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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best,

 

Leif Gregersen

 

 

 

Stress and Mental Health For Those Who Deal With Schizophrenia and/or Bipolar Disorder and/or Anxiety

What a wonderful thing a pet can be during times of stress, poor mental health or anxiety. They seem to sense when you need them to just be there, and many pets will go to the ends of the earth to protect and love you.

So today marks a kind of a milestone. I have been keeping this blog going for some time and this is the actual first topic suggested by someone who is a reader. Today I want to cover the topic of stress for our mutual friend Victoria who wrote just after my blog the other day. I hope anyone out there who is dealing with something can feel comfortable enough to reach out and ask that I cover topics for them. A lot of my topics are actually covered in some of my previous blog entries in my archives, but still, it is great to hear from people and I want everything I put here to be current and relevant.

Every time I think about stress, the first thing that comes to mind is my mom and Christmas. Like any kid, I loved Christmas more than anything, it was time off school, it was feasting and seeing my extended family, and then there was the feasts! My Dad would bring a door up from downstairs and put it on top of our kitchen table just so there was room for the food. I had my favourites, but I tried to sample a little of everything. Devilled eggs, stuffing, moist dark meat from the turkey, mashed potatoes that we only had on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. The list of dishes goes on and on. But what I didn’t know about these meals was that holidays were times my mom started to fear. It would cause her so much anxiety to live up to her previous meals, there were so many things to be done and very little help, and on top of all that, the whole house had to somehow stay clean and organized. The stress on her must have been unbearable (as she had a mental health issue of her own as well). This was when I started to learn that there are ways good and bad stress can affect a person.

A few years back I was working setting up stages and I started to understand what stress and anxiety can do to a person. I loved my job and it paid incredibly well, I had loads of friends I worked with, but still I had to be in a particular mental state and really be on the ball. It seemed whether I was on the ball or not I would still get picked on by some of the people more senior than me in the union pecking order. It really started to get to me. I was having times when I needed the money, and likely needed to get out of the house but would just feel so stressed and have so much anxiety that I would either cancel my shift if there was time or lie about an illness. It got so bad that I ended up disclosing to my employer about my mental illness and asking for a sabbatical, but in truth it was quitting my job in the long run. There were things that helped during those times when I didn’t want to go to work. I found if I could somehow meditate for half an hour to an hour I would be in a much more positive mental state. I think I was also given the option by my doctor to take a low dose of a tranquilizer that should have helped, but actually just made me more tired and doped up which was a risk in the kind of work I was doing.

I was incredibly fortunate that after I left my high paying job I was able to generate income from my writing and from teaching that kept my bills paid and left money over for things I just wanted to get or do. So many people don’t have that option, they are tied to their jobs almost as slaves, having to pay rent, pay health insurance or a stack of seemingly endless bills. I wish I could provide you my readers with a formula to do the same, but really the situation was that I worked very hard to be a good writer, and then I went to all the writing classes I could find, until I went to one and made good friends with the instructor who saw potential in me and actually gave me his job of being an instructor, and more opportunities. The difference in stress levels is incredible. The other day I was waiting at the bus stop and a young man felt like chatting as we waited and he asked if I was off to work. At first I said, not really–because my present job seems so effortless and rewarding that I don’t consider it work in conventional terms. That kind of felt good to realize that.

What I think I can say though is that if you are tied to a job you don’t like or even don’t have a job, look for something you like doing. My sister has a hobby of doing beading and in the daytime she is a teacher with a master’s degree. Her husband likes pottery making and he is also a teacher. There are many ways to turn interests and hobbies into a small business. You may even have more technical skills and are able to work at a computer or even fixing computers while you do your other jobs. Cultivate these talents, cultivate the fact that there is work you like that has potential to pay. My sister and her husband will sometimes sell their products at farmer’s markets and other places. There is also the option of having an Etsy store.

The main thing to remember is you just need to have a way to add value to things and a method of making some money off of them. As I did for a while, I made videos and allowed people to donate to Patreon to support my work (which so far hasn’t given me any money but I love writing these blogs and making vlogs). The next thing you need is time, and a small advertising budget doesn’t hurt either. When I first started writing books and selling them, I had so much to learn about marketing and running a business, and now years later I am still learning, and the word is still getting out. The object of all this is to build a way of making a living that allows you to live a much more stress-free life.

