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.
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.
Link to my first memoir:
When I was younger I had a lot of mixed up ideas about money, and they only got worse as I got older and had to take care of myself. I was a bit of a math whiz in school, having taught myself to program my computer to do such things as play games of chance, create graphic designs, calculate mortgages and do my math homework much faster than when I did it without my computer. When I look at this bridge, I think of the old one that was rusting and getting very old, and I get pretty fascinated with the design of it. A friend who is a much better photographer, took a night shot from around this angle and used a long exposure to make the lights of oncoming cars into a streak of white light, and cars going away a red streak. If you break it down, there are so many ways to apply formulas of money to these situations. In our part of Canada, people, or often for young people their families, must purchase their cars themselves. Some of them put a pretty high value on who they are if they have an expensive car like a Corvette or a Mercedes Benz. Granted, they do pay for their car but without the pooled resources of a major city like Edmonton, things like this bridge don’t get built. To relate money to the photographs, although I did get free training in Air Cadets and at school in photography, my hands are tied when it comes to affording a high quality camera, or a vehicle for that matter. Still, this bridge is something I have every right in the world to use because there is no discrimination (supposedly) when it comes to being a have or a have-not. I did experience one thing right on the street I live on. A car pulled up and slowed for a stop sign in front of where I was about to walk, and I stepped out and he almost hit me. He literally had no intention of stopping for a pedestrian, even though he had a stop sign. I pointed at the sign and I forget if I said anything, but then he rolled his window down, and said to me, “We pay for the road, you don’t!” I was left a bit curious as to what he meant. First off, paying or not paying, he has no right to endanger my life. The other thing that was odd was that he should have been pretty sensitive about saying and doing those things because he was obviously an immigrant. Last year I was in a position to buy a new car, something I have never been able to do but decided instead with the advice of my dad, to just keep walking and buy a bus pass each month. I ended up doing so and I have gotten myself into incredible shape and also lost a good deal of weight, something that has done wonders for my confidence, my social life, my fitness and many more things. It has also allowed me the freedom to have a fair amount of extra money here and there. I feel especially proud of the fact that I was able to buy my brother a TV. It is so important for him to have things like this because he has had back surgery and has difficulty getting out of the house.
Now, to get back on topic. I always wonder what readers from the United States or Great Britain will think of my posts because I am extremely fortunate to be a Canadian. I am provided with a disability pension, subsidized housing, discount bus pass, free fitness and swimming facilities, free health care and free medications. I don’t mean to brag about these things, I would like to see every country in the world move towards a situation like this, but that may take some time. As for readers from the US, I know it is extremely difficult to get by when you have to take medications for any reason. One of the things you can do is to write to the company that makes your medication and ask about any subsidy or free medication programs. It may take an Internet search and a few emails, but be persistent. It really is hard enough for people with psychosis or mood disorders to be medication compliant without having the extreme hardship of paying for medication that won’t exactly cheer you up overnight. Medications often seem awful for the first few weeks or even months until your body can adjust to them and then they will begin to deal with your symptoms. If you do have health care and still don’t like taking medications and there is concern you may impulsively stop and have to go into the hospital again, ask your Doctor about injectable medication. I get a shot in the shoulder every two weeks. By some freak chance my Doctor tried to switch me to a more effective, newer medication and it simply did not work for me. I ended up having to spend a month in the hospital. This became a financial burden, but fortunately I have just about gotten myself back to normal physically mentally and financially.
For anyone, especially those who have to pay for medications and work all week, there is a book that I feel could help them all a lot. It is called “The Richest Man in Babylon” and it talks a lot about tried and true, proven, tested concepts on how to get yourself on firm financial footing no matter what your situation. The most important thing talked about in this book is to always take 10% off the top of what you earn and put it away. Do this for a while. Aim for a year or two. While you wait, another thing is that you will need to increase your earnings. Look for classes on things like beading or about jewelry or self improvement classes through the library. Depending on your interests, you could possibly learn how to set up a website like the one you are reading from now. Or, you could make your own jewelry that you can sell at a farmer’s market or flea market. The book focuses on education and self-improvement as a lifelong thing. The next concept the book covers is how to seek advice. One day your mechanic friend may come to you with an idea to buy a stock of encyclopedias that you can re-sell. Don’t listen to him. Listen to your mechanic when he directs you to a deal on a used car in great shape, that’s his field of expertise. Always make sure advice comes from those qualified and experienced to give it. And, the principles in this book emphasize paying down your debt bit by bit, but not cutting into your savings or what you need to live. 20% is a reasonable figure for debt payments. Now, a couple of years have passed. You have some money saved. You paid off your debts. Now is a good time to look into investing, and not on a vacation to Hawaii. You can go to Hawaii all you want when you retire. The next step is to make sure you have adequate insurance for those who depend on you. It may not have to be much if you are older and your children make a good living. The next step is to own your own home. If not a house, maybe a condo. If not a condo, maybe a lot with a trailer that you will pay off. No matter what, you will have to pay for a place to live, why not make this something that will increase your overall equity?
