addictions

The Way I Deal With Obsessive and Addictive Behaviours Along With My Psychosis

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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.

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Good day dear readers!  this picture is a repeat, but still a pretty cool one I think.  I took it at a place called “Two Step” which is a popular diving spot on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Real Love

I can’t abide these bold young men

Trying to change the world with a stoke of a pen

Not by writing poems for the good of all mankind

But by the size of the checks that they can sign

I was once like them it’s true

I thought I had to be rich to win over you

I thought that if I could give you everything

You would one day want to wear my ring

But my journey down that path

Was never meant to last

You spurned my love and I forgot

About gaining happiness from the things I bought

I once thought the best people had the most wealth

But found they had lonliness, wasted lives and poor health

And someone beautiful intervened for me

I’m so glad they did, they set my soul free

Love is never real when you find it while pretending

Love like that always leaves an unhappy ending

Someone has to see the very best in you

For any love to be strong, lasting and true

I was born my father’s son

And from the very day I had begun

I wrote poems, stories of love and life

And that was what always got me through strife

If someone had ten times their present wealth

They would have no extra love, happiness or health

Life is really just an inner journey in your mind

To find what makes you more real, more loving and kind

When you give up on owning worldly things

You can learn what joy undying love will bring

Love with your whole heart and see it’s true

All other things will one day be added unto you

Leif Gregersen

March 15, 2016

 

Hope you enjoy today’s poem, I haven’t been posting much lately as I have a new job as Editor of two online magazines.  They are both magazines dealing with mental health issues owned by the same person and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for me.  I will still be posting blog entries when I can though, I can’t forget about all of my followers!

Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little today about recovery.  There are two kinds of recovery commonly thought of when you are dealing with a person who is afflicted with a mental illness, you can talk about recovering from the illness, and being in a stable state or you could also be referring to things like alcohol dependancy and other addictions.  I woud like to briefly touch on both in today’s blog.

I feel that right now I am in a state of recovery both from my addictions and from my illness.  I have stabilized on medications, and gone through a very long process of getting better.  I have not come all the way.  Some of the symptoms I still experience are bouts of mild mania, times of slight depression, but luckily two things are in place: I have a very good life that I am leading that gets me through tough times and I have found medications that work well for me.  Many people may wonder if once they get to a position like mine if they can stop seeing their doctor.  I really don’t agree with this, I actually like to see my Psychiatrist once a month if I can though he is confident with me waiting longer periods.  I still need tweaking sometimes with regards to medications, like my last visit when my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant to help me get better sleep, and not only is it important that your doctor be aware of how you are coping, but also that you are plugged into your best source of advice on new medications and treatments and many other things.  For this same reason I also feel it is a good idea to get to know your pharmacist.  The cool thing about your pharmacist is that he gives quality medical advice for free.

That was a short bit about recovery from a mental illness.  I guess I should also say that it is so important to keep up hope that life will get better.  One of the best ways to keep hope going is simply to try and keep busy.  Get a membership to your local pool and if you aren’t the athletic type just dog paddle around a bit and enjoy the sauna or hot tub if they have one.  Get involved in support groups or your local Schizophrenia Society if there is one, they can offer a wealth of resources.  Having friends is also a huge thing.  Before you know it you will be doing and feeling a lot better.  I myself was very sick 15 years ago when I got out of the hospital after a long visit and my Dad would come and get me and we would go for a long walk in the park each day.  I often think these walks saved my life.

But I should try and get in a few words about recovery from addictions.  When I was a teen alcohol was an allowed substance.  I could drink at home or at parties, sometimes my Dad and I would even drink alcohol together.  I was in a poor state in my teens, mostly in a depressive mood and it seemed the only times I was happy (more than likely manic) was when I drank.  I never progressed to drinking every day, but I often got into trouble and had negative behavior when I was under the influence.  Fortunately I am now more than 4 years sincde a drink of any kind and I feel I am in the best years of my life.  What it took to get here was a lot of determination, a lot of effort to change negative patterns, and for the first while, a lot of time in support groups.  Alcohol and drugs is such a sticky subject for those of us with a diagnosis of mental illness.  I have heard a doctor say that once a person is put on prescribed medications for mental illness they should never drink again.  This choice is yours, I just want to say that it is not impossible and can really change your life for the positive.  I also quit smoking and stopped going anywhere near any form of gambling and with the help of part-time work I am able to do some amazing things like going to Hawaii or even buying the computer I am typing on right now.

