philosophy essay

SOCIETY’S MAGIC TRICKS ON THE MENTALLY ILL AND HOW OTHERS SEE THEM

always seek an elder’s wisdom! and if you like this blog, please feel free to download a copy of my latest book, Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis, just by clicking the photo of the bridge at right

 

There are a lot of ways society has tried to make many things seem like magic or sorcery. It is interesting to note that magic and sorcery were mentioned in the bible. My own way of explaining that is that there were mind and mood altering substances far back in our history such as many forms of alcohol and drugs, and those that used them were thought to be practising sorcery. I wouldn’t be surprised that modern day pharmacy had its roots in the powders and elixirs that were once attributed to witches and warlocks. Even the milder drugs like pot change the way you look at things, it can disturb your concept not just of how you feel, but of how others perceive you. THC can in a way be a self-induced form of insanity for want of a better term.

Some years ago I found myself at a gathering at a bar on the edge of downtown Edmonton, and I was invited to a private room with the band afterwards. I wonder when I look back if there was something else in the joint that was passed around because I had a couple of small tokes and went totally loopy and paranoid. One of the things I did was to try and show off by taking the medications I was on and tossing them onto a coffee table. I mistakenly was thinking that people would know what drugs I was on and want to try some of them to add to their high. I also went into someone’s room and borrowed the phone and left a half-hour long message to my ex-girlfriend, who was living with her boyfriend at the time and when I returned I was so convinced that everyone in the room wanted to kill me that I climbed out the window and down the fire escape then walked about 3 miles home instead of waiting to share a cab home. It is experiences like these that often get people confused about pot and other drugs, (alcohol included) I know of a few people who swore by the medicinal properties of cannabis. One of them had MS and had actually gotten a letter from a politician allowing him to smoke it (before it was made legal). I just heard of a young woman I have known for quite a few years having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and treating it with pot as well.

I am also fond of relating the story of mid-20th century psychiatry and drugs like LSD. Psychiatrists were encouraged to take LSD so they could better understand their patients who had delusions and hallucinations. The father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Frued was known to liberally prescribe cocaine to his patients. I don’t know how bad these situations got, but I do know in both cases that once the drug was no longer available in these ways (legal prescription, etc) a lot of psychiatric patients had a very hard time managing.

There are so many things that we are told to take on faith that we see with rose-colored glasses that they are no less than magic. A new car is promoted as more reliable than any car ever, with more power at better fuel economy. People get tricked into thinking they can buy this car with all their savings and never have to buy another car or even be outperformed by a newer car. The sad reality of planned obsolescence, proven time and again (just look at 40 year-old cars and how much they have rusted or broken down) that once were touted to be just as “magic” as the cars of today. Marketing does this to us a lot, whether it comes from a billboard or a review or a commercial.

One of the problems living in a society with this kind of “magic” is that money and ambition are encouraged. Work harder, buy more, feel better, get more work done, work more efficiently, rise in your organization, get more stuff. Die rich. Something I have been learning since my mid-forties is that how much stuff I have has very little to do with my happiness. My happiness has so much more to do with personal recognition from friends and family, and yes, even some of the people who follow my work. I got interested in the teaching of Marie Kondo and some other Minimalists and I have truly found that it is so much better to have one working computer than five older crappy ones. It is so much better to have three sets of clothes and a couple extra t-shirts and work shirts than to own more clothes than I can keep up with washing and finding a place for.  Two hundred books and ten thousand comic books seem to be a wonderful thing, but if I can never read any of them because they are poorly organized, scattered around, and drowning in each other, the truth is I am much better off with just having one or two books that I read and then donate or trade in at a used bookstore, and also taking advantage of the library system. Having fewer possessions has made my living conditions better, allowed me to work more efficiently and not feel overwhelmed all the time with a messy house, dirty dishes, and paper and stuff all over. I have a long way to go with downsizing my possessions, but if a person can look at something they own and really think hard about whether or not this thing truly makes them happy, and then makes a hard decision to sell it or donate it or clean it and organize it properly so you can get use out of it, they are going to feel so much better all over and get so much more done.

This Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) method really is magic. Marie also has a regular show on Netflix where she goes into people’s homes and transforms them. The greatest thing is that she doesn’t get people to pay someone to clean, which rarely if ever has lasting results, she teaches them how to organize, tidy, dispose of unneeded things that they may have an emotional attachment to. Once you do this for someone, you don’t just clean their house, you change their life.

One has to become a critical thinker I believe to be able to function without being brought into some of the traps out there that destroy so many people’s lives. When I was 14 I started smoking and it took away my money, my health, and it made me become ostracized by a lot of friends. There really was no magic in smoking other than the part where you satisfy your craving for nicotine and for a short time you feel good. I will never forget the day at the end of my grade 10 year that (thanks to stuffing off, starting to drink alcohol, and to a great extent to smoking cigarettes) I went from class to class to get my final grades and I failed more than 50% of them. I was devastated. I have to say though, a person raising kids should keep as much of a watchful eye on them around the age of 15. I don’t blame my parents, but both of them smoked and my dad drank and both of them allowed me to smoke and drink, and school, which was most important to me, and then Air Cadets, which came in a close second were screwed up beyond salvation. I never did end up going to University as a result of my poor showing in grade 10. Something I have found out though is that to this day almost half of all cigarette sales are to people with mental illnesses and the tobacco companies know it.

