mental hospital

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!

 

Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to viking3082000@yahoo.com I would love to hear from you!

 

Leif Gregersen

Alternative Recovery Strategies For Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

Before I begin, I just wanted to remind my readers and new followers that my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” is free to download and share and can be gotten by clicking on the photo of the bridge with two towers to the right of this blog.    ——–>

 

                                               Tanya Behm, my incredible boss at the Schizophrenia Society

Let’s admit it–Covid-19 is on everyone’s mind these days. For those of us who have mental health issues, the isolation can be almost like a prison sentence. I know I am really having a hard time because I have a dear friend who I was starting to get to trust me more and realize more that I am a person before I am a mental illness, and because of social distancing and my friend’s need to take care of family members, we haven’t been able to get together in ages.

I would like to say though, that having this time to myself has really sparked some incredible creative spurts. I don’t know how many people who read this blog are writers themselves, but I am guessing there are a few, and I am also guessing that many others could benefit from using creative writing in fiction or non-fiction, or poetry. Something I have been doing is I already had a full set of the Twilight Zone videos, and I am going back through them to watch over. There is something sort of magical about those old Teleplays, one shot, one episode was all the writers had to grab people and shake them out of their boots. I also have been watching “The Outer Limits” on Netflix and sometimes the original Star Trek as well. The thing is, whether you are in space or in the backyard of the girl next door wondering why she suddenly grew an antennae, when you delve into the world of the imagination, you are getting out of your house if only for an hour.

Time in isolation is so difficult for people with schizophrenia and bipolar (and just about any other major disorder including depression and so on). It can become important to force yourself to do something. I used to keep my mind active by getting a book of variety puzzles at a magazine stand. I loved to solve logic problems, and decipher scrambled letters (anagrams I think but I’m not sure). And thanks to some kind souls, I also have some pencil crayons and an adult colouring book. Despite all the things I could be doing, sometimes I find it really helpful to just tune the world out and sit down and colour in some pretty flower patterns or whatever. It becomes a way to leave my world without leaving. I even remember being in a very serious ward in the hospital and a young guy convincing me to sit down and draw a picture of a lion. We both got into the task and halfway through he said, “See, we’re no longer in a mental hospital.”

One of the best things I could recommend to people who read this blog who haven’t already done so is to start a blog of their own. It is possible to get a free or low-cost website as I did through WordPress. Mind cost me some to start up but then I found a free course from the Library that allowed me to use my own knowledge to maintain and update my website. Now what I do is take pictures as much as I can, then use the best ones to introduce a topic and share my experience. There is something very powerful about sharing your story with others. Those people often become close friends and share their own stories and before you know it a bond exists. This is why support groups an 12-step groups are so effective, the main thing they do is share their stories of what life was like before they recovered, how they recovered and how their lives are better now.

So, if you get a blog, keep a journal. Write down ideas that come to you of things to write about that week or that period you want a new blog to come out. Use your story, and do some research on what has worked on that topic for others. There are so many formats to choose from, one that has always interested me but I never explored was to have an advice website where people write to you and ask questions and you answer them (of course anyone who does want to ask me something they want to see here, feel free to contact me at my email: viking3082000@yahoo.com) then you can try to add posts on a regular basis, and the world will soon open up a door for you. I had so many opportunities stemming from this website, from being hired as a managing editor of two online mental health magazines to simply growing a following of over 600 people. But writing can do so much more for a person, even if they never publish a thing,

Most psychiatrists will recommend to a patient that they keep a journal just as I do to my students (I teach creative writing at a local psychiatric hospital). This has power because a journal can become a friend you can talk to about anything. You may be ashamed to admit that teenagers upset you when you first leave the house in the morning and see them smoking and hear them laughing, but you can always express these feelings in your journal. Once saved, you might one day be able to go back over that journal and possibly get an idea of writing a short story about a man who gets taunted by teenagers but is in fact a scientist who shrinks them down to tiny size to teach them a lesson. As you keep writing things like short stories or poems, these kinds of ideas will come to you.

Something else I have as a hobby is model building. I love to assemble tiny reproductions of airplanes from famous battles. This sort of thing takes time, energy, and concentration, and when you are done you can get a bit of wire and hang your creation from your ceiling to show it off. Really anything that engages you is great.

