friendships

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!

 

 

Mental Health Mind Reading

Scroll down for today’s blog if you want to skip today’s photo and poem. the photo below is a black and white I took of a bedsheet after throwing it up in the air

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January One, 2017; 5:15am

  

Outside is still and dark, silence fills the land

On this day hope begins anew with New Year plans

We gathered in the cold to greet this year

With promises to set aside unhappiness, anger and fear

 

As the new day dawns, I promise to all of you

That there is not one thing that I promise to do

Other than put my friends and family always first

Through the lazy easy happy times and through the worst

 

I do know that many challenges will come to us

I just ask that you do your best and always trust

That our good times will greatly overwhelm the bad

And that you must call me any time you’re feeling sad

 

This day is also set aside to recall the past

None of our futures are singularly cast

Each of us together or apart can change our fate

If we just let go of all that bitterness and hate

 

Anger and anxiety consumes us from within

Worse than not receiving forgiveness for our sins

It hurts us as it drives those we love away

It can cause us to end up alone one day

 

Family is so very necessary for us all

Please don’t forget those great words, “divided we fall”

And please care for the elders in your community

One day we’ll be among them, you and me

 

A love still dwells in my heart for everyone

Not just at year’s end but with each setting sun

For all the friends and lovers who shared my hurts and joys

For those who taught me love, gentleness and poise

 

And I could not pass without saying something for

The teachers who opened so many doors

From my little niece who taught me how to care

To the instructors who wisdom followed me everywhere

 

I now vow to all of you to never stop

Looking past the little challenges, striving for the top

And also, I give a special word to those who wear a uniform and fight

I want to thank you all for risking your lives for what we know is right

 

Leif Gregersen

     Well, I haven’t got a lot to say regarding mental health. I have been experiencing anxiety lately and it has been working negatively on my stomach. As a result, I felt nausea last night and took a couple of gravol which helped the bad feeling and helped me sleep and even relax a bit. I got up and wrote a long letter to a friend I have been relying on way too much for our own good. She is this very kind and caring young woman and we have met for lunch a few times and I actually started to think we might go out, but I discovered she had no such intentions. She is so nice though that she has decided to keep me as a friend which I am very glad of. The problem that’s been happening lately is that she has been busy and I have been short of things to do since everything is shut down for the holidays and I live alone (yes, big mistake for someone with a mental illness!) I contacted her a couple of times and my anxiety started making up all these ideas. First I thought I was bothering her, then I wrote back hoping to make her less worried about me, then she sent me a quick text and I thought that she was ‘weirded’ out about me doing that. I keep stumbling over my words and it isn’t helping that my social skills and confidence are diminished from living alone. I still have a good friend in my life who I talk to a lot, but I would hate to lose this other person as a friend. I am kind of wondering if I need to up my dose of anti-anxiety medication despite the possible dependancy and side effects. I hope someone out there can identify with this and maybe take something out of it they can use. I wish there was a support group out there that was free and ongoing for neurotics like me.

What About Friendships?

DSC_0324

some of you may have seen this picture before–I am having upload problems with my wordpress account.  Still a nice little summer-ish image.

 

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry, and don’t forget to check out my eBook “Inching Back To Sane” for just $3.25 US at www.smashwords.com  (link will take you to my book’s page)

 

Far Too Many To Name Here

 

On the days when my life has some meaning

On the nights when I don’t have to pretend

I can lay writing poems and dreaming

About times spent with you my dear friend

 

The people I share this brief life with

Are so precious and dear to my heart

Each moment spent with a friend or a loved one

Make me wish friends never had to depart

 

There were friends from my youth that threw parties

And when older girlfriends would often stop by

But the dear friends who truly lasted the longest

Were the ones with whom I could love, laugh and cry

 

Sharing good times and bad added with some real caring

Good friends can be family, loved ones or those we just met

What matters is that friends are all about sharing

When their friend is happy or sad or upset

 

