mental health treatment

Working Towards a Better Understanding

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What an amazing day I had today.  Thanks to being set up as a member of the mental health writer’s guild, I have added ten new followers in just one day.  That means a lot, especially if I can somehow help even one of those people.  My thanks go out to everyone who signed up to be notified of my new posts.

It hasn’t even been a day since I posted my last blog, but I had a few things I felt would be good to talk about.  For  a long time I have been working as a stage hand for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and though the work is getting difficult as I age, I think I would have a hard time not continuing with this work because I have so many amazing friends there.

Tonight my job was to set up and tear down the stage for Black Sabbath, but the concert was cancelled just a few hours before show time.  I don’t know how they managed to let everyone know about this, I am sure there were literally thousands of hugely disappointed fans, but none of them were at the venue to complain or riot.  Maybe it has to do with how polite Canadians are.

One of the things of note that happened tonight is that I started talking with one of my co-workers and found out he is a writer as well.  We had an interesting talk in between times of having to do things and he shared with me that he had a friend who he is sure is bipolar.  I gave him my business card with the address to this website on it and told him he was welcome to have his friend contact me.  This really amazes me because for many years I thought it was a terrible thing to tell people I have a mental illness, but so many times I am finding, when I do people start to talk about themselves having difficulties, or a family member or friend who has difficulties.  Mental illness is really something that touches all of us and hiding it away on some far off corner of our closet doesn’t help anyone at all.

Something I also wanted to touch on here is self stigma.  This is when a person feels guilty and blames themselves, even harms themselves for their condition.  Many years back, when I first had a serious hospital admission, I had so much guilt.  I had embarrassed myself, my family, lost friends, ruined relationships, lost respect and just about all of my material possessions.  My solution to all of this, as it was around the time of the first Persian Gulf War was to throw away all of my hopes and dreams and to sign up for the military wanting to be killed in battle to restore what I thought I had destroyed through my own fault.  Of course this could have ended in me dying, but fortunately my psychiatric records kept me out of the Canadian Forces.  I still wanted to punish myself though and began running, as much as 50 miles a week.  I ran so much that I did some very serious damage to my knees and became not only psychiatrically disabled, but physically disabled as well.  By some wonderful chance of fate, my knees have healed and I have been able to go back to a normal job and make some money to supplement my disability benefits.  What surprises me though is how a disease of the brain can affect people in such a way that it gets manifested in physical ailments.  One example is that when you take medication, your mouth often gets dry and saliva is a person’s first line of defense against tooth decay.  So, people with bipolor or other disorders often have bad teeth.

Another thing that suprpises me is just the sheer volume of people who have mental health issues, especially when you add in addictions problems, even alcohol dependency.  It is a bit sad to say but if I keep working in the mental health field for the rest of my working days, I will never be out of work.

I hope some of these words can help those who read them.  To the person I spoke to today and to many of the people who are new to this blog, I want to say that a diagnosis of a mental health disorder is not a death sentence and that things can really get better.  Be a proactive patient/consumer/mental health survivor.  Get out and join groups online or in your city where you can meet with others and share your difficulties and triumphs.  Advocate for yourself and for those who are too far gone to have a voice of their own.  If you are just curious about mental health, find books and talk to your family Doctor about it.  The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.  And, as always, feel free to drop me a line, I can be reached at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I would love to be able to help you and be your friend.

Medications/Pills: The Tough Questions

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Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I thought I would tackle kind of a large problem for those of us who suffer from disorders that require Psychiatric meds and there is so much I can talk about.  I think that the first question that one should address is,when do you stop taking your pills?  When are side effects so bad that you really should go off of them.  I have so much to say about this I will dive right in.  I think the most simple answer to this question is, you can go off your pills when your Doctor says you can.  Back in 2001, before 9/11 happened and changed the world, I was on about 1000mg of Depekane a day and I was living on my own.  Most people will see the recipe for disaster right there: I was living alone.  You see, I had heard about an apartment that was very small and also very cheap and in a not too bad building.  About this time, I had somehow decided that going to the Psychiatrist was a waste of my time.  This was another serious mistake.  Now, things didn’t happen overnight, I was taking my medications every day but in the process of living in this very tiny, very dirty place with no human contact, I came to decide that I could lower (not stop, but just lower) the dose of my Depekane because it was making me drowsy among other things.  I cut the medication in half, but that was enough to cause the worst mishap of my life which nearly killed me.  I slowly began to get ideas in my head that I owned the buildings in the complex I lived in, I stopped eating almost completely, and went into serious serious depressions where I would cry out loud at things on the TV.  Life had gone from being comfortable with lots of friends to being almost completely unbearable in a short period of time and unluckily enough I had a good credit rating at the time and kept getting more.  I spent mounds of money and eventually ended up in the hospital with no means to pay them off.  But I will stop there, I have likely told this story before and it can also be found in greater and better detail in my book, “Inching Back To Sane”.  The  fact was that I had made some serious mistakes that led to worse and worse things.

