friendships

The Long and Lonely Journey of a Writer With a Mental Illness

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Please Click This text to download my new book in eBook format

Good day to all my readers and beloved fans! After long months of typing away and scanning, taking photos, requesting documents and researching, I have completed my book “Alert and Oriented X3: A Snapshot of a Psychosis”

I have had so much success in this past year getting work as a creative writing teacher, selling my other books when I give talks for various organizations, that I simply don’t see any need to try and make a few bucks off something that I really enjoyed doing, and that so many people could benefit from. So I am freely distributing the eBook to “Alert and Oriented X3” to anyone who wishes a copy, and I am also encouraging all concerned to make as many copies digital or otherwise that they like and share it freely.

It is in times like this that I like to think of some of the wonderful people that have helped me along through my recovery journey. Near the top of the list is my boss at the Schizophrenia Society, Tanya Behm. Tanya not only allows me to sell my books when I give presentations, she gets up and promotes them for me when we work together. Next on my list is my dad, who I have sneaking suspicions of being a writer himself. My mom had told me when he was younger he had submitted some things and didn’t have any luck and so stopped doing so. I really feel this is a shame because my dad is so intelligent when it comes to reading and writing that I come to him for all kinds of advice, and I often have him proof read my short stories.

The list goes on and on, there is Caroline, who is tied in first place to be my best friend with bestselling author Richard Van Camp. Both of them accept me with all my quirks and oddities and both of them have been extremely kind and supportive.

Next on the list but by no means any less of a dear friend than any other is Charity Slobod. Charity is an incredible young woman who works in professional development and has a master’s degree as well. Charity was just about the only thing that kept me going while I was experiencing the 30-day hospital stay I had last year that this book is written about.

My brother Kris and my sister Michelle are way up there in my cheering section, being kind enough to help proof-read, offered suggestions, and always had their doors open for me when needed.

It has been such a long journey. I started writing possibly because of the isolation I experienced when first diagnosed. This had a lot to do with the stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness. After being alone and extremely bored for long months, I returned to school in hopes of finishing my high school diploma and attending University. It was there that I met Caroline, who has been such a dear friend ever since. (that was almost 30 years ago). We have both had our trials and difficult times, but no one can make me laugh like Caroline can. She sort of rescued me from being borderline suicidal all those years ago and I love her for it.

There were times when I would sit and do nothing but write and write all day. Soon after I started writing I fell into the trap of vanity presses, but still had no money to give them. I published a few poems, tried to attend church and did actually make some awesome friends like Jade Holownia and his wife Brandy.

Living on my own, there were times when I became so lonely that I reached out for anyone to ease my pain. That led me into serious troubles having street people try and take over my apartment. I tried so hard back then to return to a normal life, get a job, finish school. But it seemed so impossibly hard while I was in a poor state of mental health and taking medications that took a toll on me as well.

Still, somehow I felt that I needed to keep writing, and I paid a lot of money to have my first book edited but couldn’t find a publisher. I ended up self-publishing and with a great deal of determination and hard work, started to sell my first few copies. It is hard to say where the real turning point came. I had been writing short stories but not sending them out, and I met a man who most would call a grump, but for some reason he treated me extremely well. One day I found out he had gone to Journalism school and I asked him how I could get into magazine writing. In just two minutes he explained the whole thing to me and that year I think I published and was paid for about 5 articles in major publications.

It all seems like such a blur, but I do really want to thank Charity again because when I met her, I was at the point of having done a lot of things, but not having any major success. Charity not only helped me so much with my work, but she was so much fun to talk to and do various things with that, along with the Schizophrenia Society work I was doing, plus the odd workshop and class, she gave me a life that was worth living.

Sorry for just prattling on, I feel I have reached a major milestone in my writing. A good friend who contacts me on Facebook is an incredibly accomplished poet, among the top poets in Canada and he is also a professor of creative writing at a local university, just told me that I am “A Great Memoirist, truly great.” I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me to hear that. Writers get so much negative feedback, and it is a lifelong struggle for most to find any kind of success, and all at once with the words of a friend, I have arrived at the point I have wanted to be at since my days in elementary school when I wrote and illustrated my own comic books. In those days, my parents kept our house full of all the greatest books and authors, and each day a few times a day I would pass by a shelf with books loaded down on it by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, just to mention a few. I thought to myself that if I could ever write a really good book or two, I could in some way become immortal like these writers. And now, as I sit typing, with no thought at all of slowing down, I am left with a very satisfying and happy glow that whatever happens next in my life is a footnote, I have done something incredible. I want all of you to share in this feeling so please download and copy and give away as many eBooks as you can dear readers! I think the link above will allow you to do that, if you find you can’t download it that way, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will email you one free of charge.

Yours,

Leif Gregersen

New Book Exploring a Recent Psychiatric Ward Admission and a Month Battling Psychosis

Hello Dear Readers! Well, it is with great joy that I introduce to you my latest book, which tells of a recent hospital admission to an Edmonton Hospital in 2019. I had grand plans for this book, but I decided that it was more important to get it out to my readers and to those who suffer with or love someone that suffers with severe psychosis or other mental health difficulties. It is in this spirit that I have put the book up for sale on Amazon for only $12 in paperback and for the next couple of days the eBook is free. After the time when it is free, the eBook will be just $1.49.

The book is something that was inspired by the book “Girl, Interrupted” (not the movie, the book). I decided I wanted to really show the mind of a person who is ill, and so I took poetry I wrote by hand during my stay in the hospital and added commentary to it, as well as put in other poems I wrote at other times, then several essays, introductions from some family members and even copies of my clinical notes. The title, “Alert and Oriented X3” comes from a term that my nurse used several times to describe the state of my mental health in the clinical notes. There are 5 ways you can be ‘alert and oriented’ and I seemed to come up as just a 3 a number of times.

