friendships

The Greatest Enemy of Good Mental Health is Isolation for those With Schizophrenia or Bipolar/Unipolar Disorders

This may seem like funny picture to post with the topic in the title, but for me there is actually a lot of significance in it. From my early days when I was a pre-teen, I was in Air Cadets. After becoming a Sergeant, I quit and tried to forget about that whole part of my life. I spent most of the summer after I quit cadets wishing I had stayed in, that I was still connected to my friends who were out having the times of their lives, going to camps that taught them flying or advanced survival or advanced leadership. I really regret quitting, but a few years later, after having severe psychosis and acting out violently which caused me to be put into a secure unit in a psychiatric hospital a number of times, I wanted all that I had lost back. The trouble was, none of those options were still out there for me. Despite my mental health diagnosis, I took out a massive student loan in BC and tried to get my pilot’s license. This was the best time of my life. I was meeting all kinds of really attractive young women, I was travelling, and the flying was absolutely amazing. When this period of my life ended, and I found myself unable to continue flying or even take care of myself outside of psychiatric care, the depths of my pain were immeasurable. I remember feeling like my life was over, that there would be no more travelling or fun or any of it. What I didn’t really take into account was that at the time I was unable to really take a good hard look at myself when I was flying. At the time, I did experience psychosis, but only when I had been off medication for a while. What I did experience was bipolar disorder, which left me incredibly depressed or far too animated for my own good. I actually was fired from a job because I talked to customers too much. I would talk their ears off, not realizing I was experiencing a manic episode. Then around Christmas, I contacted a friend I had met at a summer camp and if there was any chance of a relationship or even a friendship, my illness made sure that would be impossible.

What was amazing though, was that somehow I was able to hold on to who I was, what mattered to me when I was discharged from the hospital in Edmonton after my return. It took a long wait and a lot of paperwork, but I was given the opportunity to return to high school and complete my grade 12. When I was there, I met the girl of my dreams. I did exceptionally well in school despite little effort, but my main tragic flaw that came was that I decided my penmanship and attractiveness were more important than my mental state and I stopped taking Lithium which was my mood stabilizer (which made my hands shake) and I also stopped taking my pill for psychosis. I don’t know how I have managed it, but that was more than 25 years ago and to this day I still have that same girl (sorry woman) as a best friend. But I had to come first to a point where I was able to admit I had a mental illness. I had to accept treatment. For a long time I lived in severe isolation. In our presentations at the Schizophrenia Society, we relay a disturbing truth. 40% of people with schizophrenia try to end their own lives-and 10% of people with the illness will succeed. It is believed that isolation and stigma are the main factors.

I have come to learn a lot about this fact, and to develop in myself a measure of compassion for those who suffer still by taking on a job at the Schizophrenia Society as a phone support person. Every few weeks I am given a list of people who are shut-ins/isolated and I just call them and talk to them. I try as hard as I can, but I hate to admit that I seem to only make a real difference in a low percentage of the cases. Some of the people though are really so interesting that I don’t understand why they isolate. The trouble is, mental illness has been so stigmatized, so shuffled off to the dirty little corners no one wants to sweep up, that some people don’t even realize that they are full members of the human race regardless of any illness. People need to come to understand that an illness is not the fault of the person who it manifests itself in. To the best of my understanding, there are millions if not billions of nerves in our bodies. Our brain is an example of a bundle of nerves so complex and active that many many things go on in it at once, even while we sleep. Mental illnesses that cause psychosis (and I really don’t think it is relevant to distinguish between diagnoses, but instead to look at how to keep the whole person and their family as healthy as possible, mentally and physically) are based in this huge complex of nerves. Nerves communicate by shooting chemicals called neurotransmitters back and forth to each other. A good deal of psychiatric medications have the end effect of helping stabilize these transmissions. They may reduce the reuptake of the transmitters (serotonin is one of the main ones) or even simply just slow down the nerve traffic so the person can ‘come down’ enough to respond to other treatments. It is worth noting that nicotine affects these same neurotransmitters in much the same way medications do. What all of this adds up to is that this is a physical illness. Yes, maybe people may seem like they are willfully acting out sometimes and doing disturbing or distasteful things, but it is because there is a storm going on in their heads that they simply can’t control. Even people on ideal doses of medications may still experience symptoms.

