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:

Working or Volunteering After Psychosis With or Without Bipolar or Schizophrenia

 

For many of us who suffer from a mental illness, one of the most difficult things to do is to return to work, or if you feel you are unable or not ready to get a paid job, finding a volunteer job. One of my first volunteer jobs was extremely rewarding, I worked in an extended care hospital for veterans. The funny thing was that I found out about this place when I was working a paid job. I was with a security outfit that was responsible for patrolling this hospital, and once my supervisor took me along on one of his nightly patrols and I felt really touched by the concept that these were men who sacrificed such a great deal to keep Canada and other countries free. I was looking for a volunteer job because my pastor’s wife had suggested that if youth in my church have free time, there are so many places that they could ‘shine their light’ so to speak. I started out volunteering with the chaplain of the hospital, a man from Holland who had been liberated at the end of World War Two by Canadian troops, who he described as true gentlemen. I would try and find more people to come to his bible study, I would wheel the patients around, and after a while the Chaplain, who we knew as ‘holy Harry’ assigned me some men to visit on a regular basis. It took a lot out of me sometimes to spend time with these men in their last days of their lives, but it felt so incredibly rewarding. I had even for a short time considered working there as a practical nursing attendant.

One of my other volunteer jobs was absolutely incredible. I volunteered for a children’s summer camp, funny enough, something that I once believed I would never be suitable for because of my tough-guy image in Air Cadets and other organizations I was with, but when the director of the camp stood up at a church gathering and asked for volunteers, I thought it would be the perfect vacation. I personally felt a little weak in my abilities and perhaps even my faith (I was still a cigarette smoker at the time) and so when I was assigned a cabin with four or five boys they had another counsellor with me and we would share our duties. I loved working with the kids, but I also loved the fact that the food was great, I met some really nice young women, there was a pool, horses and an archery range there, and on and on. I had no money, I was paid no money, but I had a better time than most of the vacations I took when I had plenty.

I think my biggest concern at the time of the kids camp was that people would find out I had a mental illness. I even hid my medications from them and took them in secret. What scares me is that sometimes I think to some people it may be obvious that I have a mental illness, especially at that time because my bipolar symptoms weren’t very well controlled. I do remember having times when I was moody and clashing with one or two other camp volunteers. But aside from all that it was perhaps one of the most fun times I had in all of my early adult years (20-30)

One of the reasons it is difficult to get a job soon after leaving a hospital, or even years after, is that a person’s life skills and employment skills atrophy from lack of use. I know that if I spend too many days in my apartment not contacting the outside world, I will become shy and nervous all over again. There are two things that I feel most help with my social anxiety, one is prozac (but no, I am not recommending it, it just works well for me, every person is different) and challenging myself to do more things that require a person to feel comfortable around others. The Schizophrenia Society has been great in helping me push my limits because it is very common that I will speak to a class or organization, large or small, and I have become so comfortable with public speaking that I greatly enjoy it. For anyone who feels they could use a similar confidence boost, try looking up an organization that hires or accepts volunteers that is like the schizophrenia society in that they give presentations to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness. If these aren’t available, an excellent thing to try that will benefit you for the rest of your life is to check out Toastmasters. They help people learn public speaking and leadership skills. I took their course at 15 and it has benefitted me so many times over.

When you are in a hospital or psychiatric ward for an extended period of time, there are ways that you can keep up your Life and employment skills. There will be a time when you don’t feel up to it, but push yourself, and try to get into group therapy, or even one on one therapy with a psychologist, and look into occupational therapy that is offered. In the institution I was in, there were a lot of choices of occupational therapy. You could work in a wood shop building things for yourself or for Charity, you could work in a recycling shop like I did once where you take apart old electrical meters so the parts can be recycled. Occupational Therapy covers a broad range of things, it can even include (as it did for the seniors in the extended care hospital I mentioned) simply reading the newspaper and discussing it. I would recommend trying to read the newspaper (once you feel up to it) every day to keep in gear with the outside world, even if all it benefits you is by giving you a reason to know what date it is (which used to be one of the first questions you were asked for a competency test by a psychiatrist). It can also be very useful to try and get computer time if possible. Newspapers and computers have so much information about things you may need to buy when you leave the hospital (say like a new dresser) they also have listings for things such as jobs, apartments, even movies and other events.