Life takes a toll on all as it passes by us

Living each day means dying just a little too

But when I’m gone I don’t want people to fuss

It wasn’t so bad; I had a good friend in you

 

 

February 22, 2016

Leif Gregersen

     Good day dear Readers!  Well, it has been a fair while since I made a blog entry.  I have been feeling a bit stressed out (in fact I was so stressed out I made a video about stress using some of the information I learned from researching stress!)  There is a lot of info out there about stress, some of it good, some of it bad.  Of course there is this Kelly McGonigal who quotes studies that it is your attitude towards stress, not stress itself that makes it good or bad.  I am not really sure, I just kind of felt like I hit a wall at one point shortly after finishing compiling a short story collection a little while ago.  I took a few days and literally did nothing.  I didn’t work out, I didn’t go for any walks, I just curled up and hid from the world which I don’t think is the best thing you could do.  I was having a lot of trouble sleeping–most likely because I wasn’t exercising enough to tire myself out or need to repair my body with sleep, but I had little to do so I tried some different methods, one of them some over the counter sleeping pills, another a prescribed anxiety medication called rivotril or clonazepam.  I also tried melatonin, all of them but the over the counter pill in moderation with consent of my Doctor.  I am going to see my Psychiatrist tomorrow and talk to him about the sleeping pills then, but I am reluctant to have him prescribe me something because I really hate to get dependent or tolerant to any kind of medication that isn’t absolutely neccessary to my mental health.  I also had a man with a Master’s Degree in social work tell me that a Doctor advised him that using sleeping pills can result in memory loss, so that too is a factor.  It sure is funny getting older.  My eyes are starting to go, it takes me longer to recover from workouts and it is so easy to get out of a good routine.  Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little about friendships, so here goes:

Some of the first and most important friendships I made when I was first diagnosed as mentally ill was with other people in the hospital.  I found this was very difficult with women or gay males because, them being sick as well they confused a lot of things with sexual overtures and possibly had enhanced ideas of their own attractiveness (as I did myself.)  Although some hospitals, some nurses and some psychiatrists seem to be against it, I think it is extremely important to have someone to talk to and pal around with in the hospital.  I can see how not having any friends could make things unbearable.  Then there is another thing aside from the attractiveness thing, the last time I was in the hospital 15 years ago I mistook a woman who was there for a woman I knew and despite the fact that she was married I pursued a relationship with her.  I was kind of surprised that I was able to succeed at this effort, before she left the ward I was on she actually referred to me as her ‘boyfriend’ while she had been quite hostile and suspicious before that.  It was very troubling though because as we got to be good friends the staff was doing everything to keep us away from each other.  What bothered me was not so much the policy, it was that it seemed to come down to the opinion of one nurse that she simply didn’t want us associating even though we weren’t having any kind of sexual relationship.  Other staff had actually, almost under threat, encouraged socializing, but I don’t want to get into that.

When you get out of the hospital, you go into another phase of needing to make friends.  For me, for a good while my only friend was my Dad.  He would come down to the place I was living, pick me up and take me for a walk in Edmonton’s stunning river valley almost every day and it was simply wonderful.  A little fresh air and exercise, some good conversation and a chance to re-establish a bond with a family member was so therapeutic.  But eventually a person has to have more friends, in my case not only because my dad was getting older and had troubles driving, but also because I was putting a lot of demands on his time.  A lot of times friends were simply people who lived in whatever housing I was in.  This can be a real problem if you are in an unsupervised group home or residence for people with psychiatric disabilities and either there is no staff or the staff don’t watch out for their clients.  A young man at a house I rented a room in was literally a sociopath.  Many many times I got up at odd hours to help him, drive him home from work in the middle of the night, buy him meals, lend him money, lend him food.  The list went on and on.  Then one day I woke up late for work and was really hungry and here he had gotten drunk and left a cold pizza out on a counter ready for the flies to get at.  I grabbed two pieces of the pizza thinking I would pay him back later and found out when I came home that he had called the police and tried to press charges on me for eating the pizza.  I moved out of there (after another incident that I will relate another time) and into a five unit apartment house.  The ‘caretaker’ (he called himself the landlord though he didn’t own the place and didn’t even get a free suite for his ‘work’) was off his rocker.  He seemed normal enough, but was a real jerk.  I got to be good friends with him too, and all these strange things kept happening, and he had a habit of showing up and giving me orders as to how to keep my suite, what I was allowed to do and all that.  Then one day I came home and here he was just leaving my apartment with a smile on his face as he locked the door with his own key.  I was gone pretty soon after that.