Thanks Dear Readers, I hope you got something out of today’s post, as always, feel free to comment or email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com

Homelessness and The Mentally Ill

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Well, here I am in Toronto, Canada’s largest city and I have been having a great time.  I have spent a lot of my month here just decompressing from the stress I was experiencing in Edmonton.  I have a heart for homeless people, and I am under the strong belief that a lot of them are actually just untreated mentally ill people.  I recall one day while I wasn’t in the best head space myself being in downtown Vancouver and seeing a man with a tinfoil hat and instead of mocking him or giving him change or anything I just stopped and saluted him and he gave me a smile.  I also think though that there are some horrible people out there who understand how delusional thinking works and they say things to make you think your delusions are real.  Sadly I have done it myself, one time in a Psychiatric ward there was a woman who was always causing me grief.  One time she even came up to me and kissed me and said we had already been married.  Another time my Dad came to visit and she walked up to him and told him I was a bad person and that he should spank me.  I got back at her one day by telling her she had just been on TV and that she was going on a rocket ship to space because she had discovered a new planet.  For days she went around introducing herself as an astronaut, which seems a bit funny, but really is terribly cruel.  In Edmonton there was a young man I see a lot, he has red hair and he is homeless and a couple of times I have given him food or money and once I stopped to talk to him and found out that we had gone to the same junior high and had some of the same teachers.  He also told me that he suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  What is kind of scary I think is that I live in a group home that is very beneficial to my mental health and a lot better than any other group homes I have seen, but it is only set up to house 20 men while there are literally thousands out there who need places like this, many of them completely homeless.

I don’t know if I have discussed this much, but I kind of feel that addiction is a form of mental illness.  I was told during an interview I did for a volunteer radio station by one of Edmonton’s top Psychiatrists that a huge mistake people make is to see alcohol and marijuana as benign drugs.  I know my  brother went through hell because of his heavy pot use and that my Dad literally caused himself frontal lobe damage with years of drinking.  I have dodged these two bullets, but I came across something worse, a gambling addiction which nearly destroyed me.  All these things I should say go hand in hand with Bipolar/Manic Depression.  In the care and treatment of your illness, I strongly urge people on psychiatric medications of any kind to be completely abstinent and to be extremely careful about anything that can be addictive.  In a way, I have also had something many people would consider Obsessive Compulsive, namely that just about all through my life I have collected collections.  It began with stuffed animals, then moved to stamps then books, then GI Joe toys, then comic books and on and on up to right now when I still buy more books than I ever have time to read.  And the funny thing is that with a lot of strength and effort I have been able to overcome these addictions but I have to be very much on my guard because often another addiction will come around the corner at me.  I think one of the most important ways to stay psychologically (as opposed to medically, or in a psychiatric sense dealing with body chemistry and all that) is to have a support group, perhaps many of them.  Sometimes I count the people I meet some mornings at the swimming pool as a group but there are many more kinds, addiction support, writing groups and on and on.  These are great ways to make close friends outside the field of mental health treatment, though, as I had done through the schizophrenia society and a program called the Wellness Recovery Action Plan it never hurts to learn more about how to manage and cope with your mental health issue.

 

Homeless

I sit in loneliness hunger and pain
Facing a night out on the streets again
Walking for miles to where I hid my things
Waiting for the cold each night always brings

My thin bony legs ache and my feet are worn and raw
I think back to days when I would sit and dream and draw
I could have been an artist if I tried
But life all fell apart when my mom died

She was a sweet and loving woman and she cared
One night her boyfriend beat her and I got scared
I tried to stop him and he turned his wrath on me
That night my body was broken, my mom’s soul set free

I wish I could be with her on awful days like this
How she would always bring home a candy bar and a kiss
Now I get a bottle one way or another every night
And my inner will is slowly giving up the fight

In foster homes all they gave was more discipline
I learned to drink and hide my pain deep within
Soon the bottle was the only God I knew
I pray you won’t let this happen to you

If I could only have peace and space to draw like I once could
But that rotten jerk my mother loved took that away for good
I’m only in my forties but my joints all ache
I’ve lost every little thing anyone could take

I feel so worthless now I barely get through each day
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say
You can have a future if you make the proper choice
We all have inside of us a very special voice

Please don’t play the judge even when you see
A dirty smelly homeless guy like me
A lot of us have lost so much it’s just day to day
When you’re this far gone there is no other way

For those of you who practice and believe
There is a way to lighten my load and make you free
It was our Lord Jesus who spelled out how it should be
What you do for the least of my brothers you do for me

Leif Gregersen
August 24, 2015

Been a Few Days

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Don’t forget to Scroll down past the picture at the bottom of this post for today’s poem!

Hello Dear Readers and Friends!