Meditation is a wonderful way to deal with stress, while some things like drinking alcohol is a horrible way. Alcohol is practically a poison, and in all honesty if you are taking medications you shouldn’t use any quantity of it. Another really great thing is Yoga, and my long-standing favourite, swimming! These are ways to keep your physical body healthy and nourishing your mental health. I know that when I am feeling upset over something I can go lift weights and put all my anger into heavier weights, more repetitions. When I can exhaust myself like this it feels so great to sleep soundly that night and feel physically fit. The amount of joy fitness gives to a person is almost indescribable.

Another thing I should mention is that you have to be careful about eating to reduce stress. I have a bad habit of sometimes loading up on chips and pretzels from the grocery store and spending hours just eating fatty, salty snacks that are not good for my diabetes or anything really. Try to combine a diet with all of the food groups (there is a method where you can divide your plate into sections, one being a meat protein, another being a starch such as potatoes, and the remaining half being a green salad or broccoli and peas or anything green really, it is very effective. Another useful method funny enough is to buy smaller plates and progress towards eating less.)

Maybe my favourite food of the day is my fruit smoothies. I buy discounted frozen fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and peach slices, pop them in the blender, add some plain yoghurt and water and blend away until everything is liquified and it is so delicious. Anyhow dear reader, I hope that helped with some problems people have with stress and offers some solutions. Please feel free to comment or write me to request anything else you would like me to discuss, my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

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

https://www.patreon.com/leifg

 

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

An Incredible Book About Love, Sex, Feminism, That Everyone Over 16 Should Read

Every Boy I Ever KissedEvery Boy I Ever Kissed by Nellwyn Lampert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am an author of numerous books and I am also a single disabled adult. Being disabled, at a certain point in my life, I lost a sense of connection with my generation (generation X, I am now 47). I wanted to read this book because I briefly met the author and found her to be intelligent, polite, and kind enough to ask for information about my own books, and to be honest, the title grabbed me. What resulted after I picked up a copy at my local mall is sheer wonder and amazement. I have read books about ships, about battles, about courtrooms, and on and on and on, but this book takes a bold step and addresses a topic that is intertwined among each and every human being’s story and the author bravely brings it to light.
Nellwyn Lampert’s memoir follows her life categorized by relationships, through an almost ideal life of growing up in a well off family, having a mother who is open and confident. The main character does well in everything she focuses on, and is in a tight-knit group of University Theatre Students for most of the timeline of the book. She does well in everything except in managing her relationships with the opposite sex, never understanding why or how this continues to happen. This book drew me in because I have often wondered, after writing a book about my own youth, what a book about today’s youth would be like. Nellwyn does such an excellent job of explaining how young people are making different choices in a very different world than ours, and reminded me at every turn how hard it can be to grow up and take on the world as a new adult.
The brave and brutally honest story Nellwyn weaves is at times hilarious, and at other times moving and highly emotional. By the end of the book I felt extremely invested in wanting to see her find the peace and understanding she seeks. This book is not about sex, at least not in any way it has been spoken of before in a memoir like this. It has no overdone fantasy erotic stories but what it does do is offers a very unique viewpoint with poignant insights of topics such as equality, feminism, LGBTQ+ issues and so many subjects that have been danced around for years and now finally, bravely taken on at full speed by an incredible up and coming writer.
This book is for the young person who feels unsure of themselves, for the popular party girl who can find sex but not intimacy, and for anyone who wants to reach out into the core of a human being’s inner self and leave changed forever. I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

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

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

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

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

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

Fatherly Advice On Dealing With Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Here is my Dad, Leif the first. In my mental health recovery, he has played a very key role. Years ago when I was last hospitalized, he traveled in from out of town and sacrificed the tiny extra amount of money he had to bring me comforts such as cigarettes and such. No matter how angry or ill I became, he would visit every day–and I was in the hospital on that occasion for six months. When I finally did get discharged, I was far from a whole person. I needed the support of a group home to exist and get my medications, and I needed the support of my family, especially my Dad. He came through in spades, driving to my place, taking me to our beautiful river valley and talking with me and walking with me month after month. This was the only exercise and the only outside contact I could handle. One of my warmest memories of that time is a habit I used to use to kill time when I walked long distances. I would pick out a rock, then kick it and keep a close eye on where it went, then when I got up to where it was, I would kick it again and see how far I could keep going with the same rock. One day on a walk with my Dad, I kicked a rock for a while, then it went out of my path so I thought I would find another, but my Dad to my surprise had figured out my game and kicked the right rock and in that moment I felt as though my Dad and I both had a child-like concept of fun that helped form a new and strong bond between us.