The other side of keeping your Life and Employment skills up is to participate in sports as much as you can. I almost never get a chance to play tennis, but a few years ago I got to play all I wanted and it kept me feeling better, thinking better, and having a more positive outlook. Sports can do so much, and it isn’t such a bad idea to connect with a YMCA/YWCA or city facility where you can swim or play drop-in badminton or just about anything that keeps you moving and fit. Even desk jobs require a certain level of fitness to be bearable.

One thing I do know is that I am a very lucky person. I work 2-5 hours a week and my disability benefits allow me to keep that much without being deducted. Here is another reason why you may want to consider volunteering. In my case, as part of my benefits, I not only get a swim pass worth about $400 a year, I also get a bus pass at 1/3 the regular price, plus it pays my dental, medical and prescription expenses. Not everyone will have these expenses, but I am sure that anyone who experiences mental illness knows that medications can become extremely expensive. I’m in a situation where I would just about have to have a full-time job that doubles what I get now in disability benefits to maintain the same income as I get now when you consider I will have to pay for my medicine. That is also just half the story because I would also lose my apartment because it is a subsidized place that is geared to income, and if I had a full time job instead of working part-time and getting disability, my rent would triple. The largest issue? I really don’t think I could handle a full-time job for very long. And so I work as much as I can, and try to live simply and continue to write and hope that one day I will get a letter from a publisher that isn’t rejection letter number 3,567.

As a person who works hard but is only partly employed, I end up having a lot of time on my hands, and this can be a lethal thing for people with mental health issues. Loneliness can sneak its way into a person’s life, people with mental illnesses tend to isolate and sometimes either stop their medication or simply become extremely depressed. This leads to something that I find so awful it is almost hard to write about it. A person who is ill, who, if properly cared for could live a great life, becomes so depressed and lonely because their life lacks purpose, that going to the hospital seems like a better option than staying in their home. Not only this happens, but sometimes these people who want to go back in the hospital find that the hospital will only admit them if they make a serious attempt to take their own lives, and sadly a lot of people either attempt or die by suicide. This is something that is kind of close to my heart because one of my duties with the Schizophrenia Society has been to call people who need support, most often people isolated by their illness. These are wonderful people, kind, intelligent and capable people who could do so much, but they seem to have been forgotten by just about every level of society.

 

Well, dear readers, that blog went on a little longer than I expected, and I didn’t cover all the points I wanted to cover. As usual, if you would like me to speak about a topic you are interested in, please do email me, I can be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com If you would like to help keep this blog going and support me, please consider heading over to the books page and either emailing me to order a book or use the link to buy a copy on amazon. The two books (of eleven I have in print) are “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane” and they deal with my experiences suffering from and being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and anxiety. Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Won’t Stop Me But They Can Make Me Feel Like S*%@

 

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When I was in the hospital some 19 years ago, I really thought my life was over. It was a long, drawn out affair where supposedly I was doing something wrong and I couldn’t be helped until I stopped doing that, and each step of the way I was threatened with everything from going to a real jail to being tossed (literally) into an isolation room at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

I must have written a hundred times about that hospital experience, but there is a lot to be said about it. I was in a mental hospital for six months, and I really thought the people there couldn’t break me. But again and again I was toyed with, threatened, assaulted, isolated, and ignored and eventually I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. When I was finally released, I was thinking straighter, but everything in my life was a mess. I wonder, I keep wanting to put my former doctor in there in a good light or at least try and avoid talking about him, but in recent months I have been given a contract to teach patients in the same wing of the hospital that my former doctor works and all I see is the same old ignorant, pompous ass that I used to hate so much. And time and again when I talk to people that are stagnating, having been in the hospital for many months and had almost nothing done for them I ask who their doctor is and they name the man who was in charge of my every breath and whisper for five long months. Even the staff hate him.

It was an interesting situation I was in. I had slowed down the dose of one of my three or four medications that had been working well for me for some time. All the doctor had to do was ask me what happened, then go back to the original dose and I would have been fine in weeks. It seemed though that they wanted to torture me in there. I will say though, as a person who works in the psychiatric hospital, sometimes it takes incredible amounts of patience to try and help people who are in there. I really don’t blame the patients, they are in a confused and difficult situation and it is hard to tell who is their friend and who is their enemy. It is often heartbreaking to see people who have been in the hospital for a very long time that I once knew well and all they seem to be able to do is to tell me to f— off or worse.