I haven’t been posting much, I have been so freaking busy these past few days I haven’t even done any writing to speak of.  Today I did write a poem and I have decided that I will continue to write and post my poetry here and at my Facebook page, Valhalla Books where you can find a lot of my archived poetry.  I don’t even know where to begin with all the stuff that has been going on.  I have a friend who has been generous enough to let me use his vehicles and whenever I have a vehicle I run myself off my feet.  Yesterday I decided to take a break and I grabbed my snorkeling gear and swimsuit and headed for the swimming pool.  I am blessed in two ways with regards to the pool, one is that there is a really good one just two or three blocks away, and the other is that I have a free pass to go there as much as I want.  Life really is good for me in Alberta (Edmonton), I live in a subsidized group home, I get a disability pension, I get a free swim pass and a subsidized bus pass.  I really wonder a lot what people who have Psychiatric disabilities in third world countries or even states without plans for disabled people do.  I would like to invite any of you to share your story with me by emailing viking3082000@yahoo.com  I am really interested to hear how people do because now that I have completed my two memoirs that talk about my life with Bipolar Disorder (Through The Withering Storm and Inching Back To Sane), I am very interested in writing more non-fiction books about mental illness.  At one point I was working on a documentary for radio on this subject but I got frustrated with the radio station I was working at and quit.  It was kind of a good job to have but I was spreading myself too thin.  It was a volunteer job mind you, but very rewarding and it gave me a place to go each day and I was learning so much about computers and technology.

Anyhow, I can’t really think of a topic for today.  I think one thing I can talk about now that Spring is in Edmonton is the healing power of walking.  I can’t walk an awful lot because I developed plantar’s faciitis, but I still try to get in as much as I can.  As I probably mentioned, when I first got out of the hospital 14 years ago my Dad would come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk and bitch and complain about politics and so on and it was very healing.  Today I went to visit my ex-girlfriend’s mom in a senior’s home and I took her to a very nice park we have in the city here and she felt a lot better after sitting near some water among green trees and grass and watching the gulls and the geese and the ducks.  I am so amazed by birds myself, when I watch them-and I don’t want to offend anyone-I often think of how to me it seems impossible that such perfection as birds could have come about by evolution.  To me it makes a lot more sense to think of a creative designer in the Universe, but that’s off topic.  If there are people out there with mental health issues, I suggest that you take a bus or drive to a nice park, unless you live near one and just drink in the beauty of God’s creation for a half hour each day, treat it like a sort of meditation exercise and maybe even bring a notebook and write for a little while about how the sun and the grass make you feel.  I am a firm believer in the healing power of keeping a journal, my mom did it for years and swore by it.  I didn’t start doing it until I moved out on my own, but it formed the basis for a lot of my writing.

I am looking forward to the rest of the week, on Friday I am going to my job with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta to give a talk at a junior high school to two separate classes.  I really enjoy giving these talks and doing my bit to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Then next Friday I have booked a book signing event at a downtown bookstore.  What makes me excited about that is that I have a new book out now, called “Those Who Dare To Dream”, a historical fiction novel for young adults that I feel has some appeal to older audiences as well.  It is kind of funny the reactions you get from people when you tell them you are a writer.  Some people are so impressed that a person could fill up so many pages with words, other people think you are automatically rich or famous.  The truth could lie anywhere in all that, but I certainly don’t consider myself rich.  I am very lucky that my bills are covered and that I have enough money to print up books when I need to, but I am just happy to write and read all I can.  Well, I think I will leave off at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down past today’s photo for today’s poem.  All the best dear readers!

 

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Once a Poet Once a Lover

 

Once there was a girl who was kind and sweet

Seeing her smile was always such a treat

She loved me though I didn’t love myself

She had beauty and brains and even wealth

 

For years I waited, wanting her soft touch

But when it came to me it seemed too much

Sometimes the things that we desire the most

Leave us lonely, empty just like a ghost

 

She could have saved me so much awful pain

Turning her away was simply insane

I felt I had to make my own way through

And so I write these lines for all of you

 

I’ve tried to give my all with just my pen

I’ve tried to give back what I took times ten

Always hoping to touch another heart

To soften someone for cupid’s love dart

 

Because when someone’s heart is hard and cold

No matter their age they are sad and old

No one really feels worthy of romance

You stop living if you won’t take a chance

 

It is a lonely thing to sit and write

While everyone is deep in dreams all night

But if I can express my deepest soul

I will live on past death, which is my goal

 

It matters not that I have loved and lost

It matters not that I have paid the cost

Because as long as words still come to me

My heart, my mind, my soul will all be free

 

And though us poets write of love and war

As we all journey to that distant shore

We shall one day be clothed all in white light

Live on and love on for ten trillion nights

 

