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God and Spirituality: A Sunday Sermon About Mental Health and Mental Illness

Hello Dear readers. just thought I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the chance to check out my sister site, Dear Ava (click here) for great Mother’s Day gifts and a wonderful blog.

I have some exciting news, I am near to getting approval to start to distribute two of my other books for free as eBooks here on this site. Please stay tuned and click the Tower Bridge photo———> at right to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” —————————>

I wanted to share a great review I received about this book from the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, so here goes:

Leif Gregersen provides up-close, first hand insight into the world of schizophrenia. Known as potentially the most devastating mental illness accompanied by horrible societal stigma, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and especially mis-characterizations of those living with and recovering from schizophrenia, Mr. Gregersen humanizes this illness by his own lived experience. Most importantly, we see a person, not just a diagnosis. We see his identity as he tells his story. His identity is not rooted in symptoms and pathology but in purpose, meaning, and how he wishes to help others to become more compassionately present with those with mental health challenges and their family members and friends.   This whole process or journey is now called, “recovery.” Recovery is living beyond the limitation of a mental illness with meaning, purpose, a sense of identity and resiliency, social inclusion. Mr. Gregersen lives a life of recovery.

Dr. Chris Summerville, D.Min., CPRRP, LL.D (Honorius), CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

So what is a church really? There are so many loose definitions. I was talking to my cousin on this topic a short time ago and really we started to get down to what the Buddhists believe, that the place of worship is a place of refuge. I admitted to him that my place of refuge, before I started going to church on my own was a library, specifically the library in St.Albert. One day shortly after I stopped collecting comics I started watching a wonderful series done by Levar Burton (Geordie Laforge from Star Trek: The Next Generation) called Reading Rainbow. He used to talk about all kinds of reading, and even how picture books can have a value. Since I loved reading and comic books were no longer cool, I started at the children’s section of our city library and looked for things that sparked my interest. One of the first books was one about the FBI. It had a lot of pictures and some easy to read text, but the funny thing is I learned so much about the FBI (former the Treasury Department) that I have a working knowledge of the agency to this day. After that, I worked my way upstairs to the adult sections and I think I started out with history books. I was fascinated with World War Two and I was a cadet at the time, so a large knowledge of combat and weapons came in pretty handy when friends and I got into discussions about our mutual passion. I went on to pore through photography books, books of old old cartoon strips, comedy books, and even managed to sneak a book about nude photography past the librarian. For years when I had the time I would head to the library and read as many magazines as I could. When I lived in North Vancouver on the coast, I was so much of a regular at the magazine stand the Librarians knew what I liked to read and got to know me. Then of course there were the novels I devoured, especially if they had a historical or military theme. It was almost a natural progression for me to become a writer. What the best part of it was, was that after being released from the psychiatric hospital and being low income and not having too many friends, writing was the perfect thing for me. I didn’t have to have qualifications or degrees, I just had to be able to put pen to paper and all my reading experience served me well. When I told my cousin this and asked him what his refuge was, he said it was his stereo. He has worked in some of the top music stores in the country, he is an accomplished band and studio musician, and to him music was his refuge. I encourage anyone with stress in their lives that either have a mental illness or not to find something to take refuge in. For a lot of people it can be a musical instrument, especially a piano. I used to carry around a harmonica even though I wasn’t very accomplished at it, I liked making sound and trying to play songs and find rhythms. For a while I also tried to play guitar, and even with my horribly limited knowledge of it, when I sit down with a guitar I enter a whole new world.

One of the funny things that is starting to happen is that I am becoming such good friends with my cousin that I am now helping him to write things, and he is starting to give me advice on how to write songs that he hopes to later put to music. But there are so many more things you can do. With the pandemic and all, I went and bought myself an expensive model of one of my favourite WWII planes, the B-25 Mitchell. I am looking forward to blocking out some time for it and watching with excitement as the plane begins to take shape.