I have felt extremely blessed to have so much support from you my readers and my friends and family to write and to give talks about mental health in Universities and Training Centres that I really just want as many people as possible to enjoy the book regardless of cost to me. If you keep checking back, I may be able to put on some giveaways at this site and mail out some select copies in the hopes that you will leave a review for it on amazon.com. I will also be making the eBook free, and if you like it and recommend it, I have also decided not to set it up so it can’t be copied, so please feel free to share the file you purchase with anyone you know who would be interested.

One small drawback to the current form of the book is that I wrote it for people living in Edmonton and in Canada. Most of the book is completely relevant to anyone reading it anywhere, but there are small sections where I put in some contact details for local resources that will be irrelevant to most non-Canadians. If you would like to get in touch with resources for helping you through any kind of mental health struggle, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do the best I can. You can also contact me at this email if you would like a free digital copy of the book. Happy reading friends, looking forward to seeing what you think of the book which I had to go to hell and back to write.

Leif Gregersen

Guest Blog Touching on a Subject That Helped My Recovery From the Stigma of Mental Illness

https://dearava.com/blogs/news/the-art-of-personalized-gift-giving

Hello my good readers. Please click on the link above to have a look at a blog which relates to something I will be discussing below.
Hello Dear Readers, today I have a guest blog from someone who approached me after finding my blog. It is truly amazing some of the reach that I get when I put out these blogs, and I would like to encourage any of my regular or new readers to contact me. As always, you can comment here or write to me at viking3082000@yahoo.com
      One of the things that appealed to me about sharing this article is that I am a bit of a dysfunctional gift giver. When I like people, I buy them things all the time and give them to them without expecting anything in return. This is the positive side of my giving, but there can also be some negative parts of giving too much. The first thing that I realized after reading the article linked above and copied below is that in fact most people get so much more out of experiences than they do possessions. As something of a minimalist, I have tried to do this more and more. But as I make a reasonably good income for a bachelor I often find myself going too far with gifts. One clear example was when I had something of a crush on a woman at work and I would bring her things all the time. Nothing too serious, but I would get her a book or a magazine, trying to seem thoughtful. I think a lot of this had to do with my own insecurities, wanting to make sure she stayed my friend and stayed in my life. Not long after that, I met an incredible person, an author named Richard. He had family roots in the Northern Regions of Canada and also was an indigenous person. Every time I met with him he had a gift for me and I started to reciprocate. This was a very positive experience as we had many common interests and soon became practically best friends as we met for lunch and did different author events together. He has even been so incredibly generous that he had me invited to a Writer’s Festival called Northwords in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and it is a huge chance for me to advance my career. I would call this friendship with Richard healthy as compared to the young woman I knew at work, possibly because there was a lot more equality. I got some good advice once that basically stated that friends had to be equal in paying for things regardless of their income.
     I do a lot of gift giving, especially with my family. A lot of it started with an amazing little book that was recommended to me called “The Richest Man in Babylon.” The book did talk about accumulating wealth, but it also clearly emphasized how Important it is to treat your family well and get them the things they need.
     Well, dear readers, I don’t want to go on too much as the article I am posting below and have linked above is very complete. I basically wanted to tell a bit about how the subject of gift giving affects those with mental illnesses. Of course so many people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and other ailments have very little money. This is a good opportunity to look for a hobby that will not only keep you interested in your day to day activities, but perhaps also allow you to make gifts. My sister does a lot of bead work, a friend I knew for a long time found a lot of joy in making stained glass. You can even write a song or a poem for the person you know who you want to show appreciation to. I often take photos, have them printed for $2 or so, then get a $4 frame for them and give them as gifts. Have a great day all of you!

The Art of Personalized Gift Giving

We can all agree that gift giving isn’t easy. Everyone is unique, and has to develop their own philosophies on how to give meaningfully to friends, family, and loved ones. The pressure to find gifts that suit a person’s needs can be a source of stress, especially during the holidays. How do you develop a gift giving methodology that causes pleasure and joy, without the stress?

Although not everyone may agree with every idea in Marie Kondo’s hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we feel her philosophy on gift-giving is particularly insightful. For instance, she writes, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.”

The key concept here places more importance on the act of giving a gift more than simply the gift itself. Of course, if a gift is functional and the recipient requests one, the path is clear and simple. Most of the time, however, it’s not so straightforward. Perhaps with a significant other, you may be so familiar and close that gifting becomes second nature. But would about an aunt, uncle or niece? How do you show your appreciation for them if you don’t always see each other, or aren’t sure about their passions and interests? What about special occasions like a first communion, marriage, or graduation?

With all of the nuances that go into gift giving, each occasion and person are unique and require special attention. In this article, we’re here to help guide you on your path to establishing your very own Art of Personalized Gift Giving.

Long Term Happiness is Rooted in Experiences, Not Things. But Experiences Don’t Always Make the Best Gifts.

Certainly, you may have heard that experiences bring us greater joy than things. In fact, there’s significant research that shows this is a human truth. But how does this translate into gift-giving? It’s not so simple to “gift” someone a vacation, nor is it particularly practical. Imagine if your husband or wife wanted to go to Hawaii and you suddenly surprised him or her with an all-expenses paid trip to Maui, and “we’re leaving in 2 weeks!” That’s hardly enough time to react and reconcile each other’s busy work schedules. Simply put, experiences do bring us greater happiness, but experiences are no replacement for physical gifts. Physical gifts aren’t meant to replace experiences, but rather create and memorialize them, making them an essential and special part of our lives.

