mental health

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Won’t Stop Me But They Can Make Me Feel Like S*%@

 

Please support my efforts to continue and expand this blog and vlog by becoming a Patreon Supporter of mine

https://www.patreon.com/leifg

When I was in the hospital some 19 years ago, I really thought my life was over. It was a long, drawn out affair where supposedly I was doing something wrong and I couldn’t be helped until I stopped doing that, and each step of the way I was threatened with everything from going to a real jail to being tossed (literally) into an isolation room at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.

I must have written a hundred times about that hospital experience, but there is a lot to be said about it. I was in a mental hospital for six months, and I really thought the people there couldn’t break me. But again and again I was toyed with, threatened, assaulted, isolated, and ignored and eventually I didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground. When I was finally released, I was thinking straighter, but everything in my life was a mess. I wonder, I keep wanting to put my former doctor in there in a good light or at least try and avoid talking about him, but in recent months I have been given a contract to teach patients in the same wing of the hospital that my former doctor works and all I see is the same old ignorant, pompous ass that I used to hate so much. And time and again when I talk to people that are stagnating, having been in the hospital for many months and had almost nothing done for them I ask who their doctor is and they name the man who was in charge of my every breath and whisper for five long months. Even the staff hate him.

It was an interesting situation I was in. I had slowed down the dose of one of my three or four medications that had been working well for me for some time. All the doctor had to do was ask me what happened, then go back to the original dose and I would have been fine in weeks. It seemed though that they wanted to torture me in there. I will say though, as a person who works in the psychiatric hospital, sometimes it takes incredible amounts of patience to try and help people who are in there. I really don’t blame the patients, they are in a confused and difficult situation and it is hard to tell who is their friend and who is their enemy. It is often heartbreaking to see people who have been in the hospital for a very long time that I once knew well and all they seem to be able to do is to tell me to f— off or worse.

Still, there are many rewards to the job. About a year and a half ago I had a creative writing class in a different part of the same hospital, and there was a patient who was extremely disagreeable, and disrupted and insulted and more. But he had his wits about him and I kept on with my patient stance and at the end of the class, he said that the writing class was the best therapy he had ever received.

I guess what I would like to write about in this blog is what to do if you have a doctor that you don’t feel is working in your best interests. It may not be good to go directly to that doctor and tell him off and request a different doctor. I did that and what happened to me was that I was buried in the system, treated like garbage and lost 6 months of my young life plus the years it took to recover from the trauma of living in a place like that long-term. What I would suggest is to write to the hospital administrator, and perhaps the head psychiatrist, and try and explain your case. The sad truth is that many people who are in the hospital will be delusional and unable to function well enough to do this task, and there are others who may be able to do it, but not without tipping their hand that they are in a state of severe psychosis. If at all possible, it is important to keep a good relationship with your doctor in a psychiatric ward or hospital, and to be as honest and forthright as you can be. Sometimes it is very hard for a treatment team to find out what the best course of action is to get a person better. Just about any hospital visit to a secure ward is going to come hand in hand with a certain amount of anger, violence, belligerence, and with the level of training that some of the staff have, you will find that their chief method of dealing with these reactions are with anger, violence, and belligerence. I hate to think how many patients across the world are sitting in a hospital not properly medicated, with no fixed date of being able to leave because of the fact that the people who are supposed to be helping them are childish and vengeful towards people who have lost their ability to control their actions without just a little help, ie the right medications and time enough to stabilize.

The good news in my case is that yes, it took time for me to stabilize, yes I had a terrible, traumatic time in the hospital, but the fact remains that one day I did walk out of there, and I accomplished so many things from publishing books to travelling a much larger chunk of the globe than I ever thought I would. I would like to think I beat those awful people that had no faith in me, didn’t believe me when I said I had written a book (I’ve now written over 13) but the truth is when you have a mental illness you never really win. One year ago, I was put on a medication that simply didn’t work for me. I got horribly mentally ill in a short period of time and it was only through the help and assistance of my dad, my doctor in the hospital, and an incredible treatment team at the Grey Nuns Psychiatric Ward in Edmonton that I was able to recover. I still don’t feel 100% after that incident, but I have a rule that I can’t let a day go by without trying to improve my future and improve myself. In the time since I left the Grey Nuns, I wrote a book about that hospital experience, and just finished another collection of short stories, and so many opportunities have come my way. I wish all of you the greatest success in your endeavours, remember if you would like to ask me to cover a specific topic, or if you would like to order one of my books, or even just tell me your story, I would love to hear from you at viking3082000@yahoo.com I currently have two memoirs regarding my journey, “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane” which cover my teen years before I was diagnosed, and my adult years after I accepted my diagnosis. Class sets are available, and more information about these and the rest of my books can be found through links on the header of this website. Best!!