Now, I have given a lot of information here. Maybe some that are close to impossible. I do know that disabled (mentally or physically) Canadian young adults have a program where the Government will match their savings practically 3 to 1 until you turn 49. The only restriction is that it has to stay in savings for ten years. This I feel is a better program than anything. If you qualify when you do your taxes as a disabled person (your Psychiatrist/Doctor must fill this out) then you qualify for this huge potential sum of savings. Honestly, it shouldn’t be passed up.
One of the things that I think about a lot is the situation where someone can’t work at all and have debt. Sadly, sometimes there will be situations where a person with a mental illness needs to declare bankruptcy or even have all their finances given to a public trustee. Both of these things happened to me and not in any way by my own choosing. This is something that often happens in extreme cases. I have seen people who due to depression, ideas of some time soon killing themselves, and many other reasons, simply give away all of their money. Then there is an even worse situation when persons with a mental illness gets credit. I honestly feel most people on a fixed income should not have credit or have a low amount of credit, say less than a thousand dollars. This helps head off scammers who prey on vulnerable people, it also helps in case a person has an episode of mania and overspends. Sometimes it pays to cut up your credit cards and put the pieces in separate garbage collection bins.
Sadly dear readers, it is getting late and I have been writing more than I should. Please message me or email if you want more information or if there is any topic you wish to see on this blog. Have a great long weekend to all my Canadian, British, and Commonwealth friends!
Leif Gregersen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please see below today’s photo for a poem and a blog entry
All the fearful years of tears and trials
Wreak havoc upon my thoughts
It seems a test, a trial, a quiz
To even focus upon what I have sought
In life we have so little time
As our hours slip into days
I remember holding her like she was mine
then her telling me I was just a phase
In death and living there are no words
to slow the march of time
I only long to be understood and heard
to tell them all I have found the perfect crime
I do what I can for those I see
show compassion for those in troubled times
and somehow I fool myself that the world cares for me
when they all seem to only want what now is mine
I gave away my heart too soon
in a lover’s sweet embrace
now as I work and push a mop and broom
my thoughts occupy a sad, unholy place
I no longer dream of God our father
Though he seemed to have done right by me
When my day is done and I close the door
he lets my romantic heart soar free
I found a loveliness, a happiness
among the stillness and the peace
and whisper out a tiny prayer
that soon my soul will be released
Well, not the most cheerful poem I ever wrote, but I think I am making progress with my writing. I guess I can spill the beans now since the project is almost finished. I am writing a book about my most recent stay in the hospital. I went through a couple of very difficult times, one was the delusional voices I heard, which were extremely convincing, and the other was that I was very paranoid. I had really thought I wasn’t going to have to experience all this again as long as I got rest and took my medications, but there is no insurance policy that covers everything. I still don’t understand why I got so incredibly ill just because of switching from one medication to the next, supposedly newer one. Not a lot was explained. I did have my diagnosis changed once again, this time neglecting to mention my anxiety and adding in my diabetes. I think the Doctor put down schizoaffective disorder bipolar subtype. It’s all pretty confusing. I really want to put this book out to help people to understand more about hospital admissions and how horrible they can be.