Well, dear readers, that is it for today. I welcome your comments and feedback. Feel free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com with any questions or topic suggestions. Thanks for continuing to give me the strength to keep this blog going.

Are There Alternatives to Psychiatric Medication?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Link to my first memoir:

Through the Withering Storm

 

Tall Trees Sown From Seeds of Love and Hate

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.

LG

When Things Get Bad: Being a Patient In a Psychiatric Hospital

This is a shot of the sunset over what used to be the Edmonton Municipal Airport. The planes on display, which you may have seen before in other posts are part of the aviation museum. It always kind of bothered me that they would put the last of the three up, a surface to air missile called “the Bomarc” This missile holds a lot of meaning for Canadians, because it was what we got in exchange for the Avro Arrow, the most famous of all Canadian planes that never went into production. The Bomarc on display is something I also disagree with because it was originally designed as a nuclear missile and like many of my time, nuclear war was a very real and scary possibility.

To get on to the stated topic, there is a lot to know about hospitals, especially psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric wards of ordinary hospitals. The first big thing that I didn’t like about being in a psychiatric hospital is that there is often very little medical help and poorly funded medical/dental help in these places. When I was 19 and had nearly destroyed my knees from too much running, I actually encountered staff members who purposely moved my room to the end of the long hallway of the ward I was on to discourage me from smoking, while at the same time being completely ignorant of the incredible pain and discomfort of my injuries and constant requests for tensor bandages, and even a few times, a wheelchair. I even tried to appeal to my Psychiatrist, who had taken the full training of a medical doctor and he simply told me, “oh, I forgot all that medical stuff years ago.” Then, somehow an appointment was made for me to see an orthopaedic surgeon, and after waiting just about the entire three months it took to see one, a nurse casually informed me that she had taken it upon herself to cancel my appointment because she didn’t think I needed it.

Funny enough though, being in the hospital can be a very productive time. One of the biggest problems is that while you are there you may be very ill mentally and not be able to participate in any of the programming that could help. Things like communication groups, anger management groups, can teach a person to better manage their lives and better communicate to others when they go out and try to rebuild something of a normal life. Something that has to be stressed though, is that the people you encounter are likely a good deal more sensitive about things than you realize. I can remember getting into trouble because some woman overheard me talking about sex. I was 20, I didn’t have many other topics on my mind. I didn’t even say anything to her, I got into trouble for talking to someone completely different than the person who complained. All I could do was suck it up and try not to bring up the subject.

The other problem I faced a number of times is with regards to a psychiatric hospital. The hospital I went to was divided into two major parts, one for forensics, and the other for people who hadn’t yet been convicted of a crime. Many times I ran across some very seriously bad people in the non-convict section I was in. I vividly remember a man who was on my ward to be assessed to see if he could get off a crime he had committed for mental health purposes, and he made some very serious threats to me. Should he have been in the forensics part the whole time? I honestly believe so, but the doctors didn’t see things that way. In a more recent visit, there was a guy from some middle eastern country who for some reason didn’t like me. One day we got into an argument and he attacked me. I was accused of starting the fight, but he was the one who tried to dig his nails into my carotid artery so he could end my life,

I really don’t want to scare people when I write this. I do admit that I am ranting though because these things never should have happened. What are some of the ways others can avoid serious problems like this? First of all, while it is a given that you need to be completely honest with your doctor about what is going on inside your head, you also need to communicate with the staff where you are a patient about people who are giving you problems/on your case. Most of the time the staff can deal with it. If you find yourself in a serious situation where you think someone is going to attack you like happened to me a number of times, the best thing to do is to assume a defensive stance, and yell for staff as loud as you can.

