edmonton

Growing Up With Illnesses Like Bipolar and Also Having Severe Anxiety

This is a shot I took of a soccer field near my house. When I look at this photo, I tend to notice that though an exciting game of soccer is going on, the bleachers are empty. It takes me back to the one year I played organized sports in my home town of St.Albert. There was a rep team made up of hand-picked players, one for boys and another for girls. Both of them beat us royally, which was not considered a fair match, so when, in our final game–in overtime–we beat the only team that had ever beat us in a fair match, for a few brief moments we were on top of the world.

Soccer is a wonderful experience, and I suggest any parent should encourage their kids to participate. For a long time I used to try and encourage parents to put their kids in cadets, but few have ever done it. With all the training, the sports, the friends, and the travel you get from it, it seems almost ridiculous that anyone would not want their kids to join. Air cadets was something that taught me skills that got me through a lot of very difficult times, and still to this day, 31 years after I left, I rely on a lot of those skills to make my living and get along in the world.

But to try and keep more on the topic I wanted to speak most about, I would like to try and discuss anxiety. Because I was never given any kind of diagnosis, and it is even unclear today at the ripe old age of 46 what exactly the doctors think is wrong, I missed out on a lot of opportunities in my life. I don’t know if there really was any good treatments for anxiety when mine was at its’ worst. I can try and describe what it was like though.

I was 14. I had been taken out of school for an assessment at the General Hospital in Edmonton for two weeks, and during that time I was allowed to attend cadets. On one of those two nights, I had been assigned to get in front of a class of my peers and give a talk about my hobby-which was collecting military combat uniforms. Now, I will digress for just a moment. When I gave that talk, I hadn’t interacted with anyone my age for quite a few days. I felt that my social skills had just gotten rusty, when it was actually a diagnosable illness I had that wasn’t being treated. I got up in front of the room, and I felt a strong pull taking my gaze away from the audience and looking down at the floor. I also became aware of my looks, my acne, and I blushed crimson red. Maybe what hurt the most was walking past a person who was in the class having a laugh with a friend about how horrible my performance had been.

All through my younger days I drowned in anxiety. I would sit out every single song of every single dance the cadets held. The idea that someone could like me or find me attractive was seemingly out of the question. There were a few times I can recall though that I clearly had bipolar disorder as well (I also have a third diagnosis, of schizoaffective disorder). A friend gave me a ride home from the cadet hall where we had been dropped off after a weekend camp at a base near Red Deer. I can’t even describe it. Maybe the tiredness set me off, I really don’t know. But it was the first time I can remember feeling elated, talking way too fast about too many things, and not having a clue that this was something very out of character for me.

All through my teen years I struggled with insomnia, and a good part of it was my own fault. I would stay up late, eat hot dogs or muffins I had brought home from work, then for some reason as time for school approached, I would get this idea in my head that I could be a superior student like I had once been if I studied every word of a textbook. So many times I got these big ideas, then ended up sleeping, and also sleeping in for class. Skipping breakfast, I would race off to school. When the day ended, I would go home and take a nap. This was not only a bad idea that made it harder for me to sleep properly at night, but I would get these nightmares that were just horrible. This was one of the few times that I started to realize that something was going very wrong with my mind. I told my mom about the bad dreams, and she basically responded by asking me what I thought she could do about it. As problems piled up with me, the loneliness, the social anxiety, the insomnia, the depression, and poor sense of self piled up, I almost went to see a psychiatrist but instead waited until I was forced to see one. I really hope anyone who reads this doesn’t tread down that path, especially the young people.

Back at that time, along with anxiety, I had severe depression. I often say that I wasn’t really sure if I was experiencing depression because I had no real close friends, or if my severe depression made it hard for me to open up to and form solid friendships with people. It may apply to a lot of people, but when I think back now to the three or four really close friends I had, I regret ever meeting them.

One of them was a clear alcoholic who was overweight and wore thick glasses and somehow thought he was the coolest and most attractive person ever. Sometimes I am taken back to the odd fun times we had, and I think it would be neat to look him up. Years ago I tried to do so and he really seemed to feel the need to compete with me over anything I said and look for ways to humiliate me. Him and the people he hung around with never really left my home town. There was one guy who I actually really liked and has always been a friend, though a casual friend, and he became a University Professor and moved out of province.

