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Mind Wondering, Wandering as January Comes On With a Vengeance

DSC_0048           Couldn’t resist juxtaposing today’s poem with this lovely shot of daisies in bloom. 

(scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog 🙂

January Musings

 

Soft crunch of snow

Underfoot

Resounds

In pleasure

Even for tired feet

 

Mile after mile

Each day brings

New joy

Walking

Feeling fit, happy

 

Romance is a lie

For those

Who can’t be alone

Can’t be whole as one

Because those who can

Are never alone

 

Night sky in winter

So alive

Crisp, moonbeam and starlight filled

Fill my heart

As I watch the northern lights

Dance

 

No need to hold on to

Anything

Anyone

We are all brothers and sisters

One flesh, one world

Under the night sky

 

Leif Gregersen

January 6, 2015

     Good day dear readers!  Well, a good deal has gone on since I last posted.  One of them that I don’t know if I mentioned is that I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  As a long time fan of the Star Wars movies, especially the first three (they were a religion to kids my age when they first came out), I have to say this was an extremely well done and satisfying movie to watch.  The plot was incredible, the references to the first movies was awesome, and the stunts and effects were almost beyond belief.  GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

On to other topics, I had a great day yesterday.  As many of you may know, I work giving presentations about mental health for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.  We are doing a new thing where we are going to have Psychiatry students come in to answer questions that normal presenters can’t handle.  So yesterday I met the young woman I will be working with and she seemed so cool.  She was very attractive and introduced herself as Doctor Olivia…  and I was really pleased to think I could get to know someone so intelligent and dedicated to have gone this far with her education.  Being part businessman, I thought I would show her my books about mental health (Through The Withering Storm, Inching Back to Sane) and to my great surprise she had read and greatly enjoyed one of them already.

Now that is a nice little story all in all, but I want to use it to illustrate a point.  When you are a writer or even just a person with a goal in mind such as owning a business, if you give it your all, it may take time, it may take a lot of time, but if you persist, huge rewards can come.  When I first put my book out, I was very distressed that no one seemed to want it, very worried that I couldn’t cut things as a writer and now a few years later I am reaping the rewards of my efforts.  One of the things I did was to get a copy of a book called “The Writer’s Handbook” which comes out with a new edition each year and I sent off proposal after proposal to write articles.  In this time I started to learn how to write better proposals and I have had a few really good opportunities come my way.  One of them that happened recently is a case where a man who owned two mental health magazines called me up from a query I had sent him two years ago and had me write him some articles.  He liked my work a great deal and now I am kind of a staff writer for his magazines and it pays fairly good.

There are many other little things too numerous to list here, but I just wanted to illustrate that when you have a dream, as I had a dream of being a well known writer, you have to give it your all and keep giving it your all and not give up.  Your goal can be anything though.  One thing I learned in Phys. Ed. class in school (yes, you can actually learn things in gym) is how to set down what I can do and make goals for what I want to be able to do.  I think this really applies to mental health patients.  Fitness of course can be a part of it, you could say you wanted to walk a mile a day and work your way up to more, but you can also say you want to have five close friends or a part-time job by the end of next year or have saved up for a trip.  Goals are very powerful things, and if you don’t have them, you are basically just floating around without direction, which sadly can end up leaving you with years of your life gone.

Well Dear readers, I hope my words can help and inspire you.  I have to run but it is my strongest prayer that the words I put down here can make a difference for someone, so if you enjoy what I have written or even if you just wanted to talk or ask my something, as always I would love to hear from you at viking3082000@yahoo.com

All the best!!!

 

The Biggest Question of All… Employment!

DSC_0119This is a photo from a park on 97th street in Edmonton near downtown that is dedicated to the sufferring of the homeless.  This is the only park where outside drinking is allowed and is a short walk from where I live

 

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, today is going to be an interesting one, I have a lot of feelings about this topic.  Have any of you had a hard time, say you just got out of the hospital and you feel you are adjusting to your meds and you have been told not to work?  Or maybe you have been sick for some time and you have gotten out of shape or your illness doesn’t allow you much room for stress?  I know of a number of people with schizophrenia who hear voices so badly despite their medications that a job seems impossible, but there are two huge problems associated with unemployment: what do you do for money and what do you do with your time?  I knew a guy who was so worked up about the way working people looked at him that he would tell them bald faced lies.  I recall him telling his Dad that he had a full-time job when I knew he didn’t and it turned out he meant his full time job was protesting the cuts to welfare payments.  Here is another part of the stigma surrounding an illness, people who are ill are seen as lazy or as leeches on the rest of society.  Sometimes all of the stigma surrounding mental illness can get so bad that the person experiencing it can turn to alcohol and drugs as I did for a short time when I was younger.  This puts a huge strain on family members and the person with the illness and is a drain on limited finances as well.

