goals

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!

 

Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

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

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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.

 

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

The Question of Goals, The Question of Dreams

143This is an incredible scene from Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park, one of my favorite places on Earth

     Well, I am really fond of quoting a study done on a bunch of Harvard graduates a while back.  They took a graduating class and asked them how many of them had clear, written goals as to where they saw themselves going and what they saw themselves doing and only 3% of them actually had them (please don’t quote me, I am only estimating, it is a while since I read the actual study).  They went back to these students a number of years later, and they found that regardless of whether or not the people had stuck to their plan, the 3% group had made more money than the entire rest of their graduating class.  Lesson?  Know where you are going, be a planner!

But how does that apply to mental health?  In some key ways it applies, especially if you have become part of the growing movement in the WRAP or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course.  I took the course and tried to get everything out of it I could.  I attended every session, which was my main goal at the start of the course and as a result I now have a written plan as to what to do if I get sick, what some of the things are that could make me sick again, and warning signs and much more.  For those that are interested, there is actually a ‘wrap app’ for most smartphones where you can plug in all of these things and come up with a plan to improve your life that applies across many situations.

There is still another thing though, what does planning have to do with someone who suffers, who can’t work.  Well, you could write down a goal as something like I did which was to find a decent part-time job.  As a note here, I strongly recommend that anyone who does get a job that has a mental health issue should be as honest as possible to their employer about it and also try and get a union job.  I am in a union that does so much for me.  I can turn down work if I don’t feel up to it, I have the option of cancelling shifts if I am sick or for no reason if it is 24 hours before, and I am paid well and treated well.  This isn’t the end of the story though, there are many jobs out there that are non-union that can be just as good as mine.  I think the important thing is to try and move towards some kind of employment, staying at home and doing little than posting to forums and chatting on Facebook can be very detrimental to one’s mental health, especially if you are not maintaining a proper sleep schedule.

So, basically, the first goal is to try and get yourself ready to be employed.  There are a number of things that can get you started, but I think the first thing you need is a reason to be employed.  Myself I wanted the extra money and when I had saved enough I bought a laptop and I also took a trip to visit my sister on the other side of the country.  I did this in two stages, one stage was where I simply tried to sleep while the sun was down and stay awake while the sun was up, and then the second stage was that I needed to get physically fit for a job.  I happen to live in a city where bus passes and gym memberships to city facilities are greatly subsidized though I used neither of these things at first, I simply rode my bike as much as I could, and this was something that did me a world of good.  If I hadn’t gotten into good shape I would have never been able to hold down the job I have had for 7 years which has put a lot of money in my pocket.

So baby steps, goals, plans.  They all have their place.  I can’t even begin to describe the mess my life was in when I was back in my 20’s, but a strong commitment to taking my medications, listening to my Doctors, honoring the wishes of my parents to get well and a number of other things came together and a miracle happened.  I have a life now when there was a time when I felt my life had ended.  Try this.  Try sitting down and writing out all the things you want in life.  Do you want a motorcycle?  Write it down.  Do you want a violin and lessons to get back up to snuff?  It might be a great investment if you are good enough to busk in the streets or play for parties or even fancy restaurants.  Write it down!  There really is no limits, this is your mind having fun.  Then, when you have written it down, make a plan.  It may take ten years, it may take two months, but until you figure it out you will be a lot less likely to follow through.  And I want to mention something for the younger people who may read this blog.  A wonderful fact about life is that as you get older, even if you get the same money you will get more money.  How?  Maybe you will be able to quit smoking and put $5 to $10 more in your pocket each and every day.  Maybe you will strengthen your legs and learn the joy of walking and save on taxi fares or learn how to discipline yourself not to eat in restaurants but to prepare your own food.  And another factor that comes into play is that as you get older more jobs will come your way, especially if you are able to overcome depression (perhaps through newer meds, or trying different ones) or other illnesses that can often make you feel like you don’t care about being a good worker.  Anyhow, I hope this leaves my readers with a sense that they have learned something.  Please don’t be afraid to comment and as usual, don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem which is meant to be themed to this post.  All the best Dear Readers, and if you like my blog posts, please support my efforts to bring them to you and purchase a paperback or eBook of my writing from the ‘purchase books’ link above.

A Beautiful Soul, Loving and True

Does your soul long for things grander than the sky
You know, you can have those things if you really try
I have had many hopes and dreams that I held close
Wonderful things, only those I wanted the most

When I think of these things I see my perfect wife
A spacious home, beautiful car, all that’s good in life
I may never have all that I so deeply desire
But these goals keep my heart on fire

I never understood why some aim low
Never let their dreaming mind thrive and glow
Our time here is so short and it is a beautiful place
So why not run as though to win the race

Just ask your inner mind how you can earn it all
Give yourself a reason to get up each time you fall
Write down on paper all you want to have and be
You can have it all, this land is strong and free

I just want to ask if you do end up with more
Look back behind and hold open the door
There will be someone wanting to get through
Please remember someone held the door for you

We all must share the gifts that life lays at our feet
And when you do this people will say you are kind and sweet
Then who knows perhaps your future mate will see in you
Your beautiful soul, loving and true

Leif Gregersen
August 10, 2015

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Hello Dear Readers!  Well, if anyone is interested, I am now participating in two blogs.  The other one is on a site called ‘Goodreads’ and I am maintaining that one so I can blog about books, especially books that were influential in my life.  Today I wrote some stuff in it about “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, which I thought was pretty good.  I want to keep this blog going though, I kind of want to make it about mental health and other issues.