Come to think of it, a lot of the people I knew in school were alcoholics. I was desperately trying to quit back then, but was encouraged into binging a few times with another fair weather friend. Drinking in some ways was magic. It lifted my depression, relaxed me, helped me overcome my social anxiety. The only bad effects was that it was killing me, I was leading an extremely dangerous and risky lifestyle while I was drinking, some of the hangovers I had were epic, and as I drank I watched my family fall apart from similar and different addiction issues. I hate the term ‘self medicate’. I drank because, like many people, I had a subconscious connection with booze and the rarer and rarer good times I would have when using it. Now the very idea of what I used to do as a teen seems ridiculous. Ego contests to see who could drink the most, drinking parties in a delivery car while delivering pizza. Turning into some kind of monster, picking fights with friends or making moves on females that only a 15-year-old could ever get away with.

Getting over those depressions and anxiety was a long road. It was nearly impossible while I was adjusting to medications my doctor prescribed me to try and deal with my fractured social skills. Finding the Schizophrenia Society has been so key in getting me healthy again. I work a few days a week, I earn a little extra money for groceries. I have some solid friends and a lot of self respect from finding a way I can help others even when I am kind of broken myself. Of course having an incredible, intelligent and caring father means a great deal as well.

At first, I really didn’t know what to expect from the Schizophrenia Society. I figured if any students I was going to speak to were anything like I was in my teens it would be hell. But 98% of the students I present to are incredibly interested and responsive to what I have to say. I worked my way up and have given presentations to police recruits, student nurses, criminology classes. It isn’t all that uncommon for me to speak to lecture halls with 200 students. The difference in my anxiety and social skills have been massive.

Well, dear readers, that is all I think I have to say about bipolar and anxiety for now. If you want to know more, or ask a questions, please contact me. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, talk to your family doctor about a referral. And if you are in crisis or feel suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room. Best,

Leif G

 

Mental Health and Addiction Issues the Homeless Face Daily

The streets of Edmonton, where I live can be cold and unfriendly. Many people fall into a trap of  being struck down by mental or physical illness, then addictions and eventually homelessness. You see it a lot where I live, makeshift tents with a shopping cart full of garbage nearby. Long line-ups at the soup kitchens and shelters. When oil was at a peak, people came from all over wanting to take part in the prosperity, the huge amounts of money to be made in the oilfields and in Edmonton in some of the numerous supporting industries from plastics to catering. It is almost sickening to think of what all the fossil fuels are doing to our once pristine and beautiful country, yet fracking and pipelines continue. When I was in eleventh grade, a friend was trying to encourage me to get a job in the oilfields. My ambition then was to be a lawyer, I found his idea almost laughable now, especially since he went on to become an alcoholic working under the table so he didn’t have to pay child support. When you take a long look at all the big money jobs in the oilfields, it just doesn’t seem worth the real price in loss of quality of life and many other factors. I know of so many dreamers who became homeless, addicted, mentally ill. A lot of organizations have tried to fill in the gaps left when people have nowhere else to go. From New Year’s Eve 2001 to the present, I have been living in supportive housing and despite the books I’ve written, the work I’ve done, the money I’ve made, I really don’t think I could have done any of it without living in places that supported me through my difficulties with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder.

When I last got out of the hospital, my life was destroyed. I had lost control of any finances, I was heavily medicated, and virtually unemployable. A long-term group home was found for me and I was able to recover almost completely. I still have troubles with sleep and stress, I still have times when I question my own existence or allow myself to get angry over things I can’t control. But none of those things can destroy me anymore, I have been allowed to grow new skin over my wounds.

Living in a group home had a number of advantages for me. I lived in a house with three other people, and though there were arguments and fights, and even people who did horrible and disgusting things, the needed stability was there. One time I was in a house with a barely functioning, overbearing bully who kept trying to order me around and pick a fight with me. I had to deal with him by calling the police one night and when I talked to them I didn’t have a chance to mention that he is in the habit of picking fights, losing them badly and then going to an organization called ‘victim’s services’ where he is given money in exchange for proof of his injuries. Another roommate in the same house once called the police and confronted me because I had woken up late for work and took two slices of a cold pizza he had left out in the kitchen because he had put it in the oven and was so drunk he forgot about it.