What bugs me the most is I like to try and make each of these blogs worthwhile for my readers, but there seems to be no easy answers. I met a man last year who was incredibly kind and diligent about getting help for his son who eventually died by suicide. I have tried to show people how they can get work like I do for the schizophrenia society and feel better about themselves and have some recovery in their lives, but there are many heartbreaking cases I have known, even among people who have worked hard all their lives. I guess I am fairly good at taking care of myself, with the exception of getting into debt too easily. But what do you say to someone who comes up to you and says they have a friend with schizophrenia or they themselves have bipolar and don’t know what to do. All I can really do is keep going to schools and Universities and doing my level best to get a few key points across. Number one, there is no cure, there are only treatments, but they are getting better all the time. Number two, don’t use drugs or alcohol or ski or play football or do anything fun where you might hit your head and get a brain injury. I used to love sports like boxing and football and skiing. I will never forget the first time I went into the hospital and they were doing everything they could for me, hooking me up to million dollar machines and putting me through all kinds of tests to see if my erratic behaviour had to do with a bad fall I had taken on a ski hill in town or not. It seemed once I was deemed mentally ill they sent me to a psychiatric facility to let me rot and I lost all of my opportunities, I wasn’t even allowed to try and finish high school by my parents or the school administrators.
But even in that situation there were good times. There was this moment I was hitch-hiking through the rockies trying to get home to Edmonton in the winter and I was in Hope, British Columbia (it’s where they filmed the first Rambo movie) and the air and the sky and the mountains were all shining silently, singing a chorus of light and beauty that took my breath away. Or this time when I was just entering BC for the first time and I saw a massive Moose and her child running in circles in a flowing field of grass with mountains and cumulonimbus clouds in the background. Those images stayed in my heart. I hate to think what it did to my parents for me, off my medications, with no money or means of earning a living to be wandering all over North America. I lived for the five minute phone call I placed to my parents every night from downtown Vancouver. But when I got back there was no love left for me. No place to stay, no one to do things with. It drove me nuts because I would try and call my sister to talk and each time it was a one-sided lecture to me about how busy she was with school.
But the amazing part of things really is that with time, everything got better. I learned to cook, I found out how to eat healthy and how to lose the weight my medication packed onto me. I even learned to make friends and have some pretty incredible people in my life. It is really kind of funny because in just two years of living on the coast it was like my body had lost its ability to heat itself. The Edmonton winters were just too much. It took a long time, maybe ten years but I adjusted to it and I kept pushing myself to make friends, to read, to write. And somehow the world changed around me and I have an incredibly enviable life now. I think a lot of it just came down to becoming a part of a community and caring for and watching out for the people in my life. That’s about it for today folks, thanks for stopping in.
Well, dear readers, I have to make an apology. It has been a long time since I added anything to the front page of this blog. A lot has been going on in my life, I have made a decision to write a third mental health book, something of a recovery manual for those who are family members, caregivers, or sufferers of mental illness, and it is becoming a task larger than I expected. I have felt a bit reluctant to post here because I don’t want to put out information that I will want to copyright on here because I want my blog to continue to be something people can read and share and pass on to each other without concern.
As far as mental health coping skills go, I feel I have been doing something I shouldn’t. All my life I have had bouts of insomnia and recently I have been given the option by my psychiatrist to use melatonin and other mild drugs to help get me to sleep. Then a week ago I felt I was coming down with a cold, and I medicated myself with these and also cough syrup for two days. Whether or not I really was sick was questionable, but the question of whether I was overusing medications to help me sleep wasn’t. It may seem odd, but I worry a lot about addictive behaviour. Those of us who have mental health issues often fall prey to quick solutions to minor problems and eventually end up having much more serious problems. So, for the past two nights I have forced myself to sleep without any type of sleep aid at all, and I may even return the pills my doctor gave me to the pharmacy if I feel strong enough after a few more days. The lighter side of that is that often when I sleep without any type of help I often get up in the middle of the night and have time on my hands, so you may soon see me on this blog.
One thing I also wanted to mention is that I have found a new mental health group to be a part of, it is called 18percent.com and they have a message forum where I have been meeting some interesting and supportive people. There is a link at the right hand side bar (the orange frame around the head) which is a clickable link that will take you to the website should you choose to check it out yourself.
All in all though, things have been going fairly well. A few weeks ago I invested in a stock and have watched it each weekday going up and down and it is now down just about as far as I would ever want it to go. There is a good chance unless the American economy completely tanks that this stock will do well, but I really don’t think that this legal form of gambling is a good way to get ahead. I find myself feeling incredibly powerless as the stock moves and it seems to cause me a great deal of stress, even though I invested no more than I could afford to lose. So that is my advice for today. Try and not do what I keep seeming to do, which is get into trouble by thinking there are shortcuts in life. I have built my reputation up with a non-profit here in Edmonton to the point where they want me to teach classes both in wellness and recovery and creative writing, and I think the money they pay me if carefully used and saved up will be a lot more than I could earn gambling on penny stocks. There is of course also the greater fear that if I allow myself the vice of this type of gambling, I weaken my will against going and doing even more damaging types of gambling in casinos and at poker tables and such. I appreciate you reading all the way down to this point, I hope all of you have another day of wellness, and welcome any feedback or comments you may wish to make.
