school girlfriend, things only lasted a short while

She changed me so much, until I could feel emotions, could even smile

I would still be smiling, even with my crooked teeth

I’m normally so happy at Christmas, like I have the world at my feet

 

It was Christmas at the mall when that disabled woman smiled and asked my name

Even when she looked at my messy hair and skinny body she still felt the same

That was the first time I truly felt no trepidation in looking someone in the eye

Nothing and no one in this vast world mattered to me except her and I

 

This brand-new angel was smiling at me, as though she liked my ways

Even just then I knew that look would be in my memory for the rest of my days

Later, we left the busy coffee shop together later but not to go home

Just to have a quiet coffee together and some time alone

 

It was all so magical, as we talked all through that night

The world truly is not a place where a real man needs to fight

When things are being built, many pretend to forget

When someone is disabled for any reason we owe them a special debt

 

I know it seems a little crazy to talk of both love and war

But I failed to mention when my angel got up to go to the door

It was easy to notice that she had no left leg

Survival to her was to go back to the streets, to sit and to beg

 

She had been an army surgeon in Afghanistan

Did more of a job in many ways than any man

I wanted to take her home just to look in her eyes

But like every soldier she had too much pride

 

As time went on I went to see her now and then a little more

I got her warm clothes while her caring changed my life like never before

Looking at this young woman left handicapped who had promised her life

To a country that treated her sacrifice like she was the twenty-third harem wife.

 

If I had a little more courage I think I could have accomplished the deed

Even with no leg this person had everything I would ever need

She had a beautiful soul I could see it in her eyes

Without being condescending she was so incredibly wise

 

But I didn’t propose, I left her there to survive on the street

Through frigid winter months and glaring summer heat

And for many years I have to just live without happiness

And think of the days when a proud woman soldier gave me true bliss

Mental Health Crisis and Severe Breakdown Advice

A nice frosty December photo from my trusty iPhone 7.

Well, the past couple of days have been extremely difficult ones, I have spent a lot of time hiding in my bed not wanting to face the world. One of the cool things that I did do was head out to North Edmonton to meet with a young woman who needed help with her writing. I know I am suited for the smaller creative writing classes I teach, but now that I am doing more mentoring I feel one day I may be able to take on a job like my good friend Richard Van Camp does often, which is being a writer in residence at a library or University. In a job like this, you spend half of your time working on your own project, and the other half helping the general public with writing they want help with.

So what I most wanted to do was to put into words what has been going through my head these past few days. I don’t know if many people understand totally what schizophrenia does to a person, but I will try and relate it. Usually when I have an episode, it means something has set it off. When I first got sick, there were many tests done to make sure there wasn’t other things happening to make my behaviour so extremely weird for lack of a better term. They took drug tests, thyroid tests, cat scans. When all came back negative they were ready to diagnose me but the odd thing was that they didn’t seem ready to tell me what this diagnosis was. I had a lot of problems, delusions being the worst of them. I was also experiencing the mania side of bipolar disorder, not eating, working out a mile a minute and staying up all night reading. It didn’t help that there was a lot of pressure at home and at school, as well as the night shift job I was working.

Slowly, over time, I slipped further and further away from reality. I began to think that if I just kept trying harder and harder at doing everything perfectly, things would go well. I took a trip to a mountain resort with family and friends and that perhaps was where everything was falling apart. It is hard to explain, but I was hugely taken advantage of by my sister’s boyfriend who used subtle and not so subtle persuasion to cause me to ruin the engine on my car, spend all the money I had on the trip and other things, and he had also filled me so far up with his garbage political ideas that he himself didn’t practise that I even saw my own father who put. a roof over my head as a terrible, messed up person. It really doesn’t help to blame anyone truthfully, but a lot of my confusion and utter inability to continue to work and function was due to this despicable character.

Somehow, it seemed to me as these things were happening, and I can’t blame them all on my sister’s boyfriend because they happened to other family members as well, that all the things that had been impressed on me about hard work and discipline gave way to me thinking I could get away with quitting my job (which I did by simply walking off in the middle of a shift) and taking my focus away from providing for needs such as money for an apartment so I could move out of the house. I began to believe strange things, like if I wanted something I could just go into a store and take it and not pay for it and that 99% of the rest of the population got through life this way. A whole new reality formed in my mind, new delusions coming by the second. One of them was that there was no such thing as marriage and commitment, that I could somehow sleep with any woman I wanted, I just had to go to a nightclub or dance and start a one-night-stand. This was another delusion that had roots in things my sister’s boyfriend had told me. Before this, I was a strong believer in no sex before marriage or outside of marriage and was pretty much dead set against abortions. I am so glad my sister eventually got free of this guy. He did have some positive qualities to him, he was funny and fun to be around, he also was influential in my sister eventually earning a master’s degree in education. But if she hadn’t left him and married I often wonder if my beautiful, wonderful niece would ever have been born.

So all of these delusions crept up on me. One of the more prominent ones was that police were some kind of different species of human being and that, along with some of my other warped beliefs that would get me into trouble with the law, that jail and getting arrested was considered almost heroic. It all boiled down to one morning when I went to gym class and just a few minutes into my class I picked a fight that I have regretted nearly every day of my life since. I left the ice rink with my teacher, went to the office and was arrested and taken away in front of all of my peers. This, which at the time seemed like it was a positive thing, was the most damaging walk of shame I have ever experienced.