Of course, through all this I think the best advice I have gotten when I talk about my books and my walking and other things that keep me going was from my psychiatric nurse. She simply said that my mental health is the absolute priority. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if I got ill again and had to go in the hospital. No one trusts you there, a lot of sick people who may even be unable to grasp ideas like covering up a cough or wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is all about. So I am doing my best to make my appointments, and to take all of my medications. I have noticed that when I get a bit out of kilter with the isolation, I tend to forget about my medications sometimes. I do get all of them in blister packs which is great because you just have to pop out the pills you need at that particular time of day and you are fine.

I am so lucky to have not only a course of medications that work well for me, but also my body has adapted to the medications so now they work really well on my symptoms but allow me to pursue certain things like my extra long walks and writing sessions. I can’t prescribe medications for people out there but I can say that if you get active in your treatment, listen carefully to your psychiatrist and ask a lot of questions, and perhaps even work through some of your issues in group or individual therapy there is a major chance you are going to make a full recovery, even go back to work. I guess though, since this is a Sunday blog that I should put out a request for a very special client of mine. She lives alone and has Tueurettes syndrome, she can’t stop swearing and doesn’t leave the house and feels very ashamed of her illnesses. She is truly a very kind lady and was nice enough to get two of my books from the library and read them.

Just to talk. little about church again, people often refer to a place of worship as a church, but really no matter how many solid bricks in the building, that isn’t a church. The people who attend the church, who participate in giving and sharing and working together and supporting each other in a Christian walk, those people are the church. I don’t want to get too far into it all, but you are welcome to post comments that I will respond to. I guess I would like to close by defining spirituality and religion, if I can get it right. Religion is for people who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back. I would encourage anyone who attends a church, or even just wants to live a better, less stressful life to try to embrace the spiritual. Remember we are all immortal souls in need of love and caring, young and old. Avoid judging people, and if you see them hurting, why not help and maybe even tell them about how attending a church, reading the word of God (the bible) and learning to pray can transform just about anyone. Good night dear readers, more to come soon!

 

Coronavirus and Self-Isolation With Schizophrenia, Bipolar and other Mental Health Disorders

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Above is the Link to a free download of the book pictured (eBook) You can also click on the photo of the Bridge with the two Towers (The Tower Bridge, London, England, photo taken by Leif Gregersen) and you can get a copy from that link no matter what I post here. Please remember that there are no copy protections on the file and I encourage all who download it or want to help support my efforts share the eBook as much as possible.

click here for a review  of AOX3 (Alert and Oriented X3) from Paula E. Kirman of the Boyle McCauley News.

Well, today is a turning point for me. My latest book will arrive today according to tracking and I will start off by giving copies to a few close friends that I can be in touch with and then I will likely do a goodreads promotion. For anyone that has read the book, it would be great if you could look it up on amazon and leave an honest review.

These are scary and uncertain times. I have such a hard time staying in because I really enjoy going out and walking long distances, but there are just too many people out there blatantly ignoring social distancing and it can be very hard to follow all of the rules. Yesterday I brought my dad some needed supplies to his senior’s apartment, and then decided to walk the 10k+ distance home. Everything was kind of surreal, there was very little traffic on the road, very few people, and most of the people I came across avoided me like the plague (pun intended). When I got home, I stripped off everything I had on, tossed it in the laundry, as well as the towel I use in the bathroom and had a deep cleansing shower. I also brushed my teeth vigorously and used mouthwash. I have read that the Covid-19 virus lives in a person’s mouth and from there can either go to your lungs (which can be fatal) or get swallowed and go to your stomach where your stomach acids are able to deal with it.

I don’t know if anyone watches the new-fish series “The Crown” but they had an episode based on a true story of London being completely immersed in smog, and some of the similarities were eerie. I guess I am a little extra worried because my dad is an ex-smoker, 81 years old and goes for long walks as well. My sister has made me promise that on first sign of any symptoms I rush him to the emergency.

