books

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!

 

Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen

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!

 

What Not to Say to an Expecting Mama, and a Little About Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Please don’t forget if you haven’t already to download a copy of my new book at right———->

It is totally free to download and share and gives an excellent snapshot of what it is like to be in a psychiatric ward for psychosis. Just below the link (the picture of the tower bridge) is a video you can view of me reading from the book and explaining parts of it.

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have partnered up with a website called DearAva that runs a blog that often deals with mental health issues. I will be posting some of their content below, if you get a chance, check out their site, it’s kind of a nice one. I just wanted to say a few things about pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a very difficult time for women, I have even heard that becoming pregnant is likely the greatest risk a woman can take with her health. The person goes through so many hormonal changes that often the woman who has recently had a baby will go through a very serious and severe depression known as postpartum depression. I have a family member who had a child and never stopped having depression, which normally only lasts a short while. Aside from the physical risks, which I won’t get into, there are some things that people with mental illnesses have to consider. Something that really irks me is when people imply that if you have a mental illness you shouldn’t have children. This was a decision my mom had to make, and I want to honestly say that even though I have been through some pretty difficult times, and had to deal with a lot because of my genetically inherited mental illness, I still totally think it was worthwhile that I was put here on this Earth. My mom had three children and we all loved her dearly and have so many wonderful memories of growing up and having her as a parent. We had a chance to learn so much from her that was passed down in her family, and all of us have had some wonderful times. Along with a genetic illness, my mom passed on something incredibly worthwhile, she passed on her intelligence and love of learning, which has brought the three of us to places we thought we could never go.

Regarding an actual pregnancy though, if you may be pregnant, it is important to find out as soon as you can because if you are taking psychiatric medications you may want to actually go off some of them for the health of your unborn child. This should only be done with direct supervision of a psychiatrist. This can make for an extremely difficult time during pregnancy, many of us need our medications, but if you consult your doctor you may be able to find alternatives that are shown to be less harmful. It goes without saying that a person should never smoke or drink during pregnancy, or even be around smoke, and it should also be said that it can be extremely risky to be around marijuana smoke or to smoke it yourself, not to mention all the other recreational drugs out there.

As for my views on love and marriage, I just wanted to briefly state that since I was young even when I didn’t go to church, I have felt that you shouldn’t sleep with anyone you don’t plan on having a lifetime commitment to. This is because it can be so difficult for one parent to raise a child and it is the child that ends up being harmed in these situations. I don’t mean to preach or even to advise anyone on this, it is just something that I believe, and I also believe that a person shouldn’t get married with the intention of having children unless they are financially secure enough to do so. All that balderdash aside, please enjoy the below post from Dear Ava

What NOT To Say To An Expecting Mama

We’ve all been there. A dear friend is pregnant, and you’re bursting with excitement! You may want to share your own experience with pregnancy and childbirth, or you may want to give her the best piece of advice you’ve heard when it comes to raising children. While many things can be taken in stride by pregnant women, there are a few zingers that you’ll want to steer clear of, even though you have the best of intentions.

“Wow, you’re huge!”

This, or any other comment on her weight or size, isn’t a good idea. If you want to comment on her appearance, the appropriate sentiment is, “you look beautiful.”

“Sleep while you can.”

Pregnant mothers-to-be are exhausted from growing a tiny human, and the last thing they need to hear is how they may be even more exhausted when the baby arrives. If you’d like to be helpful, offer to come over after the baby arrives and clean, cook, or hold the little one while she showers and catches some much-needed zzz’s.

“Say goodbye to your free time/ hobbies/ relationship.”

New moms know that their entire world is about to change, and they’re likely working hard to wrap their heads around just how different life is going to be once their little one makes their appearance. Talking about how their life will change for the better – they’ll be so in love with their child, they’ll have a new respect for their partner, they’ll get to experience the best parts of being a little kid all over again – is a much better way to go than saying something negative.

“My childbirth experience was horrible.”

Mamas, especially first-timers, are often terrified at the idea of giving birth. While it can feel like a bonding experience to share horror stories, do so out of earshot of an expecting mom. Setting her up to even more anxious than she already is to have her baby doesn’t help – it only creates worry.

“Are you sure you’re eating enough/ aren’t you eating too much?”

A pregnant mom’s diet is between two people – her and her doctor. There’s no need to comment on how much or how little she’s eating. There’s no way to know whether she just got done fasting for a test, or if she’s so nauseous she’s struggling to keep down ginger ale and saltines. If you’re in a situation where there’s food, ask her if there’s anything you can get for her so she can sit down and relax.

It can be hard to know exactly what to say to a pregnant woman. Erring on the side of staying positive is always smart. If you’ve had a child before, it can be tempting to share your wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) experiences with a mom-to-be, but tread lightly. Encouragement, positivity, and excitement are always welcome, while judgment, shame, and questioning of one’s decisions are not. When in doubt, ask her how you can help her get ready for her bundle of joy to arrive, and be on call for questions and support when the baby arrives.