Leif Gregersen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transitioning From Mental Health Disorder to Managing Your Time As a Healthy Person

When I was younger, I was in the cadets and had an extremely full life. We played sports, had a parade night, weekend camps and longer camps in the summer. I can recall at that age watching a commercial that was meant to recruit US army candidates saying, “In the Army, we do more before 9am than most people do all day.” I really liked this because I had experienced first hand the benefits of getting up early and getting started on things early. One summer, before I was even in cadets, my dad set down the rule that we had to get up at 7:00 and eat and do something all summer long. At first it seemed like punishment, but after that summer when I realized that I had more jobs, more money, more fun and more sunshine, plus I had the added benefit of feeling that I hadn’t wasted that 2 month block of my life or my vacation time.

It may seem a bit hard to connect that to mental health, but here as I sit, 48 years old, I have seen half my life go by and have had some accomplishments, but there were chunks of time when I was in hospital, chunks off time when I slept all day because of heavy medication, and I ended up feeling really bad about it. I had really wanted to live a life where 6:00 to 9:00 am was just the beginning to a long and productive day. I will never be able to join the military, but I can still benefit from getting up early and getting a lot done, and I can still try and pass on to you, dear reader, some of what I have learned in chasing the tail of sleeping less and doing more.

So, a lot of people who have been under psychiatric care in a hospital have a bad tendency to let themselves go a bit. It is hard to exercise and perhaps harder to keep an eye on calories since everyone gets the same meals and you don’t have much of a part in making them. Myself, I hate to see when my muscles start to atrophy due to inactivity, and I also like to have a good cardio capacity as I have to walk up three flights of stairs every day just to get to my apartment. When I was last in the hospital I was lucky enough to be in one that had a gym and I could get up and play basketball or badminton and burn off a few calories and then because I have diabetes, I was given smaller, more calorie/sugar conscious meals. There are a lot of places though that don’t have these types of facilities but there are still things that can be done. One of the best of them is walking. It may be good to get on an exercise bike and pedal away for a while, but walking is a bit easier, more calming, gives you fresh air and scenery outside of your room or ward. It isn’t necessary to become an Olympic walker, but if you can try and get 20 to 30 minutes in a day it will make you feel a lot better. Some will want to combine this with push-ups, sit-ups or chair dips (you hold the arms of a strong chair with your hands, and lower and raise your lower body to give your arms a more complete workout than just push-ups would give). The point really is to get moving, keep from getting out of shape, and get fresh air. All of these things will pay you back once you leave the hospital.

One of the things I have suggested before is using swimming as a part of your fitness routine. This may have to wait for when you leave the hospital, but it is an excellent activity. I would go a lot more often if my skin didn’t dry out in the winter. At a pool, you can do anything from light water jogging to high fitness lane swimming where you go as hard as you can. One of the problems with going to a pool is that it can be expensive. As a person with a disability, I get access to city facilities at no cost but if I didn’t have that huge benefit, it would be as much as $10 to go for just one swim. Many pools and YMCA facilities have decreased rates for people with low income and also many public pools will have an hour or two of free swimming every week or so. What you are looking to do by walking and swimming and doing muscular strength training is to get yourself out of the mindset of a patient after you are discharged, or even just at a point where you want to do more with your life.

Some of the things I suggest can seem a bit pointless, but they can be very beneficial. When I was very broke in one of the first places I lived on my own, I would scrape together money for a coffee at a nearby fast food place that was open for breakfast, then I would read all the newspapers that others left behind (some major cities have free newspapers) and do the crosswords and other puzzles. Reading the paper kept me up to date on what was happening in the world, gave me ways to connect to others who were informed, and the puzzles I believe kept my brain sharp. The best thing about the paper was that it had job listings, possibly all of which you can now find online but I recommend not going on a home computer, but instead going to a coffee shop or even a library. At the library you can read magazines and use computers, as well as have access to so many books of all types. But that all is the next step in transitioning from the hospital, where I feel one of two things should be looked into, one being support groups or even social groups you can find with apps such as meetup, and the other being employment. Really though what I want to get across in today’s blog is that it is important to fill your time up. That way as the day winds down and you sit in your favourite chair and reach for the remote control you will feel like you truly deserved your quiet time, and you will much more likely be able to sleep better thanks to getting out and interacting, getting fresh air, and keeping busy. All the best! Please contact me with any questions, suggestions or ideas! ┬áviking3082000@yahoo.com

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

https://www.patreon.com/leifg

 

Hello Dear Readers!

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

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

When Does It Go From Collecting to Hoarding?