All these things going on that we have so little control over can be confusing and extremely difficult to get through. Fortunately if you are reading this you likely have a computer and internet and can catch up on your emails, find a chat group, post to Facebook or tweet, and if you are really old fashioned, use the phone or text to keep socializing while maintaining social distancing. I can’t help but think right now of a woman who I was phoning once a week when I was doing phone peer support work for the Schizophrenia Society who may not have anyone calling her and I know is desperately lonely. She has Tourettes syndrome and experiences deep shame and stigma. Maybe I could use the power of this platform (or actually your power dear reader) and ask my ‘fans’ to try and get a phone number or two of someone (they don’t have to have a mental illness but it would be great if they did) and make sure and call them and just listen for a little while. It can literally save a life.

One of the other things this pandemic reminds me of is the threat of war when I was a teen. I became a bit of a survivalist and was in cadets which likely wasn’t the healthiest thing. I can’t stop saying though how many great things cadets did for me, I still have a good number of my old friends from 33 years ago on my Facebook (by the way, friend me there for more up to the minute content if you wish). I was reading that there is a good possibility that everyone will get the virus in question eventually, they are just trying to slow the spread so that hospitals can handle the high volume of respiratory patients and so that possibly cures or inoculations can be developed and mass produced. The best advice I heard is that people shouldn’t act like they might get the virus, they should act like they have it and don’t want to pass it on.

It is an interesting test of people to see how they deal with things like this. I have a friend who I visit with often and we really like to sit down and talk over some Italian food and later a game of chess. She has decided that it isn’t best that we spend time in my apartment at the moment, so we go for walks, but she is very conscious of not taking any risks to get the virus because of the people she may have to be in contact with in her job and daily responsibilities. It really makes me love and respect someone who thinks like that.

I have a suspicion, as I had a short run with a flu or cold a few weeks back, despite that I almost never get sick, that I have already had a version of Covid-19. Right now though I can’t say if I have a fever but I feel warmer than normal (it is impossible to tell if you have a fever without a thermometer), and I have a bit of a runny nose. One of the other things I heard that can be really good and I know is tried, tested and true by my elderly father, is that it can help a lot to gargle with some salt water. At a time like this, a shower, a toothbrushing and a mouth rinse all might be a good idea if you have to leave your home at any time.

Sorry, I started out talking about symptoms and got sidetracked. I have the runny nose and all that which makes me really want to self-isolate even more, but isolation at the best of times can be so hard for people with mental health issues to deal with. I think back to when I lived in a very crummy apartment for three years and feeling like a total piece of garbage as time went on and I spoke to no one but possibly my mom and dad now and then. I ended up going to a church for a long time that I would call a little too radical for my liking. I did have an active social life while going there, and I did meet some truly wonderful people, but sometimes I wish my path to spirituality had been paved differently. I will never forget the first time I went there and asked if they had dances and I was told they didn’t approve of dancing. This reminds me of a joke my sister’s mother-in-law said to my dad once, may she RIP. “The church we went to didn’t want us to have sex standing up in case it might lead to dancing.” They had all kinds of problems with things that they honestly seemed to just pull out of their ass and they constantly interpreted and reinterpreted the bible to whatever self serving point they wanted to get across. I should have realized this was the wrong place for me when they started accepting debit and credit cards for donations in the church at Sunday service. But in truth, I could just about honestly say meeting the people my age, even though I couldn’t dance with any of them, saved my life. Isolation is a curse.

One of the funny things I have noticed is that as the crowds get whittled down to a precious few, people seem to get nicer. Every time I waited at a bus stop in the past few days someone struck up a conversation with me (keeping their distance). Seeing they were just lonely and that everything around us was beyond the norm, I obliged them. I used to have a knack with strangers, but a few times I have run across people who were aggressive and downright mean. I still talk with a lot of people but I restrict it to those I know. I had an incident happen at a book store a couple of weeks back where I started to chat with a young woman about books and the clerk came up to me and said, “Excuse me Sir, I can’t have you approaching other customers.” man did that ever hurt! Fortunately the young woman stood up for me. I think possibly a lot of that stuff had to do with the location of the store, being in a tumultuous part of downtown, but I wonder how much of it was a part of me being almost 50 now. What gets me is I have been a steady customer of that bookstore for over 30 years and I consider one of the owners a good friend. I even won a contest a few years ago that this same store put on for a short story contest, it was the first thing I ever won. No time in life to lament such things though, but once bitten, twice shy. Hey-I should go back to that book shop when the same guy is there and bite him, that would be a great idea!

