adventure

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

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours,

Leif Gregersen

Don’t Let Even One Day Slip Past You

***Edmontonians  and St.Albertians Please note my books are free at your libraries. The Edmonton Public library even has four of my books as eBooks and Edmonton Public Library cards are free!***

A Lovely Shot of the River Valley, Shortly Before the Snow Came

Well, this was a happy time when I could wander far and wide in Edmonton. One of my favourite newer hobbies is to take ridiculously long walks to keep my thoughts clear and my lungs pumping good oxygen. Just about anyone who knows me well enough will have heard of how my kind old father helped me to recover from a severe bout with mental illness by taking me into this same River Valley each day and going for a long walk with me. My Dad and I still both walk a lot, but since now neither of us has a car we mostly walk on our own. I am a firm believer that if you do some light exercise each day it is good for mind, body and soul.

It is pretty much midwinter now and the temperature in Edmonton often drops below minus 20. That doesn’t bother me too much, I can dress for the cold, but what does scare me a bit is falling. A close friend fell and hit her chin and needed stitches and also had a concussion. Falls on the winter ice here can lead to all kinds of injuries. So far I have been very lucky. As a quick bit of trivia, I should state that there is much less chance of slipping on ice when it is very cold, because what causes slips is moisture on the ice. If anyone has been ice skating, the reason skates slide so well is because when they are sharp, they dig into the ice and cause a thin layer of moisture to be created.

So, these past few days have been a bit difficult for me. I should remind everyone, especially this time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) that our low sunlight hours can cause a depression on their own, something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I was down in the dumps this past week because I got word that a manuscript I submitted to a publisher was declined. For a while I really felt like all of my efforts have been in vain and that I would never see any kind of success as a writer. Then my bestselling author and film producer friend came over and we worked out a plan to rework the manuscript and find another publisher. I also found an email I had been sent about the same manuscript that said it was very good in many ways but needed a couple of things tweaked. I feel a lot better now and have tried to fill the time I would otherwise have been moping with active work writing an promoting my writing. More and more I am thinking I need to focus on making a name for myself over even paying the immediate bills I am responsible for. I can already afford the bills if I am careful, and if I can get my name out there eventually the money will come.

The other point I wanted to make to you, my dear readers, is that when you are down or when you are lonely and nothing seems to be going right (this is starting to sound like the lyrics to  a “Doors” song, I apologize) the best thing you can do is force yourself just to do one little thing. For me it may be reading a short story or picking up a book of poetry. It may involve writing an email to an old friend you miss, some kind of creative or enriching thing. When you start to feel better, do two things, and soon you will have accomplished something. Reading your short stories could add up to having become an expert on the genre. Writing emails could give you many caring friends who you can talk to through your depressions. It’s not always easy, but it always works (so I have found). With that Dear Readers, I bid you a fond farewell. And for Edmontonians, don’t forget to get your free library card and check my books out of the Edmonton or St.Albert libraries. Soon to be also coming to Vancouver Public Library. All the best!

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

Please scroll past today’s poem to read today’s blog post!

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

Once Again It’s the Middle of the Night and I’m Wide Awake

Hello, dear readers! Well, my struggle continues. Today was actually kind of a great day, when I got up, I had to go to Staples with Taro (the manager of this building who handles my efforts to put on writing workshops). We had an enjoyable time having a quick coffee at Tim Horton’s, then I went to teach my class. I think it went really well. There weren’t too many people there, I think just five in total, but I really felt like I was in my element. I am starting to get better at handling classes with people who have mental health issues. One of the things I have noticed is that often people with these issues may be very confused about directions I give them and I don’t know if this is something cause and effect, but these people have a desire to speak and participate in the class even though it might be off topic. Today (creative writing) and yesterday (Wellness Recovery) I tried just letting them speak for a few minutes and then tried to direct them back to the material or gently encourage them to let others speak. It is actually really cool the way I am learning more about my own mental illness and my own writing skills as I do this. The only part that kind of worries me is that the person who was most supportive of my efforts to do the creative writing classes has been promoted and the new person may not be as supportive or trusting of me. The way I got this job was by going to a writer’s group and basically showing that I had enough knowledge to facilitate my own class.