 

The Caregivers: They Mean so Much to Us All

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have recently partnered up with another website to share content and information. Today we will be discussing caregivers, and I thought putting a photo of a friend’s mom (Nell on the right) and my dad (Leif on the left) would help put a face to some of those that need caregivers the most. Please note that these people were our caregivers for such a long time. If you can, please read the short article below from www.dearava.com and then scroll down for my words below that. If you haven’t already, please download and share a copy of my latest book by clicking on the photo of the two towers on the bridge in the column to the right of this text. Remember it is absolutely free and I want to get it out to as many people as possible so share it all you can!

-Leif Gregersen

 

Taking Care of the Caregiver: Showing Your Appreciation

from http://www.dearava.com

Taking care of someone who is going through an illness or a tough life situation is hard. Taking care of the caregiver can be even harder. When you see your parent, friend, grandparent, or other loved one going through the stress of taking care of someone else, it can be tough to know what to do to make their life easier. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to let a caregiver know that they’re loved and appreciated.

Offer A Listening Ear

Simply giving your loved one a call to ask how they’re doing can go a long way. Often, caregivers are bombarded with questions about how their loved one is doing, if there’s anything their loved one needs, etc. Few people stop to ask how the caregiver is doing. Checking in and letting them know you’re just there to listen, not judge, can be a great source of stress relief. There’s no need to make it a formal conversation – asking how their day is going via text a few times a week can be enough to give them a little bit of hope in an otherwise stressful world.

Give Them A Break

From the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, caregivers are focused on making sure someone else has everything they need. Giving them a break can be a welcome respite from the daily stress of their role. Most caregivers won’t ask for a break and may be reluctant to take one when offered. It’s important to know their personality to judge how help would be best received. Perhaps they’d appreciate it if you just showed up at their home and offered to take over their responsibilities for an hour. If this wouldn’t be a good fit for them, scheduling a time for them to get out of the house (even just to go for a walk or take care of paying bills) can be a great way to give them a chance to take a deep breath.

Send A Fun Surprise

Everyone loves getting mail, and getting a package can be even more exciting when you’re someone who is going through a tough routine, day in and day out. Sending your loved one a fun, surprise package in the mail (even if you live right down the street) can be a great way to show them that you appreciate the hard work that they’re putting in, and their efforts are not going unnoticed. There’s no need to spend a ton of money. Picking up a box of their favorite candy, sending them a book they’ve mentioned, or sending a great-smelling lotion can all be great ways to let them know that you’re thinking of them.

Check-In On Their Self-Care

When someone spends all of their time caring for someone else, their self-care can go to the wayside. Without badgering or parenting your caregiving loved one, be sure to check in on whether they’re caring for themselves. Bringing up exercise, healthy eating, and drinking water are all important ways to remind them that they need to look after themselves to look after someone else. Offering to exercise with them, stopping by with a healthy meal, or offering to take over caregiving responsibilities while they visit the doctor or dentist are all much appreciated.

If your loved one is in a caregiving role, you’re a light in their life for thinking of their needs as they go through the hard work of caring for someone else. No matter how you choose to show your appreciation, it will mean the world to them that you’re thinking of them and their needs.

 

Don’t forget to visit http://www.dearava.com for more articles!

 

My Own Take on Caregiving by Leif Gregersen

 

To speak of caregivers, it seems our parents are the ones who are totally essential just to carry on the human race. Most of us don’t think of being raised and fed, clothed, housed, and babysat as caregiving, but they do consider visiting an elderly person in a home as caregiving. In my life, my parents did the best they could, and though they made mistakes, they did so many things that put me way ahead of the game now that I am older and able to understand things like why they wanted so much discipline, and why I had to work hard to learn everything I could and do well in school despite that I was fated to go to a psychiatric hospital at a young age.

 

Caregivers to me include all the staff that work in the hospitals who dedicate their lives to the healing arts. I will admit there are some people who likely shouldn’t go into that sort of field because they are seeking power and money more than anything, but there was so much kindness shown to me when I was a patient and when I look back just about any of the negative stuff, the animosity came from me. I still can recall a time when I was extremely upset and in a hospital lockdown ward and I tried to explain that it wasn’t my fault I was there and the way I was being treated just wasn’t fair. The nurse I said this to was extremely compassionate and ended up defending my case to others that thought I was just some scam artist pretending to be ill or willfully going off their medication just to get free food and lodging.