Well dear readers, I think I am taking up too much of your time with this extra-long blog. Please, all of you, take care of yourselves and take care of others. Email if you like, I can take book orders through the mail and paperbacks of my new book are just $12. viking3082000@yahoo.com

Diagnosed With Bipolar or Schizophrenia? Your Life Is Not Over!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is always time to grow, to change, no matter how

far you may have strayed from the thin thin line we call society. I think a lot about my hospital stay in 2001. I had lost friends, I lost every stitch of my property. I had lost all self-respect, and I think what was worst of all was that I lost hope. I was so conditioned to turn myself off from everything that went on around me. That was survival in the psychiatric hospital. Ignore the injustice, ignore the violence, trust no one and be prepared to be humiliated in every way possible by the staff and the other patients.

I have come a long way now from all that. I am living on my own, doing so many things. I am even working in the hospital that once held me against my will as a patient/inmate. I think a lot of the reason that I have been able to turn things around so far is simply my sense of will. I have always had a strong sense of will, a strong idea in my head that I could picture a goal no matter how abstract or seemingly impossible, and then work out the steps to achieve what I wanted. In 1990 what I wanted was to go to Vancouver and start my life over. Problem was, I didn’t even have money for a bus ticket and I had never been to Vancouver except as a small child with my parents. The whole trip started on a bad note, I had been sleeping in my room and my dad woke me complaining that when I slept during the day I stayed up at night and used his electricity. It all seems so unfair now especially since I had a major mental illness but his reaction was to threaten to call the police and have me put back in the psychiatric hospital. That was my breaking point. I definitely at the time wasn’t displaying any signs of sickness, I just thought it was unfair that he was so cruel to me and reacted with anger. It seemed to me like all my life I had been arguing with him and he would always win because he would end up most likely beating the crap out of me but here and now when this incident happened, I was big enough to fight back so all of a sudden he had to get his power back by lying to the police about my mental state. Granted though, I should have been working or looking for work. I did have a job in a plastics factory but with all the medications I was taking they fired me for being too slow on the assembly line. I had also been turned away from the military because of my history of being on medication. Not to mention that I had offered to pay my dad’s power bill. But he was drunk and that meant he was right and I was wrong and the police would see it that way too. I came very close to punching him in the face as he reached to pick up the phone. All I had time to do was to grab a bag I had stashed that had a raincoat and some sandwiches in it and I headed off. I willed myself all the way to Vancouver. There were some incredibly harsh spots like when I walked from around noon until past dark on the side of the highway. I camped out, covered myself in my raincoat and started a small fire to keep warm. I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare that I was camping in my backyard again like I used to do as a kid but had actually slept for hours and the fire was out. I scrambled to rekindle it and then in the daylight that came soon I hit the highway again and got a ride all the way to Vancouver. But the point was that I set my mind on something and didn’t let anything stop me from achieving it. I could have done a lot of things better, but I did well considering my situation.

Getting to Vancouver was an incredible experience, I loved just about every minute of it, but I was living in denial, which the psychiatric profession calls anosognosia. I didn’t believe I had a mental illness or needed medication, and that was the one limitation I should have accepted before any other. There was no way to will myself to be better when I was facing depression, mania, and psychosis. In Vancouver I ended up getting ill again, went back to stay with my parents after being arrested for hitch-hiking, then in a state of psychosis spent all the money I had gotten from social services/welfare on cab rides to places my illness told me I had to go. The whole fiasco ended in the morning, like I did later in Vancouver, I desperately tried to get help by calling the police and telling them I was poisoned. Once more I was taken back to the psychiatric hospital, and once more I went off medications and ended up in Vancouver.