So, I have outlined some of the problems but haven’t offered any solutions.  I do like to try and offer solutions, but I also like to try and put in a disclaimer that your Psychiatrist is your boss, what he or she says you should do is the end of it, and hopefully you have enough health care insurance to have a nurse or support worker you can talk to about more of this.  These people are the experts, they have the access to resources in your local area that can help you.  I know in Edmonton there is a place called DECSA, which helps the disabled find work, but I want to just throw in my opinion.  I also want people to keep in mind that my experience relates to what I have been through, which is to be diagnosed at different times with schizophrenia and other times with Bipolar Disorder/manic depression.  The first and most important thing above everything is to stay off drugs and alcohol and take your meds.  For me getting off alcohol was a huge priority for the first year after I stopped drinking.  I was attending often up to two alcohol abuse meetings a day and I would often walk long distances to these places, summer and winter.  But the cool thing was that eventually I got my life back and could focus on other things.  These meetings kept me busy and made me feel like I was doing something, and when I felt more comfortable with the new drug and alcohol free me, I started to take on more.  One of the first things I did was to cultivate a love of swimming that I once had.  It meant so much to me to get up before anyone else, walk out to take the bus, read a book or newspaper on the bus and then go to the pool where I eventually made a lot of good friends that I would see each day and talk to in the hot tub or sauna and it really felt good.  After a while I made friends with a lifeguard and she was taking pre-med in University and helped me do a lot to train myself up to a healthy level.  All this wasn’t a job, but it was something that gave me activity to do, got me out and meeting people, and it made the time I had to spend between disability pension benefits a lot easier to handle for many reasons.  Then, when it was time to work a difficult and taxing job, I was strong enough and had enough endurance to handle what was put before me.  For a time I made pretty good money and felt really good about myself.  This was one of the peaks of my life and I feel that a lot of people can do the same who have mental illnesses or even are off the employment grid for an extended period of time.  Work your way up slowly, address all the isssues that area barier to employment, get yourself fit and ready to work and possibly volunteer, then put out a few resumes and who knows how far you can go?  There is more to it though, and it is definitely not a simple thing for a lot of people, but I have always been a believer in baby steps.  One small thing each day towards a goal, and as my readers may know, I am a firm believer in written, clear, distinct goals that one can work towards.

Anyhow, when you get all that together and you do find employment, it is important to have savings for a lot of reasons, but factor in a part of your savings for a trip.  Myself when I first got back to work after my most recent stay in the Psychiatric Hospital, I saved up and then asked my sister to pay half and bought a ticket to Toronto where I had never been.  I had the most awesome vacation, going to see Niagara Falls, the CN Tower and all kinds of cool places.  In the past 10 years now I have been to Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Northern British Columbia, Northern Alberta and beautiful Hawaii.  All just a small step at a time, and all of this is from someone who thought he would spend the rest of his life in a tiny room doomed to keep making the same mistakes and ending up in the hospital for them.  There is hope, there is always hope!

Below is a poem I wrote for today’s blog.  It isn’t exactly relevant and it is a style I haven’t used before, but I hope all of you will enjoy it.

 

That Which We Lost We Never Knew

Innocence
Do we lose it all at once?
Our grown up souls
Crying, reaching to get through
When, I beg, I pray to really know
When does it all come apart
Sweet virginity just couldn’t be
Once lost
It just seems to not be it

Is it in
A lie you know will be cutting to the bone
A lie given to
A loved one you once thought you could never hurt
But past innocence
Their feelings matter not
Innocence
Though we don’t know how
Is lost
Lost among the breeze

But do we gain
When we lose our innocence
Sometimes it seems
The loss gives us the upper hand
A little edge
On all who came before
A way to stay
And older, wiser soul

Then there is that one
That one, that very special one
That person whom we all must know
Who has our love
And holds in their hands our self esteem
Who never lost
That which we cherished once
Innocence
It flew away among the wind
Happiness
Was never really ours

Leif Gregersen
August 15, 2015

Taking Things Day By Day

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Today the Canadian Military Was On Exercise In  An Edmonton Park