The thing though, was that when you live with others who suffer from a mental illness, the stigma and guilt are greatly reduced, and provided you are on the medication you need, it is so much easier to function, so much easier to heal. In the group home I lived in for 15 years, medication was given out each day. Adherence to all appointments was necessary. I had the benefit of having my dad come and take me for a walk in the park also which was extremely healing. There were a lot of difficult times with people who lived in the group home. There was one guy who believed that he could legally play his music as loud as he wanted as long as he turned it down a little after 11:00pm. I dealt with it by simply going to the basement and shutting off the breaker for his room, leaving him in silence and darkness. Then the management passed a rule that we weren’t allowed to touch the breakers. Soon, my roommate was playing his music again and I shut him down once more from the breaker switches and then plead my case to a higher authority. The same guy had a habit of coming home from work and turning up the heat as far as it would go, then taking off his shirt in the living room and laying down to watch TV. That was around the time I took up the habit of hiding the remote. Then, when he found it, I would insist he give it back to me as it was legally mine, then when I got it back I would turn the TV off. I had to find ways to amuse myself somehow.

It was an eye-opening experience to live there. For perhaps the first time in my life I could simply exist. I didn’t need to be some wealthy young entrepreneur, I didn’t need to be an A+ honour student on his way to Oxford, I just had to exist, take my medication, and hopefully not kill any roommates. I found out that housing like this, which is in extreme demand these days, costs about 1/4 of what a hospital bed costs the health care system. I have also heard information about how homeless people, job or not, cost society a great deal as well. I can see why because, to use one example, a shelter needs a lot of resources. They need food, staff, a constant inflow of donations of money, clothing, heat, security. I worked at a drop-in centre that didn’t even have any beds for homeless people and it seemed they had nine paid staff or volunteers supporting, educating, counselling, and even motivating the many people who relied on them. I guess I just wanted to say that in many places in North America, cold weather, extreme in some places is coming fast. Consider gathering up unneeded items, especially things like hoodies, toques, gloves, scarves, and finding a charity that would be extremely grateful to be able to distribute them for you. Something I have seen happen a lot is that people will put warm clothing items onto a tree or fence with a note saying that anyone who needs to warm up can take the item. Excess household items like books and furniture are needed at many thrift shops that support worthwhile charities. Consider also volunteering your time (if a place exists near you) with a schizophrenia society office, or finding ways to help integrate disadvantaged people into the greater community. This time of year is ideal for looking for ways to give back as many students get a Christmas break, and most charities need volunteers at Christmas, which they recruit in October and November.

Sadly though, all of these great ideas doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people, whether they read this blog or not, suffer themselves from a mental illness and don’t have the housing or the support or even the medical attention they need, and many of them are all alone in this world. I can’t imagine what things may have been like if I didn’t have my dad and my sister to advocate for me last time I was ill. To people in this situation, I just pray that they can plant a seed of hope deep inside of their minds. Just enough so that they can get to a clinic and find a way to get the assistance of a psychiatrist, find a way to get their medications. I know that in the US it is much harder to get by as a poor person, but I have also noticed from my own experience that once people see you are trying to take responsibility for yourself, trying to improve your own life so you can perhaps one day help others, they are more than willing to support you in your efforts to recover. One thing I would say is that there are opportunities to dig yourself out. There are things like newspapers that homeless people sell by donation, and if these don’t exist, approach your library and get them to help you put together a booklet of writing about people who are struggling in so many ways. Charge a buck or two and use the money for the essential things the group needs.

I wish I could keep writing. I also wish I had all the answers. But the sad fact is, each person who is ill, each person who is addicted or homeless, needs to find their own way. I found mine with the help of people who cared and loved me back to sanity. I wish this for all of you.

One in Four Adults Will Experience Mental Illness In Their Lifetime. Do You Feel Lucky?

Going to try something a little different today, instead of a poem, I want to share a 100-word story I wrote. As usual, scroll past the story for today’s blog

 

Warm Summer Memories

All year I wait for the exhibition, save money, make a plan. I love the rides, the fresh mini-donuts, the games of fortune. Eat, drink, ride, wander, play, and pick up women in skimpy summer wear. If you’re skilled you can win them prizes. I saw a babe lining up for the whirlwind and I lined up behind her. We chatted a little, she was cute and friendly. We took our seats, the excitement was electric. I was in heaven, full of cold beer, donuts, and summer sun. When the ride spun faster I threw up all over her. Memories.

