disability

A Blog and a Poem For Brian and the Work He Does

DSC_0067This is basically the busiest place in North Western Canada.  Calgary to the South and Vancouver to the South-West may rival it, but this is the Alpha and the Omega of what happens in the North.

     Good morning dear readers.  Just to let you know early, for those of you who like my poems, I have written one today and will be posting just under the last photo in today’s blog.  Kind of a funny thing, I thought I did a pretty good job of writing a blog yesterday, but I didn’t get too many views.  I don’t know if I am getting boring or if I am just not using the most optimal tags.  There is also the fact that the weather has been gorgeous and sunny over a lot of the places I get hits.

So today is going to be a bit of a lukewarm blog.  It is just past 4:00am and I can’t sleep so I decided this might be a good time to foster up some creativity.  Oh, before I forget, anyone who likes is totally free to email me about this blog or anything else at: viking3082000@yahoo.com I hope you do whenever you get the chance.

So yesterday I was involved in a music festival right in my neighborhood at a small park in what we call little Italy.  Some of the music was really amazing and I was given the opportunity to go up on stage and read my poetry.  I often wonder where poetry will take me, I love to write it but I seem to lapse into the same kind of style a lot.  I will leave you my dear readers to judge and let you know that I would appreciate any honest feedback I can get.

The outdoor festival was amazing, I had a table set up with books and though I didn’t sell too many, I was interviewed by a TV station and I ran into the candidate I am supporting for the next Federal election in Canada which happens in October.  She is an incredible, energetic, community minded, hard working and very nice young woman.  She is with a party called “The New Democratic Party” or NDP which is a left-leaning party that swept the Alberta elections just a few short weeks ago and has left a lot of people very excited at the direction things are going to go for Albertans.  It is my personal hope that more will be done for the mentally ill in the way of funding for hospital facilities and possibly even disability pensions, though I have to admit that I already get kind of a generous one.

So what does a person do when they can’t sleep?  I hear the dyslexic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there really is a dog.  Okay, that was pretty sick, but you snickered a bit didn’t you?  I heard another pretty good one from my good friend James Derksen.  He has this book that publishes contest winners who are asked to write in with their absolute worst novel beginnings.  In one of them there was a paragraph:  “Mr. Van Gogh, I suggest you consider painting as a career because you clearly have no ear for music!”  Okay, I will stop there.

Saturday night I decided to do some more serious reading and I picked up a book I had received in the mail from amazon a few days ago.  It is called “The Depression Workbook” and it is giving me a lot of interesting ideas.  It is written by the woman who founded the course that I am taking which is called WRAP, or Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  I have been reading about a lot of interesting new ideas, some that I support, some I have a hard time swallowing.  One of them is a statement that I would have been very reluctant to accept ten years ago which states that only you can be an expert on your condition.  Doctors can help, but they don’t know which medication really makes you feel better or worse, you have to do your part.  Another thing that I already know but really want to look into is having tests to see if my moods go up and down as a result of hormone deficiencies.  I seriously doubt my Doctor has been wrong about me having Bipolar all these years but I think it might be a good idea.

It is funny to think back to some of my first days in the mental hospital when I was still a teenager.  They doped me up like crazy and my mind was all over the place.  It didn’t help that I hated everything about Psychiatry including the Psychiatrists even though a lot of these people were doing everything they could to help me.  One of the reasons I think I felt this way had to do with how the initial staff that I encountered in going to the hospital treated me.  The people on the lock-down ward I went to first were brutal.  There was this one male nurse who once slammed my face into a hard floor and put me into a wrestling hold while someone arbitrarily decided I could use a shot of some evil tranquilizer that made my muscles lock up.  By the time I got to see the Psychiatrist, I had very little faith in anything he had to say.  The funny thing is that my Doctor in that locked ward right on the first time I went into the mental hospital is my Doctor to this day, now 25 years later.