I can also recall though being assaulted by staff members. This seems almost impossible, but it was a daily reality for me when I was last in the hospital. It was a very difficult situation because my doctor was avoiding me completely and I was on medication that was not helpful at all. If he had talked to me, he might have realized that I needed a mood stabilizer, a pill for psychosis, and an anti-depressant, Instead he played golf or whatever they do when they don’t feel like doing their job. My family and I tried everything to have this situation dealt with, and nothing ever came of it, and the same Doctor was later made head Psychiatrist of the entire Hospital. But regardless, not being on proper meds made it almost impossible for me to think straight or be as pleasant as the staff preferred me to be, and as a result, with the express order from my absentee doctor that I should be placed in isolation at the first indication of problems, I was put through this torture. Once, when I was locked inside the isolation room for a long time, I put the plastic mattress up against the wall and slid behind it so they couldn’t see what I was doing. The staff member watching me came in and a fight ensued, I grabbed his ‘life call’ button and pressed it and all kinds of alarms went off and other staff came running from all over the hospital. As a result, with too many witnesses, I was spared a beating.

The fact is, most of the people who will end up looking at this blog will have been through the very difficult stages of being in a psychiatric hospital. What I am hoping to get across is that it is very important to have a good psychiatrist, and to be honest with them, take your medications and never miss your appointments, and when you feel your mental health is starting to deteriorate, get in touch with your doctor and try and get into a hospital ward for psychiatry rather than a psychiatric hospital.

Then comes the day to day business of surviving as a patient. I recall that my time was best spent in the hospital reading and listening to classical music. Reading was difficult, and many of you may too find the same thing. Often when you are in the hospital you are getting your medications changed around and until you get used to them it can be hard to concentrate. I do like to remind people though that with medications, it takes time for them to work, time for your body to adapt to them, and there is also a period of time that you need to adapt to how they affect you. I take a number of pills and they make my hands shake, but now after 15 years on a similar dose, I know how to function. My typing speed and pool game aren’t what they used to be, but I can function, and I can maintain my mental health.

There is another factor that I have encountered regarding hospital visits. It is a difficult thing to go into a hospital and adapt to the conditions there. You need to get used to the food, the institutional air (which people often feel contains some kind of funny gas, but the doctors breathe it too). Then, you adjust, you get to know a few people who are patients, a few staff members and doctors. Then you are deemed well again and sent home where you go through another serious adjustment. When you are leaving, this is the time first of all to get yourself involved in life skills classes or support groups in your community. Make sure and rekindle any neglected relationships, this is when you are really going to need your friends. The one thing you have to be careful about is trying to form long-term relationships, be they friendships or romantic involvement, or even friendship with a staff member. First of all, staff members may seem friendly and nice, but they have professional ethics, plus may not like the idea of having to interact with people when they aren’t getting paid. This happened to me when a doctor and a nurse who I thought cared simply dropped my case and never said another word to me because they didn’t feel I was trying hard enough. In my mom’s case, she had the same nurse/therapist for years and tried calling her up at her office one day after their professional relationship ended, and she was devastated to learn the nurse wouldn’t even say one word to her.

As far as friendships and romantic involvements go, it can be nice to sit down with people and talk after going through therapy and dealing with the same food and the same staff members. But everyone who is there as a patient is there for a reason, most likely a very serious reason and it almost always ends up in disaster when you try to continue these friendships outside the hospital. Once I met a young woman who was an independent film maker and I showed her a copy of my book. We seemed to get along great, there were some great positive things about her. But shortly after she was released from the hospital she accused me of stealing her manuscript (my first work of non-fiction, “Through the Withering Storm”) and then accused me of “stealing Ian’s treasure box” which I don’t even know a thing about. There were other problems. Once I met a guy who was supposedly going to help me get my truck driving license and I simply never saw him again.

