meditation

Recovery Through Persistence and Fun

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Yes, my friends, worst fears have been realized!  I have become a comic book collecting nerd again and I’ve never been happier!  This shot was from a collector convention I recently attended

Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Who You Are

Do you think that you could come and crawl
Inside of me for just a moment

Look out through my own eyes
To see yourself for the very first time

Looking who you really are
With the eyes of another

It makes me think that you would understand
That so many things can change

Maybe it would inspire you
To lose a little weight

Remember more often to wash your hair
Wipe that little residue from the corner of your mouth

And stop
And stop

Insulting who I really am
Every chance you get

But I suppose that’s all too much to hope for
I can’t really ask you to change so much

But I was hoping if you did that you would see
Despite those things I love you all the same

Leif Gregersen
March 25, 2016

 

Hello Dear Readers!  This has been a great week for me.  As some may know, I am now the editor of two online magazines dealing with mental health (SZ and Anchor) and it is incredibly rewarding not only to work in the field I have chosen as a career, but also to work in something that I strongly believe in, which is mental health support and awareness.

I wish I could give my readers some message of how I got to the position where I am, but I think a lot of what I want to say has been said before.  Instrumental in me doing as well as I am is simply my housing arrangements.  I have been living in supportive housing for some time and with some supervision and help managing my life I have been able to live relatively stress free and been able to pursue some of these goals such as writing.

One of the things my new boss at the magazine, an incredible man named Bill MacPhee who has overcome schizophrenia talks about is that when you have an illness you have to be persistent.  I totally agree with this, it is so important to keep trying to succeed at whatever you want to do.  Some people with mental illnesses have lowered abilities and hence lowered goals, but the rule still applies.

It was funny, but a huge turning point in my writing career came from the strangest source.  I was at the house in the project I live in where we prepare our meals and there was this man named Bobby there.  Bobby always seemed to be angry and people had told me he didn’t like living there.  But one day I happened to find out that he had gone to journalism school and I asked him how he got magazines to run his writing.  In a short and simple conversation, Bobby kindly explained how to contact a magazine editor with a query and get an assignment.  Within the next few years I had been published all over North America and had made a fair bit of spending money thanks to simply not treating Bobby at face value.

There are many things to be learned by giving people respect and being interested in the things they do.  I feel that just about everyone has something to teach us, something to give us, and of course, being social creatures, just about everyone has the potential to be a friend.

So anyhow, I think I was talking about persistence.  Something I try to do is to write something each and every day.  Not everyone is destined to be a writer, but especially in the case of people living with a mental illness, it can be so important to keep a journal, a record of your thoughts and whatever you want to write down.  This is something for you, you never need to show it to anyone.  My mom used to keep one and she started out by recording how her mood was for that day and then talked (to herself in writing) about the things that were working in her mental health journey and such.  It can be very healing, and if you do ever decide to write something, the skills you will learn expressing yourself in your journal will carry through.

Living with a mental illness can be extremely difficult.  There are times when I really feel my medication isn’t working.  It is so important to have someone to talk to in these times.  This is why another thing I like to stress for a person with a mental illness is that they have strong friendships.  It might even be a good idea for that friend to be a fellow sufferer (or psychiatric ‘survivor’ as some say).  It may not always be best to dump all of your difficulties on this person, but if you have a friend you can talk to on a regular basis, there is always that ability to get together and talk or watch a movie or sports game and distract yourself, get out of your ‘head’ for a little while.  If you are able to do that with one or two close friends, you will find yourself dwelling less on the negatives.

One very powerful tool I have in my recovery toolkit is meditation.  I have actually heard that people who use meditation on a regular basis can actually reclaim lost areas of their physical brains, that it is a healing and regenerating process.  All I really do when I meditate is sit quietly and count my breathing from one to ten.  I close my eyes and as I count to ten, I simply try to focus on an object that has some meaning to me (some may use a ‘buddha’ statue) and keep my mind clear.  If thoughts about money or worries or anything start to come up, I just gently start my count over and try to focus.  Sometimes I can get lost in this process and sit for more than half an hour, almost unaware of time.  When I am done I end up feeling really good, it relieves stress, it clears your thoughts, there are many benefits.

Well, Dear Readers, I will leave off at that for now.  As always, I am open to any questions or concerns, complaints or anything you like, simply send me an email at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do my best to get back to you.  Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

Jerks and Other Types of Assholes

DSC_0112       This is a picture of the Alberta Legislature grounds and building on December 25th

 

Well, I thought I would change things up just a little bit.  I want to start with the poem for today, so here goes, I will follow with some commentary in case anyone is interested.