I am learning a lot from this Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Little things like making sure people know which Doctors you don’t want to deal with and which hospital you want to go to.  I had kind of thought that I would never need to go back in the hospital, but a lot of circumstances could put me in there.  Having a plan, and possibly even having a bag packed could help a lot.  Last time I was in the hospital I had to wear the same clothes for months and had nothing from home.  I went through the humiliation of swapping blue jeans with a guy because they wouldn’t give me a belt and my pants were literally falling off me (I wasn’t eating much either).  It seemed the cruelty and inhuman treatment was constant.  I have to say though that the mental hospital I was in was really a beautiful place.  No matter where I went, no matter how sick I got, no matter what happened to me, somehow I would end up back there and I would end up better.  Sometimes it felt really awful in there, but it had more to do with me being very mentally ill.

It’s a weird thing but it almost seemed like the staff and others could see right in my eyes whether I was delusional or not.  What bugs me the most is that while I was there the people on the staff made me out to be some kind of monster.  Quite often other patients had picked fights with me and I did the bare minimum I had to do to defend myself and then I heard later that the nurses were trying to convince those people to have me charged.  There were a lot of stories like that, one of them had to do with this female nurse who said she would pick me up a cassette walkman for me and she kept coming back to me and asking for more money for it.  They would seize my property and give it to others, and one time they actually tried to force an end to a friendship I had made in the hospital.  And this didn’t come from the top, this was a decision made by some random nurse, not even the head nurse.  “I have already told her to stay away from you.” she told me.  Then others would get angry when I joked around with people and act appalled that I wasn’t making friends with other people.  It really is something I wish on no one and sometimes I think I would like to blow that place up and build a proper place for people who have illnesses to be treated like human beings.

Anyhow, that is how it goes, I have been trying so hard to redirect my thoughts when I get into rants or dredge up old memories.  I have been using a relaxation video from YouTube, one I posted a few days ago and it seems to be helping.  I think what I really need to do is to take a proper meditation class and learn how to be more mindful of my surroundings and less mindful of things in the past that I can’t change and only make me upset.  Enjoy the poem Dear Readers, write soon!

Leif Gregersen

DSC_0016 2Construction has always fascinated me, the very idea of building something that will mean so much to the inhabitants or employees in it, the idea of creating something solid and permanent.  The other day I worked building a local hockey rink and I am hoping the puck boards I set up will last through many a fun game played by local kids.

 

Hope Mission

 

Today I saw a sight that broke my heart

So many downtrodden men with lives all torn apart

As I saw them around me tears welled up in my eyes

For once I didn’t want to wear my tough guy disguise

 

These homeless men were lining up to sleep upon a floor

A guard was checking for weapons or booze right at the door

One poor soul had neither socks or shoes

Someone was saying Jesus dying was good news

 

I how I wish I knew a way to really help these men

Without putting myself in their very situation once again

Yes, a few years ago I had no place to call home

Sick and lost and wandering the streets alone

 

By love and luck and friendship I somehow overcame

Oh my sweet God in heaven let these men somehow do the same

And let me be your instrument to help them in some way

I don’t want to think I couldn’t even stop to pray

 

So many came here when we put out the call

That there was money here and plenty of jobs for all

For a time here things did look pretty good

But things never seem to change in this neighborhood

 

Though now a sweeping change is bringing hope

Of giving those who have nothing enough to cope

I wish with all my spirit one day these men have much much more

Than getting just a little bit of money and then being shown the door

 

As well as stomachs, these men need to fill their souls hearts and mind

With the hope of dignity and self-reliance they themselves find

Some of the wisest words I know of would be a perfect start

“Every one of us has a God-shaped hole inside our heart.”