So, I don’t know exactly who all of my readers are.  If any of you get a chance, pick up a copy of one of my books from the ‘purchase books’ page, in kindle eBook or paperback and let me know what you think of my longer works.  Two of my books, “Inching Back To Sane” and “Through The Withering Storm” are memoirs about my lived experiences with mental illness, and I feel have a lot to say to people about how to deal with and manage and all things to do with mental health.  I would love it if more people would come forward and tell me what they think, possibly these sorts of things could make me a better writer.

So today I wanted to talk about a subject a lot of people, especially those who feel they are ‘sane’ don’t like much to talk about-I want to talk about the mental hospital.  I’m going to attach a video I made of Alberta Hospital where I spent a lot of time just below this and then after I will continue writing.

 

So, this was the place I spent 6 months in back in the year 2001.  I only remember the year because it was the same year the twin towers were hit by planes.  All that seems so surreal to me now because I was just getting over being very sick at the time and was actually still in the hospital.

The mental hospital can be a very unpleasant and frightening place.  I think because of extended worrying and poor treatment there I developed a digestive condition that I still deal with 14 years later.  I wonder though if the place had anything to do with it.  There were people that made my life difficult, including my Doctor and most of the nursing staff and a lot of the patients, but I wonder if that would have been an issue if I hadn’t been so sick.

One of the main reasons I had to be there had to do with my own mistake.  I had been on a dosage of 1000mg of a certain pill and I thought it was doping me up too much and cut it in half.  Just that small change was enough to make me very sick.  The fact is though, that the staff there do a lot to try and accommodate people in the hospital.  There was one staff member who would often take me out for walks, there was people there simply to talk to and play cards with (staff) but all I seemed to be able to do was worry.  It really scared me that after that hospital visit I would be unable to have any kind of relationship with a female, that I would never travel, that a lot of my life was over.  What is a bit scary is that those things may have happened if my Doctor had gotten his way and kept me for 2 years as he had wanted.  But my medication was brought back to the old level, I got a lot better and even quit smoking.  I can also recall a fun day when we went bowling and I got the top score.  And when I got out, life improved.  I used a tactic to do this that I have worked into my life for a very long time.  The way it goes is, no matter what, no matter how bad things get, you should have goals to reach for and try to accomplish at least one of them each day.  Now I have traveled, I am back in touch with a lifelong female friend, I have a great job and my writing is becoming known all over North America.  I started out with very little, but I pushed myself and got a job as a security guard, saved up my money and bought a nice computer, eventually a used car and by luck got an even better job for way more pay working as a security guard on movie sets.  Who made all this happen?  I couldn’t tell you, but I did have to keep working harder, doing more, taking all of my medications and keeping up with my responsibilities in my home and at work.  Will this work for anyone?  I couldn’t say really, I just know that my life is very blessed.

But, in the middle of that ramble, I will leave things so I will have more to write next time.  Thanks so much for reading this far, scroll down just a little further for today’s poem, and keep checking back because I brought my camera with me and Toronto is a beautiful city to photograph.  All the best!

 

Throughout My Days I Need You

My dear friends I dedicate this poem to you
Because I have come to learn it is true
Without your devotion and love I never could write

Though sometimes words do come through
Words that are fresh, sweet and new
Like now deep inside the night

But I often think of dear friends I have lost
And the terrible cost
Of wanting to seem too tough to care

I pray that once more our paths will cross
And that I never again casually toss
Away the beautiful love that we shared

As I sit and remember fondly the times
When true friendship was mine
I wish those I hurt back in my life

But it can be hard when in the past one was unkind
To change all those minds
Of those you turned away because of deep down strife

Always, forever hold onto those who are dear
Don’t be left shedding a tear
Because the worst thing is to be alone

Keep your loves and your family near
Be always ready to lend an ear
That is the only way to truly have a home

And when you have people to care for
You’ll find you don’t need much more
I’ve learned as I write out my words

And always be ready to walk out the door
Life will indeed give you much more
And feel the joy of knowing your soul’s longing was heard

Leif Gregersen

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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How To Succeed in Life When You Have Bipolar

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Well, today’s title suggests a tall order.  In fact, I really don’t know how to succeed in life despite my Bipolar because I haven’t sat down and written out what I think I need to do to succeed in life.  Maybe that could be a good topic to consider-goals.  I really like to quote a study that was once undertaken where a graduating group was asked if they had clear, concise, written goals for themselves and when the same people were checked years later, the three percent or so that had written goals had made more money than the entire rest of the graduating class.  What this tells me is that writing has power.