One workaround here is to use significant life experiences as the basis for the gift or as a means to commemorate an experience. For example, imagine a situation where you grew up with your best friend, staying together over the course of 20 years. Suddenly, they could get married and have to move to the other side of the country. You could give them a gift that truly represents your shared experiences together. Something that allows you to remember the experience and times you shared together.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Too Much Practicality

During the holidays of 2017 and 2018, the most popular kitchen accessory was the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. I personally use one of these on a daily basis (and I admit, I received one as a gift from my mother-in-law). It can be tempting to take something that you like since you had a positive experience with it and assume that it will make a good gift for someone else. This is a logical assumption to make.

However, the reason I suggest to be careful with this mindset is because: gift giving shouldn’t be about yourself. Gift giving shouldn’t be treated as an opportunity for you to shill the reasons about why it saved YOU so much time and money. I can hear the rant already starting: “This Instant Pot will save you countless hours in the kitchen! I don’t know how you could live without one! It was life changing for me!”

Perhaps the Instant Pot will truly be life changing for the recipient. Maybe they’ll even end up recommending it to their friends as well in a chain reaction of pressure cooking frenzy. But what if they are the type of person that doesn’t like to cook? What if they prefer their own methods of cooking and feel pressured to use the Instant Pot, even if they don’t want to? It will end up as simply taking up counter space for them.

The exception of this is if they explicitly ask for something like this. However, it’s wise to be mindful of gifts that are overly pragmatic, or based on your own experience rather than being personalized to the recipient’s true needs.

The Trap of Giving Gifts that are Too Expensive

Growing up, my best friend and I used to exchange gifts for Christmas (shoutout to her: we are still best friends to this day). We started off small with small cards, trinkets, and accessories. One year, I had decided to step things up. I knew she wanted a Tiffany necklace so I splurged and bought her one.

When she received it, she was so overwhelmed and happy about it! This made me incredibly happy too! After a few moments of elation she said: “this is too much, you REALLY shouldn’t have.

Fast forward a year, the next Christmas she ended up purchasing me jewelry from Cartier and I merely gave her a card and some home-baked pastries. Now, it made ME feel like I wasn’t worthy!

Looking back, what I ended up doing is elevate the monetary expectation of the gift. I made the pitfall of equating value of her friendship with a price tag, rather than focusing on our shared experiences together.

Luckily, we made a rule and set a price limit for every year going forward. This common practice among close friends and loved ones can be a fun and effective way to ensure that your gift giving experience stays positive and fun for all involved.

Personalization is the Ultimate Gift Giving Hack

How do we get around the many problems associated with gift giving? After countless Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, and more, I established that there’s no true way to solve for what ultimately makes for a good gift, which is personalization.

I went on a personalization binge a few years ago and started to go a bit overboard with this. I would shop only for handcrafted items on Etsy. I would create handwritten cards and painstakingly use my poor calligraphy skills to customize the gift.

Did it work? Absolutely. Was it incredibly stressful for me? Yes.

Finally, I realized that going overboard had the same consequences as when I was giving out the really expensive gifts. Instead of investing money, I was investing too much on my time.

Finding the right balance is ultimately the key to good gift giving. It’s up to you to develop the best personal gift giving philosophy for you and your loved ones.

Getting in Over Your Head When You Suffer From Bipolar, Depression, or Schizophrenia

There can be a lot of ways of getting in over your head when you have a mental illness, but I think when you have bipolar it can be the worst in many ways. I currently am very lucky, I have found a medication that allows me to have stabilized moods, and even more lucky because I have lived long enough to be able to make better choices in life. One of the simpler ways of getting in over my head was by making promises to my dear young niece. I love her so much and want to do nice things for her and a few years back I made a promise that I would take her to Disneyworld, which is still far out of my grasp of things I am able to do. I can recall promises being made to me that never panned out, many of them from a boyfriend my sister had for a number of years. When I was 14 and excited about getting my very own car one day he made a promise that when he was done with it, he would give me his car. What really got to me was that a couple of years down the road, he not only didn’t display any intention at all or apologies for not giving me the car, he actually humiliated me for expecting it. This instability in our family that often left me the target of jokes instead of kept promises left something of a large hole in my character that took a long time for me to resolve.

One of the worst ways a person can get into trouble when they have bipolar is when they get a credit card or. a line of credit. It seems so easy to project that in the future you will be more able to pay your debts and also think that you deserve some things now, before you are actually able to afford them. When I was 19, I met a guy who I became very good friends with in a short amount of time, and he convinced me that he was well off and that we should travel to California together. I actually had the time of my life going through the US and it often gave me the feeling that my life was really mine, not that of my parents or psychiatrists. Sadly I was being played for a fool and we got to his home town and he simply took off without repaying a cent and leaving me to make my way back to Canada without a cent to my name.

It isn’t nearly as difficult now, but one thing I remember clearly about my first years of being on regular medications was that the bipolar side of my schizoaffective disorder often left me unable to sleep, even though I was taking a heavy dose of pills every day and every night. I started to find that if I started out switching to a light rock radio station, then went to a classical music station, forced myself to not pace, just relax on my sofa as I did progressively calmer things, the medications I was taking became enough to get me to sleep.

Financial problems for a person with a mental illness are rife. It can become very hard to hold down or even just simply find a job that you can handle. I think for a lot of young adults though it is almost always very difficult to learn to manage money, and to even have a stable income. For people with mental health disabilities, I strongly recommend that you volunteer. I have a cousin who I think is really on top of things. He had a job that brought in a little money but he hated it. The job slowed down and he was laid off and so he simply picked out a senior’s activity centre and walked in and offered to volunteer. Not only is he learning many skills, but soon he is going to be hired on, something that can be very difficult to do in the current state of the economy. But most importantly is that his generosity with his time and effort got him into a situation where he will soon have a job that he truly enjoys.