To get back to the whole insomnia thing, I think one of my problems is that I have a few remedies in my cupboard that help me to sleep and I think sometimes I use them more than I should. One of them is melatonin, which works well but isn’t quite as much of a designer drug as some sleeping pills are. One of the problems with it is that it leaves you very drowsy even after a long sleep. When I take melatonin, I will get a good sleep, wake up to do what I must that day, then I have a strong desire to go home and sleep some more, which I often to and then I end up like I am now, wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. There is another side effect to it that I don’t know if everyone experiences, it happens when I take a lower dose than I need to get me to sleep, my lower back gets a restless, edgy feeling that completely prevents me from sleeping. I often have to get up and walk around or do something (like writing in my blog) to stop it from bothering me. My doctor has also said that if I have problems sleeping on occasion it is okay to take a couple of gravol. These anti-nausea pills give a pleasant sleep, but only if you are already tired enough to lay down. Also, I don’t like using them because I worry about dependancy and using a pill that wasn’t meant to help a person sleep. I feel that people with mental health issues walk a very thin line between abusing and carefully using our pills. The funny thing is that I seem to have no problem sleeping in the afternoon, and one of the ways I can sleep at that time is by taking a multi-vitamin which prevents me from having bad dreams.

So, no real solution to anything today. Just a lot of words about some sleep aid alternatives. I use one last method to help me sleep sometimes, what I do is just get up and write here in my blog. I honestly hope I am helping people by putting this out, please feel free to reach out to me if you like anything I have to say or want to chat. My email is as always, viking3082000@yahoo.com all the best!

Check out my books by clicking here and going to amazon.com

                     Hope you enjoy today’s photo and poem. Blog after the Poem today.

 

Crystal Meth

 

Trapped among the flames of sweet desire

Without knowing it I dance a little closer to the fire

 

Years ago it wasn’t anything like this

Now I could smash a plate glass window with my fist

 

Steal whatever is behind the glass

Sell it for a pittance all in cash

 

I’ll do anything to get another hit

Except maybe wait any more for it

 

I bought into the dream of what it was about

Feeling good washed away any of my doubts

 

I started slow, I used to just smoke a little weed

I crossed the line going from want to need

 

I could stop and go to detox for a while

Go to twelve step meetings choking on my bile

 

But I’m too true to my own self to just kick

Living without the crystal seems so sick

 

Meth gives me a reason to get out of bed

And look in the mirror to check if I am dead

 

Steal a little, deal a little it will be alright

Until the cops come to get me and I have to fight

 

You can still get a little low-grade in the can

By doing things not meant for any man

 

Screw it all anyway the world is so freaking fake

Those that say this stuff will kill you are on the take

 

I can scam my parents for enough to get a twenty

They wine about the money but they have plenty

 

In fact they owe me more than just that little bit

I don’t care if it puts my dad into another fit

 

How does anyone expect me to live without the meth

When all around me is poverty and pain and death

 

I could quit, but right now I need the high

After just a couple tokes I will fly

 

You’re right when you say meth kills you from inside

Don’t mourn for me because my soul already died

 

Leif Gregersen

September 7, 2017

 

Well, good morning/evening dear readers. I thought I would talk a bit about addiction. I felt compelled to write the above poem without ever having experienced smoking Crystal Meth. I did read some pretty harrowing accounts of true stories of addicts. I even once was walking down the street I lived on and found a bag full of the stuff. I also find needles all the time and I constantly have to deal with drunk people looking for money, cigarettes or anything else they can get out of me. I try to give a little when I can, but sometimes a person gets jaded.