                                                                         END

 

BLOG:

Well, I hope someone found the humour in that little story. I have been fond of writing these micro fiction pieces lately. When you use a computer, it is fairly easy, the hard part is coming up with a limited plot. I was even submitting longer stories to a contest and used a lot of my 100 word stories as the basis for them. Once you get the initial idea down it becomes easy to expand on it. Plus, 100-word stories teaches you to keep everything tight.

I am in the midst of working a lot this June. It only adds up to 2 hours a day or so, but still with my illness (schizoaffective disorder) I have a hard time handling that. I am kind of looking forward to tomorrow, I am teaching a class out in the West End and it will be about micro fiction and flash fiction.

As far as my mental health goes, it is a bit hard to say. A couple of days ago I was given a cholesterol pill and I had some invega pills sitting. As both were new to me, I didn’t know the difference and accidentally took the invega for a few days. I was really zonked, sleeping about 70% of the time. My Doctor wants to put me on a similar pill permanently in August when I have gotten used to my diabetes pill and I don’t know how I feel about it. The advantage is, less side effects and the possibility that the new pill won’t cause me to gain weight, the disadvantage being there is really no way to tell what the pill will do. I think in the end I am going to choose the new pill, even if it causes me to sleep a lot. Anything that may help clear my thoughts. I have a lot of problems with concentrating and thinking normally. I often wish I had the time and energy to sit down and read the classics, though I have read a lot of books in my life. I miss running through stacks of books and engaging my mind. I have been drawn lately to comic books and graphic novels. In some ways I see them as an investment, and in others I just want to read the stories and some of them can be extremely well written.

I think I will leave off at that for now. I do have a bit of advice for people who are seeking to improve their mental health. First of all, build up your concentration. If you can’t read a full-length book, look for a book of short stories or find a textbook from a subject that interests you and read it a little at a time. Healing and challenging your mind can be so important. Don’t neglect your health at all. I allowed too much time to go past without getting serious about my weight and now I have diabetes. I could go blind, lose a limb, many bad things as a result of it. Be good to your families, they are the ones that you will need the most and may have to rely on. Never miss an opportunity to tell a family member that you love them. I even do it with my grumpy old Dad when I can. Never give up hope. New medications are coming thick and fast along with new techniques in psychiatry like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It may be hard to do these things, but the rewards can be great. You can get your thoughts back. I hope this helps. As always, anyone who reads this blog and wants more advice, feel free to email me, my current email I check the most is viking3082000@yahoo.com      I also appreciate any comments (positive or negative) that you may have about my website. Keep coming back, things are going to change and improve soon!

L. Gregersen

 

The Natural Cycle of Life, Love, and Mental Illness

        This was just before the winter began in Edmonton. Look for summer photos soon!

 

Poetry For My Fellows (blog to follow)

 

I thought I had gotten

As well as could be

But the voices and cravings

Got the better of me

 

Slowly the world shifted

Somehow I was at its core

I won’t give you excuses

I just won’t speak of it anymore

 

When you lose you mind

It doesn’t go all in one day

But it will strike you blind

No matter what people say

 

Yes I went crazy

Yes I was insane

No I did not choose it

This imbalanced brain

 

I want to be normal

Have kids and a wife

But most people don’t even trust me

With a dull butter knife

 

It’s hard to keep going

Alone and hopped up on meds

Writing weird poems

While everyone rests in their beds

L. Gregersen, May 8, 2018

Well, it has been a good and bad day. My head is reeling a bit because I have been working very hard and denying myself a lot of things and then I went and gave away $630.00 that I don’t think I will ever get back. I find it so hard to not be generous with people I care about. The fact is that it doesn’t hurt me much to give away that money, I just really feel a bit foolish about it.