Still, there are many rewards to the job. About a year and a half ago I had a creative writing class in a different part of the same hospital, and there was a patient who was extremely disagreeable, and disrupted and insulted and more. But he had his wits about him and I kept on with my patient stance and at the end of the class, he said that the writing class was the best therapy he had ever received.

I guess what I would like to write about in this blog is what to do if you have a doctor that you don’t feel is working in your best interests. It may not be good to go directly to that doctor and tell him off and request a different doctor. I did that and what happened to me was that I was buried in the system, treated like garbage and lost 6 months of my young life plus the years it took to recover from the trauma of living in a place like that long-term. What I would suggest is to write to the hospital administrator, and perhaps the head psychiatrist, and try and explain your case. The sad truth is that many people who are in the hospital will be delusional and unable to function well enough to do this task, and there are others who may be able to do it, but not without tipping their hand that they are in a state of severe psychosis. If at all possible, it is important to keep a good relationship with your doctor in a psychiatric ward or hospital, and to be as honest and forthright as you can be. Sometimes it is very hard for a treatment team to find out what the best course of action is to get a person better. Just about any hospital visit to a secure ward is going to come hand in hand with a certain amount of anger, violence, belligerence, and with the level of training that some of the staff have, you will find that their chief method of dealing with these reactions are with anger, violence, and belligerence. I hate to think how many patients across the world are sitting in a hospital not properly medicated, with no fixed date of being able to leave because of the fact that the people who are supposed to be helping them are childish and vengeful towards people who have lost their ability to control their actions without just a little help, ie the right medications and time enough to stabilize.

The good news in my case is that yes, it took time for me to stabilize, yes I had a terrible, traumatic time in the hospital, but the fact remains that one day I did walk out of there, and I accomplished so many things from publishing books to travelling a much larger chunk of the globe than I ever thought I would. I would like to think I beat those awful people that had no faith in me, didn’t believe me when I said I had written a book (I’ve now written over 13) but the truth is when you have a mental illness you never really win. One year ago, I was put on a medication that simply didn’t work for me. I got horribly mentally ill in a short period of time and it was only through the help and assistance of my dad, my doctor in the hospital, and an incredible treatment team at the Grey Nuns Psychiatric Ward in Edmonton that I was able to recover. I still don’t feel 100% after that incident, but I have a rule that I can’t let a day go by without trying to improve my future and improve myself. In the time since I left the Grey Nuns, I wrote a book about that hospital experience, and just finished another collection of short stories, and so many opportunities have come my way. I wish all of you the greatest success in your endeavours, remember if you would like to ask me to cover a specific topic, or if you would like to order one of my books, or even just tell me your story, I would love to hear from you at viking3082000@yahoo.com I currently have two memoirs regarding my journey, “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane” which cover my teen years before I was diagnosed, and my adult years after I accepted my diagnosis. Class sets are available, and more information about these and the rest of my books can be found through links on the header of this website. Best!!

Leif Gregersen

Stress and Mental Health For Those Who Deal With Schizophrenia and/or Bipolar Disorder and/or Anxiety

What a wonderful thing a pet can be during times of stress, poor mental health or anxiety. They seem to sense when you need them to just be there, and many pets will go to the ends of the earth to protect and love you.

So today marks a kind of a milestone. I have been keeping this blog going for some time and this is the actual first topic suggested by someone who is a reader. Today I want to cover the topic of stress for our mutual friend Victoria who wrote just after my blog the other day. I hope anyone out there who is dealing with something can feel comfortable enough to reach out and ask that I cover topics for them. A lot of my topics are actually covered in some of my previous blog entries in my archives, but still, it is great to hear from people and I want everything I put here to be current and relevant.

Every time I think about stress, the first thing that comes to mind is my mom and Christmas. Like any kid, I loved Christmas more than anything, it was time off school, it was feasting and seeing my extended family, and then there was the feasts! My Dad would bring a door up from downstairs and put it on top of our kitchen table just so there was room for the food. I had my favourites, but I tried to sample a little of everything. Devilled eggs, stuffing, moist dark meat from the turkey, mashed potatoes that we only had on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. The list of dishes goes on and on. But what I didn’t know about these meals was that holidays were times my mom started to fear. It would cause her so much anxiety to live up to her previous meals, there were so many things to be done and very little help, and on top of all that, the whole house had to somehow stay clean and organized. The stress on her must have been unbearable (as she had a mental health issue of her own as well). This was when I started to learn that there are ways good and bad stress can affect a person.