Probably one of the most important things that should be impressed upon the impressionable is to make goals. Goals are so powerful. Goals get you moving in a direction rather than a person just moving and not knowing where they will end up. I think it saved my life to decide from a young age that no matter what I would do, I would end up a writer. If I had a clearer idea of how to do that, had written out my goals, and applied some simple logic, I could have thrived at school and done what I most wanted much earlier in my life. I have heard that when a young person has at least one positive influence in their life outside their family, they are so much more likely to not have drug, alcohol or other problems. This is why programs like big brother/big sister are so amazing. The real magic in our world doesn’t come from fast cars or smooth whiskey, cold beer or satisfying cigarettes, it comes from our love, respect and caring for each other.

I hope some of this at least makes sense, I know I tend to just blurt out my writings in my blogs sometimes, but I really hope to reach people with what I say. That will be my last point. One of the best things a person can do with big decisions is to seek out advice. I have been so lucky to have my dad in my life who is a very experienced and intelligent man and whenever the smallest or biggest thing happens I can count on him. There are others though, my sister is very smart too, and I have a friend up the road who is older and very kind and intelligent who I seek out for advice. The trick is to weigh carefully how good the person will be at giving advice. If you want advice on buying a car, talk to a certified mechanic (and always get one to look at a used car before you buy it) not someone who just uses a car. If you want advice about saving money, look for classes where you can learn from people that don’t get a percentage from what you invest, but instead are highly qualified and knowledgeable about a person’s needs and capabilities. Thanks to everyone for reading all this, please contact me or comment if you have questions, as always my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

The Mentally Unsound Zombies That Walk the Night

Before I begin, just wanted to remind you Dear Reader that you can download a free digital copy of my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” by clicking on the tower bridge to the right

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Walter Warren Miller

Have you ever had to wait for a bus in a sketchy part of town after dark? I live in an interesting neighbourhood and had to walk a friend to the bus and I was really surprised at how there are two types of human existence, the one that people show on the outside and the one that comes out after dark. Due to the Covid-19 virus, there were few people on the street but there were still some, and the bus wasn’t running very often so we had to sit for a while. It was kind of an interesting learning experience because my friend has some fears of people around him that perhaps are rational, perhaps have to do with his illness. He got nervous and was talking about all kinds of things, he kept doing something therapists will refer to as mind-reading, he tried to think ahead of all the other people out on the street and I was very concerned for him. This friend has just recently tried to make a decision to stop using illicit drugs and was also telling me about some of the things he had gotten himself involved in. I really wanted to step up and try and offer him some solutions, but all I could really do was stay there until the bus came and listen. One of the things that surprised me is that a guy came past and asked to bum a cigarette and my friend gave him one, then I think in a round about way he tried to ask if anyone around was selling heroin. That really opened up a can of worms for me. I don’t want to sound like I’m ranting, but I grew up in a generation that was supposed to have a war on drugs and as I have gotten older I have been learning that often even the US government was supporting drug imports in different ways to finance some of their darker operations, and I have also seen (I am not 100% sure, but as it is an American policy it may also have been a Canadian one) film where a military leader explained that they didn’t want to stop the growth of opium crops because it would harm the people they had come to help. There are many more facets to this line of thought, there is the concept that when a person buys illegal drugs the money they are spending goes to support terrorism. Now terrorism itself is an interesting word. Is it terrorism to defend your home with your very life and strap a bomb to yourself and try to get aggressive foreign agencies out of your country but not terrorism when you do something like was done in Viet Nam where agent orange was used to defoliate the countryside and it nearly destroyed the country, not to mention killed a lot of Americans. I’m not trying to side with the people that flew planes into the World Trade Center, but there seems to be a lot of shaky moral ground on both sides. I don’t blame the troops, they are there to follow orders, provide for their needs and that of their families, but when I hear the police come to the street outside my window every single night to chase off people shooting heroin in the lobby of my building, I really wish something more could be done. A lot of these people are dying in this area because they think they are getting heroin but instead are getting much more powerful opiates and they overdose. I do happen to know there is hope for even the worst addicts, though I don’t feel that safe injection sites are the most effective ways of dealing with this issue. I have known people who were addicted to heroin and got off of it by going into a methadone program. There are even countries where serious addicts get a visit from a nurse once a day who gives them a very low dose of heroin, not enough to make them high, but enough to make their desperation and cravings go away and they are able to function, experience a huge difference in quality of life and their families often even start to trust and accept them again.

I feel kind of happy right now because we had our first warm Spring day. I decided I was going to take a ten-mile walk to a mall in the far north end of Edmonton and it was glorious. Wanting to proceed with caution, I used a home made mask. For those of you interested in making your own mask, try this YouTube video (click on the highlighted text) halfway to my destination, there was a young woman who seemed to be having an extremely hard time. She was frail and skinny looking and was dancing around, her hair and clothes a mess and a bunch of clothes and scraps laying on the sidewalk around her. My best guess was that she was going through withdrawal, but what real difference is there between addiction and poor mental health? I wished I could help her, but that would have meant taking so many risks. Instead, I walked around her knowing there was little I could do, and that at least with it being warm she wasn’t at risk of exposure. An hour or so later I came back to this area and I thought I saw a small child sitting on the sidewalk. It wasn’t a child, it was the dancing woman and now she was sitting and trying to stick a needle into her arm. It was extremely disturbing to watch. What a person has to understand is that whether or not someone chose to be there, they are deep into a state where all they can think about is their drug and getting more of it. They don’t care if they steal or harm someone, they don’t care if they have been told their needle use has gotten them infected with HIV or Hepatitis, they just need to shoot up. I hate that I have become jaded like this, but I have something in my life extremely important. I have a family that loves me and depends on me and if I were to stop and try and help everyone I see in this sort of state, I would soon be of no use to them. I may even be on drugs at some point myself. No one can really say they are immune to addictions. People who abuse alcohol often think they are a step above those who abuse illicit drugs but they are seeking the same high and may never be able to break free from their problem. Not to mention that for a significant section of the population, alcohol gives a pleasant high, a feeling of ease, of confidence and pleasure. One day an alcoholic may want to see what one step higher would be like, it happens every day all over the place. A person who feels confidant that they never did hard drugs and didn’t drink until they were 18 or 21 is just as much at risk of serious addiction as anyone.