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

Gather Around The Fire and Let Me Tell You a Story

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Hello Dear Readers!  Well, it has truly been an eventful last few days.  I put a lot of effort into advertising and setting up a book signing and it went okay but I had expected much better.  I had the book signing at a wonderful and very supportive bookstore, in fact it is the last independent bookstore in Edmonton and it is called “Audrey’s Books”.  I put up a lot of posters around downtown and even got a couple of newspaper reporters, my good friend Scott Hayes in the St.Albert Gazette and a very cool guy named Cam Tait in his twitter feed.  It is hard to understand when is the best time or season to sell books.  One year I went to a craft sale at the hospital I was once a patient in and sold around 20 books and ended up with something like $400 in my pocket.  The next year I went back and sold next to nothing.  The cool thing is that I am building up a resume and will soon be moving from being a stage hand to teaching writing, selling books and giving talks about mental health and so on.  I have been giving talks about mental health now at schools for a few weeks and I really enjoy it.  I am starting to get more comfortable with speaking and I am getting a great response from the people I talk to.  It is all through “The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta”.  I don’t know if anyone out there has a branch of the Schizophrenia society, but they do a world of good.  Presentations at schools, classes in managing your illness and your rights and support groups and many other things.

Aside from all that, I am feeling good but I think it will take some time for me to adapt from a more labor intensive job to working in classrooms and such.  I have a few other frying pans in the fire which I hope will help me transition away from my stage hand job.   The first one is a class I would recommend for anyone, it is called WRAP or wellness recovery action plan.  I suggest anyone out there google it and look into it.  It is a fantastic program to get a person aware of their strengths and weaknesses and times when they may need help and how to set up plans for such times and many more things.  One of the neat things about it is it is peer led by people with mental health issues, which means the facilitators have gone through what you have and have come to a point of recovery.  The other neat thing is that once you take the WRAP course, you can ask to be put on a list and then take a more advanced course over I believe a 5-day period, 8 hours a day and then you can become a facilitator yourself and you get paid for it.  As for the other classroom things I was mentioning, I have been approached by a friend who leads a writing group to run his classes at some point soon for pay.  Part of the job will entail me going out and getting more people involved in the class, but I already have some good ideas for doing that.

I think though, even though it seems all this is a great thing, that I have to be very careful.  Having a full schedule can be rewarding in one way, but it cal also be extremely stressful and stress is definitely a trigger for me, as it is for many of us with Bipolar Disorder or other mental health issues, so I am going to be very careful not to overtax myself, make sure I get enough rest each day, make sure I set aside time for myself to just decompress and read graphic novels or listen to my favorite music.  Once again, I would love to hear from any of the people who follow this blog and encourage you to write to me at my main email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care and scroll down past today’s photo for a poem I wrote today!

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Changes

 

It has been so long since the golden, breezy fall

It seemed at times that Spring wouldn’t come at all

We shoveled walks and waterproofed our shoes

Waited for signs of winter ending soon

Now finally we start to hear the songbirds’ call

 

Deep in the winter it is too easy to forget

Soon there will be sunny days without regret

We burrow in our homes and watch TV

Images of perfect skies and turquoise sea

Though few would leave this place on a bet

 

Myself I spend a lot of time reading at night

Peaceful and quiet imagining is my greatest delight

Worlds through mind’s eyes I never knew

Stories new or old, fiction or true

And to often take a pause and see the Northern Lights

 

In this green and growing city Edmonton

Where my life upon this Earth was first begun

I grew up with so many joys

So many friends, so many toys

I want to stay here until my life is done

 

Yes, we have a massive world class mall

And our boys have fought for Queen and Country like them all

But I feel our potential is so much more

That our many cultures can truly open up a door

I feel Edmonton has a higher call

 

First to address the brotherhood of mankind

Then equality for the disabled, sick and blind

Then equal rights of women and men

Take up your sword, your voice, your pen

We are leaders here, we must leave no one behind

 

It seems such a tall and impossible thing to do

But I want to put a challenge to all of you

India was freed by Ghandi, just one man

What he did any wise and pure soul can

We can do it, I believe in myself and I believe in you

 

 

Leif Gregersen

May 9, 2015