This is the point of my blog where I usually start talking about going to the gym and the pool. But in Edmonton where I live, all pools and gyms are shut down. I have been trying to take up the slack in my exercise routine by walking long distances. Sometimes I will make an excuse to visit my dad or a store on another side of town and then walk all the way back, even if it adds up to ten miles or more. There is something so empowering about the rhythm of each step, the feel of sun on your face and being able to breathe fresh air. I have learned to make my own mask to wear by watching the below video:

Surgeon General Shows How to Make Face Mask

I would actually like to see face masks become mandatory, but, along with social distancing, they are the best way to prevent the spread of this deadly virus we have going around. What I do also do when I go out for my long walks is I take routes where there are few if any people on the sidewalk. Long-distance walking can become tiresome and time consuming, but if you have no other way to exercise, it can be a lifeline.

It is also important to keep your strength going, the way I have been able to do this without going to the gym is buy purchasing a couple of ten pound dumbbells and doing twenty or thirty repetitions of a circuit of lifts, and then adding in some push-ups and even using a chair to use ‘dips’ to strengthen my arm. I have also found it useful to shadow box using my coats as a punching bag. Once again, anything that pushes your limits, engages you, makes you feel healthy is going to make your life easier.

With just a quick Internet search, I found a few resources on something else that could be helpful, online resources, information, and support groups for people with Schizophrenia. The website is at:

Please click here for more information

I encourage you to try this one and look deeper. And please come back and share your experiences with me, I would love to hear from you. In the mean time, please download my eBook “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the Tower Bridge and let me know what you think of it!

Best,

Leif Gregersen

What Not to Say to an Expecting Mama, and a Little About Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Please don’t forget if you haven’t already to download a copy of my new book at right———->

It is totally free to download and share and gives an excellent snapshot of what it is like to be in a psychiatric ward for psychosis. Just below the link (the picture of the tower bridge) is a video you can view of me reading from the book and explaining parts of it.

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have partnered up with a website called DearAva that runs a blog that often deals with mental health issues. I will be posting some of their content below, if you get a chance, check out their site, it’s kind of a nice one. I just wanted to say a few things about pregnancy. Pregnancy can be a very difficult time for women, I have even heard that becoming pregnant is likely the greatest risk a woman can take with her health. The person goes through so many hormonal changes that often the woman who has recently had a baby will go through a very serious and severe depression known as postpartum depression. I have a family member who had a child and never stopped having depression, which normally only lasts a short while. Aside from the physical risks, which I won’t get into, there are some things that people with mental illnesses have to consider. Something that really irks me is when people imply that if you have a mental illness you shouldn’t have children. This was a decision my mom had to make, and I want to honestly say that even though I have been through some pretty difficult times, and had to deal with a lot because of my genetically inherited mental illness, I still totally think it was worthwhile that I was put here on this Earth. My mom had three children and we all loved her dearly and have so many wonderful memories of growing up and having her as a parent. We had a chance to learn so much from her that was passed down in her family, and all of us have had some wonderful times. Along with a genetic illness, my mom passed on something incredibly worthwhile, she passed on her intelligence and love of learning, which has brought the three of us to places we thought we could never go.

Regarding an actual pregnancy though, if you may be pregnant, it is important to find out as soon as you can because if you are taking psychiatric medications you may want to actually go off some of them for the health of your unborn child. This should only be done with direct supervision of a psychiatrist. This can make for an extremely difficult time during pregnancy, many of us need our medications, but if you consult your doctor you may be able to find alternatives that are shown to be less harmful. It goes without saying that a person should never smoke or drink during pregnancy, or even be around smoke, and it should also be said that it can be extremely risky to be around marijuana smoke or to smoke it yourself, not to mention all the other recreational drugs out there.