At that time, and before that, I had decided to try and rekindle old friendships that had been damaged when I last went into the hospital.  This was very difficult and even impossible in a lot of cases, but I managed to get back on good terms with an ex-girlfriend and we have had a very mutually beneficial relationship, I even have become friends with her other family members and done things.  I have no easy answers to making friends, but one thing I do know is that the more stability in your life, the better chance you have in making friends.  One of my best friends right now is actually quite a well known author.  He used to work as a writer-in-residence at the University and he liked my work and I liked his and we kept in touch and now we meet up quite often.  The important thing to learn from that situation is to have a creative outlet in your life.  It can be writing, it can be music, it can be pottery or Yoga, or even meditation.  If you have stability in your life and you have something that helps you get out of bed each day you will eventually make friends that you can count on.  I don’t want to scare anyone off making friends in a group home or other assisted living situation either, but I don’t think it is best to rely too much on this source either.

Well, that was a long one.  I should leave off at that.  It feels great to sit and just let the words flow.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and if anyone is interested, I have now posted my book “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords as an Ebook for just $3.25 US.  Have a great day!

Dear old dad:

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More About Relationships and the Mentally Ill: A Focus On Community

DSC_0001A warm winter’s day caused me to grab my camera and head out to capture one of these brave little guys for my blog.

I talked a little yesterday about relationships and what they can mean to a person with a mental illness, and I felt like I left something very significant out.  It seems to me that when we live somewhere or work somewhere, or are part of something larger than ourselves and our roommates or family, we are talking about a community.  A community can really be any group of people, but for the purposes of what I want to discuss I think it is best to think of a community as a group of significant relationships.  There is our neighborhood, my own favorite community.  I live in a section of town where a lot of Italian people settled some time ago and continue to live among those who speak their language, worship at the same churches and share the same culture.  There are many other sub-communities in this area, there are the homeless people which I often try to think of as the ones who are the most special because, as many people may know, Jesus once said that “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.” This is kind of amazing in my mind because we actually have this incredible opportunity to do something for the King of the Universe and gain points in heaven just for helping people who appreciate such small things.  More on that later.

The next level of community includes both the homeless people and the Italian people, it is simply the people who live in this area.  I am a long way from getting to know all of them, but over the course of the past 15 years of me living in this area I have made many friends.  One thing that I really like is that when I publish a new book there are people who will always get a copy from me.  I have to admit to a bit of laziness as to the marketing side of publishing a book, and it means a lot that at least my first few sales are guaranteed when I put out a new book.  Then of course, there is a much smaller segment of the area I live in of people who are my friends, and I like to lump this together with the people who also live in the housing project I live in.  I currently live in a group home of around 20 adults that share common meals, common chores, some entertainment and who are mostly friends. This community is something that perhaps means the most to me because among these adult males who all have a psychiatric issue, there is very little judging, very little stigma and a strong desire to help each other through life’s difficult times.  Even when I first moved here a long time back I was able to borrow money and trust the people here to borrow from me and there were people to play cards and sports and billiards with.  It changed so much because first off I had made my relationship with my family very strained by years of being in and out of hospitals and isolating myself.  Being around these other ‘psychiatric survivors’ was a life-changing, perhaps even life-changing experience.  There is also the slightly larger community there that includes the people who work here at the group home, who are all trained to deal with psychiatric patients and are subject to rules and regulations by the government.  Knowing I am not alone is huge.  I would love to talk about my immediate family, how much it means that I have a cousin here and three in Toronto who are incredible people and inspire me greatly, my brother and sister who I love doing things with and of course my dad who is a tower of strength even now in his declining years, but that may take more space than I have here and I think just about everyone out there understands the importance of family to some degree.