I have a strong memory of being younger and going to a bipolar support group. I often talked about my grand ambitions but this one guy would talk over me and say that I had to learn to accept my low position in society and my lot in life. At the time that may have been good advice, but I didn’t stop working on my writing, I didn’t stop setting goals and learning new things about writing. And now my life is greatly enriched by my ability to write in different genres and to do something I found I really love, which is public speaking and teaching people about mental illness. There honestly were some times though when I was ready to give up. When I had a previous job setting up stages for concerts, the money was incredible but it was taking a huge toll on me. I really had to work hard and compete with the other workers around me to have good standing in my workplace. Finally I decided it was enough and so I wrote a letter to my dispatcher explaining my mental illness and the stress I had been experiencing as well as explaining how detrimental to my health that stress could be. Of course he accepted my resignation but there were some pretty lean times. I had gotten in over my head in that situation as well because I had come to rely on a considerable income from just a part-time job. I also really missed some of the friends I had made in the seven years of working for that union. I decided that I had to conceive of income differently. I stopped taking my dad out for lunch all the time, something I missed doing. I stopped taking trips to different places, especially the far off ones like London, England and Hawaii. I knuckled down and managed to stay out of debt though I did end up selling my car. Then, by studying and by doing talks for the Schizophrenia Society where I was able to market some of the books I have written, slowly I built up a reputation. I first did so with my camera, snagging a part-time job for a really good wage, then I studied and got deeper and deeper into writing. I think if anyone has a hobby that they truly love and that they are able to do despite having a mental illness, they should try and make it so they earn their living from it. A woman who lives downstairs from me is into beading and she makes a great income selling her lovely work at farmer’s markets and other places. Those who love to play the piano or guitar should take a few courses if needed and try to teach these things to others.

It can be really hard to work when you have a mental illness. I use a lot of different techniques to deal with the stress of teaching classes, giving talks and sending out my writing in hopes of having it published. One of the ways I improve as a speaker is I have found a forum for my shorter writing, I regularly go to something called a ‘story slam’ where people get up on a stage in front of a crowd, read a story that is no longer than 5 minutes, then they are judged and money is collected ($5 from each audience member) then the highest scorer of 10 storytellers gets the whole pot. I have won three times now, and it is really an incredible feeling. Most of the time though, I know I won’t win, but I keep doing it because it makes me more comfortable with public speaking. This may seem like an odd thing for a person who suffers from anxiety does, but it works for me and I am really glad to have been recognized as a good writer by winning the odd contest.

Working is less stressful than getting up on stage and reading a story, but that doesn’t mean work is easy for people with mental illnesses. I have dark memories of what it was like to work a job where I had to keep up with others and was on medication that gave a lot of side effects or I just wasn’t used to it. A storm rages inside your head and you just want to go home and hide your head and sleep the day away, but if you do this, soon you will be isolating yourself and that leads to loneliness, depression, and sadly for all too many people who are psychiatric survivors, they try to or succeed in a suicide attempt. This becomes such a vicious cycle where patients want to go in the hospital to ease the loneliness, and they go in, soon feel better because their life is full of interactions and people who seem to care, then they are released with no social supports.

Just in the past years I have come to realize how important it is to have close friends. Many who have read my memoirs may know that when I was in elementary school and junior high, I had few friends, and even those people weren’t terribly good friends. Friends are so important, they can cheer you up and do things with you even when you don’t have money. They can look out for you and you look out for them. I am faced with the sad fact that someone I sometimes call my best friend (my dad) is advanced in age and won’t be around forever. Each time I hang up the phone after talking with I try to say, “I love you dad” I am so worried that one day he may pass away not knowing that I do. I consider my brother and sister friends, but outside of my family I have some pretty cool people supporting me, from a fellow writer who helps me more than I could ever express, to a young woman who is so incredible I sometimes wonder why she hangs out with me, to a woman I have known for almost 30 years who lives out of town but gives me so much joy when I do see her or when I talk with her on the phone.

Another thing about how I keep myself sane is when I talk to my dad, my brother, and friends about decisions I make. A while back I really wanted to buy a new car and had money saved up but got a lot of support and interest from family and friends that didn’t want to see me saddled with debt.

So what do you do if you go overboard, if you spend too much, promise too much, don’t like your job? Always, your first line of defence is your medications. See your Doctor and make sure you are on medication that works for your symptoms and doesn’t leave you with unbearable side effects. Then, something I should have mentioned earlier, keep yourself as healthy as you can. Swim laps at the pool, take long walks (another great free thing to do with a friend). Exercise is a huge line of defence over letting stress get to you. When you do feel stressed, there is also the option to do a couple of things I do, which is to try to meditate, even if it is just for five or ten minutes before work when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Closing your eyes, focusing on nothing whatsoever can really make you feel better for a short time investment. Then there is something I have re-started doing recently, I take B vitamins. B vitamins are believed to be what gets depleted when we experience stress. I have found sometimes these give a sedative effect and I can actually take one of these vitamins and have a very pleasant and peaceful sleep. Speaking of sleep, if you are overwhelmed or feel stressed, don’t feel bad about sleeping a lot. Managing a mental illness can be extremely emotionally draining and a person can get just as tired and need sleep from emotional exhaustion as physical exhaustion. Do these things regularly and try not to quit a job unless you are on solid financial footing and have another job to go to. With that, I will leave you with a tip that applies to people with mental health issues and to people who want to be writers. Keep a journal. Get a notebook at the dollar store and some pens and write down each day what your mood is, write the date, and talk about how you feel. This is for your own uses only, and is a powerful tool in finding out how to treat yourself better and how to get better results. As always dear readers, there is so much more to be said about this, but time and space make me confine my words to a short part of my day. I would love to hear from anyone who reads this, and also I am very willing to take on any topics you would like to see covered in this blog. My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com. All the best!