One of the things about having a mental illness is that you often end up with a lot of time on your hands and very little to do with it all.  I can recall periods where literally for years I would do very little if anything that was at all meaningful.  At the time this can feel comforting, but I want to warn people that time can pass by quickly and with it a lot of opportunities.  One thing that I feel kind of strongly about is that a person who has Bipolar and is properly managing their condition, really should have a volunteer job or a regular job, even if just part-time to fill up their days.  This can make such a huge difference in life, starting with the extra few bucks it brings in to simply getting out and meeting people and interacting with them.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is because there were periods in my life when for long stretches I stayed at home, watching TV, smoking cigarettes, and when you couple the isolation with depression, you get so bad off sometimes you actually want to be back in a hospital.

I can think back to many occasions when I thought I desperately needed someone or something to ‘fix’ me when in fact I was being non-compliant with meds or treatment suggestions.  I had a pretty good Doctor at one point and he had set things up so I could get into a group home and take some life skills classes, he had even set me up with a Psychologist, but perhaps partially out of fear and partially out of laziness, I didn’t take these opportunities and he made the decision that he would no longer see me.  This felt hurtful, and I was very bitter about this but I didn’t take the bitterness and try to make things better, I took it and decided to hurt myself because of it.  One of the main things I did was stop seeing any Psychiatrist, which didn’t seem to hurt at first, but over time my condition eroded to the point where I was very sick, very delusional.

These days, things are a lot different I like to think.  One of the big things of course is I have my writing, including this blog, to give me something to do, give me a bit of purpose and meaning in my life.  The other thing is that I have decided that the side effects of my medications are not bad enough that I will face getting sick again and go off them.  The third thing is that I am now in a group home where I get a little bit of structure and interaction with others.  There is also my Dad, who is getting on in years, but is still a great source of inspiration.  Now my days are filled with things to do and places to go.

The way that I know I need to keep myself active, see my Doctor and live in a group home is simply by how my dreams go for me.  I often have these vivid nightmares where I imagine I am in my teen years again but in the dream I come to the realization that I am 43 and have barely accomplished what a lot of 30 year old people have done.  This really scares me sometimes because though I know getting older can’t be helped, I have for some reason always feared wasting my life away.  Going back all the way to my elementary school and junior high days, I think of how much time I spent watching Television that was 95% a waste of time and not even exercising or reading or anything.  I could never tell what might have come about especially since my younger years were severely disrupted by my illness, but I know that if I had found a sport I could enjoy or read books of a higher level than comics, I would have been far ahead of those I grew up with, while now having not done those things nearly as much as I could, I haven’t even finished high school and likely never will.

It isn’t  a total loss of course, but a good example is my writing.  For years I wrote and didn’t know anything about getting books published.   For years I published books without knowing how to market them, and if I had worked a little harder and focused on what I wanted to do in a more realistic fashion at a more realistic age, I would have been so much further ahead.

I am hoping that these words can somehow shed some light on the importance of filling up your days, of trying to sit down and take a clear look at what you want to accomplish.  Setting goals is extremely important.  If one doesn’t set goals, you simply wander aimlessly until hopefully at some unspecified point you somehow, possibly get somewhere.  A goal makes you aim and fire and hit a target rather than just shooting blindly.  Set your goals, and work towards them.  And as time passes, re-evaluate your goals and check to see how you are doing with them.  It really can save your life.  All the best, dear readers!

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Inching Back To Sane (the article not the book)

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Well dear readers, I have to apologize for not posting anything for the past few days.  I had a real surprise when I opened my stats page today, I actually broke my record of 42 views in one day and it now stands at 48.  The reason I didn’t post anything is I was simply feeling a bit burned out from writing a great deal.  I have been going to workshops and book signings, I even went to a book launch today and did some great photography for it, but I won’t bore you all with that here.  I have also been working diligently on a Young Adult Historical Fiction Novel which seems to be coming along nicely.  On Wednesday I took advantage of my local library’s writer in residence program and had a very nice young woman work with me on the first 10 pages of my YA book.  When I first had it looked at by my dear friend and mentor Richard Van Camp, he said that it seemed rushed.  It was in fact rushed, I sat down and wrote the whole 23,000 word mess in just two days.  After Richard suggested taking more time, adding more detail and a few other things I went over it and added another 8,000 words.  In the past day I have been editing the work line by line and have added probably about another 1,500 words to the total.  These seem like grand tasks, but I have to stress that there were times in my life where I accomplished very little in my writing other than improving my typing skills in chat rooms.