I was taken at that point to the Psychiatric Hospital and though I have often talked about it being a dirty, violent and extremely disturbing place, the reality of it was that in a very short time this place got  me better, got my thoughts in order. It is so weird to think of all the delusions I had, from being ridiculously rich to having the prettiest girls in my school secretly in love with me back to seeing the world through totally rational eyes, then months later these delusions would slowly come back if I wasn’t still taking my medication. Until it happened a number of times, I didn’t realize how when I started to accumulate millions of dollars and the TV was talking to me directly that it wasn’t something the medication and the “evil” doctors were doing to me. When it actually occurred to me, during a time of clarity, that it was so much better to have sane thoughts despite the difficult side effects of psychiatric medication, which ranged from serious tiredness and grogginess to drooling and making my hands shake, my life truly began to turn around. 17 years hospital free!

I wanted to talk now a bit about the symptoms I have been experiencing in the past few days, but I don’t want to write a blog so long no one will read it. I will do my best to write about more up to date mental health issues in the blog to follow. Thanks Dear Readers, and Happy New Year!

Christmas Poem and Talk About Psychosis and Anti-Psychotic Medication

Please remember to scroll past today’s blog for a special Christmas Poem I Wrote For a Gathering.

Above is a photo of the church I went to for a long time before the well-known and greatly loved Priest, Father James Holland was retired. Behind is an incredible sunrise, something I had no idea could be so beautiful until I started getting up at 5:00 to take long walks to the grocery store or other places.

I have a lot on my mind right now. I think I am having a problem with a new medication, but it is hard to tell because I was diagnosed with diabetes earlier this year and am now not only taking a different injection, but also Metformin and a pill for high cholesterol. I have been losing weight and in general feeling better, but I have a strange drowsiness and loss of balance. It really seems like such a trap for those who have a mental illness, the medication makes you hungry and want to eat more, then the illness makes you unable to work and so the end result is you are in a major risk category for diabetes and heart disease and other disorders. I thought I was safe. I was overweight, but a lot of the weight on me was muscle and I was swimming nearly every day, going for walks. I was even careful about how much sugar I took in. Sadly it was not enough.

A lot of people think diabetes is not a big deal, but the fact is that you can lose limbs, go blind, you lose an average of 12 years off your life expectancy. The only really good thing about it is that having diabetes has made me pay a lot more attention to what I put into my body.

It’s funny though, a few years ago when I worked as a stage hand, I would burn myself out working with all that heavy stuff, then I would swim and lift weights and I would come home sore on every square inch of my body. But it was almost like a drug, it hurt, but it was a welcome change from day to day non-feeling. Now I am exercising my upper body a lot less, but doing a lot of walking and things seem to be much better. I do have back pain, especially when I sleep too much, but my arms and legs feel a lot better than when I was going overboard with exercise.

So, on to other things, I have been having problems with neighbours in my building. Actually, I honestly don’t know if a lot of it has to do with my own paranoia, and that I need my anti-psychotic medication increased or even changed. One of my neighbours came by a couple of months ago and went into a long tirade about people making noise. So at every chance I get, I try to do what I need to without making any unnecessary noise, but it doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone. This is where the paranoia comes in, when I make even a slight noise, any other noises sound to me like a retaliatory noise, and I really don’t want to start a war in a place I really like to live in.

It is more likely that the noise I make isn’t a big deal. The only really bad thing I do is to run the blender or the popcorn maker once a day at least, but I don’t seem to get any negative feedback.

The other thing about my paranoia is that I am finding it harder and harder to go out in public or ride a bus. If I can, I always like to sit near the back and to sit to one side rather than take up two seats. Of course there is almost always some loud, swearing jerk at the very back seat and as the ride moves on I always seem to think he/she is talking about me. It is really making it difficult for me to function. Other than that, things seem to be going so well I can hardly imagine my good fortune. I was asked to speak at a stigma stoppers symposium for some junior high kids, I was also asked to read some Christmas Poetry to 400 people at a Christmas Luncheon. I will put the Christmas poem below since I haven’t posted one in a while.

Funny enough, of all of the things in my life, it seems I am getting the most joy out of my new PS4 Pro system. I bought a game called Sniper 3 for it and it is so incredibly fun to attack bases and go on missions. One lone sniper against sometimes more enemies than you are given sniper rounds. I can’t even imagine how addicted I would be to this game if I were a young kid.

But, dear readers, I hope that has given you all some food for thought. If people do like this blog, or even if they don’t or want to see certain topics, the best way to make that happen is to leave me comments. Without them I am finding it hard to write on a regular basis. Please see below for poem, and Happy Holidays!

 

McCauley Christmas

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Sweet taste of milky chocolates

Candy canes to grab everywhere

 

Christmas dinner plates full of so many things

That even those on diets eat like they don’t care

 

Parents right there to make our lives so wonderful

Also Cousins, Aunts and Uncles all around

 

Hearing the church bells start to ring

Just after Santa brought our presents down

 

We truly had no idea at that time

There was want, disappointment or so much need

 

In fact, when we didn’t get just what we had wanted

We often displayed some very ugly greed

 

Christmas time came year upon year

Each time bringing much needed joy

 

So wonderful in my small home town

To be a youthful girl or boy

 

The time came eventually for my brother and sister and I

To grow past Christmas, and move out on our own

 

And suddenly for the very first time

We learned what it meant to be truly alone

 

But despite the trials each and every year

When there was time for us to return home

 

We happily reunited with our sweet kind family

And forgot we ever had been alone

 

Sadly, we never even realized

In the neighborhood in which we lived

 

Many of our close friends and neighbors were alone

Even though we ourselves had more than enough love to give

 

When everyone seems celebrates, look closely and carefully

Look at those with whom you share your special place

 

Don’t just smile at them while they die inside

Despite how they may put up a happy face

 

Help them through the hardest times

Those who came before we did and after

 

Share with them a special gift

Share joy and love and laughter

 

Show everyone you care about each of them

Everyone tossed around here on mother Earth

 

Please learn a lesson in this special time you will use all year

As we celebrate my savior’s birth