As for my views on love and marriage, I just wanted to briefly state that since I was young even when I didn’t go to church, I have felt that you shouldn’t sleep with anyone you don’t plan on having a lifetime commitment to. This is because it can be so difficult for one parent to raise a child and it is the child that ends up being harmed in these situations. I don’t mean to preach or even to advise anyone on this, it is just something that I believe, and I also believe that a person shouldn’t get married with the intention of having children unless they are financially secure enough to do so. All that balderdash aside, please enjoy the below post from Dear Ava

What NOT To Say To An Expecting Mama

We’ve all been there. A dear friend is pregnant, and you’re bursting with excitement! You may want to share your own experience with pregnancy and childbirth, or you may want to give her the best piece of advice you’ve heard when it comes to raising children. While many things can be taken in stride by pregnant women, there are a few zingers that you’ll want to steer clear of, even though you have the best of intentions.

“Wow, you’re huge!”

This, or any other comment on her weight or size, isn’t a good idea. If you want to comment on her appearance, the appropriate sentiment is, “you look beautiful.”

“Sleep while you can.”

Pregnant mothers-to-be are exhausted from growing a tiny human, and the last thing they need to hear is how they may be even more exhausted when the baby arrives. If you’d like to be helpful, offer to come over after the baby arrives and clean, cook, or hold the little one while she showers and catches some much-needed zzz’s.

“Say goodbye to your free time/ hobbies/ relationship.”

New moms know that their entire world is about to change, and they’re likely working hard to wrap their heads around just how different life is going to be once their little one makes their appearance. Talking about how their life will change for the better – they’ll be so in love with their child, they’ll have a new respect for their partner, they’ll get to experience the best parts of being a little kid all over again – is a much better way to go than saying something negative.

“My childbirth experience was horrible.”

Mamas, especially first-timers, are often terrified at the idea of giving birth. While it can feel like a bonding experience to share horror stories, do so out of earshot of an expecting mom. Setting her up to even more anxious than she already is to have her baby doesn’t help – it only creates worry.

“Are you sure you’re eating enough/ aren’t you eating too much?”

A pregnant mom’s diet is between two people – her and her doctor. There’s no need to comment on how much or how little she’s eating. There’s no way to know whether she just got done fasting for a test, or if she’s so nauseous she’s struggling to keep down ginger ale and saltines. If you’re in a situation where there’s food, ask her if there’s anything you can get for her so she can sit down and relax.

It can be hard to know exactly what to say to a pregnant woman. Erring on the side of staying positive is always smart. If you’ve had a child before, it can be tempting to share your wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) experiences with a mom-to-be, but tread lightly. Encouragement, positivity, and excitement are always welcome, while judgment, shame, and questioning of one’s decisions are not. When in doubt, ask her how you can help her get ready for her bundle of joy to arrive, and be on call for questions and support when the baby arrives.

 

Mental Health During Isolation and Pandemic Distress

You know Spring is waiting out there. The trees are turning a lovely shade of green, the skies are clear and lovely blue but something dark and foreboding waits for you. A disease that has crippled the world, brought empires to their knees. It has happened before, the Black Plague, the Spanish flu. They call this one the Coronavirus and half the people out there think it’s a joke and aren’t following the rules of distancing and wearing masks. You are doing all you can but it’s only been a month and you are near your breaking point already. Experts claim this could last well into next year and you have no idea how you’re going to make it. It almost seems as though it would be better to just get the virus and be immune. But then there’s the risk! This is a dark horror out of a Twilight Zone episode, but it’s real!

Check out my Book Launch Video, just click on the Youtube Link right next to this text!!

Hello my dear readers! I hope none of you found the previous short statement too scary, it is a description of what I have been going through this past little while and suspect some of you have gone through as well. In hopes of helping anyone who regularly reads this blog, I just wanted to let you know once more that if you click on the photo of the Tower Bridge on the right column of this blog, you will be able to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3” 

So what’s been going on? A few days I called in to our health link line (811 for anyone who lives in Alberta) and was given instructions to isolate for ten days. It really has been hard, especially since my two best friends have very good reasons to keep themselves away from anyone who has even a slight chance of having Covid-19. One of them has a little boy at home and the other is taking care of her elderly grandmother. The cool thing though is that my apartment is much better than any prison could be, as long as I don’t get bored of the things I have to do in here. I am using my time to write stories, to read, to play video games, and I hate to admit it but I have been treating myself to some non-sugar comfort food.