A few years back I was working setting up stages and I started to understand what stress and anxiety can do to a person. I loved my job and it paid incredibly well, I had loads of friends I worked with, but still I had to be in a particular mental state and really be on the ball. It seemed whether I was on the ball or not I would still get picked on by some of the people more senior than me in the union pecking order. It really started to get to me. I was having times when I needed the money, and likely needed to get out of the house but would just feel so stressed and have so much anxiety that I would either cancel my shift if there was time or lie about an illness. It got so bad that I ended up disclosing to my employer about my mental illness and asking for a sabbatical, but in truth it was quitting my job in the long run. There were things that helped during those times when I didn’t want to go to work. I found if I could somehow meditate for half an hour to an hour I would be in a much more positive mental state. I think I was also given the option by my doctor to take a low dose of a tranquilizer that should have helped, but actually just made me more tired and doped up which was a risk in the kind of work I was doing.

I was incredibly fortunate that after I left my high paying job I was able to generate income from my writing and from teaching that kept my bills paid and left money over for things I just wanted to get or do. So many people don’t have that option, they are tied to their jobs almost as slaves, having to pay rent, pay health insurance or a stack of seemingly endless bills. I wish I could provide you my readers with a formula to do the same, but really the situation was that I worked very hard to be a good writer, and then I went to all the writing classes I could find, until I went to one and made good friends with the instructor who saw potential in me and actually gave me his job of being an instructor, and more opportunities. The difference in stress levels is incredible. The other day I was waiting at the bus stop and a young man felt like chatting as we waited and he asked if I was off to work. At first I said, not really–because my present job seems so effortless and rewarding that I don’t consider it work in conventional terms. That kind of felt good to realize that.

What I think I can say though is that if you are tied to a job you don’t like or even don’t have a job, look for something you like doing. My sister has a hobby of doing beading and in the daytime she is a teacher with a master’s degree. Her husband likes pottery making and he is also a teacher. There are many ways to turn interests and hobbies into a small business. You may even have more technical skills and are able to work at a computer or even fixing computers while you do your other jobs. Cultivate these talents, cultivate the fact that there is work you like that has potential to pay. My sister and her husband will sometimes sell their products at farmer’s markets and other places. There is also the option of having an Etsy store.

The main thing to remember is you just need to have a way to add value to things and a method of making some money off of them. As I did for a while, I made videos and allowed people to donate to Patreon to support my work (which so far hasn’t given me any money but I love writing these blogs and making vlogs). The next thing you need is time, and a small advertising budget doesn’t hurt either. When I first started writing books and selling them, I had so much to learn about marketing and running a business, and now years later I am still learning, and the word is still getting out. The object of all this is to build a way of making a living that allows you to live a much more stress-free life.

Meditation is a wonderful way to deal with stress, while some things like drinking alcohol is a horrible way. Alcohol is practically a poison, and in all honesty if you are taking medications you shouldn’t use any quantity of it. Another really great thing is Yoga, and my long-standing favourite, swimming! These are ways to keep your physical body healthy and nourishing your mental health. I know that when I am feeling upset over something I can go lift weights and put all my anger into heavier weights, more repetitions. When I can exhaust myself like this it feels so great to sleep soundly that night and feel physically fit. The amount of joy fitness gives to a person is almost indescribable.

Another thing I should mention is that you have to be careful about eating to reduce stress. I have a bad habit of sometimes loading up on chips and pretzels from the grocery store and spending hours just eating fatty, salty snacks that are not good for my diabetes or anything really. Try to combine a diet with all of the food groups (there is a method where you can divide your plate into sections, one being a meat protein, another being a starch such as potatoes, and the remaining half being a green salad or broccoli and peas or anything green really, it is very effective. Another useful method funny enough is to buy smaller plates and progress towards eating less.)

Maybe my favourite food of the day is my fruit smoothies. I buy discounted frozen fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and peach slices, pop them in the blender, add some plain yoghurt and water and blend away until everything is liquified and it is so delicious. Anyhow dear reader, I hope that helped with some problems people have with stress and offers some solutions. Please feel free to comment or write me to request anything else you would like me to discuss, my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

Transitioning From Mental Health Disorder to Managing Your Time As a Healthy Person

When I was younger, I was in the cadets and had an extremely full life. We played sports, had a parade night, weekend camps and longer camps in the summer. I can recall at that age watching a commercial that was meant to recruit US army candidates saying, “In the Army, we do more before 9am than most people do all day.” I really liked this because I had experienced first hand the benefits of getting up early and getting started on things early. One summer, before I was even in cadets, my dad set down the rule that we had to get up at 7:00 and eat and do something all summer long. At first it seemed like punishment, but after that summer when I realized that I had more jobs, more money, more fun and more sunshine, plus I had the added benefit of feeling that I hadn’t wasted that 2 month block of my life or my vacation time.