This time when I got out I laid out some plans and set myself up to go to finish school. I was very determined to get the courses I needed to study further and was actually accepted into a journalism program and found a scholarship for disabled people that would pay the whole bill. A few short weeks before the program started it was cut, and so I kept my goal clear in my mind and began to write short stories and poetry. It is scary now to think of how marginalized I was, how poor and how far off any of my goals were. But I kept reading even when I was given medications that made concentrating nearly impossible, and I started to write short stories and poems, even sent a few off with poor results. I never let those things stop me, I understood that what made a person a writer or a pilot was what they had inside themselves not how far they excel compared to their peers or other irrelevant factors. I pieced together short story after short story about my life and when I had a semblance of a book I made copies and gave one to a close friend for safekeeping. Years passed and I completely forgot about writing until one day after my horrific 6 month stay in the hospital my friend gave me back the manuscript I had her hold for me and I started to work on it like mad. What came of it was likely not much like what my first drafts were, but after editing I had something very worthwhile, something that told the story of mental illness and how I pushed past my limitations and found an incredible job which carried me to the point where I could be a writer full time and make money just off my writing and teaching.

So, dear readers, I want you to ask yourself… where do you see yourself in ten years? What is your ideal picture of a perfect life? For me being in my own large, clean, organized, furnished two bedroom apartment that is very inexpensive to rent and has a perfect spot for me to park my MacBook and write all hours of the day and night is pretty much it. I could go further and say I would like a girlfriend or wife and maybe even a child, but it could be those things just aren’t in the cards for me. Ten years… I will be 58, close to an old age pension. I hope to be still able to write, still able to go for a swim. A trip to Europe once a year would be nice to add into that, maybe even one with my niece. Make a list. How many books do you think you will have written in 10 years, and how many of those do you think will be published? I can’t say enough to young people in Canada about the Registered Disability Saving Plan, where a person under 49 who is registered on their tax forms as a disabled person can start a savings account that the government will match at a rate of 3 of their dollars for each $1 you contribute, if you keep the money in savings for 10 years. Someone who is 21 can practically guarantee themselves to become millionaires by saving $100 a month. But it is hard to think of ten years down the road when you don’t have goals and plans. Maybe you want to run a marathon once a year in ten years. Start now by going for longer and longer walks, then short runs at a track. Consult with a foot doctor and get proper shoes, and you can avoid doing what I did-running on improper shoes and destroying your knees. Plan plan plan. Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them. There is so much more to say dear readers, so please tune in again and as always feel free to send me suggestions on topics you would like to see covered.

What It Means To Those With Schizophrenia or Bipolar To Have a Home In a Community

There is something in the recovery process that a person with a mental illness goes through where they have to take a good hard look at the place they call home. This person will have to think about the importance of their own quality of life. It can be extremely hard for someone with a mental illness, especially when they first leave a hospital stay of any significant length, to find a place that is decent.

During the first few years of living on my own after I was diagnosed with bipolar (and later schizoaffective disorder) I lived in some pretty awful places. The first one was an extremely rundown hotel where I got a tiny box that had a filthy bathroom down the hall, a view of the ventilation area out my window, peeling and old paint, and a mattress that looked like it had been used for a diaper. Still, in a way, it was a better place than some of the places I’ve been for one purpose: I had lots of work, and I was in the process of applying for the military so I was either writing tests or working out. A sense of purpose can go a long way.

I have talked a lot about the importance of having a community, a group of people basically who you can talk to, do things with, interact with, and generally look out for one another with. There are many ways to do this, but I have found that one of the best ways is to simply establish a routine. I enjoy when I get up early to go ride the bus to work at my part-time job because I always see my neighbour. He is a real grump sometimes but always seems happy to see me in the morning. Then I ride the bus to the hospital I work at and on the last leg of my journey I have usually get into really fascinating talks with one of my co-workers. And whenever I am out in my neighbourhood I think I have to generally stop and talk to people I know 3-5 times.

One of the ways I started to meet more people was when I was in a group home in the same neighbourhood I am in now. Most of the people were staff or clients of the group home, but most of the staff were really wonderful people and just about all of the clients became friends because we shared that common bond of having a mental illness and having to manage all the things that go with it. Taking away any stigma surrounding mental illness in that way can facilitate a great deal of healing.