Working a while back in the inner city, teaching addicts and disadvantaged people about poetry to better express themselves in a book we were creating, I learned there is a pattern: first, a person drinks some and does minor, soft drugs. They work say a labour job and one day they are injured. As they are healing, they are given opiates as painkillers. Then they take some time off and one day they will discover that buying drugs off the street is much less expensive than prescription drugs. Soon, a tolerance is reached and more drugs are needed. From there it can be all downhill. More drugs, less ability to manage their own life, loss of employment, savings, family support and on and on. It is a deathly evil trap.

What I really wanted to say with today’s blog is that I honestly feel that our society needs to look at drugs and those whose lives it destroys in new and more progressive ways. Is it right to allow a country to export huge amounts of poppies that can be made into opiates, opium, heroin and more. Is it really Christian (or Muslim) to look down at these people and not do anything to help them manage their lives or get off drugs and alcohol. I have been a strong speaker against the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I don’t like people getting labels that put them into a box. But we are doing this with addictions all the time. And the plain fact is that addictions are a mental illness just like bipolar or schizophrenia. What we have to try and understand as well is that often people fall into a deep hole of drugs, pills, and booze because they have a serious mental illness of the more traditional type and they don’t know any way of dealing with it other than to mask the pain by doing what is called ‘self-medicating.’

The last and most unfortunate part of mental illness and addiction is something I even have a very hard time talking about. Things like child abuse, childhood sexual abuse, trauma, and sometimes all these things rolled into one can often cause a person to be mentally ill and even more often cause them to have addictions. Alcohol has a unique ability to stop REM sleep which means if you drink enough you don’t get nightmares. PTSD is something that a lot of people have, from any part of their lives. I know a lot of firemen and police officers, and I am sure ER nurses and paramedics have a tendency to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t know the statistics for Canada, but in the US for sure a lot of retired cops eventually commit suicide due to a breakdown of their mental condition. Countless others become alcoholics and alcohol abusers.

As a short added point, it is important to understand that things like cannabis are not harmless drugs. In Canada, cannibis use and cultivation is legal, but the truth is that if a person starts using it before their brains are fully matured (around 25) they tend to give themselves a 40% higher chance of developing a mental illness that includes psychosis. Psychosis is pretty scary. You see things that aren’t there, hear things that haven’t been said, get grandiose or disturbing thoughts, and before you know it your whole life has fallen apart. I hate to end on a sad note, but it really affected me talking with this friend today. Anyone out there who has some praying they want to get done, his name is Damien and he could use some divine and local intervention to save his life.

 

The Long and Lonely Journey of a Writer With a Mental Illness

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Please Click This text to download my new book in eBook format

Good day to all my readers and beloved fans! After long months of typing away and scanning, taking photos, requesting documents and researching, I have completed my book “Alert and Oriented X3: A Snapshot of a Psychosis”

I have had so much success in this past year getting work as a creative writing teacher, selling my other books when I give talks for various organizations, that I simply don’t see any need to try and make a few bucks off something that I really enjoyed doing, and that so many people could benefit from. So I am freely distributing the eBook to “Alert and Oriented X3” to anyone who wishes a copy, and I am also encouraging all concerned to make as many copies digital or otherwise that they like and share it freely.

It is in times like this that I like to think of some of the wonderful people that have helped me along through my recovery journey. Near the top of the list is my boss at the Schizophrenia Society, Tanya Behm. Tanya not only allows me to sell my books when I give presentations, she gets up and promotes them for me when we work together. Next on my list is my dad, who I have sneaking suspicions of being a writer himself. My mom had told me when he was younger he had submitted some things and didn’t have any luck and so stopped doing so. I really feel this is a shame because my dad is so intelligent when it comes to reading and writing that I come to him for all kinds of advice, and I often have him proof read my short stories.

The list goes on and on, there is Caroline, who is tied in first place to be my best friend with bestselling author Richard Van Camp. Both of them accept me with all my quirks and oddities and both of them have been extremely kind and supportive.

Next on the list but by no means any less of a dear friend than any other is Charity Slobod. Charity is an incredible young woman who works in professional development and has a master’s degree as well. Charity was just about the only thing that kept me going while I was experiencing the 30-day hospital stay I had last year that this book is written about.

My brother Kris and my sister Michelle are way up there in my cheering section, being kind enough to help proof-read, offered suggestions, and always had their doors open for me when needed.

It has been such a long journey. I started writing possibly because of the isolation I experienced when first diagnosed. This had a lot to do with the stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness. After being alone and extremely bored for long months, I returned to school in hopes of finishing my high school diploma and attending University. It was there that I met Caroline, who has been such a dear friend ever since. (that was almost 30 years ago). We have both had our trials and difficult times, but no one can make me laugh like Caroline can. She sort of rescued me from being borderline suicidal all those years ago and I love her for it.

