mania

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

A Little Psychiatry and Nutrition From A Dude Who Has Been there

 there must be pots of gold in Edmonton. I’ve never seen two rainbows up close like this (Please look below today’s poem for today’s blog entry)

 

Through My Living Room Window

 

The setting Spring sun is reaching out with its golden rays

Right into my living room as I rest.

For a moment as I contemplate the coming summer

Contentment washes over me

 

I’ve slept too much today, the warm nurturing sunlight

Made my living room the perfect place to snooze

So hard to shake that lazy tired feeling from me, I must rise to write.

I sit and let my thoughts linger over endless childhood adventures

And all my adult responsibilities. For a moment it doesn’t seem fair.

 

Do all the people on this Earth feel these weak moments?

Times where they consider giving up the fight

For two cars and a house?

 

I know that as I listen to the quiet din of the inner city, and

Let my eyes drink in the green of the grass and budding trees

Thoughts of Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida possess me

But still I know in my heart

Summer in Edmonton is going to be amazing

 

Leif Gregersen

May 12, 2018

 

Good day my friends. Another sleepless night has come upon me and so I am finally going to sit down to write a little. My bipolar (aka manic depression) has somehow gotten me to cut down on food enough and exercise enough to lose some weight. I would put pictures up of the difference but I don’t really want to disgust anyone. Basically, yesterday I walked around 4 or 5 miles to the pool, had a dip and swam a couple of lanes and weighed in almost 20lbs lighter than I had a few months ago on the same scale. The really difficult about losing weight, and I can’t tell you how much psychiatric medications had to do with it, was just going through the initial shock of fasting. I was having ongoing stomach problems and a Doctor sent me for tests for diabetes and I had to fast for 12 hours. This was at first excruciating, even though I was allowed to drink water I thought I was going to go insane. It actually reminded me about what junkies talk about when they start to realize they are either going to get a fix or become extremely sick. I didn’t really get sick, but it took everything I had to get through that night. The sad news at the end is that I was diagnosed with diabetes, but now that I am finally into a ‘losing weight’ mode I think I will be able to control the bad effects. It is a bit scary to think of, studies show that a diagnosis of diabetes takes an average of 12 years off a person’s life. There are a lot of things I could do in 12 years. There is also risks of poor circulation leading to loss of limbs and also needing to take injections of insulin at a later point. I really wish I had done something about my weight sooner. I can only blame myself for this, I thought if I just kept sugar intake low and exercised all I could I would be fine, but this disease snuck up on me.

One of the things that is interesting to note here is that if you have a mental illness, say schizophrenia or bipolar, or are like me and have schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, it will also sneak up on you. I will never forget the slow, gradual change that came over me just before I first had to be put in the psychiatric hospital. My concept of reality began to change. I didn’t see myself as a thinking human being, I saw myself just as an animal able to feel warmth and cold and pain and comfort. Slowly this got worse and a psychosis developed that made me think the human race was split into two distinct groups, one of them at war with the other, the other unaware of the dirty tricks the first consistently played on them. I can’t believe I was only 18 when all of this started happening. Another kind of scary thing is that I am now 46 and though I am doing extremely well, there is a lot of lost time to make up for that I don’t think I will really get a chance to recover from. I am pretty happy about my present situation though, I have discovered a love of long-distance walking (for 4 weeks now I have walked over 10 miles on Thursdays after work and often walk at least that much on the other days.) I have some very amazing friends like Richard Van Camp who is an incredible author and on and on. I hope some of these words get to people who read my blog. If you feel you are going through something like severe depression, get some trusted advice from a doctor. Have your condition monitored, consider how much an anti-depressant can help. If you hear things or see things that no one else does, talk to someone about it. It isn’t wrong to have a mental illness, and it is never wrong to seek help. The only wrong thing is that so many people are afraid of mental illness and create stigma surrounding it that people think they will be worse off if they share their thoughts and emotions with others. And as far as the diabetes goes, if you can do it, get out for walks. Walk in a mall if it is too icy outside. Get a membership at a pool and try aquafit workouts or even just water-jog (basically dog paddling but you keep your head a little higher and go in laps). Take what you eat into consideration. I’ve now been told to avoid white foods like rice, potatoes, sugar, and a number of others. Get a blender and learn how to make fruit smoothies, they are delicious and very good for you. Salads can be so simple, just get a tomato, some lettuce, some kale, a cucumber, green pepper, and celery and chop all of them up, add some light salad dressing and you’re off. This is just very simple advice I’ve been learning, there are a world of dishes out there that will help you lose weight and get healthier. I do recommend that you consult a Medical Doctor before exercising or dieting and look into taking classes on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living. I can only give tiny bits of things I have been learning but I can emphasize that the feeling of losing weight and being out in the summer sun getting healthy exercise is so amazing it is almost impossible to describe. Don’t leave it until it is too late, make a decision now, turn off your monitor or close your laptop and phone for an appointment to get something done about excess weight or depression, or any mental or physical health concern. I have to tell you things can only get better and you’re worth it!