What I kind of wanted to discuss today though was the whole concept of ‘Inching Back To Sane’.  This is of course, the title of a book I wrote which you can find right on this website for sale, but it is also kind of a mindset I have about recovery.  Before I explain too much, let me say that I strongly believe that a man (or woman) who has one friend is a rich man.  We all need a friend, whether they be a member of our family, it is of course ideal that they be a life partner, but your friend can be anyone.  Together people can do so much more than they will ever get done alone.  Back in 2001, just after 9/11, which was the same time that I was released from the mental hospital, I was in a very poor state.  Somehow my retired father was able to make time each and every day to drive to my house, pick me up and take me to the park and we would walk.  Walking is a fantastic exercise I think because it is low impact and generally good for the soul.  Even the Buddhists talk about something called ‘walking meditation’ where you get into something of a rhythm and focus your mind and cleanse your thoughts.  So anyhow, my Dad would come and get me and was very understanding and we would walk through the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and after a time I was able to be fit enough to quit smoking, and my mood and general situation improved greatly and then before long my Dad and I were going to different parks and then with the advent of less expensive digital cameras (I never did have luck with film cameras) we started taking pictures of birds.  I became almost obsessed with photography but I still liked doing it with my Dad and went on to do magazine work, newspaper photography and I recently saved up my dough and bought a very nice little Nikon D3200 with a regular and a telephoto lens.  My Dad has filled the wall of his apartment with his bird photos and basically something really special came out of my Dad’s effort to help me recover from the shock of spending 5 months in the mental hospital.

This adage, this concept of taking small steps and maintaining them until great things happens applies to a lot of things in life I think.  Years ago I made the decision that I wanted to be a writer and I started out with short poems, then longer ones, then short stories which I eventually tied all together into a book.  By chance I met an old friend who knew a professional editor who I hired to turn the book into something publishable, then after being unable to find a publisher I learned how to self-publish and have gained a lot of respect from friends, co-workers and family members and even members of the general public as far as my writing goes.  I should mention also I suppose that when I wasn’t writing I was reading as much as I could get my hands on and went to great lengths to increase my collection of poetry books and through a lot of that time each day I would force myself to write a journal entry that filled a page.

All that I have really covered before, but here I just wanted to encourage people to lay down goals for themselves, achievable goals, concrete, written out goals.  A distant goal of mine was to publish a book even before I had written my first short story or half decent poem.  At the time I didn’t even own a pen that I used for anything other than writing down women’s phone numbers in my little black book.  But I set down my goal and then had something to move towards.  Even the horrors of becoming severely mentally ill and facing the treatment I went through didn’t deter me.  Another goal I remember setting for myself years ago was to have a sports car and a motorbike.  Not long ago I had both, thanks to a ruling by the government with regard to deductions made to disability payments plus my awesome job setting up concerts.  So for anyone who reads this, I want to quote the title of the YA Novel I am working on.  The title is “Those Who Dare To Dream” and I suppose I could change it to a catchy phrase like ‘great rewards come to those who dare to dream’ which sounds a little hokey, but it would be great if someone read this and felt inspired enough to write out what they want out of life, where they want to be in ten years and be able to come back and tell me that they did these things.  These goals are different than New Year’s resolutions, of which 99% never seem to get done.  I did set one for myself this year, which was to lose 20 pounds but I think what I’m discussing is something larger.  Something you need to get very specific about.  “I want to have $150,000.00 to put down on a house in ten years” is something like that.  You can set smaller goals along the way, just like when I was discussing “The Richest Man in Babylon” you can say first I want to improve my work performance to get a 15% raise, then I want to put 10% of that in a savings account and reward myself with the other 5% with a vacation to the coast.

For those of you who read this who feel their whole life is a mess and that things will never turn around for them, I want to say that you can set goals to make yourself feel better, for example you could say “I am going to get myself on better medications over the next year until I can feel good enough to work 10 hours a week as a volunteer and make it to church at least twice a month”.  You don’t have to conquer the world, but it would mean so much if you could just improve your own life a little.  I know it has for me and that my life has become the biggest dream come true I never even imagined could have come about.  But, at the risk of sounding manic I will pass on any more commentary.  I would love it if people who read this would send me feedback, I can be reached as always at: viking3082000@yahoo.com

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