What I wanted to talk about was a situation where I wanted to become a part of a different type of community and succeeded.  I wanted to become a part of a community of people who stay fit, who have regular jobs, who don’t focus everything on a mental illness whether they have one or not.  I found this community at the swimming pool I went to for many years.  It was hard at first.  Of course I knew how to use the facility, I could swim and sit in the hot tub, lift weights and so on, but there were a lot of people who came to the pool on a regular basis and I wanted to get new friends in my life.  I forced myself to go to the same pool at the same time every morning for quite some time, and for the first while I would just sit around and take up space.  After a while though, I was able to strike up conversations with people and I used something called ‘open ended questions’.  I haven’t mastered this ability, but basically what asking open ended questions means is to ask a person a question phrased so that you don’t get a simple one-word answer.  “Where do you like to go for vacation?”  for example, rather than “Do you like to travel?”  I am not very well versed in this method as it has been some time since I took the class that taught me about them, but I have been able to develop the ability to carry on conversations with people and when you can do this in the same place with the same people, over time you will make friends and with friends in your life just about anything is possible.  I can recall making friends with a supervisor while I was working as a security guard and being offered a job that doubled my pay with better working conditions.  Another time a friend I made at the swimming pool turned out to be the owner of a coin shop, coin collecting being one of my favorite hobbies, and I got some great deals from him and lots of usable advice.

Basically what it comes down to I think is of course, you must accept your illness, diagnosis and must be in a situation of proper treatment for this illness.  At this point you are at a crossroads, and I can understand why so many people go off their medications and get sick again because life can really begin to suck if you are alone and taking pills that have a lot of side effects and don’t seem to help.  But if you can establish yourself, settle down into a good place to live and build a life for yourself, there are ways to overcome the difficulties that come with a mental health diagnosis.  Settling into one place has so many advantages.  I don’t see now how I could ever move, I have so many good friends where I live and love the house I am in.  As a small, simple example, when you get a fixed address you can get a library card.  That means you have access to all kinds of books, magazines, courses, and so on.  You also have a place to go where you can attend talks given by guest speakers (in a larger city I should say) and maybe you will also start to meet people.  Maybe you just start to be friends with someone you ride the bus with to get to the library each Tuesday.  They say that a person with one friend is a wealthy person, and I believe it.  But of course, there is much more benefit to be realized from staying in one place.  Most neighborhoods, even in small towns have community leagues, Scout meetings, Toastmasters groups, photography classes.  Some of these may be difficult if you don’t have much money and can’t work or take on too much stress, but even a volunteer job for 2 hours a week can help plug you into something special.

Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I want to thank everyone that has been adding themselves to follow me and invite all of you to comment or email me.  At the moment, I am hard at work on a short story collection but am hoping to fuel the creative fires again soon and start writing more poetry.  Take care friends, and keep in touch!      viking3082000@yahoo.com

Love, Friendships and the Healing Process

DSC00221This photo is from West Edmonton Mall, it is a statue commemorating oilfield workers.  It may seem a bit out of place in a blog about relationships, but one of my strongest and most rewarding relationships have been with people I have worked with.  I feel there is something very special about people pitching in together for a common goal that forms strong bonds.

Well, today since Valentine’s day is around the corner I thought I might share a little bit about relationships.

There really isn’t a more sensitive topic than this for people with mental health issues.  So many things are up in the air for people who suffer.  Quite often, mental health ‘survivors’ have a skewed image of what love is and so little experience that they end up obsessed with a person who doesn’t want their attention.  I know in my own case there used to be a couple of females who I felt that way about who didn’t feel that way back.  It was very difficult but I had to accept that they weren’t these great wonderful people worthy of my love, just ordinary, perhaps even negative people and move on.