One reason someone, especially someone like me shouldn’t get jaded is that not long ago I wasn’t much better off than these people. There was the time when I was mentally ill and had to live in a homeless shelter which was the very definition of hell, and there were also times when I was trapped badly into addictions with either booze or gambling or cigarettes. It seems that I have gotten over most of those things, but temptation still comes at me from every corner, and I am sure it happens to a lot of people with bipolar in a similar way. Just yesterday I had to make a decision to sell some stock I had that had a lot of promise to do well because I realized that if I didn’t I just might get the gambling bug again. It is hard to describe, but gambling addiction is a lot like adrenalin addiction. Adrenalin addiction causes some people to base jump, bungy jump or even rob banks or liquor stores. When I was gambling, I was so restless all the time and edgy until I could go and put some money on a blackjack table or into a slot machine to try and get some ‘free’ money. I ended up going to 12 step meetings for a long time after stopping, and they helped, but I think a person can become too dependent on such methods of recovery.

Alcohol was another thing altogether. I started drinking as a young child, just a little champagne on Christmas and such. By the time I was 14 I was raiding the liquor cabinet and the wine closet. I soon found out that I would get out of control in a hurry. One time I nearly froze to death after drinking a bottle of whiskey in the winter and passing out in a snow bank. Another time I broke a friend’s collar bone, another time I broke the leg of a manager I worked for. I tried to slow down my drinking, but later in life I realized that unless I quit completely, eventually I would end up in a situation where I wished I hadn’t taken a drink.

The simple fact is really that if you suffer from a mental illness, you can’t just give up on yourself and dive into a bottle or throw your life away with drugs or gambling and crime. Your mental health is just one aspect of many facets of a life and quite often a person can work on being as healthy as possible in all other ways than mental health, and then work with their doctor to deal with their mental health issues. I am so lucky to have support, a good doctor and some positive role models who don’t smoke or drink and care for my well being. I hope this brings some light to someone who reads it, as usual, feel free to message me at viking3082000@yahoo.com, I would love to hear from you!

LG

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens

“Inching Back to Sane” Now available here in all ebook formats.

Dare to Dream and Let Your Heart Soar!

Hello my dear readers! I don’t have a poem for you today, but I thought I would still write a quick blog and add a photo. I have been doing both good and bad lately, and I thought I would share a few things that I feel helped the good things to happen that you can take as advice to do, and share a few of the bad things that you can possibly learn from and avoid. I hate to sound preachy, and it makes for poor prose, so I will try my best to avoid it.

Anyhow, I have been saving for some time and I didn’t really know what I was saving for. I can’t afford the gas and insurance for a car, I don’t have any trips I desperately want to take, so I decided wouldn’t hurt to dip into my savings to buy a few things for myself. I started out going with a friend to a comic shop and indulging myself in graphic novels. There is a Canadian artist and writer who really touches my heart when he writes, he seems to have a soul tortured by depression, his name is Jeff Lemire, and I highly recommend him. I found a graphic novel of his I haven’t read, then also bought two volumes of what I feel are the most monumental comics in comic history, I bought “Ben-Hur” and “Great Expectations” from the “Classics Illustrated” reprints. I get so much out of these condensed stories, and it inspires me to pick up the novels or any novel or history book and explore more, so I feel these are also well worth the price.

Last night I called up a friend and despite that we haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to talk with her, she answered the phone to my surprise. She is a very healthy and functional person, but there are times when she needs her solitude, something I completely understand. We decided to meet for lunch tomorrow which made me happy, because I have been isolated beyond my own control and out of my comfort zone for a number of days. Fortunately today the office of my apartment building was open and I was able to sit over coffee and talk with a couple of my friends. I live in a ‘supported’ apartment building and there is a common area at the office where some people I know often go, and I find it very healing to go down there and chat when I can.