Coping With a Sleep Disorder and Bipolar

(scroll down for a look at today’s poem)

 

So, for those of you who don’t know, this is me some years ago. Since then I have gained a few pounds, my hair is not naturally blond anymore and I have quite a bit more money than I did then. This picture shows me wearing faded jeans with holes in them, a leather jacket my brother gave me and a sweater that used to be my Dad’s. Funny how when you look back, in some ways you had everything someone could wish for, but at the same time had nothing.

In this picture I was still a young man yearning to be a writer. Now, I am actually a person who is considered a professional writer. As I did then, I now live alone, but have a lot more supportive and encouraging friends in my life. I think back then I had a condition similar to the one I have now, that is a sense that I’m not really there, that the things going on around me aren’t real.

Anyhow, to get down to brass tacks, once again I have found myself needing to get to sleep for something important and completely unable to sleep. I have even taken some melatonin and a sleeping pill together and can’t even seem to lay still in bed. I often wonder if a day filled with high energy activating does this to me. Yesterday I took a long walk with my dad and then went for an invigorating swim. First thing this morning, I walked about six kilometres to an appointment and back, then walked later to a hospital to visit a sick friend.

I don’t really seem to understand what the solution is to this dependence I seem to be getting for sleep aids. I know that if I go on the ones my doctor will eventually prescribe that they will start to affect my memory. I also know that there are certain rules I am not following regarding my sleep. The first one, is that often I sleep in. The second is that I don’t avoid caffeine after a certain hour, and one of the worst ones is that I often take naps. If I could somehow stop doing these things I am sure I will be able to lick my problem with sleeping pills, but they can be very hard things to do, especially when a person doesn’t work full-time. I don’t know now if I am able to work full-time, though I do feel I am close. It almost scares me that in my life I have never really held down a full-time job for any amount of time. I just end up getting too stressed out, I become unable to sleep as always and walk around work like a zombie. Eventually I just sleep in, unplug the phone and let them fire me as I get the morning rest I feel I desperately need. This is a luxury I am sure is not available to millions of people who have a mental illness and don’t have a disability pension.

Well, that is about all I can type on that subject for now. I think I am going to try and write a poem today, any feedback would be appreciated.

 

Years, Months, and Days All Slip By In a Haze

 

life keeps lingering in the dark wee hours

the joys of youth slip away that once were ours

we long for days when resting simply meant putting down your head

now I begin to fear my next refreshing rest will come when I’m dead

 

To think of times of stuffy bears and being tucked in by dad

the only joy I needed in life was the love my family had

a brother, sister, mom, and dad and a little cat

riding bikes with friends far and wide with my Pittsburg Pirates hat

 

summer came so slowly and slipped away so fast

now it seems that summer only meant happiness far back in the past

I don’t want to reminisce too much and cut open a scar

Because I know when I think of my departed mom my thinking has gone too far

 

So let me dream of the future, accept but forget the past

let me think of conquests and adventures that soon will go by so fast

In honesty it feels so good to live alone and choose my own personal fate

I have everything I wanted now, including freedom for which I no longer have to wait

 

Yes it was hard to lose my mom and one day I will lose my father too

I can’t explain how I will feel on that day or what things I will have to do

I just know that being a grown-up means facing some pretty harsh realities

But it all can be so special because as a grown-up you are free.

 

 

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!

Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

It Can Be A Long, Long Road But A Beautiful One

DSC_0077          This is a photo I have used before (sorry, something wrong with the upload feature) which is a sunny Spring day in beautiful Jasper National Park

Today’s Poem:  ( scroll down past this for today’s blog ) and don’t forget to look up my book, “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords.com.  This award-winning memoir is just $3.25 US for download.