Of course, obsession is another thing and I don’t want to get too far into the topic because I know so little about it, I am not any kind of a qualified person to give advice and it isn’t anywhere near the kind of caring/relationship I want to promote.  When I think of relationships, I think more of the ones I have carefully built up and cultivated over the years.

It is hard to say where to start.  Just about all of the relationships in our life are important.  These may be our relationships with our parents and family members, which are often greatly strained by mental illness, and could also include friendships and romantic relationships.  I think the thing to remember is that every person in your life can be extremely important.  For a long time I had trouble getting along with my Dad, but when I left the hospital last time after a lengthy and painful stay, he was the only one who was constantly there for me, taking me for walks, talking to me, being that all important listener.  As time went by, I was slowly able to rebuild most of my relationships with friends (but not all) and the rest of my family also came back ‘on my side.’

One of the first relationships that I had problems with last time I got sick (I was very ill, extremely delusional and hurt many people who didn’t understand what had happened to me or why) was with the person who is my best friend right now.  I really care for her, I don’t want to mention her name here, some may know her pseudonym ‘Debbie’ from my books.  Her and I years ago had a short stint as lovers and it was simply the most wonderful experience of my life.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my virginity until I was with someone I cared very deeply for and it was such an incredible experience.  Then when we broke up as lovers, we stayed friends.  She stopped contacting me last time I was ill, unable to deal with all my problems.

Over the course of time, I gathered up my courage, went to see Debbie and talked to her and kind of wormed my way back into her life.  Her and I would often go for soup at a favorite restaurant, and when I really wanted to talk to her I would write a paper letter to her, including in it a poem I had written just for her.  Eventually she got married, but we stayed friends and to this day we talk literally for at least an hour on the phone.  It feels so good to be connected to someone like that, even though it isn’t a romantic relationship.

So how does a person with a mental illness cultivate a friendship?  I have always felt that relationships with others are based on conversation, and all too often people with mental health issues don’t have a lot of things to talk about because they spend a lot of time at home, watching TV or isolating themselves.  If a person can get out and start doing more things, not only will they feel better and cope with stress better, they will meet people and have things to talk about to the new people they meet.  I am a firm believer in volunteering.  When I was alone and having problems, I used to volunteer when I was able to visit aging veterans in an extended care hospital.  I did this for some time and not only learned a lot, but I made friends with the Pastor there and spent so much quality time with these wonderful old men who had fought for our freedom.  Added to that, I found that a lot of young women really liked the idea that I was a giving and compassionate person and from what I recall my social life improved while I was doing that.

So, if you have something to talk about, how do you approach someone you want to be friends with?  This can be a difficult question and there are no easy answers. (I should note here that I am of the opinion that if you make friends with a member of the opposite sex and let things grow naturally from there, you might develop that all important romantic relationship many people seek.)  One thing I noticed I myself have been guilty of is forcing a relationship and doing things that only serve to ‘creep out’ the person like trying to anticipate what the person likes or wants and going overboard.  My roommate is a very good friend, but often he goes to far, turning on lights for me, turning off the tap for me when I go to get a glass.  It sometimes drives me nuts.  I think one of the best ways to make friends with others is to be a kind person without being intrusive and also having a good sense of humor is a big help.  These traits can be learned, humor often comes from observing others and using things they find funny.  Caring comes from always trying to see things from the side of other people.  You don’t have to go overboard, just try and notice something about the other person.  Did you get a new haircut, it looks good, how have you been doing lately, how are your kids?  Simple questions that aren’t too personal can start off a conversation and that is what you are aiming for.

Well, I can’t cover a lot of information in this short blog, I do hope that I have given people some food for thought.  Be caring, be kind, think of the other person, try to have a life so you are able to have good conversations.  If I can remember, I will try and revisit this subject in the next few days.  As always dear readers, feel free to contact me and I always like it when people leave comments.  viking3082000@yahoo.com