Let me try and describe for you a quick look at a harsh reality. It isn’t a pretty one, but one I will have to face up to in the following months as I move further away from that scenario. A room, nothing but a non-ventillated room with a tiny bathroom attached. The room is no more than 10 feet by 15 feet, and inside of it lives a very ill young man presently having medication problems and who is surrounded by a lifetime of possessions. A book case covers one wall, packed full of every kind of book. More books are in the cupboard space instead of food, and more are laying randomly on the floor. The floor is littered with clothes new and old, garbage, full packs of cigarettes, dirty socks, and the odd can of beans or other uncooked, ready to eat food. On every flat surface piles of papers or CDs or other items are stacked beyond a safe height, and inside the fridge there are many items, but none of them are useable. This was my reality before I spent six months in a psychiatric hospital where I wasn’t even allowed to go home to pack my stuff up when I was evicted for displaying the signs of a person with a mental illness.

Sometimes I like to think that back then I wasn’t a hoarder but just a book lover or a music lover. But the plain truth was that I was being choked to death by all of my possessions. I didn’t want to let go of them for any reason. I think it is often the common reason people hoard things is that they feel they have more value than others do, that they can somehow sell them. The idea in my head was that somehow I would read all the books, even though I was consistently buying more books than I could read at that time. Lacking proper space to cook, I was also forced to buy food out or sponge off of my elderly parents which definitely wasn’t sustainable. I think at this time I was a hoarder. I tried an experiment though, a lot of my stuff was put into storage for after my release from hospital, and after spending two years paying for storage I hadn’t once needed to go to get more stuff from there, and I realized that I actually didn’t need any of that stuff. I stopped paying the storage people, they sent me a few nasty letters then auctioned off my things and that was that. The main problem was that I had already begun to accumulate more things.

I have a friend who is definitely a hoarder who lives in a small house stuffed to the rafters with books he will never read, records he will never play and videos he will never watch. At one point he confided with me that when he bought something, it almost gave him a sexual thrill. At first I thought this was a pretty sick thing, but later in years I have heard that many people actually experience this same thing. I think the important thing to understand though is that it is essential to gain awareness of a problem like hoarding, and that there is a great deal of help out there for people to want to change.

It is quite a few years since that incident when I was not only severely mentally ill, but also drowning in more possessions than I needed. What has changed is that I have stabilized on medications, which work well for me, and I have much more space than that tiny little apartment. What I desperately would like to know is if I am still a hoarder.

In the time since that six month hospitalization, I developed an interest in reading comic books. I had once collected them as a child, when I was 10 and I had an impressive collection. Now I don’t read them as much but they have become easy to purchase, I now have thousands more than I ever did, despite that I don’t have a lot of time for reading.

So in all this time since my last hospital admission (19 years) I have fought to find a balance to my life, and I have discovered a movement called minimalism. I find it extremely fascinating, the claims they make are huge though. Get rid of 90% of what you have and you will feel 200% better. Declutter your home and declutter your mind. A lot of it makes sense to me, but I have hit a roadblock. I have this huge collection of comics recently bought and I just don’t know if I can sell the comics at a huge sacrifice, never having taken the time to read them. This surely must be hoarding at its worst, and to break out of the cycle I am going to have to make some really hard decisions. The only way I really know how to deal with it is to read books like “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” a beautiful book about purging possessions and reorganizing ones’ home. I know it will be difficult, but I think one of the most important things is likely that I shouldn’t worry about getting my money out of the comics. What I really have to focus on is finding a way to force myself not to buy any more, and I am lucky to have a resource in Edmonton that many of us can access with ease, there are graphic novels galore in the Edmonton Public Library. There are actually also a great deal of comics online, but I can’t comment due to lack of knowledge on copyright status and such. One of the wonderful things about the computer age is that it almost seems all one needs is a decent computer and only the very essential necessities of life and you can make it.

There are some truly encouraging reasons to embrace minimalism. The idea that one can either lower the amount they work without worry or work like they did before but be able to save much more, save for things in life that truly matter, like a life-changing vacation or being able to take your spouse out for a special meal at a fancy restaurant you enjoy more often. For me, as I sit at my desk writing this now, all I can think about is what it will be like when the clutter and papers of my work space are cleared and I can think of nothing but writing. I have also been thinking that if I use some of the space in my apartment differently there is no reason why I can’t hold onto my comics, but the essential thing I think is for me not to buy any more, so I have been trying to read up and listen to podcasts on living with less.

Last week I went into kind of a cleaning frenzy. I took all my clothes, piled them up on my futon, then got rid of each and every stitch of fabric that I wasn’t using or didn’t give me immediate joy. I was going to move on to do more this weekend but Edmonton has been hit with a brutal snowstorm and temperature drop which has made it impractical for me to complete my scheduled purge. Books are next. This is going to be the hardest part of it all I think, I have loved books since I was very young, but I think I should go easy on myself and include books but not comic books. I have this idea that I can simply pare down my comic collection to a manageable amount, but the truth is no matter which way I do it, this can become a very emotional time for a person who has had a lot of stuff for a long time. One thing I do know is that changing the way you view possessions, and not letting what you have define what kind of person you are, is so worth it.