The next thing I started to do was to volunteer with my community newspaper. Volunteering can look great on a resume but not entail the ordinary stresses and pressures of a regular job. Not to mention that when you volunteer, you can pick where you want to work. I think one of the important things to understand though is that one should take a volunteer job as seriously as a regular job. Hard work pays off. I don’t think it was completely the fact that I volunteered with the paper that got me the job, but at one point I was hired as the managing editor of two online magazines. I was paid fairly well and had to travel across the country for a conference which was paid for by my employer.

Then there is the unlimited potential of recreational activities. As far as this goes, a great place to start is a YMCA where you can join all kinds of sports clubs, from running to badminton. I currently work out at a city facility where I get a discount for having a low income. I have met a lot of great people from working out at city facilities on a regular basis. It was hard at first, I didn’t know how the people that had been going there took to outsiders, but I just kept going, then started to learn people’s names and started small bits of conversation in the steam room and such. Before I knew it, I was doing business with people, some bought my books, and I had a lot of invitations to breakfast after my workouts.

The next way of establishing a community in your life is to attend church. I didn’t understand much about the bible or God or anything, then I decided I wanted to learn more and also realized that there were some pretty nice people in the world who were churchgoers, so I started to look into it. There was a church I went to for quite a while where I made some really close friends despite that I had some very negative experiences there. Now, I don’t go as often, but I attend mass when I feel up to it and I not only am getting to know a lot of people in the area, I leave feeling somewhat uplifted and renewed. I went to a mass a few weeks ago and afterwards I felt an urge to contact a friend I had a falling out with 20 years ago and learned that it all had been a mistake. I really saw that as a sign that having some spiritual belief in my life greatly benefits me.

There are a lot of ways a person can plug themselves into a community. I think though that it can be just as important to have a decent home. I have recently been following a series on Netflix based on and hosted by a female author from Japan called Marie Kondo and it has improved many things about my life. Marie teaches people to tidy up their lives, and definitely brings a lot of joy back into their lives. She suggests that a person go through different things in their home, starting with clothes, then books and so on, and taking each and every article and asking a tough question of it, “does this really bring joy to my life?” and then simply donating, selling or disposing of the thing if it doesn’t. I applied her theories partially, then got a little stuck when it came to my ridiculously large comic collection, but carried through as far as I could, and I no longer have to feel bad when people come over and see my place is a mess. I truly feel a lot better with much less stuff and more joy in my life, more things that I actually use rather than just accumulate. One of the things I really like about her method is that after you cull your possessions, you take each one of the things you keep and find a home for them in your home and always put it back there when done using it. This has saved me so much time spent searching for things, for example for years I have had to tear things open with my teeth or do a halfway job with my fingers or a set of keys. Now I have two pairs of scissors and they are always in the same part of the same drawer, no searching, always there.

The other thing I have done was to put up some prints from my favourite wildlife artist on my wall. They cost a little extra, but I have felt that the money was well spent, I had wanted something by this artist for a long time and the pictures are really stunning. You can likely find some decent paintings to hang in a thrift shop. As my hobby next to writing is photography, I have also put up some photos of things around town and family members and such. It does take effort to keep a place clean, but I have found that once I purge my home of things I don’t need or don’t use, it becomes so much easier to keep things organized, clean, and uncluttered, which is something that definitely improves a person’s mood and also allows them to have guests over more often which can be a great way to make close friends with people.

One of the things that can be most difficult about having a decent place to live is the cost of rent or mortgage, which is always more in nicer parts of town. I feel bad for those who live in the US who have no choice but to live in run-down areas that are actually dangerous or pay ridiculous amounts of rent for very little apartment. I wish there were some national or international governing body that could raise funds and assist people with mental health issues so they can live decently. I had to make the personal choice of living in the poorest neighbourhood in my city and it comes with a lot of problems but luckily violence is pretty rare. I do have to deal with people sleeping in hallways and using needle drugs in the public areas of the building, but my rent is very low and my apartment itself is very nice. My suggestion is to look into subsidized housing, and don’t delay in getting yourself on waiting lists as some of these places can take years to get into.