This one is getting long, so I am going to mention one last thing. If you feel your mental health is deteriorating, do everything you can to stay out of the hospital, but make sure there is someone who cares to help you decide when the breaking point will be. Keep a bag by your door with a few things you will need to help get you through the difficult days at the hospital. A radio with headphones can be a lifesaver. Simple to finish puzzles can also help. Then a few hygiene essentials such as toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. and a change or two of clothing. It is often best (unless you have made an attempt at suicide) to get a ride or take a cab to the emergency department. Many paramedics get pretty snarky when you don’t appear to have any surface problems even when your life is falling apart on the inside. Your bag could include $10 for a cab ride if you so choose. It would also be good to bring a small journal, which could be used for many things, including a sort of diary for how your mental health progress is coming. Don’t be afraid to write down some goals related to your recovery, and even some goals you just want to do to have something to look forward to. And please, please understand that many people do care and that there is a way, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You won’t be a hospital patient forever, and everyone can have a full and productive, happy life, even with a mental illness.

Losing Friendships and Family Relationships: All a Part of Mental Illness

I remember in high school thinking if I went to pick up a young woman I had a crush on in a car like this that she would change her mind about not wanting to be my girlfriend. In reality, very few members of the opposite sex would genuinely change their mind about someone like that, but I had been born to think that way. Even if a car like this got me some amazing girlfriend, she would likely be so vain and shallow things would never last.

Don’t forget to scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog and a special video I found for you!

 

Recovery Poem

 

Oftentimes I will forget

The things that brought me here

To the place where I have no more feelings

I’ve been hurt just far too much

 

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining

There were so many awesome times

And love that still lives on in me

Will never go away

 

A few years ago, I lost my mother

But still have my loving dad

And a wonderful amazing brother

Who is like a mirror twin

 

I have to say I’ve lost some friends

For reasons that seem so trivial

Maybe they feared my mental illness catching

Or that I was making an excuse

 

My illness is a real thing

That kicks the crap right out of me

And it takes every bit of courage

To keep on walking mental hospital free

 

And then there are those who understand me

Those who care and those who help

It’s just a few disturbing incidents

That torment me endlessly

 

Well, here it is another late night/early morning. I wanted to talk today about relationships, particularly the ones that end when you become mentally ill. It is a sad thing, but something most people who have a mental illness face. There is a lot of negative public opinion out about mental illness. One of the things people believe is that they are being forced to work while someone gets money every month and doesn’t have to work. I get very upset when I hear this sort of thing because honestly, I am a Canadian citizen who has paid into the system, and I became extremely ill, needed treatment, I have a specialist who constantly monitors everything who I comply with, and the sad fact is, I don’t even get as much money as a person getting minimum wage. I keep thinking of this one guy that said that exact thing who considers himself a “Christian” and is basically saying that he is angry that someone is helping the poor and disabled.

All that aside though, I wanted to try and give some coping strategies. One of the best pieces of advice I got was from a man who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He said he carefully cultivated a group of friends that he could talk to and look to for support, and made sure the group was large enough so that he wasn’t relying on any one person too much, and then went about trying to live his life.

It hurts a lot when friends and family members treat us poorly. One of the things that I did to cope with false friends was to get involved in something that brought me above just making friends for the sake of making friends. For a long time, I sought out others who were disabled or unemployed, didn’t have a lot going on in their lives and a couple of bad things happened that I don’t want to get into. Then I (not quite consciously) decided it was time to get something going in my life and I started getting more involved in poetry and writing. I found out that there was a person at the University who helped writers with their work and I met a dude my age who was extremely helpful and encouraging. I don’t know how it happened, but we got to be friends and he is the most amazing, wonderful friend a guy could ask for. We do all kinds of things together, he helps me with my writing, and I feel very worthwhile and validated about not just my writing, but as a human being.

So, really I have a couple of basic tips from all that: find friends you can count on, find at least five of them and try not to overwhelm any of them. Then, look for something you like to do. Maybe it is poetry, maybe pottery, maybe gardening and get out and join some groups, you can find a lot of this kind of stuff on the Internet. I found a video that I think may be helpful that I am pasting below. Best to everyone!

Hope Faith and Love. And the greatest of these is Love.

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

Peace everlasting

Hold on

                                                                    *              *                *

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!

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!!

 

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens

“Inching Back to Sane” Now available here in all ebook formats.

Dare to Dream and Let Your Heart Soar!