 

And Yet Time Marches On

 

First we are born and then we crawl

Time marches on

 

Then comes school and that harsh love withdrawl

The clock ticks on

 

The years fly past

So very fast

We near sunset and yet

We’ll go the distance and forget

Time marches on

 

Teen years come they’re oh so dear

Close friends are always near

And the very thing we fear

Graduation where our mothers shed a tear

And time ticks on

 

Those were the best days of our life

Then we face the world of hate and strife

Cut away teen privilege with a butter knife

Leave our childhood behind as man and wife

Time ticks along

 

It’s just like a treadmill race

Too hard to get off and face disgrace

Work hard to just stay in one place

Lost years will never be erased

Soon time is gone

 

With some love and a little work

Grown up kids won’t think dad is still a jerk

Even though you never really would

You wish to slap away that smug little smirk

Gone is the light that shone

 

Nowadays all of your hair is grey

You have forgotten how to laugh or play

Everything is the same day after day

And years simply slip away

Time passes on

 

But then a hope of happiness and love comes back

Shortly after your first heart attack

You find that one little thing you lacked

Tickling your grandchild’s tummy as they coo and laugh

 

Life will pass on

 

 

Leif Gregersen

February 28, 2016

 

This poem is dedicated to my Bestefa, Kristen Gregersen born on February 29, in the 19th century.

Good day dear readers.  I had actually wanted to upload a photo of one of my sisters dogs and then talk a little about pets and pet therapy.  I guess I can just ramble a bit about how things have been going instead.  First off, I am now one step further towards not needing to be on a disability pension.  I had been contacted by the owner of Magpie Media, which publishes two online magazines “Anchor” and “SZ” and he had me write about six or seven articles for him.  He was so impressed by my work and the things I can do (one of them being maintain a blog) that he has hired me as a salaried editor of both magazines, I signed the contract the other day.  In other news, today I got back a manuscript I was having a friend edit for me which was a compilation of 14 short stories.  The friend is a well known author whose first novel was both a bestseller and a feature film and he had given me a strong thumbs up on nine of them.  I will have to do a bit of work on the others, maybe even trash a couple, but I think there is a good chance that this collection may be my first conventionally published work.  I find writing so rewarding, it is really amazing.  I hope some of you have read one of my books.  I am transferring the ebooks over to smashwords.com but the paperback versions are available on amazon.com or any chapters, coles or indigo store in Canada.  Just walk right in and type “Leif Gregersen” into their computer and six of my books will come up which you can order in.

So anyhow, I have also been working for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.  I go around to classes of various kinds and give presentations about mental illness.  I start with a power point presentation and then I give about a 15 minute speech about my own experiences.  One of the things I kind of wanted to stress today is that for those of you who may be youth or young and things seem bad, I really want you to dig deep down, tie a knot in the rope you are at the end of and hang on.  I had a lot of troubles when I was younger, but bit by bit, year by year things got to be so much better for me, and I have to say that I was pretty damn messed up for a while.  I am almost aghast to say this but when I was put in the hospital the first time for psychosis my dad took my prized posession, my .22 rifle away from me and sold it and gave me the money.  I really needed the money but that rifle was everything to me.  I used to love going out and hunting and shooting targets.  I had become really accustomed to it and it started to feel for me like a soldier’s rifle that has become a part of him.  I was mad he sold it, but I still had my gun license and I had actually planned to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle I found in a pawn shop and rob a bank with it.  I just wasn’t thinking clearly.  Mind you, it was very hard to get myself back into good mental shape and I went through years and years of suffering and poverty, but I have come out the other side and it feels wonderful.  I have these incredible memories of concerts I worked at, of going to Hawaii and to Toronto and now life is really falling into place for me.  It worried me that I have a problem dealing with stress, but I have found some strategies to cope.  First off, I had my Psychiatrist put me on an anti-depressant called “Trazadone” and it has lifted my mood a bit and helps me to sleep.  Getting a good sleep at night is a huge thing.  Then I am trying to be careful not to work too much, which may get harder with my new position, but if I have to cut out one of my other part-time jobs completely, I will do it.  Self-care is so important.  So sleep, relaxation/decompression time.  I also have been trying to spend more time each day in prayer and meditation.  And I have filled out forms for a low-income gym membership with the city of Edmonton and I plan to do some dog paddling and hot tub sitting.  For now I just take a lot of hot baths and showers.  I hope some of this helps people who read my blog, it would be great if anyone who does read it gets back to me.  You can message me here, or on Facebook, or email my main email at viking3082000@yahoo.com  I hope all of you have a great week!