And in that place my perfect love will be

Her long curly blonde hair flowing and free

Her smile, her lovely model’s shape and face

Will be beside me in that resting place

Regarding the Problem of Being a Gentleman

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Let me start off by saying I don’t profess to understand women and I may never do so.  A lot of people out there, some of them writers, say that they know how to pick up women, how to skillfully introduce themselves, joke with them and insult them at the same time to bring out the right kind of neediness.  I don’t support these practices at all.  My belief is that there is just one way to find a life partner.  You start by being a member of a community, perhaps a number of communities.  I met a lot of my most important friends growing up in St.Albert and being a part of school and cadets.  I think it is very hard to find a partner among people you don’t know.  Some people may be bold enough to pick up a member of the opposite sex, go to bed with them the same night and decide from there if they want to continue on with them, but I have to get to know someone.

When I was quite a bit younger, I think some people may have said I was a bit of a hound, always sniffing at the rear end of any woman even remotely attractive.  In a way I was like this, but I never slept with any of the young women I would meet and add to my ‘little black book’ (if anyone remembers what one of those are since we all now have cell phones).  I would go for coffee with them, chat with them on the phone, sometimes even meet up with or lend books to.  It was kind of a negative way to go about things because there was no real basis for a relationship.  Then, when I was 20 I started going to adult high school and one day while out having a cigarette, I met a very pretty young woman and we talked for a long time.  I learned she was a born-again Christian, something that was important to me at the time and that she cared deeply for her family and those around her.  She had a boyfriend but that didn’t stop us from becoming good friends.  That was 23 years ago and I still talk to this young woman to this day.

More recently, I had a female friend who was very attractive, but always seemed to be getting into the wrong kinds of relationships.  She was struggling with addictions but had enough of a head on her shoulders to be a top rated chef/cook and to get a degree in English from a local University.  A great catch for just about any man but constantly getting the wrong ones.  I think a lot of it had to do with the adult children of alcoholics syndrome.  I had met her mom who was a lawyer but not her Dad and my Dad had known her grandfather.  I don’t know where the alcoholic was in their family, but from my reading of the subject (I am an adult child of an alcoholic) this seemed to be the case.  One of the things about a family that has an alcoholic in them is that there is a set of rules that the addiction brings about, one of them being the rule of silence–many people in alcoholic families will live somewhere for 20 years or more and never talk to their neighbors, they have a secret and they don’t want to show it.  There are many other rules of course, but the thing is that when you are an adult child of an alcoholic, or this syndrome is passed down to you by a more distant family member, when you go out looking for a relationship you seek out people who ‘know the rules’.  I wish I could have helped this girl more, I think to an extent I may have been happy to be in a relationship with her myself, but it was not meant to be.

I can recall a few people, including the young woman mentioned in the previous paragraph wanted to know how to find a proper partner.  Looking for someone who ‘knows the rules’ could be misinterpreted as a woman looking for a bad boy.  Many women don’t necessarily look for the bad guy, they may just be looking for someone who understands the rough times they have been through.  Regardless, this young woman and others have asked me how to find a good life partner.  I think the best way to go about this is to find a community to be a part of.  It can be a church community, in fact it often is a church community where some of the healthiest relationships begin because these relationships often have the support of a lot of friends and family members and a good moral foundation to build a good relationship on, but I don’t think that by going to a building once a week you win any special favor from God.  I do love God a great deal, and I have to admit that as soon as I finish this blog today I am going to mass, but people can be healthy and happy no matter what they do with their Sunday.  Some people can join a sports team, some people can find someone they work with and those who don’t participate in things can volunteer and meet some wonderful, giving and caring people.  There is also people you meet at bars or pubs, but I don’t think these are the healthiest of relationships–just my opinion from trying it myself.

The next step after meeting someone is to make them your friend.  If time passes and you can make them your best friend and let things grow naturally from there (which they will if they were meant to be).  I remember when I was younger I knew this was the way I would find my perfect partner, and though in the end my relationship with the girl I went to school with mentioned above wasn’t meant to be a partner/spouse relationship, I have something that means a lot to me and gives me much joy and fulfillment–I have a friend for life.  To put it in terms that younger people may want to understand, if you go out and just try to get lucky at a bar and do pick someone up, maybe do it a few times, you will have a quick release of emotion (and exchange of bodily fluids) but not only will it not be very fulfilling, you run the risk of becoming addicted to cheap thrills and one day you won’t be so much of a stud and you will find a great sense of loneliness in you from never having established an adult and caring relationship.  This is not a hard and fast rule of course, and by no means am I any kind of clinician.  I just am relating what I have seen in my 28 years or so of good and bad relationships.  As always, I am here to talk, if anyone had any further questions feel free to email, my address is still:  viking3082000@yahoo.com

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