Anyone who read my last blog will know that I have been struggling with a new medication and have been hearing voices. There are no words to describe how troubling this situation can be for a person already struck with many other mental health issues. I really thought neighbours could read my thoughts or that they were conspiring to harm or rob me. This is a highly unlikely situation, but it is so hard to ignore evidence that comes to you plainly in the form of a voice that sounds reasonable and intelligent. Added to that is the fact that mentally ill people, while experiencing psychosis are in an extremely vulnerable state. I really didn’t know what to do. Then my Dad gave me a simple solution: put on some earphones and play some soothing music. The amazing thing is, even though it seems so simple, it worked really well. I had a hard time at first discounting all the voices I was hearing as false and untrue, but after laying down and listening to music for a while, it was so much easier to realize that all of this was going on in my head.

One of the hard things about delusions/hallucinations/psychosis is that often a person is convinced that they are some type of God or wealthy/powerful person. I will never forget a roommate who became a good friend who once declared to me, “I don’t care what anyone says–my delusions are real!” I totally understood what he was talking about. When I first became ill, my delusions (they weren’t audible hallucinations like I more recently experienced) told me I had untold amounts of money, female admirers, intelligence, accolades and awards, and my choice of Hollywood Starlets to marry. To most it would be preposterous to think such things, but to my fragile mind it was an extremely appealing alternate reality to my own life situation at the time. Even after I was treated and properly medicated, I had in the back of my head the idea that somewhere out there a reality like that was waiting for me. This made medication compliance very difficult for me, so I went through cycles of lucidity, then went off medications and went as far away as California in search of falsehood dreams, then was so far off the deep end that I had to be forcibly hospitalized.

I really thought I had broken that cycle, so my recent foray into the world of paranoid schizophrenia caught me off guard. But one thing I do know is that my Dad, my rock of salvation (one level below Jesus) has rescued my messed up life numerous times now and I have to mature and learn to handle my own problems as his age advances. That’s about it for today dear readers, not much practical advice really other than that an iPod can be your best friend and even a tool an occupational therapist should utilize. Music is almost as powerful as the force that drives it, which I think in the end is love.

I’m Home After Psychiatric Inpatient Care. When Will I Ever Feel Normal Again?

A random shot of Jasper Avenue, the main downtown street in Edmonton, Alberta. With people everywhere, vehicles battling to be ahead by split seconds, it becomes so easy to feel lost and alone. Yet, when a person goes into a psychiatric ward or hospital, the staff discourage at every turn any friendships or relationships. Sometimes, people with severe illnesses will be discharged with a bag of medications and directions to the homeless shelter. I don’t really have any solutions to these problems. I do know that people in my family cared a lot about me and tried to make my transition from my last hospital stay to the outside world a smooth one. It went well for me, but not 100%. I feel I owe everything to two men in my life, my Doctor and my Dad. Neither of them stopped helping and neither of them asked anything in return.

When I try and think of my recovery, which I will define for the purposes of this blog as the point where I was diagnosed up until the point where I was able to travel overseas on my own, (both Atlantic and Pacific) the word ‘mindfulness’ keeps coming up.

Mindfulness is something that you will often find in books about Buddhism and meditation. Meditation supplies a person with the tools they need to tune out the world, and just embrace the nature of who they are deep down and not analyze or self-talk or really do anything but breathe. This journey for me began with books about Buddhism, mostly ones that my brother Kris loaned me. I found some profound truths of human nature in these books, which was amazing because a lot of the wisdom came from times when the western world was in the dark ages by comparison (if not literally). There were even times when I would delve deep into these books that I was so struck by things that were said it was close to what many people call an epiphany. But I needed more. I was reading dry words on a page, though they were some pretty earth-shattering words. I devoured books by the Dalai Lama, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. But where things really started to come together was when I joined a meditation group that was led by a real Tibetan Monk, and incredible man full of joy, decked out in the beautiful robes of a true monk. What did he teach me? He taught me how to breathe, and then he taught me how to clear my mind. That was really about it.

In our minds, especially those of us who have had mental disorders requiring treatment and/or medication, there is a constant dialogue going on, telling us we aren’t good enough, that people are judging us, that we can’t do something. There are also positive messages and neutral ones. In Tibetan meditation the goal is to train yourself not to let these voices control you, something that changed my life after being in Alberta Hospital. I became so much more thoughtful, kind, I had more energy and mental ability. I was able to absorb books and lessons that I could never have completed before despite my high mental functioning. This led me down a path to become a writer, a teacher, a traveller, an Uncle, and more.