While I was at the hospital I had so many friends and co-workers come to visit, but the one that meant the most was my dad, my poor old widowed father who crossed the city while a deep freeze cold snap was on just to take me to get a pop or bring me my mail. He saved me when I was last in the hospital in a huge way, he drove long hours just to visit me way out of town at the psychiatric hospital and when I got out he took me for long walks that did wonders for my rehabilitation, not to mention that it was wonderful to finally establish a good relationship with him after some pretty stormy teens and twenties. One of the amazing things about being a caregiver is that you can do things to help, that fall under the category of being a caregiver while you are still being cared for by others. One thing have done is get on the phone from the office at the Schizophrenia Society and call up people who are isolated. I often do this in the same week I go to see my nurse and doctor. Caregiving can be so many things. A few years back I volunteered at an extended care home and met some wonderful old men who had so many stories to tell me and were so very grateful to have someone to talk to, play cards with and the like. Now, I am able to put on my resume that I have done that sort of work and it helps to open up a lot of doors. I have even used some aspects of these men I got to know well in stories. It all keeps paying back.

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

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.

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.

 

 

Are There Alternatives to Psychiatric Medication?

 

What a beautiful summer day to lie in the grass and watch a soccer game. When I was younger, I really didn’t factor in the fact that your body decays (in most people) as you get older. I had read a few articles about people in their 80s running marathons, and athletes having comebacks at 50. I started to decline a long time ago, and it likely had to do a lot more with my bull-headedness not wanting to listen to advice like not running in excess of 5 miles, not running on pavement, getting proper shoes for every type of exercise. That was the beginning, I destroyed my knees at the age of 20 years old. But what really got to me was not just this disability, it was also the medications I took. They made me drowsy, lazy. They made my hands shake and messed with my balance. Getting through this was one of the more difficult times of my life. I was good at a few sports as a youngster, I was a decent basketball player, but for all of my teen years I was a smoker which made this nearly impossible. I also loved to play pool, going to the pool hall every morning instead of the second half of my Law 30 class. I dreamed about one day having a pool table at home, and I think I could have been on my way. But medications derailed me. What could I do?

Medications have gotten better since then, and I even know of a few people who take what I do and it works for them and also their hands don’t shake at all. I really don’t ever want to recommend people to go off medication, but there are instances where a person can be on too much, a Doctor can usually spot this in a moment. This is why sometimes it is useful to get a second opinion, especially when you find your medication side effects debilitating. My mom, near the end of her life, was on a lot of medications, but my parents put a lot of faith in her psychiatrist. It hurts to think she could have had a better mental state or a better quality of life if she had been on less. One thing I want to emphasize is that in her final years, she would never miss a psychologist’s appointment because in her mind and my dad’s, that was the only treatment that helped anything.

There are two sides to this coin, one is that I have encountered (and I am no therapist or doctor) studies that said therapy alone is better than medication alone. Of course as I said, I don’t recommend going off meds, but if you can somehow combine your treatment there are chances of feeling better than you are now and any time healthy means you are headed towards a time when new and ‘better’ medication can be developed. My former Psychiatrist, an amazing man named Bishop, whenever I asked about a new medication he would say that what I had was working well, he didn’t like tinkering with people who were doing well, but left it up to me, emphasizing the question, “do you want to take a chance at going back where you were?” Well, for me that was no option. Last time before I saw that doctor that I had been in the hospital I was in a terrible state, being beligerent and abusive, deluded into thinking the world revolved around me and having people respond in kind with everything from flat out insults and threats to a severe beating from a guy who didn’t like the way I crossed the street. No, I did not want to go back there.

Some time later, with a doctor that my old doctor recommended, a decision was made to try a newer medication, and I got very ill and spent a month in the hospital–after I had worked so incredibly hard to build my life back and show stability and such. All at once I was delusional and paranoid to the extreme again. Sadly, this is something anyone with a mental illness must come to expect and prepare for. For more information, look into something called “The Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or WRAP. They have an app for phones that allow you to outline things like trigger warnings, ways to help with symptoms and more. The app is based on a course that I found very helpful, and attribute my quick recovery from the relapse of my condition too. It also helped that I had gained a great deal of knowledge about my condition, perhaps mostly by being a part of the Schizophrenia Society.

So, today’s blog is getting pretty long, I will sum things up and try to explain more in a future blog. First off, look into funding or affordable therapy. In Edmonton there are even free therapists as I am sure you can find in any major Canadian city. You drop in, fill out a form, and wait and see someone confidentially who is qualified. But this is a quick fix. When you find you care stable enough, I recommend things like the WRAP course and others, but I also recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Just as a warning though, I believe they state that it takes a commitment of around 16 (if I remember correctly) sessions to read benefits. If you are having any problems finding resources, please email me and I will see if I can help connect you. Look for services you are insured for, and also for services operated on a sliding scale. I once spoke to a hospital counsellor after my mom passed and she wanted me to pay $20 or $30 a session, not so much because she needed the money, but she wanted to make sure I was able to commit and consider my treatment a priority.

I will just sum up and say, if you are having mental health difficulties, first try and contact your psychiatrist, then any psychiatrist, then a medical doctor, learn all you can about your illness, get active in learning (books) and groups (Wrap and many others). Find out all you can about your medications, then find out about counselling. And don’t worry if you seem to take one step forward and two back in your mental health journey, we all have good days and bad days.

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Link to my first memoir:

Through the Withering Storm