Something I am curious about that I would encourage feedback on is that I wonder if anyone, especially those who have a mental illness that is well controlled, experiences the imitation of symptoms when they are sleeping. Lately I have been thinking a lot about my psychosis and what made my voices and delusional thoughts so convincing. Part of it of course has to do with the fact that these delusions and hallucinations came from within my own head but so realistically seemed like they were coming from others. I can recall I would do something, say threw out a small container of milk, and then through my mind would flash the thought that someone might really be pissed off at me for doing that and in an instant it was like I could hear someone swearing and cursing and threatening me, and it seemed to come from one guy in particular.

I have really been trying hard to be able to put into words what it is like to have delusions. One of the sad things about mental illness is that a person can be tormented by negative thoughts and false delusional ideas and end up getting so frustrated trying to hold everything together that they lash out and end up being abused or assaulted, sometimes by family members (yes, this has happened to me) and often by people who are offended by people who have a mental illness. This is why it is so important to have places that are safe for people who have mental illnesses. Of course, this means there should be psychiatric hospitals, but there should also be group homes where people with mental illnesses can live independently but still in a community where they are understood and supported. I lived in such a group home for around 15 years and I went through a huge amount of personal growth at that time which I never would have been able to do otherwise.

Well, unfortunately this is going to be a short one today readers. I would love it if any of you would contact me with ideas or suggestions, or even just to converse, my email as always is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

From Out of the Darkness of a Pandemic: A Ray of Light, a Streak of Hope

A Little About What Made This the Best Day of Isolation I Have Had and a Flash Fiction Story

 

This photo symbolizes some of what I have been going through lately with this whole Covid-19 self isolation thing. Life had become a flat, undisturbed puddle on a sidewalk, nothing new coming my way, my plans not bearing fruit. Then something came along to shake everything up and make it beautiful. This photo was taken a couple of years ago and is one of the more interesting things I have photographed from something very plain and ordinary. I feel so great about what happened today, I wanted to use this very special photo to tell you all something.

Today, somehow, someone got the information that I have a Patreon Page (click the text to view it) I have only really been advertising it in the signature line of my email. I made some videos for it, one on relaxation with some soothing music played while viewing Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, and I displayed words telling people ideas and facts about relaxation. I had a lot of hope that people would jump at the chance to help support my efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness and increase awareness of it, but I had been told already that mental illness is not a popular charity. The page sat dormant with no supporters for more than a year. Despite all that, I forged ahead. I kept on taking pictures, kept on writing blogs. I didn’t care that I wasn’t even coming close to breaking even. Then some great things happened and I got jobs that paid me a little money to do things like teach creative writing in a psychiatric hospital here in Edmonton and another where I give talks about schizophrenia, the facts, and my own experiences. After hard work and diligence, doors started to open. Miracles started to happen. A few weeks ago I received a letter from an organization called “Northwords” which is a writer’s festival that goes on in the Northwest Territories. Now, as a Canadian, the far North has always fascinated me, and this opportunity was taking place in Yellowknife, which I have never been to but heard so much about. They wanted to fly me up, give me a hotel room and pay very well to have me do some workshops and talks at the festival. I was totally elated. Then, a woman reached out to me about a multicultural project that she wanted me to write poems for, and a small town library offered me a nice sum of money to come up and talk at a mental health conference. Then the axe fell. One by one, each one of these opportunities ended up being cancelled, and I was laid off from my jobs. I really felt dejected, and for the past while I have been having a very hard time with the forced isolation from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

So many chances lost, some of them never to come back. And the fear that if two of my family members (my dad and my sister’s husband) get the virus, they won’t survive it. Something very simple happened, something people may not see as a miracle, but I did. Today after sleeping most of the day away with a bad headache and not knowing if I should risk going out to buy some needed groceries, some sweet, kind and caring person made the effort to reach out to me and say, (not in so many words) “you’re doing something special and I want to help you” A woman named Meg found my Patreon page and put herself down to pledge at the $8 level. This isn’t the largest donation, many people have been so kind and supportive by buying my books, but this was the first time I really felt recognized by someone and valued as a storyteller and poet.