It may seem a bit hard to connect that to mental health, but here as I sit, 48 years old, I have seen half my life go by and have had some accomplishments, but there were chunks of time when I was in hospital, chunks off time when I slept all day because of heavy medication, and I ended up feeling really bad about it. I had really wanted to live a life where 6:00 to 9:00 am was just the beginning to a long and productive day. I will never be able to join the military, but I can still benefit from getting up early and getting a lot done, and I can still try and pass on to you, dear reader, some of what I have learned in chasing the tail of sleeping less and doing more.

So, a lot of people who have been under psychiatric care in a hospital have a bad tendency to let themselves go a bit. It is hard to exercise and perhaps harder to keep an eye on calories since everyone gets the same meals and you don’t have much of a part in making them. Myself, I hate to see when my muscles start to atrophy due to inactivity, and I also like to have a good cardio capacity as I have to walk up three flights of stairs every day just to get to my apartment. When I was last in the hospital I was lucky enough to be in one that had a gym and I could get up and play basketball or badminton and burn off a few calories and then because I have diabetes, I was given smaller, more calorie/sugar conscious meals. There are a lot of places though that don’t have these types of facilities but there are still things that can be done. One of the best of them is walking. It may be good to get on an exercise bike and pedal away for a while, but walking is a bit easier, more calming, gives you fresh air and scenery outside of your room or ward. It isn’t necessary to become an Olympic walker, but if you can try and get 20 to 30 minutes in a day it will make you feel a lot better. Some will want to combine this with push-ups, sit-ups or chair dips (you hold the arms of a strong chair with your hands, and lower and raise your lower body to give your arms a more complete workout than just push-ups would give). The point really is to get moving, keep from getting out of shape, and get fresh air. All of these things will pay you back once you leave the hospital.

One of the things I have suggested before is using swimming as a part of your fitness routine. This may have to wait for when you leave the hospital, but it is an excellent activity. I would go a lot more often if my skin didn’t dry out in the winter. At a pool, you can do anything from light water jogging to high fitness lane swimming where you go as hard as you can. One of the problems with going to a pool is that it can be expensive. As a person with a disability, I get access to city facilities at no cost but if I didn’t have that huge benefit, it would be as much as $10 to go for just one swim. Many pools and YMCA facilities have decreased rates for people with low income and also many public pools will have an hour or two of free swimming every week or so. What you are looking to do by walking and swimming and doing muscular strength training is to get yourself out of the mindset of a patient after you are discharged, or even just at a point where you want to do more with your life.

Some of the things I suggest can seem a bit pointless, but they can be very beneficial. When I was very broke in one of the first places I lived on my own, I would scrape together money for a coffee at a nearby fast food place that was open for breakfast, then I would read all the newspapers that others left behind (some major cities have free newspapers) and do the crosswords and other puzzles. Reading the paper kept me up to date on what was happening in the world, gave me ways to connect to others who were informed, and the puzzles I believe kept my brain sharp. The best thing about the paper was that it had job listings, possibly all of which you can now find online but I recommend not going on a home computer, but instead going to a coffee shop or even a library. At the library you can read magazines and use computers, as well as have access to so many books of all types. But that all is the next step in transitioning from the hospital, where I feel one of two things should be looked into, one being support groups or even social groups you can find with apps such as meetup, and the other being employment. Really though what I want to get across in today’s blog is that it is important to fill your time up. That way as the day winds down and you sit in your favourite chair and reach for the remote control you will feel like you truly deserved your quiet time, and you will much more likely be able to sleep better thanks to getting out and interacting, getting fresh air, and keeping busy. All the best! Please contact me with any questions, suggestions or ideas!  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Did You Ever Trip Over Your Tongue So Bad You Got a Nosebleed?

https://www.patreon.com/leifg

 

Hello Dear Readers!