What It Means To Those With Schizophrenia or Bipolar To Have a Home In a Community

There is something in the recovery process that a person with a mental illness goes through where they have to take a good hard look at the place they call home. This person will have to think about the importance of their own quality of life. It can be extremely hard for someone with a mental illness, especially when they first leave a hospital stay of any significant length, to find a place that is decent.

During the first few years of living on my own after I was diagnosed with bipolar (and later schizoaffective disorder) I lived in some pretty awful places. The first one was an extremely rundown hotel where I got a tiny box that had a filthy bathroom down the hall, a view of the ventilation area out my window, peeling and old paint, and a mattress that looked like it had been used for a diaper. Still, in a way, it was a better place than some of the places I’ve been for one purpose: I had lots of work, and I was in the process of applying for the military so I was either writing tests or working out. A sense of purpose can go a long way.

I have talked a lot about the importance of having a community, a group of people basically who you can talk to, do things with, interact with, and generally look out for one another with. There are many ways to do this, but I have found that one of the best ways is to simply establish a routine. I enjoy when I get up early to go ride the bus to work at my part-time job because I always see my neighbour. He is a real grump sometimes but always seems happy to see me in the morning. Then I ride the bus to the hospital I work at and on the last leg of my journey I have usually get into really fascinating talks with one of my co-workers. And whenever I am out in my neighbourhood I think I have to generally stop and talk to people I know 3-5 times.

One of the ways I started to meet more people was when I was in a group home in the same neighbourhood I am in now. Most of the people were staff or clients of the group home, but most of the staff were really wonderful people and just about all of the clients became friends because we shared that common bond of having a mental illness and having to manage all the things that go with it. Taking away any stigma surrounding mental illness in that way can facilitate a great deal of healing.

The next thing I started to do was to volunteer with my community newspaper. Volunteering can look great on a resume but not entail the ordinary stresses and pressures of a regular job. Not to mention that when you volunteer, you can pick where you want to work. I think one of the important things to understand though is that one should take a volunteer job as seriously as a regular job. Hard work pays off. I don’t think it was completely the fact that I volunteered with the paper that got me the job, but at one point I was hired as the managing editor of two online magazines. I was paid fairly well and had to travel across the country for a conference which was paid for by my employer.

Then there is the unlimited potential of recreational activities. As far as this goes, a great place to start is a YMCA where you can join all kinds of sports clubs, from running to badminton. I currently work out at a city facility where I get a discount for having a low income. I have met a lot of great people from working out at city facilities on a regular basis. It was hard at first, I didn’t know how the people that had been going there took to outsiders, but I just kept going, then started to learn people’s names and started small bits of conversation in the steam room and such. Before I knew it, I was doing business with people, some bought my books, and I had a lot of invitations to breakfast after my workouts.

The next way of establishing a community in your life is to attend church. I didn’t understand much about the bible or God or anything, then I decided I wanted to learn more and also realized that there were some pretty nice people in the world who were churchgoers, so I started to look into it. There was a church I went to for quite a while where I made some really close friends despite that I had some very negative experiences there. Now, I don’t go as often, but I attend mass when I feel up to it and I not only am getting to know a lot of people in the area, I leave feeling somewhat uplifted and renewed. I went to a mass a few weeks ago and afterwards I felt an urge to contact a friend I had a falling out with 20 years ago and learned that it all had been a mistake. I really saw that as a sign that having some spiritual belief in my life greatly benefits me.

There are a lot of ways a person can plug themselves into a community. I think though that it can be just as important to have a decent home. I have recently been following a series on Netflix based on and hosted by a female author from Japan called Marie Kondo and it has improved many things about my life. Marie teaches people to tidy up their lives, and definitely brings a lot of joy back into their lives. She suggests that a person go through different things in their home, starting with clothes, then books and so on, and taking each and every article and asking a tough question of it, “does this really bring joy to my life?” and then simply donating, selling or disposing of the thing if it doesn’t. I applied her theories partially, then got a little stuck when it came to my ridiculously large comic collection, but carried through as far as I could, and I no longer have to feel bad when people come over and see my place is a mess. I truly feel a lot better with much less stuff and more joy in my life, more things that I actually use rather than just accumulate. One of the things I really like about her method is that after you cull your possessions, you take each one of the things you keep and find a home for them in your home and always put it back there when done using it. This has saved me so much time spent searching for things, for example for years I have had to tear things open with my teeth or do a halfway job with my fingers or a set of keys. Now I have two pairs of scissors and they are always in the same part of the same drawer, no searching, always there.

The other thing I have done was to put up some prints from my favourite wildlife artist on my wall. They cost a little extra, but I have felt that the money was well spent, I had wanted something by this artist for a long time and the pictures are really stunning. You can likely find some decent paintings to hang in a thrift shop. As my hobby next to writing is photography, I have also put up some photos of things around town and family members and such. It does take effort to keep a place clean, but I have found that once I purge my home of things I don’t need or don’t use, it becomes so much easier to keep things organized, clean, and uncluttered, which is something that definitely improves a person’s mood and also allows them to have guests over more often which can be a great way to make close friends with people.

One of the things that can be most difficult about having a decent place to live is the cost of rent or mortgage, which is always more in nicer parts of town. I feel bad for those who live in the US who have no choice but to live in run-down areas that are actually dangerous or pay ridiculous amounts of rent for very little apartment. I wish there were some national or international governing body that could raise funds and assist people with mental health issues so they can live decently. I had to make the personal choice of living in the poorest neighbourhood in my city and it comes with a lot of problems but luckily violence is pretty rare. I do have to deal with people sleeping in hallways and using needle drugs in the public areas of the building, but my rent is very low and my apartment itself is very nice. My suggestion is to look into subsidized housing, and don’t delay in getting yourself on waiting lists as some of these places can take years to get into.