This is the view of Edmonton from my back door. The tall tower on the right is going to be 80 stories tall, which is now possible in Edmonton because we closed our municipal airport
Please Scroll Down Past Today’s Poems for Today’s Blog
Love confounds me
When I know you are with him
And I am here. alone
Did I not give you so much more
Than long curly hair and muscles?
* * *
Hold on my son your pain will subside
We are only a few decades
Away from holiness
* * *
A moment ago
It all seemed so perfect
And yet with the passing of time
I think maybe
Sanity still eludes me
Hello Dear Readers! So much has been happening lately I don’t know where to start. All I can say is that if you are out there suffering and it seems like there is no hope, hold on. If you are seeing a family member struggling and it seems like you are going to lose them forever, hold on. If you have lost a loved one or feel like so much has happened you will never recover, hold on.
Just a few short years ago my life seemed like it was over. I had spent six months in a mental hospital, I had no more faith in myself or modern Psychiatry to help me but I inched ahead. Somehow the world was a better place when I left the hospital and I was able to experience recovery. It took years. It took pushing myself past all the limits I had. It took working a job that was extremely difficult and dangerous. But somehow at the end I stopped and looked and there I was, just the same person who had accomplished so much at a young age. I learned that it didn’t matter what type of limitations life put on me there were no limitations in my heart and soul. I have been writing, I have been teaching, I have been giving public talks about my illness and my own story and it feels wonderful.
Each one of you out there may have something holding them back. I’m too old. I’m disabled. I don’t have the money. Age means nothing. We all have the possibility of living far beyond expectations. Money is a number on a paper doll. Learn to live on 90% of what you bring in and seek out knowledgeable people to help you make the extra grow and before you know it you will be able to do anything. If you are disabled, take whatever you can do, measure it, time it, and do it now, today. It could be reading a poem, typing a short story, sending a letter to someone you are about. Tomorrow do a little more. The next day do a little more. Soon your days will be filled with accomplishments and satisfaction that will make you forget you are disabled. There is so much hope for all of us. All we have to do is remind ourselves how precious each day is, how incredible it is to have others in our lives to share the good and the bad. I will leave you with that and hope you can leave me comments and look through my website. Once again, for Edmonton residents, my books are available at Audrey’s Books on Jasper Avenue and also at the Edmonton Public Library. Keep the faith!
A Lovely Shot of the River Valley, Shortly Before the Snow Came
Well, this was a happy time when I could wander far and wide in Edmonton. One of my favourite newer hobbies is to take ridiculously long walks to keep my thoughts clear and my lungs pumping good oxygen. Just about anyone who knows me well enough will have heard of how my kind old father helped me to recover from a severe bout with mental illness by taking me into this same River Valley each day and going for a long walk with me. My Dad and I still both walk a lot, but since now neither of us has a car we mostly walk on our own. I am a firm believer that if you do some light exercise each day it is good for mind, body and soul.
It is pretty much midwinter now and the temperature in Edmonton often drops below minus 20. That doesn’t bother me too much, I can dress for the cold, but what does scare me a bit is falling. A close friend fell and hit her chin and needed stitches and also had a concussion. Falls on the winter ice here can lead to all kinds of injuries. So far I have been very lucky. As a quick bit of trivia, I should state that there is much less chance of slipping on ice when it is very cold, because what causes slips is moisture on the ice. If anyone has been ice skating, the reason skates slide so well is because when they are sharp, they dig into the ice and cause a thin layer of moisture to be created.