I don’t meditate much anymore sitting on a pillow, legs crossed, counting my breath. I like to walk. I like to go for miles, and simply be. To be aware of the blue or grey sky, to look for wildlife or even domesticated life, to not count the steps or measure the distances, just to go out and feel the fresh air on my skin, be aware of increased rates of breathing, from how my heart beats just a little faster to how I begin to warm up no matter how cold it is. I play no music, bring nothing to distract me. I rarely walk with anyone, but it is so healing. I love to make up excuses to walk. One thing that was interesting was that deep inside I have always thought I may have in a past life lived in England and had a special kinship to the Island Kingdom. When I was in London I took a great risk and instead of taking the tube to where I was staying, I just walked and walked for miles to see if I could truly find my way around that great and massive city. I must have walked ten kilometres and never for a moment did I feel lost or on the wrong path.

One of the other ways I love to practise mindfulness is through photography. Anyone who has read a few of my blogs will have seen photos I took with my collection of cameras and lenses. I basically gather all I need for my camera from charged batteries to memory cards and what lenses I need and start out walking. If I can go somewhere I don’t normally go or get off the beaten path all the better. There is no need for me to calculate rights and wrongs, feel angry about someone who cut me off in a checkout line at the grocery store or was rude to me on the bus. I am totally absorbed in finding that split second, that disappearing moment when a shot is perfect. I rarely find it, but in seeking after that perfect shot I seem to mature, grow in some way.

Meditation is something that has been studied a great deal. One of these studies I came across declared that it had proof that people who meditate a lot each day over the course of years can actually reverse brain damage, something so far thought to be impossible. Even now as I am a little tired I long for those moments in bed just before my mind begins to switch over to sleep rather than being awake and I can feel the true joy of just being.

All of that doesn’t really answer the question though, when will you feel normal again after leaving the hospital. I feel obligated to try and give some of what I feel are facts gained from my own experience. First of all, being in the hospital can put a person into shock, especially if this person was lucky enough to go through such things as ECT or being wrestled down and locked in an isolation room. It isn’t natural for humans, which means that in this time it is actually natural for us to feel the fight or flight reaction. Some lash out, some beg not to be treated that way. Either way, it takes a little bit of who we are as human beings away from us. When you leave the hospital, all of a sudden you are responsible for everything. You may even return to a family that doesn’t fully understand or to school where people know where you were and have no kindness or compassion.

The first thing you need to know is that the effect, the shock of being in the hospital is something powerful. It is also something Doctors and Nurses are aware of and they tend to over medicate people while they are in the hospital. When you leave the best thing you can do is educate yourself as much as you can. When I left after one of my first stays, there was no Internet to Google search on. I went to the library and read for hours on treatments only to be laughed at by a Doctor I spoke to who said they hadn’t used any of those treatments for years. Now, we have Google, so I suggest you search everything you can about each and every medication, each word of your diagnosis and make sure you have a solid understanding. Going in blind to see my Psychiatrist years ago when I was at the end of my rope got me onto a medication I still take to this day that at that time was rarely used. It saved my life. As I built up more awareness of my condition though, I looked for ways to decrease the amount of medication I took.

Often there really is nothing you can do except to kill time, and finances are almost always short for people who just leave the hospital. The first thing I suggest is that you keep a journal, a wellness journal where you talk about how you feel, and what level your mood is, and any other pertinent symptoms. Take a time each day to write, and as you hit milestones, look back at what worked and what didn’t. To people I know who want to make more friends or meet that special ‘life partner’ I always say there are a few steps in the perfect plan at doing that. One is that you settle into a place you can afford, keep clean, and have your privacy. Two is that you look for ways to become involved in your community. Three is that you look for genuine ways to help and care for others. Four is that when you meet someone you want a relationship with, and they themselves have indicated they want a similar relationship, focus on getting to know them, becoming their best friend before worrying about making a move. Don’t force anything, don’t make a fool of yourself automatically thinking this person is the one for you and overwhelming them with attention and gifts. Just be their friend, and your time will come.

Well, Dear readers, that seems to be a good time to draw everything to a close. Your assignment is to 1)get a library card if you don’t have one. 2)take out a book on healing and recovery (my two are “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane”), and read as much as you can and take some time to sit down, become conscious of your own breathing and clear your mind for five to ten minutes, more if you prefer, then schedule a good time to write in your journal. Who knows? Maybe if you heed this lesson, your recovery will accelerate and I will be reading your blog on WordPress some time soon.

Sincerely,

LG