I think one of the key aspects of my recovery over the past few years is that I have not lived alone.  By the grace of God, I was let into a very positive group home where I am fed regularly, my health and mental well-being is monitored, I get my medications every day and they throw a kniption fit if I miss a Psychiatrist or Pharmacist appointment.  Living there now for just about 14 years I have seen a lot of guys fail, and it seems just about every time it has to do with properly taking medications and dealing with the side effects of this.  There was this one guy, who was an addict and alcoholic who saw it as a badge of honor to get his Doctor to lower his anti-psychotic.  Then not long after as a result of his alcohol abuse he had to go back in the hospital for a long time.  I went to visit him a couple of times and it seemed so awful that he had to go through all that because when I saw him after his hospital visit, he had gotten no further along than he had been.  Hopefully he was wiser about taking his meds.

I want to mention something about medications.  There is a funny rule that applies a lot of the time, and that is that the longer you stay on medications, the more likely it is that they will work properly for you and that you will adjust to the side effects.  I want to use an extreme example.  I tried Lithium, and it made my hands shake so bad I went off of it.  I got sick.  I tried Tegratol and it made me exceedingly restless and I petitioned my Doctor to put me on something else, the drug I take now for a mood stabilizer, Depekene.  This drug works, but it causes extreme diarrhea.  This is something very hard to deal with, but the fact that now my hands don’t shake and that I can have my concentration back is extremely important to me, so what I do is manage the side effect as best as I can.  If I have to work, I take pills.  If I am going out I make sure I go to the bathroom beforehand and I make sure that I go before I leave a place that has a bathroom for a place that doesn’t.  Having the runs is now a fact of my life, but I haven’t let it ruin me, but I do have to accept that I need my pills, and I need to take precautions so I can live a normal life.  One has to accept that things may get difficult, but stopping medication you need is no option.  I hope this blog is helpful to those who read it, I think a lot of it applies to people who don’t even have a mental illness, because sooner or later if you reach a certain age, you have to get used to facts that aren’t the most convenient.  Some of them can be just as difficult as the problem I was just talking about.  There may be men who can’t get erections, some as a result of meds, some just as a result of getting older and even some because of poor diet or exercise.  The fact is that you need to own your diagnosis, be prepared to live with it and do what needs to be done.  I know from personal experience that it is very hard to go to a Doctor and talk about erections, but sex is something just about essential to a healthy life.  If you can’t be honest with your Doctor though, he can’t help you and you need to find new strategies or a new Doctor.  I found the best advice I have gotten about seeing a Doctor is, if you aren’t up to talking and have things you need to say, write a note and give it directly to your Doctor when you visit.  You can even mail a letter if you find yourself to be a better writer than you are a talker.  With that I will leave you Dear Readers with best wishes for a wonderful day.

 

As Hard As Things May Seem

Sometimes I find it hard to face each new day
But I have to work, I need my pay
And my best shot at happiness will not knock on my door
That’s what pounding the street and making your own way is for

My bed is soft and warm; the world outside is hard and cruel
On days like this I wish I could have stayed in school
But above all my whining I have to say
If I get up I may see her today

Have I not told you of the perfect love I met
She has such a lovely face no one could forget
She has a smile that radiates a glow
Each day my love for her continues to grow

My job makes sense to me when I think of her eyes
And her golden flowing curls all perfect like the sunrise
She gives me so much joy when I can see
The myriad of things she could do and be

She’s lovely, wonderful and she cares so much
So full of love she could heal the blind with just a touch
She fills my whole heart with love and peace
My sister’s daughter, my love, my niece

No matter how much life may beat me down
For her I can get up and take on another round
She is a new creation, but still my own flesh and bone
And because she came to Earth I can face the cruel and the unknown

I suppose I would like one day to have my own child
But there is no way to compare my niece’s smile
To anyone else on Earth or heaven above
She’s my favorite girl, my first experience with perfect love