 

Dear Friend

 

Fight the years that try and break you down

Show no fear even when death is all around

Life can be a journey through many years

And as you grow older your perception clears

 

No one knows what waits for us on our final day

But there is no chance of changing it anyway

Love and laugh and do all that you can

Face life and death with courage, faith and a plan

 

Fight the lies the assholes use to keep you down

Don’t let them make you face your loved ones with a frown

Stand tall if you can and never stop working hard

Fight for the ones you love, don’t retreat a single yard

 

Rewards await for those who truly dare

If you never try no one will ever care

The strength you need is right inside of you

You must be strong and tall and true

 

Don’t let love pass you by as I have done

You can’t spend your whole life with just anyone

The one you love must learn just how you feel

If you ever want to have a love that’s real

 

What is deep in your soul can one day come true

But there is no one who will hand your dreams to you

You have to battle pain and hate and time

But it’s not so bad, your soul ages like wine

 

Your life’s work can last mankind a thousand years

If you work hard enough and overcome your fears

Work and fight until your final breath escapes your chest

Never forget to receive a life on this earth is to be truly blessed

 

I can’t tell you where you will go on that final day

But my dear friend I can definitely say

When you finally stop breathing and slip away

I will not forget to bow my head for you and pray

 

Leif Gregersen

December 26, 2015

     Good day and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who follows my blog.  I don’t really know where to start today, but I guess I should begin with how I am doing.  Last night I was feeling a little out of sorts, it likely had mostly to do with all the unhealthy food I have been eating.  I don’t know how many people who read this blog are interested in my talking about mental health, but I want to talk a bit about it here and now.  It can be a hard thing to have an illness at this time of year, especially in the climate I live in.  Edmonton, though perhaps not as bad as further north areas, has very little sunlight which contributes to depression.  Not only that, the holiday season can be a difficult time.  I am still very clearly reminded of my first Christmas as an adult at the age of 18 and living at home with my parents was very unsteady.  I was deeply in love at that time with a young woman I sat next to in school and I didn’t want to give up on the hope of her becoming my girlfriend, even though I had never had a girlfriend in my life before that.  Not long before, I also experienced a loss of a severe nature, a good friend had killed himself (Rest in peace Brad Latta).  So, all of these things, disappointment with the holiday, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy added to my predisposition for a mental illness and life became very difficult.  It was a short time later that I ended up in a mental hospital and literally lost everything.  I don’t know what one person can do, other than to try and make people aware of how delicate the mental health of a lot of people can be at this time of year.  I am having no problems this particular year, aside from being a bit bored and wanting more to do.  I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to be able to write any short stories lately.  Still, the holidays have been great this year.  I spent time with my dad and brother, I went to see the new Star Wars film and I spent a fair bit of time also with friends.  One of my main problems though is that I find it hard to keep focus on anything.  Whatever I seem to do, except maybe writing, and my mind wanders.  Often it wanders to a perceived slight that may or may not have occurred.  The other day I went into a convenience store and briefly talked to the clerk and wished him a Merry Christmas and some guy standing behind me yelled out, “F*%^&ing Fag!” quite loudly.  I didn’t know if he was saying this to me, but it left me pretty upset.  I seem to run into situations like this a lot.  There was another time, not too long ago when I was going to the till at a grocery store and a young man ran and stood in front of me and literally let three of his friends go ahead of me while blocking my cart and then disappeared.  I got extremely upset and decided to keep slamming my cart into the guy who was in front of me and pushed him too far to use the till when he got there.  He swore at me and asked me to move and I said, “Sure, as long as you say please.” and he called me a Fag.  I have played this over and over in my head and I keep wishing I had slammed the cart into him as hard as I could, but all I in fact did was loudly comment on a piece of jewelry he was wearing.  He smiled and said “Maybe we should take this outside.” quietly to himself and when I got outside no one was there.  I just wish I had a thicker skin, but all in all I think it comes down to just maintaining my daily mental health.  One of the most important things I know works is if I meditate.  A half hour, or even less of sitting and just focusing on my breath and trying to keep my mind clear helps me to control recurring thoughts of these perceived slights.   Then of course I also need to keep in touch with the outside world and watch my moods.  If I talk to a few friends and get out and do a few things, including a workout routine, I know for a fact I will be much more able to deal with topics that I am normally very sensitive about.  Of course where this happens the most is work, but, God willing, I am nearing the point where I will no longer have to work my labor job or at the very least be able to work just a few days a month.

Anyhow, that was a long paragraph.  I hope some of you got something out of it, as always I would love to hear feedback.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care!