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

All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 

 

Peter Hemingway (Coronation)

 

It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

The Days That Lit The Fires I Was Forged In

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Good morning dear readers!  Well, it is an interesting time for me today.  As anyone who has read much of my work knows, I have a bit of an obsession for the military.  I have always found war and armies, and especially World War Two very fascinating.  As a young kid I remember once being very afraid of global nuclear war and war movies scared me, but as I got older I changed in that regard.  I remember being around 11 or so and our local mall had a military display up and my brother seemed really knowledgeable about land mines and other means of harming human life.  This gave me such a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I think I had nightmares for a while, I know I remember the day vividly though it was 30 plus years ago.  But when I was 12 my parents decided to put me into Air Cadets and I simply loved it.  I don’t like to say I served or anything, though I did do a lot of unpaid work, because I really enjoyed being who I was in Air Cadets, it had little to do with giving something to your country as it was about making you into something better.  I got so much out of cadets it was almost as thought they served me.  I was a top achiever and something of a leader as I made it up to the rank of Sergeant.  At the age of 15 I was influenced a lot by some left wingers and ended up leaving cadets, but at 18 I had come full circle once more and tried to join the military.  For some reason I always had it in the back of my mind that I would still join up, still run off somewhere and sign my life away.  I even had a dream with some of my old cadet friends in it just a couple of days ago where I had it in mind that I was going to go ‘back in’ if I can say that.  But now, two things have happened.  First, I had the honor of having some of my writing published in a magazine made for the Canadian Military, about a forgotten battle that took place during the Korean War, and second, I have found out that the military will not take a person over age 42.  Being 43 I can now rest easy that I will sit out the next major conflict in peace.  This seems pretty trivial, but a lot of people I was in cadets with who were in the military or even just the cadets were often calculating the time until they could no longer be called up.  Another thing that I should mention is that I have some friends who did go into the military and had a completely negative experience.  One guy that is no longer a friend got into trouble and spent 2 years in a military prison.  Another friend was telling me about the fact that a great deal of people in the military suffer from mental illness, be it depression or PTSD or other things.  So in a small way I am kind of glad that even if I wanted to I would no longer be called up.

I wish I could write more about mental illness in the military, but I really don’t know enough about the topic.  As far as my own mental health goes, which is really all I can honestly report on in this blog or otherwise, I am in kind of a poor state right now.  The main thing is that I have had a bad cold and have been laying around the house more than usual and not getting any type of writing done.  For me, sleeping too much and not getting up to do things can be very negative, even when I am taking the proper dose of my medications and taking them on time.  I found myself thinking about life in general very negatively.  I am having a bit of a problem because I don’t think I will be able to work my stage hand job anymore, although I have had some offers of things that could replace the lost income.  I am taking this Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which may lead to some paid work, and I have been giving talks for the Schizophrenia Society which pays a little and sometimes includes book sales and I am also going to be teaching a writing class in June which will bring in a few bucks.  I am really going to miss my stage hand job though, but the fact is I just don’t think I should do it at all anymore.  It is very taxing physically, it can be dangerous, and it often causes me a lot of stress not only from the pace we have to work at but also with the way the schedule goes.  I feel really fortunate that I have the option to scale this back while I try to fill in the blanks with other things.  All I can really say to anyone who doesn’t want to find themselves in this situation is to get as much training and education as you can in something you know you can do for a long time, and save as much money as you can.  You never really know when an illness or a situation can put you out of work.  One of my problems right now is that I tend to spend all the money I get in a given month.  This has been getting better lately as I have been keeping myself busy but I know that when a dry patch comes along I will be suffering again, trying to sell things I don’t need and going into shopaholic withdrawl.  The good thing is that if you do have this problem and can force yourself to shop less for what you don’t need and make the most out of the things you have and things that are free (going for walks, using the library, getting involved in your community by volunteering) it only takes a short time before you can re-program yourself to change your habits.  Anyhow, if I can be of any help via email, please let me know, as always, I can be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com  scroll down past the below photo for today’s poem.

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My Father, My Dad

 

 

My father, my father

Whose name I now bear

Who I once loved so very much

As I sat beside your recliner

In my own small chair

You were my best friend for so many years

 

My father, my dad

Playing chess with you

Eating your crackers and cheese

Wearing that shirt that was just like one of yours

Feeling such love as you read to us kids

 

My dad

I kept going to your barber

And wearing clothes that you liked

Long after it was no longer cool

To have hair or clothes like that at school

 

My dad, my father

So much to me in my later years

More than a parent and friend

After mom passed

Why did you drink so much before

Scream and fight with me in my teen years so much?

 

My dad

It seemed when I was a boy not a day went past

Without me ending up in tears

Feeling unloved and uncared for

It seemed to surprise you

That I went insane

And was put into an institution for a long time

 

My father

When I left that horrible place

You had no room for me

I had nowhere to go

Still you called in the police

Had me arrested for trespassing

In the only home I had ever known

 

So much anger

So much love

So much craziness

Sometimes I dream about you

Kick at the air

In real life I’m kicking the wall

One day you will get old all at once

Pass on

And I will once again shed real tears for you

And for the father that I never really knew

My father, my father, my dad

 

 

May 24, 2015

Exercise and Chronic Tiredness in the Psychiatric Patient

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Well, today was simply a great day.  I had a few things to do, one of them being driving a friend for groceries, another was to take some photographs of a Ukranian Easter presentation.  Then I got to do one of my favorite things (no matter how much it may seem to aggravate me) which was spend time with my dad.

