accomplishments

The Question of Goals, The Question of Dreams

143This is an incredible scene from Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park, one of my favorite places on Earth

     Well, I am really fond of quoting a study done on a bunch of Harvard graduates a while back.  They took a graduating class and asked them how many of them had clear, written goals as to where they saw themselves going and what they saw themselves doing and only 3% of them actually had them (please don’t quote me, I am only estimating, it is a while since I read the actual study).  They went back to these students a number of years later, and they found that regardless of whether or not the people had stuck to their plan, the 3% group had made more money than the entire rest of their graduating class.  Lesson?  Know where you are going, be a planner!

But how does that apply to mental health?  In some key ways it applies, especially if you have become part of the growing movement in the WRAP or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course.  I took the course and tried to get everything out of it I could.  I attended every session, which was my main goal at the start of the course and as a result I now have a written plan as to what to do if I get sick, what some of the things are that could make me sick again, and warning signs and much more.  For those that are interested, there is actually a ‘wrap app’ for most smartphones where you can plug in all of these things and come up with a plan to improve your life that applies across many situations.

There is still another thing though, what does planning have to do with someone who suffers, who can’t work.  Well, you could write down a goal as something like I did which was to find a decent part-time job.  As a note here, I strongly recommend that anyone who does get a job that has a mental health issue should be as honest as possible to their employer about it and also try and get a union job.  I am in a union that does so much for me.  I can turn down work if I don’t feel up to it, I have the option of cancelling shifts if I am sick or for no reason if it is 24 hours before, and I am paid well and treated well.  This isn’t the end of the story though, there are many jobs out there that are non-union that can be just as good as mine.  I think the important thing is to try and move towards some kind of employment, staying at home and doing little than posting to forums and chatting on Facebook can be very detrimental to one’s mental health, especially if you are not maintaining a proper sleep schedule.

So, basically, the first goal is to try and get yourself ready to be employed.  There are a number of things that can get you started, but I think the first thing you need is a reason to be employed.  Myself I wanted the extra money and when I had saved enough I bought a laptop and I also took a trip to visit my sister on the other side of the country.  I did this in two stages, one stage was where I simply tried to sleep while the sun was down and stay awake while the sun was up, and then the second stage was that I needed to get physically fit for a job.  I happen to live in a city where bus passes and gym memberships to city facilities are greatly subsidized though I used neither of these things at first, I simply rode my bike as much as I could, and this was something that did me a world of good.  If I hadn’t gotten into good shape I would have never been able to hold down the job I have had for 7 years which has put a lot of money in my pocket.

So baby steps, goals, plans.  They all have their place.  I can’t even begin to describe the mess my life was in when I was back in my 20’s, but a strong commitment to taking my medications, listening to my Doctors, honoring the wishes of my parents to get well and a number of other things came together and a miracle happened.  I have a life now when there was a time when I felt my life had ended.  Try this.  Try sitting down and writing out all the things you want in life.  Do you want a motorcycle?  Write it down.  Do you want a violin and lessons to get back up to snuff?  It might be a great investment if you are good enough to busk in the streets or play for parties or even fancy restaurants.  Write it down!  There really is no limits, this is your mind having fun.  Then, when you have written it down, make a plan.  It may take ten years, it may take two months, but until you figure it out you will be a lot less likely to follow through.  And I want to mention something for the younger people who may read this blog.  A wonderful fact about life is that as you get older, even if you get the same money you will get more money.  How?  Maybe you will be able to quit smoking and put $5 to $10 more in your pocket each and every day.  Maybe you will strengthen your legs and learn the joy of walking and save on taxi fares or learn how to discipline yourself not to eat in restaurants but to prepare your own food.  And another factor that comes into play is that as you get older more jobs will come your way, especially if you are able to overcome depression (perhaps through newer meds, or trying different ones) or other illnesses that can often make you feel like you don’t care about being a good worker.  Anyhow, I hope this leaves my readers with a sense that they have learned something.  Please don’t be afraid to comment and as usual, don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem which is meant to be themed to this post.  All the best Dear Readers, and if you like my blog posts, please support my efforts to bring them to you and purchase a paperback or eBook of my writing from the ‘purchase books’ link above.