Hello my dear readers! I don’t have a poem for you today, but I thought I would still write a quick blog and add a photo. I have been doing both good and bad lately, and I thought I would share a few things that I feel helped the good things to happen that you can take as advice to do, and share a few of the bad things that you can possibly learn from and avoid. I hate to sound preachy, and it makes for poor prose, so I will try my best to avoid it.

Anyhow, I have been saving for some time and I didn’t really know what I was saving for. I can’t afford the gas and insurance for a car, I don’t have any trips I desperately want to take, so I decided wouldn’t hurt to dip into my savings to buy a few things for myself. I started out going with a friend to a comic shop and indulging myself in graphic novels. There is a Canadian artist and writer who really touches my heart when he writes, he seems to have a soul tortured by depression, his name is Jeff Lemire, and I highly recommend him. I found a graphic novel of his I haven’t read, then also bought two volumes of what I feel are the most monumental comics in comic history, I bought “Ben-Hur” and “Great Expectations” from the “Classics Illustrated” reprints. I get so much out of these condensed stories, and it inspires me to pick up the novels or any novel or history book and explore more, so I feel these are also well worth the price.

Last night I called up a friend and despite that we haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to talk with her, she answered the phone to my surprise. She is a very healthy and functional person, but there are times when she needs her solitude, something I completely understand. We decided to meet for lunch tomorrow which made me happy, because I have been isolated beyond my own control and out of my comfort zone for a number of days. Fortunately today the office of my apartment building was open and I was able to sit over coffee and talk with a couple of my friends. I live in a ‘supported’ apartment building and there is a common area at the office where some people I know often go, and I find it very healing to go down there and chat when I can.

So there I was, feeling a bit down, a bit lonely and a bit worn out from all the walking I have been doing. I came back to my apartment and I noticed I had an email. Turns out I have been picked for a great new part-time job opportunity that will help me develop mine and other people’s poetry skills. From then on I was flying on a cloud. I just can’t believe that I was so close to desperation, so down on myself and then this happened. I told my dad about it and he was very happy to hear about it but he reassured me that it was my own hard work that got me to this point. I have been doing a lot of things, not only to battle my mental illness and try and find meaningful work, but it just feels so good to finally arrive at the point where I feel I no longer have to worry, that I am on my way as a writer and public speaker, and that there are definitely going to be many good times ahead. So, my words to you, dear reader, as I may have expressed them before, is to just pound away at your passion, just a little at a time if you have to. Maybe just do one thing a day. If you don’t have a passion, I would suggest going to a community college or YMCA and looking at a class schedule and see if you can afford to take a class or two or if there is funding (free is even better) try and find something that interests you, challenges you, takes you somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All the best to you, dear readers, all the best and finest.

The World of a Writer (a ‘crazy’ writer?)

A World Well Travelled

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/general/i-feel-empty-when-a-lack-of-meaning-is-something-more-serious/

Well, I don’t know if I have it in me to write a poem today. I guess I wanted to talk about all the stuff in my life that’s been going on. I haven’t been writing blogs much at all for the past couple of weeks and I have to admit I miss it. A few days ago I taught a poetry workshop which was a lot of fun. I am getting more of a good reputation with the public library for doing these things. The main problem is that I see myself as doing more, working more, making more money, but not being able to handle it and eventually spiral down the drain to insanity as I have done so many times before. It really scares me that I will lose the friends I have now and maybe even lose the respect I have built up with my dad.

Speaking of my dad, I have been spending quite a bit of time with him lately and I have been learning a lot not just about him but about myself, especially about the times when I was mentally ill. It is so hard to describe mental illness to someone who has never experienced it. People think they can just apply logic to their thoughts and mental illness will go away. I am proof positive that even the most preposterous false truths can embed themselves into your thoughts. One of the worst things is that there are people out there who really hate the mentally ill, and some of them actually work in hospitals where they lock up people with a mental illness.