So Dear Readers, I hope this has given you a little something to consider. all I can really say is that over the many years I lived alone in second-rate apartments and all the years I had a messy room or messy home, I have never been able to do more, earn more, or enjoy life more than I do now with a place I love to spend time in, friends I can talk to every day and rely on, and a feeling like I have a useful purpose in life. Best wishes all!

The Wonderful and Amazing Side of Living With Bipolar or Schizophrenia and Depression With Anxiety

Hello Dear Readers! I tried to get an image into this post but ended up with TWO! Sorry, beyond my control.  Please scroll down past the below book cover to read today’s blog.

The book cover below is my finest work so far in my career, which goes deep into what it is like to suffer from a mental illness and to slowly recover. I have gotten a lot of great feedback about this book, a lot of it from people who either work in the field of mental illness or suffer from one themselves. I would encourage anyone who reads this blog to order their copy and suggest it to anyone they knew who works in the field to buy one as well. The book is $18 USD and can be found at amazon.com just click the link and it will take you directly to the ordering page. I really feel the message of decreasing stigma and increasing awareness of mental illness is something we all need to strive towards, so please support a struggling writer and enrich your mind at the same time. (more blog to follow below)

You can also click this text to be taken to an ordering page for my book.

Professors and All Educators can purchase class sets and I am available for public speaking engagements which I have trained and been richly rewarded for.

Well, I wanted to post a cat picture but I was having problems getting my photo editor on WordPress here going. I wanted to talk a little about cats and how they relate to us all. I have always been fascinated with cats. They are so incredibly cute, they often have a surprising degree of intelligence (I once met a cat who could use the toilet and even flush it). One of the things I have often envied of cats is partially their trust when they are in a home where they are treated well and loved. All they have to do is find some place warm and they will curl up and drift away. Cats spend a good portion of their lives sleeping but still have the ability to jump up on laps, climb a book case or get into all sorts of trouble. As I approach 50 now I am finding that I have less and less energy to to the things I want to and I find it extremely necessary to work out often to keep myself fit. I don’t know if cats completely enjoy the lives they live, but it all seems simple enough, a little can of food now and then, a few ‘good kitty’ back and belly rubs a day, perhaps a long nap next to the radiator and they at least seem content. Traditionally, cats do have a valuable job around the house, they are meant to kill vermin and mice.

One of the things that has bothered me was that for a long period of time in my own life, I sort of lived like a cat. I laid down a lot, I gave myself permission to get through a day and not accomplish anything. Sometimes that can be very difficult for someone with bipolar to do as the highs of the ‘highs and lows’ sometimes make you crave action. I still feel pretty guilty about this, but when I was in this state of boredom and wanting action, I often went and gambled, either in a casino or at a video lottery machine in a bar. These were absolute poison to me, I became addicted to throwing away my money for the faint hope of getting back more than what I put in. Even now I have memories of the thousands or perhaps even millions of times I spun the reels on those damn machines hoping for a full row of bells or lucky 7’s. Total self destruction, and total addiction to the adrenalin, the money mattered little. It of course was extremely humiliating to call up my dad the night after spending everything to beg for or borrow enough for a little food and maybe a cheap movie rental.

I am now in an interesting position. I work a couple of days a week for a couple of hours and I have been very careful with my money and so I have been thinking of taking some time to just work on my writing or just be by myself. I think this would be a recipe for disaster. I feel so good when I go and work, when I can reach out to someone in one of my writing classes so that they can help heal or express themselves. Just like having the desire to have disposable income, I really want to have disposable time. I love it when I can come home at noon from work, not be completely broke and be able to set up my video game console or find a book to read that holds my interest. One of the funniest things is coming home early like that doesn’t always help with my writing. When I get inspired to write, it is usually around 1:00 am when all is quiet and I am a little tired but not so tired coffee won’t wake me. What often happens is by 4:00 or so I have a short story draft finished and then in a mad panic I will try and find people to read it when it is in no shape to be seen by anyone. I think one of the reasons my writing career hasn’t taken off like it could is this laziness to write second, third, and fourth drafts. It all goes back to the idea of having disposable time on my hands. To have that time to just be a cat and take a long nap and a large sized snack. What worries me the most is that I am going to just continue to be something of a lazy writer, and I know a lot of people in psychiatric hospitals or under treatment have their little vices as well. Some love to eat and order pizza five times a week. Some get involved in sports they will never compete in or idolize sports figures as though they knew the person. There really is a good and bad side to this all though. I believe that when a person has a mental illness, it is extremely important to allow them to have their stress-free time so they can heal. Having psychosis or going into a psychiatric hospital is a horrible experience, and a person has to build up their self-image and sort out all of their problems which can take quite a bit of time. I am so grateful that when I was spending this time, I had a dad that would drive all the way to my apartment, pick me up and take me for a long walk in the River Valley of Edmonton. This act of kindness and my interest in reading is what got me through, what made it possible for me to bounce back.

Another issue I wanted to discuss is that some people worry about getting older, and some people use coping skills that make getting older not an issue to themselves. One of the things I know about getting older is that as your body ages, and your mind isn’t as sharp as when you were a teen, you simply become more comfortable in your own skin, you may have a lot of aches and pains, but you are much better equipped to cope with them. I have also noticed that my dad who is now 82 sleeps much less, and takes a walk to visit my brother, then after cooking supper and playing cards with friends, he reads a lot of incredible books until it is time for him to sleep. He never seems to worry that his time on Earth is limited, that he is ‘nearer the end than the beginning’ but it doesn’t bother him. Keeping yourself busy when you feel like you are old and useless can be a good way to pick up your spirits. Of course, if you feel very deep down in the dumps, it is extremely important to discuss things with a family doctor or psychiatrist. Something I have learned to do is to try and work as much as I can, to save my money, and then take the money and invest in people, in friendships. And it really pays back. I was very saddened to read a letter an elderly woman wrote scratched out in almost illegible print of a note she gave her next door neighbour, begging her to consider being her friend. Our relationships can be some of the most important and rewarding things about our lives, and if a person gives to others of their time, their resources, sometimes even the use of their homes when old friends are passing through town can truly build better, more, and stronger relationships that gets a person through the tough times.