When I was younger, one of my goals was to write books and I had written down these goals.  I had other goals I didn’t write down like learn 3 or four languages, get my pilot’s license and become a military officer.  None of these came true, but my goal of writing-that really went a long way.  One of the reasons I think this is was because I worked at it a tiny bit each day for a very long time.  I regret to say that for a period of time I did nothing but chat in various chat rooms and pursue relationships with people I would never meet, but I kept returning to my writing goal knowing that if I failed at it I would be losing something very important in my life and it came true.  One of the reasons for that could be the power of keeping  a journal.  One day soon I want to head down to the basement and read some of the journals I wrote when I was just starting out as a writer and see how my thinking has progressed.  I do know that now as it has been a long time since I drank alcohol, a long time since I gambled, and a very long time since I was without proper medications that my thoughts have cleared up a great deal.  Years ago I had some thoughts in my head that I had a very hard time letting go of, everything from resentments to imagined relationships with females, and I think for these reasons they have gotten a lot better.  I also would like to thank the power of meditation for clearing up my thinking.  I haven’t done it in a while, but meditation is a powerful tool for freeing the mind from negative thinking.  You can actually train yourself to push away negative thoughts and embrace positive ones through meditation.

One of my favorite forms of meditation is simply snorkeling at the swimming pool.  I start out my workout by sitting in the hot tub to get my joints moving and then strap on flippers and mask and snorkel and propel myself through the water, enjoying the silence and freedom from the outside world.  It is so relaxing and renewing.

Another huge part of being a success, aside from sitting down and getting a clear idea of what you want to accomplish to succeed, is to become a part of a community.  I have lived in the neighborhood I now live in for 14 years and it is simply wonderful.  It took some time, but now when I walk down the street I know my neighbors and am always glad to stop to talk with them.  It started out with me volunteering at the local community newspaper, something that looks great on a resume and it grew so that now I have many friends living near me and many opportunities as a result of knowing these people.  The editor of the paper, Paula, edits my short stories and other writing for free and gave me a great deal on this website.  My neighbor Gary down the street is an accomplished writer himself and is a great guy to go to poetry readings and other events with.  There is also a community in the people that live in the group home I’m in which is perhaps the most important one in my life right now.  There are around 20 people who I can call at any time, who I can talk to each day, borrow from or lend to.  There is also staff, but there is something very important about having other people around who have mental illnesses because I need to feel comfortable as a person with a mental illness and when people around you are going through the same thing, you can feel so much more free to be yourself.

I often wonder about some of the people from the US who read this, especially the ones that suffer from Bipolar Disorder or other mental illnesses, not to mention some of the people from far off countries.  I had a person read my blog from a place called Qutar the other day and I wonder about what it must be like to live in a more judgemental type of atmosphere and have a child who suffers or be someone who suffers.  As usual, I am always more than ready to talk to anyone who wants help in understanding what they may be going through, viking3082000@yahoo.com

So when you boil it all down, what does it take?  First, you need a plan, you need to brainstorm what success is to you.  It can be owning a motorbike or a car, it can be having a job or having a better job.  Details count.  Then you need to find people who will be your friend and support you in your quest to accomplish these things.  Many people out there don’t want to see you succeed but quite often if you talk with them and perhaps even impart some of these principles to them they will not only support you, they will learn how to succeed themselves.  Then, once you have got your list, you need to make realistic and achievable steps to get to these goals.  If you want to know more languages, start with a free course from the library.  If you want to make more more money, read the book I talked about “The Richest Man in Babylon” and take the advice of carefully putting away 10-30% of your income after all of your expenses and learn how to make more money.  If you want to simply have more friends and a better social life, seek out organizations in your community where you can meet people your age.  It can be a political party, it can be a writer’s group, it can be a mental health organization.  If you want to write, commit to filling a page each day with your journal entries and writing about each movie you see, each book you read.  I am a firm believer in the library, I think a lot of things can be found there like book clubs, books on making more money in your chosen profession, books you can read to help you write better.  A lot of larger libraries will also have a writer in residence you can talk to about your writing goals totally free.  So you have to know when you will consider yourself a success, you need to take small steps, take advantage of resources out there, and make friends that will support your efforts.  I have taken these steps and life has gotten incredibly good for me over time.  Bipolar?  Take your medications, see your Doctor, work on your life issues with counselors and psychologists and in group therapy and then just baby step yourself back up.  If you are interested in seeing the choices I made and the things I went through, order a copy of “Through The Withering Storm” or “Inching Back to Sane” from the ‘books’ section of this website and let me know how things go.  All the best to all my readers!

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