There were times when I would sit and do nothing but write and write all day. Soon after I started writing I fell into the trap of vanity presses, but still had no money to give them. I published a few poems, tried to attend church and did actually make some awesome friends like Jade Holownia and his wife Brandy.

Living on my own, there were times when I became so lonely that I reached out for anyone to ease my pain. That led me into serious troubles having street people try and take over my apartment. I tried so hard back then to return to a normal life, get a job, finish school. But it seemed so impossibly hard while I was in a poor state of mental health and taking medications that took a toll on me as well.

Still, somehow I felt that I needed to keep writing, and I paid a lot of money to have my first book edited but couldn’t find a publisher. I ended up self-publishing and with a great deal of determination and hard work, started to sell my first few copies. It is hard to say where the real turning point came. I had been writing short stories but not sending them out, and I met a man who most would call a grump, but for some reason he treated me extremely well. One day I found out he had gone to Journalism school and I asked him how I could get into magazine writing. In just two minutes he explained the whole thing to me and that year I think I published and was paid for about 5 articles in major publications.

It all seems like such a blur, but I do really want to thank Charity again because when I met her, I was at the point of having done a lot of things, but not having any major success. Charity not only helped me so much with my work, but she was so much fun to talk to and do various things with that, along with the Schizophrenia Society work I was doing, plus the odd workshop and class, she gave me a life that was worth living.

Sorry for just prattling on, I feel I have reached a major milestone in my writing. A good friend who contacts me on Facebook is an incredibly accomplished poet, among the top poets in Canada and he is also a professor of creative writing at a local university, just told me that I am “A Great Memoirist, truly great.” I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me to hear that. Writers get so much negative feedback, and it is a lifelong struggle for most to find any kind of success, and all at once with the words of a friend, I have arrived at the point I have wanted to be at since my days in elementary school when I wrote and illustrated my own comic books. In those days, my parents kept our house full of all the greatest books and authors, and each day a few times a day I would pass by a shelf with books loaded down on it by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, just to mention a few. I thought to myself that if I could ever write a really good book or two, I could in some way become immortal like these writers. And now, as I sit typing, with no thought at all of slowing down, I am left with a very satisfying and happy glow that whatever happens next in my life is a footnote, I have done something incredible. I want all of you to share in this feeling so please download and copy and give away as many eBooks as you can dear readers! I think the link above will allow you to do that, if you find you can’t download it that way, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will email you one free of charge.

Yours,

Leif Gregersen

The Wonderful and Amazing Side of Living With Bipolar or Schizophrenia and Depression With Anxiety

Hello Dear Readers! I tried to get an image into this post but ended up with TWO! Sorry, beyond my control.  Please scroll down past the below book cover to read today’s blog.

The book cover below is my finest work so far in my career, which goes deep into what it is like to suffer from a mental illness and to slowly recover. I have gotten a lot of great feedback about this book, a lot of it from people who either work in the field of mental illness or suffer from one themselves. I would encourage anyone who reads this blog to order their copy and suggest it to anyone they knew who works in the field to buy one as well. The book is $18 USD and can be found at amazon.com just click the link and it will take you directly to the ordering page. I really feel the message of decreasing stigma and increasing awareness of mental illness is something we all need to strive towards, so please support a struggling writer and enrich your mind at the same time. (more blog to follow below)

You can also click this text to be taken to an ordering page for my book.

Professors and All Educators can purchase class sets and I am available for public speaking engagements which I have trained and been richly rewarded for.

Well, I wanted to post a cat picture but I was having problems getting my photo editor on WordPress here going. I wanted to talk a little about cats and how they relate to us all. I have always been fascinated with cats. They are so incredibly cute, they often have a surprising degree of intelligence (I once met a cat who could use the toilet and even flush it). One of the things I have often envied of cats is partially their trust when they are in a home where they are treated well and loved. All they have to do is find some place warm and they will curl up and drift away. Cats spend a good portion of their lives sleeping but still have the ability to jump up on laps, climb a book case or get into all sorts of trouble. As I approach 50 now I am finding that I have less and less energy to to the things I want to and I find it extremely necessary to work out often to keep myself fit. I don’t know if cats completely enjoy the lives they live, but it all seems simple enough, a little can of food now and then, a few ‘good kitty’ back and belly rubs a day, perhaps a long nap next to the radiator and they at least seem content. Traditionally, cats do have a valuable job around the house, they are meant to kill vermin and mice.

One of the things that has bothered me was that for a long period of time in my own life, I sort of lived like a cat. I laid down a lot, I gave myself permission to get through a day and not accomplish anything. Sometimes that can be very difficult for someone with bipolar to do as the highs of the ‘highs and lows’ sometimes make you crave action. I still feel pretty guilty about this, but when I was in this state of boredom and wanting action, I often went and gambled, either in a casino or at a video lottery machine in a bar. These were absolute poison to me, I became addicted to throwing away my money for the faint hope of getting back more than what I put in. Even now I have memories of the thousands or perhaps even millions of times I spun the reels on those damn machines hoping for a full row of bells or lucky 7’s. Total self destruction, and total addiction to the adrenalin, the money mattered little. It of course was extremely humiliating to call up my dad the night after spending everything to beg for or borrow enough for a little food and maybe a cheap movie rental.