Enjoy life. Many people don’t like to leave their houses because they have anxiety, but I think the truth is that hiding away only worsens the situation, and it doesn’t do much good for a person’s social skills. I have extreme anxiety. I have been able to overcome it when I am giving a talk or a presentation about mental illness to eager students who are there to listen, but when I get up in front of a crowd at a thing called ‘The Edmonton Story Slam’ to recite a five-minute story, my hands shake so hard I can barely hold the paper I read from and I have a hard time looking at audience members. But in truth, I have made some fantastic friends from going there as a regular storyteller, and it has greatly enhanced my ability to feel comfortable around people.

Well, dear reader, I should truthfully leave things at that. Once again I put out the call for anyone to suggest a topic for a future blog. I can almost always be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com

For now, just be a cat. Don’t worry where your next meal is coming from, if it doesn’t arrive you can go out and find great sport in catching a bird. Nap often and never turn down a little affection.

Best,

 

Leif Gregersen

 

 

 

Did You Ever Trip Over Your Tongue So Bad You Got a Nosebleed?

https://www.patreon.com/leifg

 

Hello Dear Readers!

I have decided that some of my followers like to read a little about what I have to say, while others want to see videos, so I am going to try and alternate between the two or at least break up the order a little with a written blog now and then and a video blog when I feel up to it. I have been kind of having a struggle the past little while feeling like someone I worked with is stepping on my territory. I’m sure a lot of people who do creative work will feel this way now and then. As many of you know, due to a medication change that was supposed to greatly improve my situation but actually made me extremely sick to the point where I needed to spend a month in the hospital, I had to take some time off work. During that time, I seemed to miss out on a lot of opportunities, the biggest of which was something I really enjoyed, giving presentations to the Police Recruit class here in Edmonton. Thankfully few people seem to be able to do the work I do, and this past fall I was able to go back to speak at the Recruit Centre. For a while though, one of my co-workers had seemed to steal all my thunder, making videos where I was making written blogs (some of which I even wrote from my hospital bed). I tried to contact this person but received no response and then due to my personal social ineptitude, matters only got worse. I can’t remember why, but I had my employer give her a copy of my two memoirs in hopes that she could help get the word out about them, but in reality I am finding more and more that most people are unwilling to do anything that doesn’t directly benefit themselves. I even got a bit angry and asked that my books be returned and heard nothing back, $40 out the window on that one. I really can’t blame this person though, ,most of my feelings can be chalked up to jealousy. Not to mention that I felt extremely hurt that I missed out on so much when I was in the hospital and dealing with horrifying circumstances. Later this year, the person in question actually had her own hospital admission and from that point on I tried to look more at what I had done wrong. I saw how I was being angry and bitter about something that was no one’s fault. Even my doctor could not have predicted that I would have the reaction I did to the medications I took. Hoping to make the best of a bad situation, some time back I decided not to launch a lawsuit and instead went to work on a book about the experience. The book is now done and I have sent it for consideration to a few publishers. Also, I have been trying to find new ways to improve my blog and delivery of my message of more awareness of mental illness and less stigma. The person in question that has videos is really just trying to do the same thing. I have a feeling though that in reality she is much younger and less experienced than me and not someone I should worry about. I should actually be very happy that others are working to improve the situation of people with a mental illness, and simply do the best I can without comparing myself or my work to that of others. A couple of weeks ago there was a staff Christmas party, and as per usual, I was asked to do the photography for it. The video blogger and her boyfriend were there which for whatever reason gave me extreme anxiety which I can’t blame them for, I can only try and recognize my triggers and try to avoid situations like that in the future. Wanting to do the job I was paid for, I took a picture of them and later wished the blogger a Merry Christmas which was returned. When I look back though, it is an interesting rollercoaster of ideas and emotions I went through. First I had heard about this young woman who seemed very kind, nice, and well-dressed. Then some time later after meeting her at a staff meeting she emailed about having me in one of her videos. That was the point where I am uncertain if it was obvious that I was becoming ill, I had my medication change around that time but didn’t enter the hospital until the end of January. I was in a terrible state of paranoia in the hospital and don’t remember if I contacted her. I think this is a good time to pause and mention something: if someone you know has become ill and has been admitted to a hospital, one should always remember how difficult and upsetting it can be. If you have the ability, do your best to visit them just for a short while, as much as once per week, it can make such a huge difference to a person’s recovery.

So anyhow, after leaving the hospital I felt that my status as a mental health advocate had dropped a few hundred points and then I kept hearing about this new blogger. I have to commend her, she has made a lot of great videos though the information in them is pretty simplistic (as they should be–those who need the videos the most have problems processing and remembering things), but she has also managed to stay in school despite schizoaffective disorder and even a hospitalization of her own. These are really qualities I should never be jealous of. Also, I have decided to learn what I can from this new blog format and try and deliver to you, my readers, what you want and need in more efficient ways. I have now started a Patreon page and it would be such a blessing if those who are able can pledge $5-$8 for which I will work with skill and patience on crafting a short story and/or two poems for each month that only supporters will see. Now, I always like to give some advice or at least try and sum up what I say each time I write a blog, but I guess all I can really do is ask that, especially around this time of year we need to be forgiving and inclusive of others, especially if they have an impairment such as mental illness. When I was 18, I was kicked out of the house on Christmas Eve and it took a very long time for me to forgive my dad for it. Now, years later I cherish every moment I can have with my dad (my mom passed ten years ago) and I can see what a selfish teenage jerk I was 30 years ago as a teen. Not only that, but I had two wonderful Christmas dinners this year, one with a friend and his family, and one with my dad and my brother. I really couldn’t ask for any more. Thanks once again for reading and Merry Christmas to one and all!