So, these past few days have been a bit difficult for me. I should remind everyone, especially this time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) that our low sunlight hours can cause a depression on their own, something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I was down in the dumps this past week because I got word that a manuscript I submitted to a publisher was declined. For a while I really felt like all of my efforts have been in vain and that I would never see any kind of success as a writer. Then my bestselling author and film producer friend came over and we worked out a plan to rework the manuscript and find another publisher. I also found an email I had been sent about the same manuscript that said it was very good in many ways but needed a couple of things tweaked. I feel a lot better now and have tried to fill the time I would otherwise have been moping with active work writing an promoting my writing. More and more I am thinking I need to focus on making a name for myself over even paying the immediate bills I am responsible for. I can already afford the bills if I am careful, and if I can get my name out there eventually the money will come.
The other point I wanted to make to you, my dear readers, is that when you are down or when you are lonely and nothing seems to be going right (this is starting to sound like the lyrics to a “Doors” song, I apologize) the best thing you can do is force yourself just to do one little thing. For me it may be reading a short story or picking up a book of poetry. It may involve writing an email to an old friend you miss, some kind of creative or enriching thing. When you start to feel better, do two things, and soon you will have accomplished something. Reading your short stories could add up to having become an expert on the genre. Writing emails could give you many caring friends who you can talk to through your depressions. It’s not always easy, but it always works (so I have found). With that Dear Readers, I bid you a fond farewell. And for Edmontonians, don’t forget to get your free library card and check my books out of the Edmonton or St.Albert libraries. Soon to be also coming to Vancouver Public Library. All the best!
As we near the anniversary of the end of the First World War, I thought showing a picture of a historical novel I wrote and writing a poem about war would be appropriate. Scroll past today’s poem for today’s Mental Health Blog.
One Day in November, Time to Remember
By: Leif Gregersen
A soldier fallen, that is all
He made his choice when he answered the call
Back home his girl awaits his letter
His Sergeant said just forget her
In his parent’s yard a yellow ribbon
Just come home, all is forgiven
His father drinks, stares sleepless at the clock
He has been told his boy is in a pine box
His death was awful, a tragedy
Did he truly die to keep us free?
Pay a mortgage, slave for years
Lose a child, let loose your tears
I feel in war there really is no glory
Let those left behind tell you their story
A tale of grief, a tale of loss
Losing a loved one is such a cost
Those who come home are not the same
When they marched off it seemed like a game
Stand and remember, never forget
A war is part pain and part regrets
November 6, 2017
Hello good readers! I have been having a great week, and I really have no idea why. All I can say is that for those of you who are out there who suffer from mental illnesses and see no light at the end of the tunnel, please hold on. Life can surprise you in so many ways. Not to brag, but just to show how things can go well for a person, I want to list a few things that have happened that I am extremely thankful for. One is that just as I needed shelves and had some help to put them up and to fill them with the boxed up books and stuff in my apartment, my neighbour across the hall was moving and gave me a pair of excellent storage shelves, and even a small freezer. I can also give heartfelt thanks to my two friends, who came to my place and worked very hard to make it into something much more liveable. I don’t know if I have posted about this before, but I have also recently signed a contract for a student to turn one of my short stories into a film. So man things. Why do I deserve them, why have things turned around so far since I was in the hospital and feeling very ill? I think a lot of it has to do with persistence, setting goals, and trying to work away at big projects just a little at a time over the course of months or even years.
One of the things where this applies is with my poetry. I try to write poems as often as I can and I safe them carefully in a file on my computer so that once I have enough of them I can publish them in a book, and for some reason people have really liked my poems. For anyone out there who is having mental health difficulties, I strongly encourage you to look for things that you can do that are artistic or helpful to others and just try and do a little each day. I was so fortunate after a very traumatizing hospital stay 16 years ago that I found a place where there was no stress and very little obligations outside housekeeping, a little bit of cooking, and taking medications (along with seeing my doctor). Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. But if you are on some kind of benefit, I really hope you can go out and volunteer a few hours a week, do as much as you comfortably can and you may work your way into a job and be able to save up a little money. What if you then could get a hand-held video camera and make video blogs for YouTube. I tried that for a while, and I learned a lot about people, about photography, and making videos. If you want to see some of my early attempts, about 40 videos of mine can be found on YouTube under my name.
Another thing I think had a lot to do with me getting to the point I am at now is keeping a journal of my thoughts and goals and anything I could think of. This let me express myself in a safe way, and is something that just about any Psychiatrist will recommend to their patients.