The old guy (Leif the first) can be a lot of fun to be around.  Some of my warmest memories of childhood have to do with things he taught me to do in his business like silk screening and engraving.  All that aside though, I wanted to say a few things on the topic of chronic tiredness in the psychiatric patient.  I will start with a bit of a horror story.

Going on 15 years ago now I was living in a small apartment and following my own schedule.  It was very hard to deal with the loneliness though it was back in the heyday of chat rooms which I participated in quite a bit.  I also had a movie rental place nearby which had a deal on two movies for 99c for a week and I ended up watching tons of them, it was really kind of fun.  The problem came in when I slowly started to drift away from any type of treatment for my illness.  I stopped seeing my Psychiatrist after missing a number of appointments, and I made the very poor decision that a high dose of depakene, the mood stabilizer I was taking, was the source of my low energy levels and so I felt it would be okay if I just dropped the dose down.  Nothing could have been worse of a mistake.

Slowly, without my awareness, I started to slip back into psychosis.  I started once again to believe that I was secretly some kind of rich person, that this woman I once knew who was very wealthy was trying to rescue me from the life I had made for myself.  In short I slowly became insane all over again.  And not even from stopping medication, just from lowering it.  The suffering that mistake brought on was unbelievable.  I spent the next six months locked in a Psychiatric facility after being arrested and taken to the mental hospital.  I was treated as a non-compliant patient because they thought I was no longer taking any medications and not only did the Doctor experiment on me, he had told my parents I would be in the hospital for two years.  All because I felt tired and wanted to try and improve my situation by lowering a medication.

All that aside though, being tired or out of energy all the time is a serious thing, and perhaps if I had been continuing to see my Doctor I may have found a solution.  New medications come out all the time.  I recently learned that there is a medication called Topomax that can do the job of Depekane and not leave a person feeling run down or make them crave food.  I tried going on it a few weeks ago and I really didn’t like the effects it had on me and so I stopped it, but it remains an option for me along with other newer drugs that are, as my pharmacist says, are more ‘clean’ drugs. Meaning they have less side effects

Just a few words now since the title promised about exercise.  I may have talked about this before, but when I got out of that long hospital stay my dad used to drive over to my group home and take me to the beautiful Edmonton river valley where we would walk for a couple of miles each day.  He was very kind and accommodating, he would let me rest when I needed it and didn’t mind that I might have to stop to have a cigarette (thank goodness I quit smoking 11 years ago!).  Just a little light exercise and fresh air now and then really made the difference.  Later on after I went back to security work I started going to the gym and the pool.  I was lucky that my swim and gym pass was subsidized, but I would recommend to anyone that they go to these types of facilities even if they have to pay.  Often a YMCA will give greatly subsidized passes to low income people and this is a great opportunity.

One of the big things about going to the pool after getting in reasonable shape with my Dad was that I started to make some very good friends at the pool who were outside of the mental health system but were understanding of my illness.  Another good thing about it was that I was able to get myself into great shape and was able to take on jobs that were increasingly better paying.  Then, by sheer luck, I stumbled into my present job as a stage hand which is possibly the best job a person in my situation could ask for.  And it wouldn’t have done me any good if I wasn’t in good shape from regular swimming and weights.

Another physical thing I have tried is Yoga.  I have never been to a studio or worked directly with an instructor, I simply put on a video I have in my living room and work through it on a mat I bought.  It is very renewing and relaxing, very refreshing through and through.  Physical health, a psychologist friend once told me, is so much a part of who we are, it is so very important.  What I can remember vividly was working out with weights on a regular basis and simply living in a ‘zone’ of feeling really good from head to toe.

So, basically gentle readers, I just wanted to try and talk a bit about tiredness and exercise.  I didn’t offer any real solutions to tiredness I don’t think but I warned of the dangers of lowering medications.  I guess I would also like to warn against allowing yourself to be addicted to caffeine.  I myself drink a little too much coffee and have been warned that it may contribute to my difficulty in sleeping, but I met a guy at work who was addicted to energy drinks and actually had so many of them that he became allergic to caffeine.  I think one of the best things a person on medications with low energy can do is something in the second part of this blog entry, just try and get out for a walk.  Eating healthy is a big element as well, but as per usual, anyone who reads this blog can feel free to email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will try to help all I can if I can.  Take care!

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