I am now in an interesting position. I work a couple of days a week for a couple of hours and I have been very careful with my money and so I have been thinking of taking some time to just work on my writing or just be by myself. I think this would be a recipe for disaster. I feel so good when I go and work, when I can reach out to someone in one of my writing classes so that they can help heal or express themselves. Just like having the desire to have disposable income, I really want to have disposable time. I love it when I can come home at noon from work, not be completely broke and be able to set up my video game console or find a book to read that holds my interest. One of the funniest things is coming home early like that doesn’t always help with my writing. When I get inspired to write, it is usually around 1:00 am when all is quiet and I am a little tired but not so tired coffee won’t wake me. What often happens is by 4:00 or so I have a short story draft finished and then in a mad panic I will try and find people to read it when it is in no shape to be seen by anyone. I think one of the reasons my writing career hasn’t taken off like it could is this laziness to write second, third, and fourth drafts. It all goes back to the idea of having disposable time on my hands. To have that time to just be a cat and take a long nap and a large sized snack. What worries me the most is that I am going to just continue to be something of a lazy writer, and I know a lot of people in psychiatric hospitals or under treatment have their little vices as well. Some love to eat and order pizza five times a week. Some get involved in sports they will never compete in or idolize sports figures as though they knew the person. There really is a good and bad side to this all though. I believe that when a person has a mental illness, it is extremely important to allow them to have their stress-free time so they can heal. Having psychosis or going into a psychiatric hospital is a horrible experience, and a person has to build up their self-image and sort out all of their problems which can take quite a bit of time. I am so grateful that when I was spending this time, I had a dad that would drive all the way to my apartment, pick me up and take me for a long walk in the River Valley of Edmonton. This act of kindness and my interest in reading is what got me through, what made it possible for me to bounce back.

Another issue I wanted to discuss is that some people worry about getting older, and some people use coping skills that make getting older not an issue to themselves. One of the things I know about getting older is that as your body ages, and your mind isn’t as sharp as when you were a teen, you simply become more comfortable in your own skin, you may have a lot of aches and pains, but you are much better equipped to cope with them. I have also noticed that my dad who is now 82 sleeps much less, and takes a walk to visit my brother, then after cooking supper and playing cards with friends, he reads a lot of incredible books until it is time for him to sleep. He never seems to worry that his time on Earth is limited, that he is ‘nearer the end than the beginning’ but it doesn’t bother him. Keeping yourself busy when you feel like you are old and useless can be a good way to pick up your spirits. Of course, if you feel very deep down in the dumps, it is extremely important to discuss things with a family doctor or psychiatrist. Something I have learned to do is to try and work as much as I can, to save my money, and then take the money and invest in people, in friendships. And it really pays back. I was very saddened to read a letter an elderly woman wrote scratched out in almost illegible print of a note she gave her next door neighbour, begging her to consider being her friend. Our relationships can be some of the most important and rewarding things about our lives, and if a person gives to others of their time, their resources, sometimes even the use of their homes when old friends are passing through town can truly build better, more, and stronger relationships that gets a person through the tough times.

Enjoy life. Many people don’t like to leave their houses because they have anxiety, but I think the truth is that hiding away only worsens the situation, and it doesn’t do much good for a person’s social skills. I have extreme anxiety. I have been able to overcome it when I am giving a talk or a presentation about mental illness to eager students who are there to listen, but when I get up in front of a crowd at a thing called ‘The Edmonton Story Slam’ to recite a five-minute story, my hands shake so hard I can barely hold the paper I read from and I have a hard time looking at audience members. But in truth, I have made some fantastic friends from going there as a regular storyteller, and it has greatly enhanced my ability to feel comfortable around people.

Well, dear reader, I should truthfully leave things at that. Once again I put out the call for anyone to suggest a topic for a future blog. I can almost always be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com

For now, just be a cat. Don’t worry where your next meal is coming from, if it doesn’t arrive you can go out and find great sport in catching a bird. Nap often and never turn down a little affection.

Best,

 

Leif Gregersen

 

 

 

Relationships and the Person With Schizophrenia, Bipolar or a Major Mood Disorder

I think that when a person has a mental health disability they have every chance a normal person has to get into a relationship, but there are times and situations to reveal things and times and situations to keep things hidden.

As a person who works in mental health, and has written books about it, I have almost no apprehension about disclosing to others that I have a mental illness. I have always felt that if you try and hide it, it will only look worse later on, and letting out the fact that you have a mental illness is something that in a way tests your prospective dating partner or friend, it weeds out those people who are too shallow to see you as a human being under the protective layers of medication and other strategies to treat poor mental health such as putting them on a disability pension and suggesting they not work.

It’s kind of a funny thing, I grew up in a kind of ritzy suburb of Edmonton called St.Albert where everything was clean yards, white picket fences, and people with no problems, at least that was the way it seemed on the surface. When I contact people I used to associate with when I was growing up there, they still seem to be very proud of their suburban advantage. I will admit, it is nice to be in a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood, but that place drove me crazy. One time my mom sent me to mail a cheque to pay a bill and I walked down the street and opened the mailbox just as a schoolboy was going by. I didn’t think much of it until I got home and someone phoned me demanding to know who I just wrote a letter to. I took what money I had, and struck out thumb first for the coast. It was an amazing experience, and the Rocky Mountains between where I live and the coast, (Vancouver, BC) were indescribably beautiful. I got to Vancouver and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in a kind of bad part of town and I was off my medications, but that semblance of a normal life that I had there was so much better than living under the stigma and judgement of all those people in St.Albert