Line Up All The Ducks In A Row

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Hello my good readers.  As I write this, it is 5:00am on Sunday.  I am thinking about a lot of different things right now, one of them is the phone conversation I am having with a friend who has to be at work in 3 hours and hasn’t slept at all.  Another big thing on my mind is wondering if I will be disappointed or not if I go try and see Star Wars today.  Then there is the part of my brain that never seems to stop, my critical voice.  In my head there always seems to be a dialogue.  What most often goes through it is distant memories of wrongs I feel have been done to me by random people.  There is the time some ex-friends of mine decided they hated me so much they would set me up to have a young woman we knew go through the motions of seducing me and then out of nowhere punched me in the face and had all her friends come out of hiding near us to laugh at me.  Then there was another time when I went to cross a street and was nearly hit by a guy and I walked in front of his car and he decided to use that as a reason to get out of his car and punch me repeatedly in the face while I was down and never fought back at all.  These things are clearly wrong, but the worst part of them is that I let them anger me now, years after I will never see these people again.  There are some things that help (and there are many more of these thoughts), one of them of course is medications.  I can recall being in the hospital and being off all medications and just being tormented.  Now it is sort of something that just bothers me, but it never seems to really stop.  The one thing I know that can help is meditation.  Simply sitting down, or even walking and counting or even just noticing my breath while I try to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts is such a liberating experience.  It has actually even been proven to reverse brain damage in certain people.  I only wish I could take the time to practice it enough to really make a difference.

Aside from all that, Christmas is coming closer.  It is going to be a short and somewhat boring time for me I think.  I like it to be boring because it is hard for me to think about my mom being gone, even though it is now 7 years since she died.  I don’t think people really ever get over that kind of a loss.  I feel better about her being gone, but still sad.  I also keep having the urge to pick up the phone and call her, and I really wish she could have lived long enough to see me become a successful and published author.  My mom inspired me to write in so many ways.  At first she only really inspired me to read, but deep in me I knew that writing was what I wanted to do.  Even in elementary school I would write and draw my own comic books and I always entered any writing contests our school put on, not to mention discovering early on that I had a bit of a talent for poetry.

Sometimes when I think of my daily life and the voices/dialogue that runs through my head and how I often have to hide myself away and sleep for long hours at a time to decompress from a stressful week, I think I’m really messed up.  Lately I have been having problems writing short stories but I have been focusing a bit more on poetry.  All I really know is that if I keep writing every day I will start to improve, though I have a lot of improving to do.  It can be so hard to learn anything from reading books about writing.  Lately I tried paying a friend with a PhD to teach me how to edit my work and it got to be so expensive I couldn’t continue.  Fortunately in the New Year we have been talking about a different arrangement.  The main problem right now is just having too much free time on my hands.  I wish I could just write for 8 or 10 hours a day but that takes so much out of a person.  I have often heard from professional writers that the burn out time is about 2 hours a day which means 22 hours of tedium and wasted time, but 2 hours seems to be the most I can sit and write.  I can’t imagine that writers like James A. Michener wrote only 2 hours a day, or a lot of other authors did the same, but 2 hours seems to be the best way to get the most quality and creativity out of myself.  Please let me know if any of my readers have experience with this, I would love to share it on here in future entries.

When it comes down to it, there are some important things I have to remember.  I am a person with a severe mental health issue and I need to make my mental health a priority.  Medications on time, appointments kept, diet, exercise and sleep carefully monitored.  Stress kept to a minimum and work only taken on when it is worthwhile and with reasonable compensation.  Not that I mind volunteering, but I don’t consider a lot of the volunteer work out there to really be work.  I would love to go back to visiting dying patients, I greatly enjoy writing for my community newspaper as a volunteer.  But when I work very difficult jobs like the one I have setting up concerts, it better be worth it!  Until I can meet all those requirements, I don’t need to worry about being some great writer or changing the world, I just need to do what makes me happy.  Anyhow, I wrote a poem about poverty and charity and homelessness, which I am posting below, I hope you enjoy it!

 

Holiday Season

 

Around us children suffer, most are deaf to all their cries

People grow a little tougher, and each day part of their heart dies

 

Will you watch the pain around you getting worse and worse each day

Or will you force your very bone and sinew to try to find another way

 

Let your mind be opened, let your heart grow sensitive

Don’t leave the masses hoping that someone else will give

 

There are refugees with nothing, there are nations needing aid

Let your life mean something more than just working and being paid

 

Don’t just open up your wallet, don’t just pay instead of care

One person’s money will not solve it, we all must give, we all must share

 

Right here it’s dirty, cold and unforgiving on the frozen windy street

No one has any hope to make a living with no place to rest and warm their feet

 

This world needs healers, lovers, helpers, who aren’t afraid to lose it all

It needs food and love and shelters, do you hear that noble call?

 

Once I myself was sick and all alone, I had nowhere to go

I had lost my love, my mind, my home, I was hurting so

 

It ended with me living among the homeless, day by day hiding my pain

I felt so completely worthless, I don’t think I could do that all again

 

Will you push yourself to help the poor, give what you can as there is a need

Can you open your heart and open your door, set aside all selfishness and greed

 

I’ve had to fight addictions, I had to fight for my new home

I fought through more than one eviction, and I mostly fought alone

 

But taking the blessings I was given, I’ve made a brand new life

I’ve worked as though one driven, to put behind me all that strife

 

Remember that we all received a present, perfect peace, eternal life and bliss

Christmas day is when God sent it, he wants us to share that and our other gifts

 

December 20, 2015

Leif Gregersen