When I think back to the days when I just got out of the hospital, I was a real mess. I wonder why when I left they gave me back my gun license because I nearly saved up the money to buy a gun with it and it was my intention to rob a bank with it. Just a few months before that I was a somewhat innocent, straight edged young man who would never think of something like that. But the strain of becoming mentally ill and of being taken away from my home, my family, my friends, and even my school were incredible. One of the weirdest things is that it was at this time that I met a lot more females than I ever did as a supposed ‘nice guy.’ I don’t think any of those relationships would have lasted at all because I was having very serious problems. Somehow I had always known I had bipolar. I just spent most of the time in the depressive phase of it. I can remember coming back from a cadet camp and seeing a friend who gave me a ride home and I was incredibly manic despite spending most of the past weekend without sleeping.

I guess what I want to think about now is living on an even keel. I don’t know if I will have to give up all my commitments, but the way I live I don’t really need the money I’m making. I have never been closer to my  goal of being well off and able to support myself but I don’t know how long I could keep this up. I have this hope that I can find a counsellor or psychologist who can talk me through it. Heaven knows I have tried everything else.

 

Blog, Poem and Photograph Today!

Scroll down past the photo for today’s poem, and past that for today’s blog.

 

Midsummer Poem

 

The orange golden light of dawn

Beckons us to fight, to keep on

There will be no more giving up today

As the sun greets us in this special way

 

Poems are fine, poems can be bold

But they can’t replace what you are told

Never give up, never give in

Pausing to rest can be a sin

 

We’re in a battle my mates, a struggle real

No matter how you boys may feel

Give it your all in sport, and more in class

Our chance to win will slip away so fast

 

It isn’t quite as if we can just say

We’ll leave the fighting for another day

We’re locked in a struggle with a death grip

And if we don’t win a one way trip

 

The battle I speak of is the one to be free

And we’re all combatants you must see

But the enemy lies inside of us

With each friendship, each display of trust

 

Giving in to hate means losing it all

And we must get back up each time we fall

Winning means joining our fellow man

Arm in arm, hand in hand

 

Now I can’t say all men are good inside

Or that no one will take you for a ride

I’m just trying to get each person to see

The better way for grown adults to be

 

There are evil people in this world of ours

But at night we all gaze up at the same stars

Look for the things that make us all one

Because that is how our wars will truly be won

 

A Short Blog About How Things Are Coming Along

Hello dear readers! I have found myself out of a job as a blogger, so now I can devote even more time to all of you who read my blog here. It was fun and rewarding working for healthyplace, but in the end I guess it was too hard to come up with original ideas week after week and I was having problems with errors so I got the boot. I’m actually kind of glad because the job was more stress than it was worth.

So I am finding myself in a position that I kind of like, less stress, more time for my real writing and so on. I think I might get to work on another poetry collection now.

My mental health has been good lately, summer has finally come to Edmonton and it is such a beautiful season in this part of the world. Everything is so green and alive and there are a ton of birds out there to take pictures of. I am looking forward to using my new Nikon 1 J5 to take more photos of birds as they are flying. I have even entered some of my stuff to be considered for publication.

So as summer rolls into focus I have a few things on my mind. I don’t know how much I told anyone here about my Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset I bought. I have been flying  a P51 Mustang on it and have been having a blast. I am learning to navigate from airport to airport and land and then return for a safe landing. It is so incredible when you have that 360 degree view. I am looking forward to more simulators like it. I have to admit though, I don’t know if it is the best thing to immerse ones’ self into a video world like that. I don’t know if I would have done it if I hadn’t read the incredible book “Ready Player One” that my friend Richard suggested.

I am so happy to have such a true and genuine friend like Richard Van Camp. He is an incredible person, done so much in his field and one of the most caring and honest friends I have ever known. He is also pretty fun to be around. I am going to be heading to his work with him today and hanging out at the Fort Saskatchewan library for a while today.

As far as mental health goes, I don’t think I could be in better shape. My only real concern these days is that occasionally I have needed sleep aids such as clonazepam to help me rest. It is not the best way to deal with the problem I fear, but it works. I have tried going for long walks each day but often that just puts me into a manic state which makes it even harder to sleep. I would love it if people could share their own sleep methods in the comments. With that I think I am going to get going, I see a long walk in my near future, like in the next 20 minutes!