Today I went for an eight kilometre walk, then later went swimming and to be honest I feel great. It’s just that I really don’t know if I will even sleep tonight. It sometimes seems this blog only gets written if I can’t sleep, but often it does seem to help. I have to do a presentation tomorrow and I also have to drop off some stuff with my brother. I have to admit feeling a bit lost because my Dad is in Denmark right now and I have come to really depend on him. I used to think he was an awful, cruel person, but now I just see him as a sweet, caring man who used to have an anger problem and is dealing with it. He also went through hell to quit drinking and since my Mom passed away he has done some incredibly kind things for me. I have to admit to having an anger problem of my own that meditation is helping me to deal with. I also am going to sign up for therapy soon after I come back from Toronto late this month.

I just can’t believe how far I have come. Sometimes I think about being killed in a car accident or something and I really feel confident that I have done enough to have led a worthwhile life. One of the big things for me was that I wanted my words to live beyond my simple existence, and in many ways I have accomplished that. I have even had two of my short poems sandblasted into the sidewalk in my neighbourhood for all to see. As a kid I always thought that the really amazing writers, the greats, never really die because their words go on. I also feel really happy because I seem to have gotten myself into a state of balance, a state of recovery in my mental illness. I wish I could bottle up this feeling and give a little bit of it to the young people who are still struggling, let them know that there is a lot of hope and that it is so important to keep fighting the illness (bipolar/schizophrenia/all others) because the human mind and body is so amazing and adaptable that although it may take a lot of time, life can be so good, and I do feel that life is precious and that all of us are loved. Hope that helps a bit dear readers! Stay with me and keep your membership to this website, I am planning some awesome changes in content and structure soon after I return from my trip!

 

Insomnia, Gambling, and the dangers of the Stock Market

 

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.

Work, Mental Health, and the Occasional Sleeping Pill

Downtown Edmonton during our winter deep freeze

     Hello my good readers! No poem today. I have been writing poetry lately, but all of it is for a cool contest I am helping to get out to the public. It is called “Word On the Street” and it is a contest to win a little money and get one or more of your poems engraved on the sidewalk. I think it is just about the coolest idea to come along in some time.

Well, along with working on this poetry project, I have been doing a number of things. One of them is going to occur in just a few hours, I am on a working group to help determine human resources needs for a new Edmonton project called a “Recovery College”. I have done some things before relating to this type of thing, there will be a number of courses people can take to get themselves on the right track to mental health and wellness. Because of my experience for this sort of thing, I have been asked to put together a course of my own right in the building I live in.

There are just so many things going on in my life it is hard to accurately think about all of them. In a couple of weeks I am going to give a presentation to the Edmonton Police Recruit class about mental illness and they have expressed interest in purchasing a number of my books to provide to cadets. It really feels good to be a part of something like this. I feel a special kinship to police because I was a security guard for such a long time and I grew up with a strong military influence in my life, doing these talks is very rewarding and I get to understand that police are just regular people, sometimes with preconceived notions. What I often like to tell them is that a good number of the cadets in the class I speak to are going to experience things like depression and PTSD. I think this helps them to be more empathetic to people who have a mental illness, and no one encounters more people in the middle of a mental health crisis than police.

Along with that I am trying to keep up with my writing, working on a short story collection with a friend, and doing my best to maintain good mental health. One of the problems I am having that I wanted to discuss is sleep and sleep medications. I am very reluctant to go on regular prescription sleeping pills because of two things, they are addictive and they can affect a person’s memory. So I have been using different things that are hopefully less harmful, from melatonin to over the counter sleeping pills. One of the side effects that seem to come with this method is that on the weekend I will often sleep way too much perhaps to catch up on REM sleep. I am grateful though, I have been really good lately at getting up in time for work and other things that I need to do. As a kid I needed an alarm clock and even that was no guarantee I would get up on time.

It is scary to think about my lack of proper sleep when I was a teenager. I was constantly tired and was drinking coffee at the age of 14 and up to try and cope. There were times when I would stay up late watching TV or go out to drink some alcohol until very late and then have to wake up in just a few hours to work and it must have taken quite a toll on me. That was one thing I liked about being considered disabled when I first lived on my own, I could sleep all I wanted and it seemed that it was a healing process.

It is so hard to try and crack the code of my insomnia. For a long time I was getting a lot of strenuous exercise working setting up stages, but that didn’t always guarantee me a good sleep. I am actually starting to think that exerting mental energy is just as important as physical energy in getting yourself tired enough to sleep at a proper time and also sleep through the night.