A Beautiful Soul, Loving and True

Does your soul long for things grander than the sky
You know, you can have those things if you really try
I have had many hopes and dreams that I held close
Wonderful things, only those I wanted the most

When I think of these things I see my perfect wife
A spacious home, beautiful car, all that’s good in life
I may never have all that I so deeply desire
But these goals keep my heart on fire

I never understood why some aim low
Never let their dreaming mind thrive and glow
Our time here is so short and it is a beautiful place
So why not run as though to win the race

Just ask your inner mind how you can earn it all
Give yourself a reason to get up each time you fall
Write down on paper all you want to have and be
You can have it all, this land is strong and free

I just want to ask if you do end up with more
Look back behind and hold open the door
There will be someone wanting to get through
Please remember someone held the door for you

We all must share the gifts that life lays at our feet
And when you do this people will say you are kind and sweet
Then who knows perhaps your future mate will see in you
Your beautiful soul, loving and true

Leif Gregersen
August 10, 2015

Taking Things Day By Day

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Today the Canadian Military Was On Exercise In  An Edmonton Park

One of the things about having a mental illness is that you often end up with a lot of time on your hands and very little to do with it all.  I can recall periods where literally for years I would do very little if anything that was at all meaningful.  At the time this can feel comforting, but I want to warn people that time can pass by quickly and with it a lot of opportunities.  One thing that I feel kind of strongly about is that a person who has Bipolar and is properly managing their condition, really should have a volunteer job or a regular job, even if just part-time to fill up their days.  This can make such a huge difference in life, starting with the extra few bucks it brings in to simply getting out and meeting people and interacting with them.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is because there were periods in my life when for long stretches I stayed at home, watching TV, smoking cigarettes, and when you couple the isolation with depression, you get so bad off sometimes you actually want to be back in a hospital.

I can think back to many occasions when I thought I desperately needed someone or something to ‘fix’ me when in fact I was being non-compliant with meds or treatment suggestions.  I had a pretty good Doctor at one point and he had set things up so I could get into a group home and take some life skills classes, he had even set me up with a Psychologist, but perhaps partially out of fear and partially out of laziness, I didn’t take these opportunities and he made the decision that he would no longer see me.  This felt hurtful, and I was very bitter about this but I didn’t take the bitterness and try to make things better, I took it and decided to hurt myself because of it.  One of the main things I did was stop seeing any Psychiatrist, which didn’t seem to hurt at first, but over time my condition eroded to the point where I was very sick, very delusional.

These days, things are a lot different I like to think.  One of the big things of course is I have my writing, including this blog, to give me something to do, give me a bit of purpose and meaning in my life.  The other thing is that I have decided that the side effects of my medications are not bad enough that I will face getting sick again and go off them.  The third thing is that I am now in a group home where I get a little bit of structure and interaction with others.  There is also my Dad, who is getting on in years, but is still a great source of inspiration.  Now my days are filled with things to do and places to go.

The way that I know I need to keep myself active, see my Doctor and live in a group home is simply by how my dreams go for me.  I often have these vivid nightmares where I imagine I am in my teen years again but in the dream I come to the realization that I am 43 and have barely accomplished what a lot of 30 year old people have done.  This really scares me sometimes because though I know getting older can’t be helped, I have for some reason always feared wasting my life away.  Going back all the way to my elementary school and junior high days, I think of how much time I spent watching Television that was 95% a waste of time and not even exercising or reading or anything.  I could never tell what might have come about especially since my younger years were severely disrupted by my illness, but I know that if I had found a sport I could enjoy or read books of a higher level than comics, I would have been far ahead of those I grew up with, while now having not done those things nearly as much as I could, I haven’t even finished high school and likely never will.

It isn’t  a total loss of course, but a good example is my writing.  For years I wrote and didn’t know anything about getting books published.   For years I published books without knowing how to market them, and if I had worked a little harder and focused on what I wanted to do in a more realistic fashion at a more realistic age, I would have been so much further ahead.

I am hoping that these words can somehow shed some light on the importance of filling up your days, of trying to sit down and take a clear look at what you want to accomplish.  Setting goals is extremely important.  If one doesn’t set goals, you simply wander aimlessly until hopefully at some unspecified point you somehow, possibly get somewhere.  A goal makes you aim and fire and hit a target rather than just shooting blindly.  Set your goals, and work towards them.  And as time passes, re-evaluate your goals and check to see how you are doing with them.  It really can save your life.  All the best, dear readers!

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