Leif Gregersen
August 11, 2015

The Question of Pills

leif-desk     There is so much about pills these days I thought I could write a whole blog entry on the subject.  Above is a picture of me at my desk and you can clearly see that I am not the thinnest person in the world.  The fact is, I weigh 260 pounds right now and I feel awful about it.  As a young adult, I was 18 and could do 7 chin-ups, 30  push-ups and run for 20 miles if I had to, and that was when I smoked.  Now, though I swim, walk long distances, bicycle longer distances and don’t smoke, I don’t know if I could do any of those things and it really comes down to the weight I gained taking the pills I am on.  Of course a tiny pill doesn’t add any weight to a person, but what my pills do is make me so very weak and hungry that I have to be eating just about all the time.  For some years now I have managed to hover around 250-260 which is better than gaining, but I really wish I could get to a healthier weight.  Most of my younger days, including my adult years right up to age 30 I was 170 pounds, a significant difference.  I met a young woman at a support group once who had been on a medication that caused her to gain weight and switched to another called Lamotragene and she lost a lot of weight.  I thought all my dreams had come true but I went to my Doctor and tried out the drug and it left me so tired I could get very little done.  I have to say though that I am very grateful for the pills that do this, they have kept me from having a serious breakdown for more than 14 years which is incredible and unprecedented with me.  I also take a pill called Prozac, and I feel a bit bad, but the fact is I love this pill.  I take it in the morning and often go back to bed for a few hours because after you take it you have the sweetest, happiest, most perfect dreams.  Instead of my usual nightmares, I have dreams of high school crushes and large amounts of money and all kinds of pleasurable things.  Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.  I am very reluctant though to like any kind of a pill because it seems just about all of them create a dependence, a tolerance to the drug and all kinds of side effects no one may know about for a long time to come.  I find myself taking a lot of ibuprophen and acetominophen for headaches and sometimes these drugs help me sleep a little, but I worry if they make me sleep because of a lack of pain or if they make you sleep because they are sedative.  If they are sedative I am of the mind that I shouldn’t take them.  It seems a bit silly to say this, but I have seen a lot of people who have allowed themselves to get addicted to pills, sadly my own mother was very much a saint in many ways but her and my Dad were of the belief that it was perfectly okay for her to be taking more than 10 kinds of pills despite repeated medical advice.  Anyhow, I should stick to my own problems in this blog, I just want to talk about one more pill, something that I find helpful but again somewhat risky.  It is melatonin, a type of sleep hormone that is very effective in helping insomnia, but I have a strange problem when it comes to sleep.  I am very much subject to milder forms of mania, the kind one gets when you just find yourself talking to fast, laughing too hard at your own jokes and being able to forgo sleep as long as you want to.  If I am in one of these states, often brought on by excessive coffee use, there is little melatonin can do for me, and what it and other pills I have tried to help me sleep does is leave me pretty drowsy the next morning.  I should note though, that melatonin has another interesting side effect, it actually enhances sexual pleasure, but I strongly hope no one takes more than a recommended dose of this pill towards that purpose.  I can notice almost right away with melatonin when I take too much, it is a very unpleasant feeling and can come about just by taking a small dose three days in a row.  You feel extremely restless and can’t sit or lay still and you just about have to get up and pace until the feeling goes away, which could take hours.  I personally cleared use of melatonin with my Psychiatrist and only use it when I am desperate for a sleep solution.  I hope some of this helps my readers treat their illnesses with more care, once again feel free to write me any time you like, I will do my best to answer.    viking3082000@yahoo.com   And yes, there will be a poem today, just look below!  (sorry, I will be posting photos of Toronto soon!)

 

I Can Feel It Coming Back

I once thought all the joys of life were done
But in reality they had just begun
After a time of pain life became just drudgery
I felt so sad for all I would never do or see

But step by inch, life built its way back up
I soon drank from the wellspring of God’s loving cup
I took a chance and flew away far from home
And soon I learned no one really wants to be alone

It was hard at first, I had lost a dear true friend
But love triumphed and we reunited in the end
I thought wealth was passed, happy times were done
It was just a different part of life newly begun

I still recall the moment when it all changed so wonderfully
Those simple words my sister said to me
Next time I see you, an Uncle you will be
From that time on life was happiness and glee

I have to also say I owe two precious friends all I achieved
With their support I did more than I could have believed
One friend had kept a forgotten draft of my book
Another angel friend had an editor take a look

Now I feel I am a valued piece of my beloved home
No longer broke and hurting, no longer all alone
It all took just a little step each day
And the odd marathon of effort I have to also say

Now I’m living proof that though things can knock you down
As long as you believe in you there will be another round
But I ask you don’t forget without love, family and friends
Dreams can come true but won’t fulfill you in the end

There is a trinity called love, hope and work you see
That can make all you dream really come to be
Never tell yourself that you can’t succeed, achieve
What occurs in our lives is always what we believe

Leif Gregersen
August 9, 2015

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

DSCF1292One of the things I love about Edmonton so much is that it is home to such wildlife as this furry little critter, even right in the downtown core

     Hello dear readers.  I want to start off by apologizing for posting such a lame post previously.  I suppose the story wasn’t bad, but I feel I was letting down people who wanted to learn about writing or mental health issues.  Let’s see what I can come up with for all of you today.