For those of you who don’t know, my patreon page offers two original poems a month at the $5 pledge level, and two poems and an original short story at the $8 level. Anyone who wishes to support me with a one-time donation of $200 will receive a complete set of all 13 of my books which includes four volumes of poetry, three short story books, two short novels and three “Mental Health Memoirs”. My patreon page is at www.patreon.com/leifg and I would so much love it if I could get more people to support my work, but that $8 pledge has given me a light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of isolation, frustration, and loss of hope. I am not going to count on it, but if I could get just 3-5 more sponsors, it would pay for small things like groceries and bus passes, and allow me to dedicate more time to this blog, to more videos, and to just getting through the tough times and loss of income that Covid-19 has brought into all of our lives.

At this time, I would like to give a very special thank you to an agency here in Edmonton called The Learning Centre Literacy Association. Through them I am employed to go to our regional psychiatric hospital and teach creative writing. Over the course of a year and a half of working there, I have really grown to love and appreciate not just the incredible staff I work with, but also the patients. As I am in isolation at the moment, I think a lot about some of the things people in there have been through from debilitating depression to psychosis, schizophrenia, and a host of disorders, not to mention unspeakable traumas. I have been able to offer them my knowledge as a writer and experience as a former patient to express themselves through the written word and give them healing and strength to recover and put their lives in order. The Learning Centre is such a great organization that despite that I am unable to attend classes, they are allowing me to do some of my work from home and they are continuing to pay me the weekly amount I am allotted for my 2-hour class.

I am hoping that anyone who reads today’s blog entry will explore this website further and look at some of my videos and stories and poems and friend me on Facebook and consider joining in my efforts to help those who society often forgets. And of course, I want to remind everyone that hasn’t done so yet that my newest book ($12 paperback, email me to order) Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis is available for free download simply by clicking on the photo of the bridge with the two towers to the right of this blog. Just to give everyone a fresh taste of my writing, I would like to share here a flash fiction piece I wrote a few months ago

 

A Little Detroit Muscle

By: Leif Gregersen

 

People said I was nuts to think I could take on Doug’s 1978 Cougar with the 351 V-8 under the hood with me driving my Dad’s van. But because I tried, miracles happened.

I was headed home from West Edmonton Mall on 170th street feeling good. My Dad didn’t lend me his van often, but today he was off work relaxing, so when I asked if I could take his prized 1980 GMC Tradesman van to “West Ed,” and he said yes, I felt like nothing could go wrong. As I drove there, my mind was clouded with thoughts of a shapely, friendly, kind blonde girl in grade ten that almost never left my thoughts in those days.

There were so many ways to blow money now that there were three phases to the mall. Multi-plex theatres, hundreds of stores, two food courts, a skating rink, a hotel. What brought me there was a video game called “Galaxia.” It had been phased out of most arcades, likely because the few people that played it could monopolize it for two hours on one quarter. Even though it cost me at least $5 in gas, or $3 in bus fare, I would try and play my game at least once a week. Today I had outdone myself, I made the gold shield level and hadn’t lost a man to the relentless laser fire the aliens bombarded me with for the past two hours. I didn’t care that summer was almost over, I didn’t care that if I didn’t make a move Stephanie would find a more athletic, more cool boyfriend at our high school. All I cared about was my personal victory and that beautiful red and white van waiting to take me home again.

Halfway back, I looked in my mirror to see the sight that I dreaded. The black Cougar, coming up fast on my tail. I hated Doug so much I slowed down, just to annoy him off and make him wait all the way back. But all my slowing did was make him try illegally passing me on the right. When he pulled up beside me I gave him room out of sheer terror of watching someone die. Still, he leaned heavy on the horn. I pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor and started a potentially deadly game of chicken, both knowing that a third vehicle could come along any time and most likely kill one of us.

Doug hit the gas hard, I could hear his engine rev, but to my surprise, he didn’t pull far ahead. As our speed increased to 100 klicks then 120, I was holding my own. I knew the van had a V-8 350 engine with a four-barrel carburetor, but I figured the size and weight of the thing would make it no match for a speedy, low to the ground sporty car like Doug had. I was wrong and for the second time that day I was going to prove that I could grab a lot of glory if I stopped seeing myself as a looser for a day.