I have decided that some of my followers like to read a little about what I have to say, while others want to see videos, so I am going to try and alternate between the two or at least break up the order a little with a written blog now and then and a video blog when I feel up to it. I have been kind of having a struggle the past little while feeling like someone I worked with is stepping on my territory. I’m sure a lot of people who do creative work will feel this way now and then. As many of you know, due to a medication change that was supposed to greatly improve my situation but actually made me extremely sick to the point where I needed to spend a month in the hospital, I had to take some time off work. During that time, I seemed to miss out on a lot of opportunities, the biggest of which was something I really enjoyed, giving presentations to the Police Recruit class here in Edmonton. Thankfully few people seem to be able to do the work I do, and this past fall I was able to go back to speak at the Recruit Centre. For a while though, one of my co-workers had seemed to steal all my thunder, making videos where I was making written blogs (some of which I even wrote from my hospital bed). I tried to contact this person but received no response and then due to my personal social ineptitude, matters only got worse. I can’t remember why, but I had my employer give her a copy of my two memoirs in hopes that she could help get the word out about them, but in reality I am finding more and more that most people are unwilling to do anything that doesn’t directly benefit themselves. I even got a bit angry and asked that my books be returned and heard nothing back, $40 out the window on that one. I really can’t blame this person though, ,most of my feelings can be chalked up to jealousy. Not to mention that I felt extremely hurt that I missed out on so much when I was in the hospital and dealing with horrifying circumstances. Later this year, the person in question actually had her own hospital admission and from that point on I tried to look more at what I had done wrong. I saw how I was being angry and bitter about something that was no one’s fault. Even my doctor could not have predicted that I would have the reaction I did to the medications I took. Hoping to make the best of a bad situation, some time back I decided not to launch a lawsuit and instead went to work on a book about the experience. The book is now done and I have sent it for consideration to a few publishers. Also, I have been trying to find new ways to improve my blog and delivery of my message of more awareness of mental illness and less stigma. The person in question that has videos is really just trying to do the same thing. I have a feeling though that in reality she is much younger and less experienced than me and not someone I should worry about. I should actually be very happy that others are working to improve the situation of people with a mental illness, and simply do the best I can without comparing myself or my work to that of others. A couple of weeks ago there was a staff Christmas party, and as per usual, I was asked to do the photography for it. The video blogger and her boyfriend were there which for whatever reason gave me extreme anxiety which I can’t blame them for, I can only try and recognize my triggers and try to avoid situations like that in the future. Wanting to do the job I was paid for, I took a picture of them and later wished the blogger a Merry Christmas which was returned. When I look back though, it is an interesting rollercoaster of ideas and emotions I went through. First I had heard about this young woman who seemed very kind, nice, and well-dressed. Then some time later after meeting her at a staff meeting she emailed about having me in one of her videos. That was the point where I am uncertain if it was obvious that I was becoming ill, I had my medication change around that time but didn’t enter the hospital until the end of January. I was in a terrible state of paranoia in the hospital and don’t remember if I contacted her. I think this is a good time to pause and mention something: if someone you know has become ill and has been admitted to a hospital, one should always remember how difficult and upsetting it can be. If you have the ability, do your best to visit them just for a short while, as much as once per week, it can make such a huge difference to a person’s recovery.

So anyhow, after leaving the hospital I felt that my status as a mental health advocate had dropped a few hundred points and then I kept hearing about this new blogger. I have to commend her, she has made a lot of great videos though the information in them is pretty simplistic (as they should be–those who need the videos the most have problems processing and remembering things), but she has also managed to stay in school despite schizoaffective disorder and even a hospitalization of her own. These are really qualities I should never be jealous of. Also, I have decided to learn what I can from this new blog format and try and deliver to you, my readers, what you want and need in more efficient ways. I have now started a Patreon page and it would be such a blessing if those who are able can pledge $5-$8 for which I will work with skill and patience on crafting a short story and/or two poems for each month that only supporters will see. Now, I always like to give some advice or at least try and sum up what I say each time I write a blog, but I guess all I can really do is ask that, especially around this time of year we need to be forgiving and inclusive of others, especially if they have an impairment such as mental illness. When I was 18, I was kicked out of the house on Christmas Eve and it took a very long time for me to forgive my dad for it. Now, years later I cherish every moment I can have with my dad (my mom passed ten years ago) and I can see what a selfish teenage jerk I was 30 years ago as a teen. Not only that, but I had two wonderful Christmas dinners this year, one with a friend and his family, and one with my dad and my brother. I really couldn’t ask for any more. Thanks once again for reading and Merry Christmas to one and all!