When Does It Go From Collecting to Hoarding?

Let me try and describe for you a quick look at a harsh reality. It isn’t a pretty one, but one I will have to face up to in the following months as I move further away from that scenario. A room, nothing but a non-ventillated room with a tiny bathroom attached. The room is no more than 10 feet by 15 feet, and inside of it lives a very ill young man presently having medication problems and who is surrounded by a lifetime of possessions. A book case covers one wall, packed full of every kind of book. More books are in the cupboard space instead of food, and more are laying randomly on the floor. The floor is littered with clothes new and old, garbage, full packs of cigarettes, dirty socks, and the odd can of beans or other uncooked, ready to eat food. On every flat surface piles of papers or CDs or other items are stacked beyond a safe height, and inside the fridge there are many items, but none of them are useable. This was my reality before I spent six months in a psychiatric hospital where I wasn’t even allowed to go home to pack my stuff up when I was evicted for displaying the signs of a person with a mental illness.

Sometimes I like to think that back then I wasn’t a hoarder but just a book lover or a music lover. But the plain truth was that I was being choked to death by all of my possessions. I didn’t want to let go of them for any reason. I think it is often the common reason people hoard things is that they feel they have more value than others do, that they can somehow sell them. The idea in my head was that somehow I would read all the books, even though I was consistently buying more books than I could read at that time. Lacking proper space to cook, I was also forced to buy food out or sponge off of my elderly parents which definitely wasn’t sustainable. I think at this time I was a hoarder. I tried an experiment though, a lot of my stuff was put into storage for after my release from hospital, and after spending two years paying for storage I hadn’t once needed to go to get more stuff from there, and I realized that I actually didn’t need any of that stuff. I stopped paying the storage people, they sent me a few nasty letters then auctioned off my things and that was that. The main problem was that I had already begun to accumulate more things.

I have a friend who is definitely a hoarder who lives in a small house stuffed to the rafters with books he will never read, records he will never play and videos he will never watch. At one point he confided with me that when he bought something, it almost gave him a sexual thrill. At first I thought this was a pretty sick thing, but later in years I have heard that many people actually experience this same thing. I think the important thing to understand though is that it is essential to gain awareness of a problem like hoarding, and that there is a great deal of help out there for people to want to change.

It is quite a few years since that incident when I was not only severely mentally ill, but also drowning in more possessions than I needed. What has changed is that I have stabilized on medications, which work well for me, and I have much more space than that tiny little apartment. What I desperately would like to know is if I am still a hoarder.

In the time since that six month hospitalization, I developed an interest in reading comic books. I had once collected them as a child, when I was 10 and I had an impressive collection. Now I don’t read them as much but they have become easy to purchase, I now have thousands more than I ever did, despite that I don’t have a lot of time for reading.

So in all this time since my last hospital admission (19 years) I have fought to find a balance to my life, and I have discovered a movement called minimalism. I find it extremely fascinating, the claims they make are huge though. Get rid of 90% of what you have and you will feel 200% better. Declutter your home and declutter your mind. A lot of it makes sense to me, but I have hit a roadblock. I have this huge collection of comics recently bought and I just don’t know if I can sell the comics at a huge sacrifice, never having taken the time to read them. This surely must be hoarding at its worst, and to break out of the cycle I am going to have to make some really hard decisions. The only way I really know how to deal with it is to read books like “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” a beautiful book about purging possessions and reorganizing ones’ home. I know it will be difficult, but I think one of the most important things is likely that I shouldn’t worry about getting my money out of the comics. What I really have to focus on is finding a way to force myself not to buy any more, and I am lucky to have a resource in Edmonton that many of us can access with ease, there are graphic novels galore in the Edmonton Public Library. There are actually also a great deal of comics online, but I can’t comment due to lack of knowledge on copyright status and such. One of the wonderful things about the computer age is that it almost seems all one needs is a decent computer and only the very essential necessities of life and you can make it.

There are some truly encouraging reasons to embrace minimalism. The idea that one can either lower the amount they work without worry or work like they did before but be able to save much more, save for things in life that truly matter, like a life-changing vacation or being able to take your spouse out for a special meal at a fancy restaurant you enjoy more often. For me, as I sit at my desk writing this now, all I can think about is what it will be like when the clutter and papers of my work space are cleared and I can think of nothing but writing. I have also been thinking that if I use some of the space in my apartment differently there is no reason why I can’t hold onto my comics, but the essential thing I think is for me not to buy any more, so I have been trying to read up and listen to podcasts on living with less.

Last week I went into kind of a cleaning frenzy. I took all my clothes, piled them up on my futon, then got rid of each and every stitch of fabric that I wasn’t using or didn’t give me immediate joy. I was going to move on to do more this weekend but Edmonton has been hit with a brutal snowstorm and temperature drop which has made it impractical for me to complete my scheduled purge. Books are next. This is going to be the hardest part of it all I think, I have loved books since I was very young, but I think I should go easy on myself and include books but not comic books. I have this idea that I can simply pare down my comic collection to a manageable amount, but the truth is no matter which way I do it, this can become a very emotional time for a person who has had a lot of stuff for a long time. One thing I do know is that changing the way you view possessions, and not letting what you have define what kind of person you are, is so worth it.