So there I was, feeling a bit down, a bit lonely and a bit worn out from all the walking I have been doing. I came back to my apartment and I noticed I had an email. Turns out I have been picked for a great new part-time job opportunity that will help me develop mine and other people’s poetry skills. From then on I was flying on a cloud. I just can’t believe that I was so close to desperation, so down on myself and then this happened. I told my dad about it and he was very happy to hear about it but he reassured me that it was my own hard work that got me to this point. I have been doing a lot of things, not only to battle my mental illness and try and find meaningful work, but it just feels so good to finally arrive at the point where I feel I no longer have to worry, that I am on my way as a writer and public speaker, and that there are definitely going to be many good times ahead. So, my words to you, dear reader, as I may have expressed them before, is to just pound away at your passion, just a little at a time if you have to. Maybe just do one thing a day. If you don’t have a passion, I would suggest going to a community college or YMCA and looking at a class schedule and see if you can afford to take a class or two or if there is funding (free is even better) try and find something that interests you, challenges you, takes you somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All the best to you, dear readers, all the best and finest.

My Ship Came In But I Was Stuck At The Airport

IMG_5877A few raindrops on the windshield but still some of the most beautiful country you can see

Well Dear Readers, I hope you all had a good chance to bond with your fathers or children yesterday.  I went for a very cool dinner cooked by my brother who is something of an incredible cook, having taken 3 years of formal training and many years of experience as a professional cook.  At the moment, I have the honorable task of helping edit a book that is not yet released by one of Canada’s top writers, Richard Van Camp.  The book is literally incredible, it weaves together a lot of the characters that Richard developed in his stories and the movies he made of them, including “The Lesser Blessed” and “Midnight Mohawk Runners”.  Then yesterday I was working at the Edmonton Coliseum, also known as Rexall Place, loading the trucks up from the Cirque De Soleil show.  Friday I was interviewed by an Edmonton Sun Reporter, Cam Tait and I am anxious to see how the article will come out.  And then last Wednesday I taught my second writing class to a grand total of one student, but still it was fun.  The student is a young man who grew up in this area and he is a very interesting young man and not a bad poet.  Like they say, those who can’t do… teach!

Another thing that happened this week was I completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which means I can now take a further course to be a facilitator.  I think this would be a great experience for me, I have been considering writing another book with regards to mental health, only this time one with more hard data and facts and all that rather than just stories of what happened to me.  I feel there is a great power that occurs when a persona can honestly share their own stories, in fact I think it is the main problem with mental health treatment today–too many people are too worried to admit they have  a mental health issue.  The only fact I really know is that 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 people will need to seek treatment for a mental illness at some point in their lives, but if all the people who were trying to tough it out or didn’t trust Psychiatrists or were too worried to reach out for help were counted in, it could be a lot more, who knows?

Anyhow, that is the long and short of it.  In the morning I am going for a business lunch to discuss me taking on more responsibilities in the fall session of my writing class.  I don’t really know how long I want to stay up but I might have to stay up all night just to make it in.  I will most likely go for a swim in the morning to keep myself going, not an easy thing when I have worked as a truck loader the night before.  I guess the price of influence and self respect is a few nights of missed sleep here and there.  All I can really say about the last couple of years is that it has been such an amazing experience publishing a book, and then publishing many of them.  I am meeting so many people, doing so many things.  The money isn’t really there, I have sold a lot of copies of one of my books and I think if I am lucky I am close to breaking even, but writing is such a wonderful experience.  I like to quote a man named Bronowski, a scholar who was the host of “The Ascent of Man” a TV show my mom used to really enjoy, which was also a book of the same name by the same person, the quote went something like: “The magic of reading is that no matter where you are, no matter the time or place, you can open a book up and be instantly transported into the mind of the author.”  I thank you Dear readers, for reading my mind 🙂  Poem to follow below today’s second photo.

DSCF5316     This is a photo I took underwater snorkeling in Hawaii last fall

First Love

 

Please let me paint a picture here with words

A story unlike any you’ve ever heard

It all begins in a sunny late spring day

When all the little boys and girls came out to play

 

There was a little boy who stood out among the crowd

Somehow as just a lad he seemed to stand tall and proud

And a little curly blonde-haired girl caught his eye

He could have made her his friend but didn’t try

 

This cute little pair of children grew up very fast

Funny enough the girl had a crush on him as time passed

But as they went through school together it was all a game

A race to see who would first get fortune and fame

 