Sadly, I did get sick (mentally) out there eventually, but I did almost spark up a couple of relationships, though nothing lasting or significant. There was a young woman I fancied who I used to hang out with quite a bit some years ago and she told me that she didn’t think someone without a mental health problem could have a relationship with someone who did. I often wonder if I have been banging my head against a wall trying to prove her wrong all these 20+ years after she said it. I do know that I have received some incredibly cruel responses to trying to get a young woman I meet to go for coffee with me or get her phone number. One of them flat out said to me, “I’m not going to call you.” and threw down the pencil she was about to write my number down with. I suppose that was understandable because though she was fully grown she was still in high school (I was around 22 or so at the time) and people that age quite often lack maturity. One of the let-downs that really hurt was when I asked a friend’s sister if she wanted to meet for coffee after her and I had some really great phone conversations and she said, just as though I was asking her to commit a crime, “Are you trying to date me? If you are I’m not interested.) I’m not mad at these people, and I don’t really fault them for what they said, but it is a good example of some of the kinds of things that will get said to a person who is trying to get to know the opposite sex who has a history of mental illness, and you need to end up kind of tough.

Sometimes I can’t believe I am now 48 and am not married or have any kids. It always seemed to me that there would be time, I had to wait until I was financially stable, I had to wait for the perfect intelligent, beautiful woman to come along. Some of them have come along and had real problems with how I would act at times, badly enough that they stopped all contact with me. And it really isn’t an issue of me being unattractive, I work out, I’m very fit, and I have solicited honest opinions from a number of women who place me around 9 out of 10 on the old ‘attractiveness’ scale. I think a lot of what it has to do with is simply living alone and not stepping out of my self-imposed boundaries. One such boundary was that when I was young I would go to dances but I would never dance. Not. One. Dance. In years. I had so much anxiety flowing through my veins that I locked myself inside myself. There were a lot of things I could do, and a lot of those things I did well. I was an exemplary Air Cadet, a good athlete, an honour student and on and on. I had little problems working hard at school or the various jobs I had, I could even ask for help, but for some reason though I was totally straight, I felt it was a bad thing to relax and let your hormones take over. When I really think hard about it, I think about how much my parents meant to me, and how sad it seemed that people had to grow up and take on a life of their own and move away and parents would be left to rot in a senior’s home. I have felt so strongly about the injustice of this situation that I have volunteered to work in pastoral care in extended care hospitals, and I even try and visit a friend’s mom in the lodge she lives in because my friend lives way out of town. I also do a lot of things with my Dad and try and call him at least once a day. One of the funny things about me having this idea in my head is that my parents were very honest and forthcoming about the fact that us kids would grow up and go through puberty and one day meet someone outside of the family we wanted to share our life with. My Dad let my brother and I read playboy when I was I think 14. My mom had ‘the talk’ with us. But there was little taught to me in the way of communication, of respecting the opposite sex, which led to something actually kind of horrible.

It was the summer of 1988 and I had been out of Air Cadets for a whole year. I had a job delivering pizza which kept me in pizza and gas and cigarettes but I was extremely depressed and extremely lonely. One day I got a call from a young woman who used to hang out with some other people we both knew, she wanted to meet me at a make-out spot way on the other end of town. I got there and she was all dressed up like a prostitute and asked me to follow her to a different part of the lake. When we got there I sat down with her and she kept trying to coax me into agreeing to sleep with her, she even was rubbing my thigh. I took her hand away and finally, exasperated at what she was doing, and not wanting to hurt her feelings I said, “Yes, but…” and just as I was about to say why I didn’t want to sleep with her she punched me in the face and a bunch of the people I had known came out of the surrounding trees and were laughing out loud at me. It was the worst possible thing to happen, to this day I don’t fully understand why they did it. Part of it I am assuming was that I had a foul mouth at the age as I was working around adults, most of them oil or construction workers who were temporarily laid off and I often swore a blue streak. Other than that I really don’t know what caused those people to hatch such an elaborate plan. It was a really great way to destroy my confidence for at least another couple of years. Then, when I got to Vancouver those people were no longer around, there was no one to judge, no one to impress, and I started to meet all kinds of young women.

The truth is though, in my life I have only really had one meaningful relationship with a woman, and I still talk to her to this day. When I first met her almost 30 years ago we talked and joked and laughed, ended up studying together and going out for coffee a lot. It actually blossomed to a loving relationship for a while but that part of things broke apart after not too long. She is still one of my dearest friends. I don’t know really what all of this adds up to, what I do know is that one should always respect friends and lovers, always treat them as equals. As a young Air Cadet and later as a Student Pilot I had many chances to have one night stands, but I knew that a one night stand would never help me at all. I would find an attachment towards the person and it would be devastating to start and lose a relationship like that, not to mention several times. So I waited and waited and waited, and finally I met someone who I had a real connection to and it was about a million times more amazing than any experience I ever had, and now, 30 years later I still haven’t had to say any permanent goodbyes. As I am getting pretty tired I will leave things there, as always feel free to write to me with any topic related to mental health you would like me to write about in my next blog and I will do my best to accommodate. My email for responses, and for ordering books is viking3082000@yahoo.com   Thanks so much for joining me!       -LNG               Leif Norgaard Gregersen Senior below:

An Incredible Book About Love, Sex, Feminism, That Everyone Over 16 Should Read

Every Boy I Ever KissedEvery Boy I Ever Kissed by Nellwyn Lampert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am an author of numerous books and I am also a single disabled adult. Being disabled, at a certain point in my life, I lost a sense of connection with my generation (generation X, I am now 47). I wanted to read this book because I briefly met the author and found her to be intelligent, polite, and kind enough to ask for information about my own books, and to be honest, the title grabbed me. What resulted after I picked up a copy at my local mall is sheer wonder and amazement. I have read books about ships, about battles, about courtrooms, and on and on and on, but this book takes a bold step and addresses a topic that is intertwined among each and every human being’s story and the author bravely brings it to light.
Nellwyn Lampert’s memoir follows her life categorized by relationships, through an almost ideal life of growing up in a well off family, having a mother who is open and confident. The main character does well in everything she focuses on, and is in a tight-knit group of University Theatre Students for most of the timeline of the book. She does well in everything except in managing her relationships with the opposite sex, never understanding why or how this continues to happen. This book drew me in because I have often wondered, after writing a book about my own youth, what a book about today’s youth would be like. Nellwyn does such an excellent job of explaining how young people are making different choices in a very different world than ours, and reminded me at every turn how hard it can be to grow up and take on the world as a new adult.
The brave and brutally honest story Nellwyn weaves is at times hilarious, and at other times moving and highly emotional. By the end of the book I felt extremely invested in wanting to see her find the peace and understanding she seeks. This book is not about sex, at least not in any way it has been spoken of before in a memoir like this. It has no overdone fantasy erotic stories but what it does do is offers a very unique viewpoint with poignant insights of topics such as equality, feminism, LGBTQ+ issues and so many subjects that have been danced around for years and now finally, bravely taken on at full speed by an incredible up and coming writer.
This book is for the young person who feels unsure of themselves, for the popular party girl who can find sex but not intimacy, and for anyone who wants to reach out into the core of a human being’s inner self and leave changed forever. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Poverty and the Psychiatric Patient. How Can You Stop It/Break Away From It?

Poverty and the Psychiatric Patient:

 

People with mental illnesses are often plagued by not having enough to get by, and even not taking what little they get to provide their own necessities. There are a few different aspects of this. The first and perhaps the worst part of this is when a psychiatric patient becomes homeless. This is a horrible situation to be in. In my home city of Edmonton, there are a number of ‘characters’ you see on the streets all the time, winter or summer, begging for money, sleeping in bus shelters, filthy clothes and horrible smell to them, often talking to themselves or even being aggressive with people. It is extremely sad to witness because people like this get to this situation after addictions, loss of trust of family members or worse, and loss of government disability benefits. I had some very serious situations occur in my own life when I would get very sick and my delusional thinking made me believe that in reality I owned the place I was renting and had no need to pay rent. As a result of this happening once, I had to go to the hospital, to the locked ward, and I was evicted with no way to state a defence or even be able to move my stuff or clean my apartment. Mental illness (and I like to include addictions with mental illness) can take away everything and leave the sufferer in a terrible state.

I am very grateful about the fact that I have never seen the inside of a prison, but from my understanding, prisons are full of people who should in reality not be punished, but who should be treated for mental illness and be totally forgiven for many of the crimes that got them there. There is another factor in my home city (which gets exceedingly cold in winter) where people face a winter on the streets and actually commit a crime just to get three meals a day and shelter. It costs society, any society, a great deal to put people into the criminal justice system and try them and detain them. It also costs when a person’s needs such as anti-psychotic medications are not available and they get ill. This is just one more small example of why attitudes towards mental illness should change.

After years of patience, as well as experimenting with many different medications, and many hospital visits (one as recent as this past February) I am in an incredibly fortunate position. I have an apartment that suits my needs, I have a part-time job, and I get partial benefits as a disabled person. Without regular visits to the Doctor, proper medication, and a desire to constantly improve my own abilities and well-being, none of this would have been possible. But how can others do this? I hear horror stories about the US and even worse ones about third world countries and how people have such a difficult time getting by. For a long time, perhaps permanently, people with severe psychiatric disabilities are unable to work. There is just too much going on in their heads, too much depression, paranoia, voices, you name it. I am so grateful that most of the time, when I am on my medications, I am very functional. Sometimes you just have to ignore what people say you should be doing (working and paying taxes when you are ill) and focus on doing everything you can to get better.

One of the first things a person really should do I feel is deal with any addictions. When I was a teen, I was a heavy smoker and drinker. It was a coping mechanism, drinking and smoking cigarettes was how I found some comfort in the world. Drinking stopped being fun when it took away the respect others had for me, when I knew it triggered delusional thinking and smoking quickly went out of style when prices went up to $10 a pack. I started out by going to 12-step meetings, although I want to warn people not to make things like that the main focus of your life. It is so important to make your whole life full. I used to have a routine of swimming every day, which I often still do, and often taking long walks with my Dad. When I took things out of my life like booze and cigarettes, and replaced them with healthy activities, it definitely accelerated my recovery. I wish I had also taken the time to join Toastmasters, learning to do more effective public speaking is an incredibly useful tool.

When I was experiencing poverty (I got $560 per month and $300 was for rent, $60 for bills and $200 for food with absolutely no wiggle room) I rode a bike I got second hand, I got a part-time job which was extremely difficult but let me save enough for an old computer. I started to write at this point and I read as much as I possibly could, filling my days up with preparation for the kinds of things I do now. I really feel everyone (though especially anyone who wants to write) should keep a journal. It lets you track your progress over time, and time being one of the few luxuries that recovering psychiatric patients have, it is best to always use it to extend your limits and decrease your limitations every day.