Our gas guzzlers blasted down the two-lane road, Doug in the shoulder trying everything, even swerving at me, to regain what he thought was his rightful position. I was wired with fear and adrenalin as I saw my top speed go further than I thought it ever would. At 140 the gauge just stopped increasing, but I kept going faster.

All of it came down to just one critical second. Three simple steps. I looked over at Doug who hit his brakes as I warped through the green light that marked the entrance to St. Albert. Doug took a sharp left at high speed and I totally dusted him.

I took my foot off the gas, let the van slow, but before I had gotten back to the speed limit, blue and red flashing cherries lit up just behind me. Cops! Doug must have had a radar detector!

For the next half hour, I waited, parked in front of the cop as he sat in his car going over all of my information. Then he gave me a long lecture, stopping to explain how much of a nice guy he was to only give me a ticket for speeding and not for racing or stunting. Then he handed me a ticket that would take two of my gas station paycheques to cover and I trembled with fear at the reception I was going to get when my Dad found out about this. I would be lucky if I would ever drive again, at least in his van.

My Dad did find out, it’s hard to miss a broken speedometer. When the date came, I went to court to ask for extra time to pay, having the $150 ready if needed. Then, to my delight, it turned out the cop that ticketed me wasn’t there and the case was dismissed. I figured sometimes fate does work miracles. A couple of days later my school buddy Craig sold me his old 1974 Pinto for $150. The thing even ran! It took a while longer to save for insurance, but one sunny fall morning as I was out washing the cracked, rusting factory reject, I was suddenly star struck as Stephanie, in the flesh, walked by in the cutest summer outfit I had ever seen her in. She glanced at me and smiled, and I smiled back. She came up and asked me about my car and we ended up talking for an hour before she gave me her number. I promised her a ride in my new faithful steed when I got insurance and plates. And that was it. The end of my racing career, and the beginning of a romance that lasted me pretty much up until modern days. Sometimes it was hard growing up where I did, but sometimes it was pretty damned fantastic.

 

END

 

The Caregivers: They Mean so Much to Us All

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Dear Readers! I have recently partnered up with another website to share content and information. Today we will be discussing caregivers, and I thought putting a photo of a friend’s mom (Nell on the right) and my dad (Leif on the left) would help put a face to some of those that need caregivers the most. Please note that these people were our caregivers for such a long time. If you can, please read the short article below from www.dearava.com and then scroll down for my words below that. If you haven’t already, please download and share a copy of my latest book by clicking on the photo of the two towers on the bridge in the column to the right of this text. Remember it is absolutely free and I want to get it out to as many people as possible so share it all you can!

-Leif Gregersen

 

Taking Care of the Caregiver: Showing Your Appreciation

from http://www.dearava.com

Taking care of someone who is going through an illness or a tough life situation is hard. Taking care of the caregiver can be even harder. When you see your parent, friend, grandparent, or other loved one going through the stress of taking care of someone else, it can be tough to know what to do to make their life easier. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to let a caregiver know that they’re loved and appreciated.

Offer A Listening Ear

Simply giving your loved one a call to ask how they’re doing can go a long way. Often, caregivers are bombarded with questions about how their loved one is doing, if there’s anything their loved one needs, etc. Few people stop to ask how the caregiver is doing. Checking in and letting them know you’re just there to listen, not judge, can be a great source of stress relief. There’s no need to make it a formal conversation – asking how their day is going via text a few times a week can be enough to give them a little bit of hope in an otherwise stressful world.

Give Them A Break

From the moment they wake up until the moment they go to bed, caregivers are focused on making sure someone else has everything they need. Giving them a break can be a welcome respite from the daily stress of their role. Most caregivers won’t ask for a break and may be reluctant to take one when offered. It’s important to know their personality to judge how help would be best received. Perhaps they’d appreciate it if you just showed up at their home and offered to take over their responsibilities for an hour. If this wouldn’t be a good fit for them, scheduling a time for them to get out of the house (even just to go for a walk or take care of paying bills) can be a great way to give them a chance to take a deep breath.