To start off, I think I am getting fairly advanced in my recovery from Bipolar.  Now, there is a hurdle I have to go over.  I have to be able to keep reminding myself that I am a person with special needs, not the least of which is medication and Psychiatric help.  I can recall a few times I was at this point, where things seemed to be going good and I got complacent.  One such time I had a few different life events happen that very nearly put me in serious danger.  I hadn’t spoken to a young woman I was once very infatuated with, who liked me as a friend but no more.  Sitting in my apartment all alone for weeks and months at a time, I tried to reach out a couple of times, but it is a sad thing to say that there are some people who you can make a mistake with, whether it be something you control or not, and they never forgive you.  One day I got the new phone book for Edmonton and looked up one of these young women and called her.  She even answered.  I said who I was and then when she answered, I replied that it was good that at least she didn’t scream and hang up on me.  I tried to explain to her that I had been going through some rough stuff but had gotten treatment and that basically I kind of needed a friend at the time.  She threw it in my face that I wrote some irrational letters to her that she had kept to use as evidence against me and also that she pretty much didn’t care if I lived or died.  That was really harsh.  I forget if that was the point I stopped taking my prozac or if I had done that earlier.  Either way, it preceded a massive depressive episode in me.  A short time later, I took an overdose of about 100 Tylenol and some Lithium and a few other drugs I had in my medicine cabinet.  For the next two days I slept and then for the two days after that I was sick and couldn’t even hold down water. (this story is paraphrased from my book, “Inching Back To Sane” by a million to one shot, my Dad had come by and slipped some money under my door and this was enough to get me to the hospital.  I was very near death and hurt my family members very badly.

As for the other situation, it was the one that preceded my worst ever stay in hospital, which was also my last stay in hospital (when I say ‘hospital’ I mean the Psychiatric Hospital, Alberta Hospital Edmonton) again I was doing well.  I had work, I had friends, I even had a car and a credit card.  Then I decided to lower the dose of my mood stabililzer.  Not eliminate, just lower.  At this point I had stopped seeing a Doctor, I was just getting one of my old Doctors to refill my prescriptions and not having my regular blood tests done that were required of me, and which could have prevented the disaster that followed.  I ended up in a state of severe psychosis and though I was on medications that had worked for me, the new Doctor assumed either I wasn’t taking my meds or the ones I was taking weren’t working, so he changed them around and I ended up much worse off.  This began a hellish nightmare of 5 long months, a large part of them spent in solitary confinement with just a plastic mattress, an uncomfortable blanket and a plastic bottle for a toilet.  Lesson learned: don’t get complacent.  Get to see your Doctor, take all of your required medications.  Talk to your mental health workers if you have them and find some if you don’t.  I am very lucky to be a part of something called ‘the Community Living Program’ or ‘clip’ where I see a nurse on a regular basis who gives me part of my medication by time-release injection and then also see a Doctor who she consults with at least once a month.  For anyone who is a family member of someone with a mental illness, I think this is something you constantly have to remind your loved one about.  I was interested to learn that Schizophrenia as an example, will get worse over time.  Even if you take your full required medication every day it is highly likely that you will need an increase in your dosage of anti-psychotic (please don’t mix psychotic up with psychopath) or you will get ill again.

Let me just say a few quick things about writing here, I feel that writing, for me, and for a lot of people in my community, is something not only that I feel everyone should do, but I also feel that it goes hand in hand with mental health.  The first thing I did as I am sure I mentioned, was to keep a journal.  If you want to keep one, but have problems getting started, think of it as a scrapbook.  My sister saves movie receipts in hers from movies she liked and my Dad used to save all kinds of things like old cigarette packages that listed a price of 10c and candy bars and all sorts of things.  My journal was like that in a way as well.  I would write about movies I saw, make my own reviews, write about books I read or was reading.  Basically, your journal is your best friend and some of the best advice I can give to start journaling is to write down what you would tell your best friend at the end of the day.  So, I hope everyone feels a bit enlightened after reading this.  Today I wrote a poem about sitting in elementary school watching the clock and watching the alley beside the school to see my dear sister coming home from the bus.  I got my inspiration from a ‘poetry workshop book’ that I bought off of amazon.com.  I get so many great writing resources from amazon, they simply have everything.  Even my local 1,000,000 book public library can’t compare to what I can find on amazon, and quite often the book is as low in price as 1 cent plus a $6.49 fee for shipping.  As an added bonus, it is really a neat feeling to come home to a package of some new goodie waiting for you.  I do this for other people as well, I sent my ex-gf who is also one of my best friends a complete set of the original twilight zone series, I sent my niece a Karaoke machine.  Credit cards can be fun.  And they can be a disaster for the mentally ill, but I will talk about that in another blog.  Perhaps tomorrow I will write a bit about my knowledge of personal finance, I am sure many of you out there could benefit from some of the books I have read and experiences I have had.

DSC_0119This is a statue in a special park made solely for the homeless people in Edmonton.  In this small park, there is no closing time and you can drink alcohol without fear of police intervention.  It is sad sometimes to see such symbols of suffering, but also very necessary