At first as a model and a scholar the girl did well

Though the strong young boy was going through a kind of hell

His life at home got worse as each day went by

It was all he could do to not curl up, give up and cry

 

One day when he had taken all he could

He thought of the one thing in life he saw as good

He reached out to the curly blonde haired girl for hope

He was at the end of a nasty, slippery rope

 

All at once our blond girl expressed her love and true respect

But he didn’t want to start out his life in her debt

He thanked her but then went off to make his own way

He never stopped hoping to see her again one day

 

Life had never seemed to him all that fair

It had been so awful he really thought no one cared

But still he set off to conquer life on his own

He left his friends and his community, he left his home

 

Our boy put out his thumb and headed for the coast

Overnight to all his friends he became a ghost

Vanished out of sight and out of mind

Wondering to himself why the blonde girl was so kind

 

And as some do in sunny summer days

The young man succeeded in numerous ways

But when he returned home all the love was gone

The little curly blonde haired girl had moved on

 

No words could ever win her back again

He had to face the fact that this was the very end

And so he went on living like a ghost

Drifting north to south and coast to coast

 

Then one day he met a young troubled soul

And he found that holding her made him feel whole

Soon a wedding came and not long after a child

They let the baby grow up just a little wild

 

In their humble home there was always love and fun

And before too long our boy saw past memories as done

It meant so much to just lay back and hold his child and wife

By losing his first love he was given the perfect life

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 22, 2015

Inside the Insane Asylum

IMG_7692This is the inside of Sacred Heart Church of The First Peoples, where I go for mass when I have the time.  The Priest here is a wonderful man, Father Jim Holland and is greatly loved among all community members, catholic, protestant, European or Native (or others)

     Hello dear readers!  Well, today was actually a pretty good day.  I am still getting over a cold that has lasted for 2 weeks now and my brother has told me I might want to try something called Cold F/X which has been on the market for some time and is quite expensive, but when I hear a recommendation from my brother, I often heed it.  For most of the weekend I have been sleeping, taking these Advil cold and flu pills and when I went to the post office in my local pharmacy, I tested my blood pressure and it was way higher than it has ever been.  I don’t quite yet want to stop eating my nightly popcorn, but I am looking at healthier alternatives (like using so called ‘heart healthy’ margarine) and I have already scaled back my eating and salt intake.

Today I wanted to talk a bit about what it is like to really be inside a mental hospital.  I relate a lot of my experiences in my latest book, “Inching Back To Sane”, but I wanted to touch on it here as well today.  I was thinking about how quickly attitudes towards smoking has changed.  A few years back when I first went to AHE (Alberta Hospital, Edmonton) you could smoke anywhere, and get cigarettes anywhere.  You could even buy cigars and all that.  Even when they were cheap though, people were often very reluctant to share cigarettes, myself included.  At first I didn’t mind so much but there were literally people who would wander around asking again and again until you gave in.  One time I recall sitting in the lock-down ward and this guy (who incidentally I have seen in the community, way to go dude!) named Robert came up to me while I was smoking a cigarette and asked me for one and I told him I didn’t smoke and he went away.  Another time I was in the cafeteria in another part of the hospital and a young woman actually punched me in the face because I didn’t give her a cigarette.  It is a sad sight to see now as people are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but outside and there is no place in the remote location the hospital is in to buy cigarettes.  I know smoking is horrible for your health and all, I had a terribly hard time quitting and still feel the effects 10 years after quitting, but people with mental illnesses are very prone to cigarette addiction which I feel has a lot to do with the fact that nicotine actually works on some of the same brain chemicals that anti-depressants and major tranquilizers work on.  I can remember days when I was relatively unmedicated and very ill that I would wake up and smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and my thoughts would be much more normalized, I wouldn’t hear the Television saying things about me and I was able to sit comfortably and carry on conversations.  I don’t really judge the staff on this issue, whether or not they smoke themselves, but I wonder if they have been aware of all of these factors in making their decisions.