I don’t recommend it to a lot of people with mental illnesses, but I am finding that living on my own is an incredibly rewarding experience. I don’t know if it would be if I didn’t have a very conscientious approach to my work. I am able to keep up with writing work and presentations and classes I teach very easily. But all this doesn’t come suddenly. I had to build up to it. A good number of years ago when I was a younger man I had very little faith or belief in work. I saw things like working in a coffee shop or gas station as menial work that was so beneath me that I would go out of my way to do such things as shirk responsibilities and do sloppy work, even steal. I am definitely not proud of that, but I am proud I have gone through enough changes so that I can get jobs, do a good job and feel good about doing that.

Well, dear readers, that was a bit of a long post that didn’t talk about too much. I hope you enjoy the photo I took, I am really looking forward to the weather getting better here in Edmonton and then I will be out taking a lot more photos. All the best and thanks for keeping in touch with this blog!

LG

Don’t Let Even One Day Slip Past You

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

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

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

Original Poem and Stop Smoking Blog

If you live in Edmonton, you can get a lot of my books from the library by clicking here

Click here if you are interested in looking at some of my books for purchase on amazon.com

Please scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog entry about smoking and mental health!

Labor Day 2017

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Children laughing, shouting

Full of the joy of anticipation

For the good times and the bad

Of a fresh new school year

 

Now nothing more can hold back

The days of frost and snow

And those short days of precious little sun

 

Will Halloween come first

Or the biting winds of winter

As we cram in more learning

Into the minds of our little ones

 

When this time of year comes upon me

I think back to endless games of football

Played with no hint of coaches, pads or refs

Those were the truly special times the ones that I cherish

Playing, laughing with no one to impress

 

Later on a game that I called gauntlet

Dashing in front of snowball throwers

Lined up to put me to the test

 

So much time has passed now

Since those simple happy times

Two parents by my side at every turn

 

I wish that for just one moment

I could speak through the years passed

To all my childhood friends

 

I would tell them all the same thing

Make the most of every moment

Cherish all your loves and friends and family

And never act as though they owe you a debt

 

Time will pass you all by so quickly

Love with time will fade

Take in all the happiness

And sunshine you can get

 

Hello, dear readers! Well, much has been going on but I have mostly been stagnating in my apartment. There have been serious wildfires in British Columbia, the Province next door to Alberta where I live and the smoke has been hard on me. Maybe this is a good time to explain why the smoke is so hard on me and relate it to a mental health issue. I used to be a smoker. I smoked for 18 years, age 14 to 32. I can tell you exactly why I started, there were two events, one where my Dad asked me if I would like to try his cigarette and when I went to take a drag, he put his finger in my mouth and everyone laughed at me, and another time when I was at a Cadet dance with some friends and a guy pulled out some cigarettes and when I took a drag it was for real and I coughed my lungs out. I had a hard time dealing with people laughing at me and so I decided I was going to practise smoking so no one ever laughed at me again. This wasn’t that big of a deal for a while, but towards my last couple of years of smoking I had to buy the cheapest of the cheap brands of tobacco and I had a hard time controlling my smoking. This was where I think the real damage occurred to my lungs. I have had two lung tests, and they both say I have the lungs of a 74 year-old man. The reason I bring this up is because people with mental illnesses are one of the biggest consumer groups for tobacco, and no one wants to admit it. Tobacco soothes us, and nicotine actually helps regulate chemicals in our brains that cause things like delusions, hallucinations and such. I can remember being in the hospital having severe problems, and after I had two or three cigarettes I would start to feel a lot better. My lungs didn’t feel better, but my mental health started to right itself which seemed more important at the time. So basically, if you smoke and you have a mental illness, I suggest you try and quit. Some of the methods I have found helpful in keeping my mind of smoking are: nicotine patches, used in combination with nicotine gum (make sure to ask your pharmacist how to use these in combination and correctly) drinking a lot of water, switching from coffee to tea, going for long walks or even runs if you can. There is also a method that I am not really qualified to give advice on, but when I was younger and I tried to quit smoking what I did was every time I thought about cigarettes I would try and think about something that had more power over me. At the time I thought of a young woman I had been infatuated with, and it worked for two weeks with no other forms of help or support.

Anyhow, I hope some of this helps you. Thanks for reading today’s blog and above all, stay healthy!!

 

Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!