So Dear Readers, I hope this has given you a little something to consider. all I can really say is that over the many years I lived alone in second-rate apartments and all the years I had a messy room or messy home, I have never been able to do more, earn more, or enjoy life more than I do now with a place I love to spend time in, friends I can talk to every day and rely on, and a feeling like I have a useful purpose in life. Best wishes all!

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:

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

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!

Finding Your Passion, Your Creativity

 

Something I have become aware of in the past few years is that it seems everyone, but especially those who have a mental illness, have something that engages them, something that fulfills them. For me it has been photography, which can be rewarding for everyone, but often people’s passions start earlier in their lives than mine did. I didn’t start getting serious about photography until I was around thirty and better and more reliable digital cameras came out. I had tried taking pictures, I had even taken two photography courses, one in school and another in cadets, and it always just frustrated me. I would load the film wrong, I would take pictures and not have the extra money to have them developed or I would wait too long to have them developed. Now, photography to me is an amazing hobby because I don’t need film, I just need a camera memory card and I can load the pictures onto my computer and fool around with the light and colours and even the composition.

I ran into something very interesting the other day, I was in a class and I found it hard to keep my attention on what was being talked about. There were also breaks and blank spaces in the day that I felt a little bit resentful about because I had nothing to do. Then I noticed the person beside me had taken a sheet of an adult colouring book out and had started the long process of colouring in pieces of it with a ball point pen. I took a sheet for myself and started to do the same thing and it was almost like magic. I was fully engaged in colouring, but I was still able to hear and understand everything being said in the class. I have never really seen myself as much of an artistic person, at least not in the case of drawing things with my hand, but there was a time years ago when my dad, who was a sign writer, asked me to come and help him get some patterns of signs that he needed to recreate. At the time, I often fought with my dad and I hate to say it but had a low opinion of him. I felt the things he did for a living to be something beneath me, but still part of me wanted to do things with my dad, we had a glimmer of the special father-son relationship we used to have when I was much smaller. Anyhow, what he needed me to do was to take a ladder, climb up to where “no entry” signs had been posted and using special thin paper, trace out the whole sign. I wish I could describe it better, but really when I did this, I thought it was pure magic. At that age, I mostly did two things, I delivered pizza and I was a student. But now, I was an active part of something, and I was actually creating something useful. As I carefully sketched out the outlines of the sign, I had such a feeling of personal accomplishment. It was a time in my life I will never forget.

Not all that long after that, I was having severe mental health difficulties and ended up in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital. I was very young to be there, I had just turned 18, and there was another person there my age who seemed to be something of an odd fit to the situation as well. One afternoon, when there was absolutely nothing to do but watch television, something I mostly hate doing, this young person and I sat down and he showed me how to sketch a tiger or a lion. As the task took over all my concentration and effort, he said to me, “See, now it’s like we’re not in a mental hospital anymore.” and it really wasn’t. Over the years I have tried to engage myself with similar things, but I still kind of feel that drawing, painting, visual art is not my best choice, though as I said it can get a person through some pretty tough times. I have found writing. When I feel a day is slipping away from me and I have accomplished nothing, I can come here and write a blog. When I want to feel I am doing something useful and worthwhile, I will sit down and plan out and write a first draft of a short story or a poem.

Basically dear readers, I don’t want to nail you down to any one activity that will be a catch-all for your problems. What I do want to suggest is that you find something that engages you, takes all your concentration and personal skills. For some it could be building a wooden chair or desk. For others it could be working with stained glass or drawing a cartoon. If you don’t already have something like this in your life, find a book that will teach you the basics of something you feel would be interesting. Work through it, find others that do the same kind of things, be it gardening or even simply reading or writing poetry. Try and stick with it, and before you know it you will have a long list of happy memories, and you will have gotten yourself through some difficult times. I know it has worked that way for me.