One of the things I remember clearly also about being in the hospital is the effect that your illness and ‘cabin fever’ has on a person.  Everyone on the ward, staff or patients seemed in some different way to be someone I knew from before.  There was this really pretty young Psychiatric Aide who was staff on my last (hopefully last ever) stay who bore a slight resemblance to a young woman I was very fond of in school and my mind turned this staff member into this young woman in the flesh.  Then there were other people, like an east indian staff member who looked a lot like a man I had once arrested while working as a security guard.  All in all most of the people there were fairly nice but on occasion I had some outright threats from them.  “Don’t push us.” one young man said to me quietly as he handed me my medications one night.  “If I ever see you outside of this hospital, I’m going to kick the living shit out of you.” Another staff member said to me.  If I told anyone, they would deny it, but they made me very aware that they were the ones holding the power and I was the one under it.  There was one guy who kept coming into my room to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was sleeping (I don’t know if this was official policy, but it seemed just one guy was doing it) and he would wake me up several times a night, so I kept yelling at him or asking him to stop.  One day I was put in the isolation room and propped my mattress up against the wall and snuck in behind it so no one could see me, and this guy was watching me through the small window.  He came in and I knew he was going to assault me so I grabbed his ‘life call’ emergency button and pressed it and staff came running in from all over the hospital thinking he was in need of help.

I could really go on and on, but I think the important thing to realize is that, though it was extremely difficult and painful to go through these things, I was indeed very sick and the result of me being in that situation could have easily led to me ending up in jail not a hospital.  I also want to emphasize that though my Doctor at the time in particular was a bit of a jerk and did little to help me, in the end the system actually worked and I got better.  When I got out fortunately I didn’t have to keep the same Doctor and ended up with an incredible Psychiatrist (who actually wrote the forward to “Through The Withering Storm” and has been a huge supporter of my writing efforts) who literally brought me back from the depths.  I don’t really have the room here to say thanks to all the people who did put up with my arguments and erratic behavior and still did everything they could to help me, but I would like to send out a thank you in general to Psychiatric workers of all kinds.  It takes a thick skin and a heart of gold to do it, and I have heard often that being in there can be just as hard on those people as it can be on patients.  As far as Doctors, I would like to greatly thank Dr. Petkowski, Dr. Bishop, Dr. Boffa, Dr. Chue, Doctor Gordon and many others over the years of my treatment.  And thank you, dear readers, for liking and sharing my posts so often, that is what really makes me feel what I am doing is worthwhile (with regards to my writing and blogging).

DSCF5151Take Off From YEG (Edmonton International Airport) En Route to Hawaii, with my old friend Chris Lockhart at the controls!

More About Writing, Less About Poetry

DSCF5641                                              SUNRISE JUST OUTSIDE MY BACK DOOR

Hello dear readers.  It has been a couple of days since I posted anything and I don’t really know what to write at first.  I had a long talk with my sister, who has her Masters Degree in Education and she has been encouraging me to focus more on short stories and magazine/newspaper articles rather than poetry.  I don’t really know how to take this, for some time I have felt something lacking in my poetry.  One thing I do know is that if I want to publish poetry or have any success getting a book sized collection going, I can’t use anything I post here.  I think from time to time I will try and post some poetry though, but while I am in this thinking stage I am going to refrain.  I find though that I really love taking pictures (I just purchased a brand new $500 camera) and so I have no problem continuing with those efforts.  I also can put together blogs without any worries of copyrights or publishing problems, so I want to go on with that.  I think I should start writing in themes though.  One of the things I would most like to do is to help other writers who may be starting out, so to that end I am going to put after the second photo for today a copy of an article I wrote which was turned down, but still has some very useful information.  I would love feedback on what anyone thinks of it.