Send A Fun Surprise

Everyone loves getting mail, and getting a package can be even more exciting when you’re someone who is going through a tough routine, day in and day out. Sending your loved one a fun, surprise package in the mail (even if you live right down the street) can be a great way to show them that you appreciate the hard work that they’re putting in, and their efforts are not going unnoticed. There’s no need to spend a ton of money. Picking up a box of their favorite candy, sending them a book they’ve mentioned, or sending a great-smelling lotion can all be great ways to let them know that you’re thinking of them.

Check-In On Their Self-Care

When someone spends all of their time caring for someone else, their self-care can go to the wayside. Without badgering or parenting your caregiving loved one, be sure to check in on whether they’re caring for themselves. Bringing up exercise, healthy eating, and drinking water are all important ways to remind them that they need to look after themselves to look after someone else. Offering to exercise with them, stopping by with a healthy meal, or offering to take over caregiving responsibilities while they visit the doctor or dentist are all much appreciated.

If your loved one is in a caregiving role, you’re a light in their life for thinking of their needs as they go through the hard work of caring for someone else. No matter how you choose to show your appreciation, it will mean the world to them that you’re thinking of them and their needs.

 

Don’t forget to visit http://www.dearava.com for more articles!

 

My Own Take on Caregiving by Leif Gregersen

 

To speak of caregivers, it seems our parents are the ones who are totally essential just to carry on the human race. Most of us don’t think of being raised and fed, clothed, housed, and babysat as caregiving, but they do consider visiting an elderly person in a home as caregiving. In my life, my parents did the best they could, and though they made mistakes, they did so many things that put me way ahead of the game now that I am older and able to understand things like why they wanted so much discipline, and why I had to work hard to learn everything I could and do well in school despite that I was fated to go to a psychiatric hospital at a young age.

 

Caregivers to me include all the staff that work in the hospitals who dedicate their lives to the healing arts. I will admit there are some people who likely shouldn’t go into that sort of field because they are seeking power and money more than anything, but there was so much kindness shown to me when I was a patient and when I look back just about any of the negative stuff, the animosity came from me. I still can recall a time when I was extremely upset and in a hospital lockdown ward and I tried to explain that it wasn’t my fault I was there and the way I was being treated just wasn’t fair. The nurse I said this to was extremely compassionate and ended up defending my case to others that thought I was just some scam artist pretending to be ill or willfully going off their medication just to get free food and lodging.

While I was at the hospital I had so many friends and co-workers come to visit, but the one that meant the most was my dad, my poor old widowed father who crossed the city while a deep freeze cold snap was on just to take me to get a pop or bring me my mail. He saved me when I was last in the hospital in a huge way, he drove long hours just to visit me way out of town at the psychiatric hospital and when I got out he took me for long walks that did wonders for my rehabilitation, not to mention that it was wonderful to finally establish a good relationship with him after some pretty stormy teens and twenties. One of the amazing things about being a caregiver is that you can do things to help, that fall under the category of being a caregiver while you are still being cared for by others. One thing have done is get on the phone from the office at the Schizophrenia Society and call up people who are isolated. I often do this in the same week I go to see my nurse and doctor. Caregiving can be so many things. A few years back I volunteered at an extended care home and met some wonderful old men who had so many stories to tell me and were so very grateful to have someone to talk to, play cards with and the like. Now, I am able to put on my resume that I have done that sort of work and it helps to open up a lot of doors. I have even used some aspects of these men I got to know well in stories. It all keeps paying back.

Coronavirus and Self-Isolation With Schizophrenia, Bipolar and other Mental Health Disorders

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Above is the Link to a free download of the book pictured (eBook) You can also click on the photo of the Bridge with the two Towers (The Tower Bridge, London, England, photo taken by Leif Gregersen) and you can get a copy from that link no matter what I post here. Please remember that there are no copy protections on the file and I encourage all who download it or want to help support my efforts share the eBook as much as possible.

click here for a review  of AOX3 (Alert and Oriented X3) from Paula E. Kirman of the Boyle McCauley News.

Well, today is a turning point for me. My latest book will arrive today according to tracking and I will start off by giving copies to a few close friends that I can be in touch with and then I will likely do a goodreads promotion. For anyone that has read the book, it would be great if you could look it up on amazon and leave an honest review.