I would love it if a lot more people could write like I do, but some people aren’t interested. A lot of people love to read but have no interest in writing. Your passion could be anything. If you like swimming, think about taking a course towards a lifeguard certification. You may never become a lifeguard, but it will enrich your life in so many ways and I am sure make you a better swimmer. If you are an out of work accountant on disability, look up your local volunteer network and find a place that needs some basic accounting work done. This way you can not only hone your skills, but you won’t have a large gap in your resume when you feel up to looking for regular jobs in the field, and this applies to a lot of careers. And then I want to pass on a piece of advice that I heard recently from a video about minimalism, “Love people and use things. Don’t try it the other way around, it never works.” so much of my great life these days I owe to my family and friends. All of them mean the world to me. So good readers, please try and apply my advice towards making yourself feel better and stand up against stigma. And I wish you all the best of everything!
An Early Fall Day in Downtown Edmonton
Today’s Poem (Scroll past for today’s blog)
By: Leif Gregersen
In life we lose all that we hold so dear
And from the bonds of love too many slip
Brave words and acts can conquer any fear
As kids we wait to grow year after year
Life seems to be just like a joyful trip
In life we lose all that we hold so dear
We have so little time upon this sphere
Hold close your hopes and dreams with a tight grip
Brave words and acts can conquer any fear
There will be times of joy, good will and cheer
And even times of magical courtship
In life we lose all that we hold so dear
Go forth and don’t let yourself shed a tear
Simply be warned with just a little tip
Brave words and acts can conquer any fear
Embrace your youth with your conscience all clear
Sail proud as Captain of your own tall ship
In life we lose all that we hold so dear
Brave words and acts can conquer any fear
October 30, 2017
Hello Dear Readers! Well, I haven’t done a whole lot of writing lately, especially in this blog and so I thought I would try and put something special together. I wrote the above poem in Iambic Pentameter, in Villanelle form which calls for a lot of word trickery and writing and re-writing. Earlier today I wrote a short story which I am hoping will turn into something. I am constantly reminded as I look at the wall above my computer that I need to take my time with my work, go over it more, plan it, re-work it. These are the words of a close friend who is a bestselling author who has helped me a great deal.
On the lighter side of things, something kind of big has happened. I have had a young woman who is a film student offer to make one of my short stories into a short film. The film is about teen love, teen angst, and teen suicide. One of the amazing things about this opportunity is that I named the main character after a dear friend I knew when I was 17 who committed suicide, and the film maker has agreed to put a tribute to him in the credits.
So, since this is a mental health blog, I feel obligated to talk about my experiences with this situation. Losing someone can be a very difficult thing, compounded by a factor like suicide. I have always felt that the most important part of the grieving process in the event of a suicide is for the person grieving to forgive themselves. Everyone blames themselves I think when a suicide happens. Why didn’t I spend more time with them, why didn’t I see this coming? These are common questions. One of the most important things I recommend is that if you have experienced a loss that you go into grief counselling. When my mom passed away I went for a little while and even just a small amount of opening up, sharing about the person and getting your feelings out can do a world of good.
So what happens when you can’t afford counselling or when you don’t even live near a place where you can get it? Just now I went and did a quick Internet search and I found a number of places that offer online counselling. These may be expensive, but most likely they would be deductible, and may even be covered by a work insurance plan. I know that in Edmonton where I live I have been able to access counselling totally free through a couple of agencies here.
The next part is tougher than the first, and the first one I know is difficult (the first one being counselling) this is, when is it okay to move on, find a new partner after losing one, making new friends? It can be difficult to make friends because if you lose a friend you will often be in a poor state of mind which may make it difficult for you to connect with new people you meet. This can be a situation where in some ways you need to force yourself a bit, and lean on others a little. One piece of advice a friend gave me when I first went into the psychiatric hospital was that you should make a group of friends that you can talk honestly and openly to, and never lean to heavily on any one of them. Support groups may not be the best place to make friends, and I strongly feel they are not the place to form relationships. People there are working on themselves and likely don’t need more stress. This is where it can really come in handy to have a hobby or a sport that you like. A sport, say badminton or swimming can be great. You can look up and attend events, or go to the pool each morning and start to make friends with people you have something in common with. Don’t stop going to your counselling or support groups if you have been lucky enough to find ones that work for you. But maybe keep those things private. I feel that you don’t really need to tell anyone about that sort of thing unless you are going to enter a committed, intimate relationship, and even then what you share is up to you. I hope some of this helps, thanks for tuning in and hope to chat with you soon!