Perhaps one of the themes I could work on could be some of the interesting people I have met.  For some odd reason I am reminded right now of a 28 year-old African American I met while traveling the United States at age 19.  I had been living in truck stops, trying to hustle a ride from anyone who showed any sign or indication that they were going North to Vancouver, BC or anywhere in Canada for that matter.  I was outside enjoying a cool, crisp morning and looking out at the sand colored mountains of Southern California when I started talking with this guy (damned if I can’t remember his name) and he told me that he had thought of pursuing a career as a minister.  He seemed like a good guy to count as a friend in an otherwise unfriendly place, so I decided to hang out with him.  Him and I went to a shelter in the nearby town and got a meal, some clothes and an offer of a place to stay and work to be had.  For the most part my new friend was extremely entertaining, he told me stories that nearly made me split my gut laughing, but then out of seemingly nowhere he started to talk about a rape and a murder he had been an accessory to and it really freaked me out.  One of the scary things about big American cities is that by weight of sheer numbers a lot more people slip through the cracks of what is considered normal in Canadian cities and can end up being pretty scary.  I really wanted to get away from this guy, but I didn’t see any potential harm in hanging around with him for a while though the bells should have gone off way earlier.  Those were strange times, I remember when I got home from that horrible trip that I had two blisters each the size and thickness of a silver dollar on each foot thanks to the boots I was wearing.

Well, I am going to leave off things there.  Anyone who finds this little bit of a story interesting is encouraged to read more about this and other misadventures I experienced in my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which are under the heading, ‘books’ in the menu of this website, both paperback and e-book formats.  As mentioned, I am putting an article I wrote below the photo, please leave any comments you like

IMG_4893

 

ARTICLE ON WRITING:

Writing is simple. Pen a document, print it up, send it away and get rich. Sorry, nowhere near that easy. Stephen King once said that if you can write something, get it published, get paid for it and the check clears, you are a writer. Cool! But where do you start?

 

Perhaps you are just starting out. Start with a good computer. I prefer a Mac Mini that I use only for writing and I have Microsoft Word on it, whick is considered the industry standard. An option is to download a program called OpenOffice which is compatable at www.openoffice.org for free.

 

Where do you go from there?   “The Writer’s Market 20–” is essential. Check it out at www.WritersMarket.com where you can sign up for their newsletter and get other information. The book, at around $30.00 US contains query letter templates, advice for writers, and tons of addresses of everything from agents to publishers and many magazines. It gives you almost all the facts you need, from who to address your query to, right down to how to get back issues (always try to read a publication before you submit to it) and what the magazine pays.

 

Now that you have the essentials, or are able to beg, borrow or use other creative methods to utilize them, start reading. Read, read read! Look for ‘short story’ stickers on fiction books in your library and check them out and devour them. Read magazines, literary and otherwise (read them in the library to save $$). Sometimes I will take a bus route that adds an hour to my morning commute just to have the time to tune out and read.

 

Magazines can be a great way to start your career. I started making money with magazines simply by browsing through a copy of Writer’s Market and coming up with ideas to query them with. Not all of the magazines took my offer, but I can safely say I have added a few thousand to my bottom line just from part-time freelancing.

 

Something important is to start getting your name known, and start getting your list of publications growing. I still love volunteering for my community newspaper for free because I have fun doing, it connects me with my neighbors and it gives me more clippings each month to add to my growing pile. Not to mention I feel the experience makes me a better writer. Don’t worry that at first you will get low paying or non-paying work, it all benefits you in the long run.

 

Something else I do is sit down and write a short story when I feel moved, or a poem. Every few months I these together into a book and have them printed up at www.createspace.com which is an imprint of Amazon. For the cost of a few hundred dollars for 50 or 100 copies, I get the extreme joy of seeing my name in print on a real book. I take copies to independent bookstores, I set up signings at places as varied as Farmer’s Markets and Hospital Gift Shops. It’s all on a small scale, but as time goes by, my list of guaranteed customers grows and presently, two of my books are being evaluated by distributors and another is being considered by a publisher. Will either of these make me rich? Not likely, success can be a long journey for a writer, it may never come, but I can assure you that the path is a rewarding one financially, emotionally and in a general feeling of happiness of having accomplished something truly worthwhile.

Distant Shores, Poem of Brotherly Love

DSCF5243This is a shot of one of the best beaches I ever went to.  