I really wish I could offer hard and fast solutions, but all I can really say is find something at your speed and try to ramp it up a little at a time. I remember a time when I had a horrible depression and got through it by reading a box full of Archie comics I had saved. Even that simple cartoon taught me a lot about humour and storytelling for children. Make the most of each day, make strong, solid friendships, with a few people-you may need to be around a friend all the time but people can’t always be there for you. When I was younger and had a lot of time to read, I would pick up a book that I knew would be entertaining (my favourite book, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” being the best one) and just randomly read it until I was in more of a mindset to read heavier or even non-fiction books. Like Sylvester Stallone said in Creed, you win the title “One step at a time one punch at a time, one round at a time.” Get the steps and punches down right, because with constant, disciplined effort, even those who are horribly afflicted can make something amazing out of their lives.

Tall Trees Sown From Seeds of Love and Hate

Please see below today’s photo for a poem and a blog entry

All the fearful years of tears and trials

Wreak havoc upon my thoughts

It seems a test, a trial, a quiz

To even focus upon what I have sought

 

In life we have so little time

As our hours slip into days

I remember holding her like she was mine

then her telling me I was just a phase

 

In death and living there are no words

to slow the march of time

I only long to be understood and heard

to tell them all I have found the perfect crime

 

I do what I can for those I see

show compassion for those in troubled times

and somehow I fool myself that the world cares for me

when they all seem to only want what now is mine

 

I gave away my heart too soon

in a lover’s sweet embrace

now as I work and push a mop and broom

my thoughts occupy a sad, unholy place

 

I no longer dream of God our father

Though he seemed to have done right by me

When my day is done and I close the door

he lets my romantic heart soar free

 

I found a loveliness, a happiness

among the stillness and the peace

and whisper out a tiny prayer

that soon my soul will be released

 

Well, not the most cheerful poem I ever wrote, but I think I am making progress with my writing. I guess I can spill the beans now since the project is almost finished. I am writing a book about my most recent stay in the hospital. I went through a couple of very difficult times, one was the delusional voices I heard, which were extremely convincing, and the other was that I was very paranoid. I had really thought I wasn’t going to have to experience all this again as long as I got rest and took my medications, but there is no insurance policy that covers everything. I still don’t understand why I got so incredibly ill just because of switching from one medication to the next, supposedly newer one. Not a lot was explained. I did have my diagnosis changed once again, this time neglecting to mention my anxiety and adding in my diabetes. I think the Doctor put down schizoaffective disorder bipolar subtype. It’s all pretty confusing. I really want to put this book out to help people to understand more about hospital admissions and how horrible they can be.

What bugs me the most is I like to try and make each of these blogs worthwhile for my readers, but there seems to be no easy answers. I met a man last year who was incredibly kind and diligent about getting help for his son who eventually died by suicide. I have tried to show people how they can get work like I do for the schizophrenia society and feel better about themselves and have some recovery in their lives, but there are many heartbreaking cases I have known, even among people who have worked hard all their lives. I guess I am fairly good at taking care of myself, with the exception of getting into debt too easily. But what do you say to someone who comes up to you and says they have a friend with schizophrenia or they themselves have bipolar and don’t know what to do. All I can really do is keep going to schools and Universities and doing my level best to get a few key points across. Number one, there is no cure, there are only treatments, but they are getting better all the time. Number two, don’t use drugs or alcohol or ski or play football or do anything fun where you might hit your head and get a brain injury. I used to love sports like boxing and football and skiing. I will never forget the first time I went into the hospital and they were doing everything they could for me, hooking me up to million dollar machines and putting me through all kinds of tests to see if my erratic behaviour had to do with a bad fall I had taken on a ski hill in town or not. It seemed once I was deemed mentally ill they sent me to a psychiatric facility to let me rot and I lost all of my opportunities, I wasn’t even allowed to try and finish high school by my parents or the school administrators.

But even in that situation there were good times. There was this moment I was hitch-hiking through the rockies trying to get home to Edmonton in the winter and I was in Hope, British Columbia (it’s where they filmed the first Rambo movie) and the air and the sky and the mountains were all shining silently, singing a chorus of light and beauty that took my breath away. Or this time when I was just entering BC for the first time and I saw a massive Moose and her child running in circles in a flowing field of grass with mountains and cumulonimbus clouds in the background. Those images stayed in my heart. I hate to think what it did to my parents for me, off my medications, with no money or means of earning a living to be wandering all over North America. I lived for the five minute phone call I placed to my parents every night from downtown Vancouver. But when I got back there was no love left for me. No place to stay, no one to do things with. It drove me nuts because I would try and call my sister to talk and each time it was a one-sided lecture to me about how busy she was with school.

But the amazing part of things really is that with time, everything got better. I learned to cook, I found out how to eat healthy and how to lose the weight my medication packed onto me. I even learned to make friends and have some pretty incredible people in my life. It is really kind of funny because in just two years of living on the coast it was like my body had lost its ability to heat itself. The Edmonton winters were just too much. It took a long time, maybe ten years but I adjusted to it and I kept pushing myself to make friends, to read, to write. And somehow the world changed around me and I have an incredibly enviable life now. I think a lot of it just came down to becoming a part of a community and caring for and watching out for the people in my life. That’s about it for today folks, thanks for stopping in.

LG

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.