You actually have to pay to go to this beach, but it was soooooooo awesome!!

     Hello My Dear Readers!  I think I would like to talk about writing today.  I don’t know how many aspiring writers there are out there, but I think there are a few.  I always say to people the first thing you have to do if you want to write is learn to keep a journal.  It’s more than a diary, it’s a book where you keep anything you want to write down, usually your thoughts, but it is good for ideas too.  I used to force myself to sit each day and write a full page about things I have done.  Now I kind of use this blog for that, but writing is writing.  I have been reading a few things about creativity and they all seem to stress trying to write every day no matter what.  For myself, sometimes I end up either getting stuck or putting out crap and so I will occasionally take a day off or two, and I find if I rested myself mentally, physically and emotionally I will go back in better shape (so I hope).  I had a book signing in my home town of St.Albert, which is a medium sized city north of Edmonton.  It went really well, sold about 10 books.  I don’t know if I’ve beaten that yet, I know with my very first book signing ever I was only selling one book (Through The Withering Storm, still available through this website under ‘books’ on the menu), and I ended up selling eight copies, which added up to just $5 less revenue than I earned the other day.  One of the neat things was having some press coverage, thanks to my good friend Scott Hayes with the St.Albert Gazette. It also helped to post the event to Facebook and let a few people know they were welcome to stop by.

     At the signing I think I learned a new trick.  I will admit you get a few grumpy people who don’t even say anything, but I originally thought if I say hello or hi to each person that went by I would get sales, but what a person really needs to sell a book is to engage the person in conversation and just be a nice person and let them know you have a valid story to tell in your work and I think about 60% of the time if I could engage people in conversation they would buy a book.

     One of the things I like about going to St.Albert is that the Chapters Bookstore they have there is a really good store.  I could easily spend a thousand dollars in one, but this time I spent $45.00 which was kind of a risk because I spent it before I started my book sales and didn’t know if I would make it back.  I ended up making double the cost of the two books back.  I think I would like to start doing book reviews when I get more followers.  To all my loyal readers that is two things I promise as this blog grows in support, I will have book reviews and contest giveaways.  I have been getting into graphic novels lately, and if anyone out there wants an incredible read, I picked up a graphic novel adaptation of a movie (I haven’t seen the movie) which was called “Kingsmen” and it was hilarious, gripping, had some great plot twists, and extremely entertaining.  I won’t talk too much about it, but I would like to say the book doesn’t cost much (I think I paid $13.00) and it is really high quality stuff, especially to anyone who likes James Bond.  Other than that, I think I will try and find another Hawaii photo to put below here because the poem for today is on a sailing theme.  All the best folks!

IMG_7460

This is actually a shot of a lake in Jasper National Park where my family goes a few times a year in memory of my mom.

You, My Dear Brother

 

Somewhere deep down there is a little more

Push hard to get yourself outside your door

A world awaits that needs someone like you

There is a chance our dreams will all come true

 

Love and riches await for all who dare

You can not tell me you no longer care

You and I brother we once had it all

This world is ours if we answer the call

 

Brothers together can change the whole world

We’ll live to see our bold flag fly unfurled

Glory awaits lets take it while we can

Stand with me brother I have the perfect plan

 

We’ll work like dogs and hide away each cent

We’ll work each day until we are all spent

One day we will buy a ship to sail the sea

For once we will be men and will be free

 

We shall set sail for distant lands and ports

We’ll drink and sing old songs until we’re hoarse

Throw a dart in the air to plot our course

We’ll live happy and free in far off shores

 

Come now with me before we grow too old

This world belongs to men hardy and bold

We don’t need this snow and bitter cold wind

Come now my brother new life will begin

 

You’ve been there for me since I was a tot

I have to say I owe you all I’ve got

Now come with me leave this place far behind

Wasting your life away is just unkind

 

We have this chance but it won’t last too long

Open your mind and sing a different song

Let’s aim for places new and women fair

With smiling faces, flowers in their hair

 

Leif Gregersen

January 25, 2015