These are scary and uncertain times. I have such a hard time staying in because I really enjoy going out and walking long distances, but there are just too many people out there blatantly ignoring social distancing and it can be very hard to follow all of the rules. Yesterday I brought my dad some needed supplies to his senior’s apartment, and then decided to walk the 10k+ distance home. Everything was kind of surreal, there was very little traffic on the road, very few people, and most of the people I came across avoided me like the plague (pun intended). When I got home, I stripped off everything I had on, tossed it in the laundry, as well as the towel I use in the bathroom and had a deep cleansing shower. I also brushed my teeth vigorously and used mouthwash. I have read that the Covid-19 virus lives in a person’s mouth and from there can either go to your lungs (which can be fatal) or get swallowed and go to your stomach where your stomach acids are able to deal with it.

I don’t know if anyone watches the new-fish series “The Crown” but they had an episode based on a true story of London being completely immersed in smog, and some of the similarities were eerie. I guess I am a little extra worried because my dad is an ex-smoker, 81 years old and goes for long walks as well. My sister has made me promise that on first sign of any symptoms I rush him to the emergency.

All these things going on that we have so little control over can be confusing and extremely difficult to get through. Fortunately if you are reading this you likely have a computer and internet and can catch up on your emails, find a chat group, post to Facebook or tweet, and if you are really old fashioned, use the phone or text to keep socializing while maintaining social distancing. I can’t help but think right now of a woman who I was phoning once a week when I was doing phone peer support work for the Schizophrenia Society who may not have anyone calling her and I know is desperately lonely. She has Tourettes syndrome and experiences deep shame and stigma. Maybe I could use the power of this platform (or actually your power dear reader) and ask my ‘fans’ to try and get a phone number or two of someone (they don’t have to have a mental illness but it would be great if they did) and make sure and call them and just listen for a little while. It can literally save a life.

One of the other things this pandemic reminds me of is the threat of war when I was a teen. I became a bit of a survivalist and was in cadets which likely wasn’t the healthiest thing. I can’t stop saying though how many great things cadets did for me, I still have a good number of my old friends from 33 years ago on my Facebook (by the way, friend me there for more up to the minute content if you wish). I was reading that there is a good possibility that everyone will get the virus in question eventually, they are just trying to slow the spread so that hospitals can handle the high volume of respiratory patients and so that possibly cures or inoculations can be developed and mass produced. The best advice I heard is that people shouldn’t act like they might get the virus, they should act like they have it and don’t want to pass it on.

It is an interesting test of people to see how they deal with things like this. I have a friend who I visit with often and we really like to sit down and talk over some Italian food and later a game of chess. She has decided that it isn’t best that we spend time in my apartment at the moment, so we go for walks, but she is very conscious of not taking any risks to get the virus because of the people she may have to be in contact with in her job and daily responsibilities. It really makes me love and respect someone who thinks like that.

I have a suspicion, as I had a short run with a flu or cold a few weeks back, despite that I almost never get sick, that I have already had a version of Covid-19. Right now though I can’t say if I have a fever but I feel warmer than normal (it is impossible to tell if you have a fever without a thermometer), and I have a bit of a runny nose. One of the other things I heard that can be really good and I know is tried, tested and true by my elderly father, is that it can help a lot to gargle with some salt water. At a time like this, a shower, a toothbrushing and a mouth rinse all might be a good idea if you have to leave your home at any time.

Sorry, I started out talking about symptoms and got sidetracked. I have the runny nose and all that which makes me really want to self-isolate even more, but isolation at the best of times can be so hard for people with mental health issues to deal with. I think back to when I lived in a very crummy apartment for three years and feeling like a total piece of garbage as time went on and I spoke to no one but possibly my mom and dad now and then. I ended up going to a church for a long time that I would call a little too radical for my liking. I did have an active social life while going there, and I did meet some truly wonderful people, but sometimes I wish my path to spirituality had been paved differently. I will never forget the first time I went there and asked if they had dances and I was told they didn’t approve of dancing. This reminds me of a joke my sister’s mother-in-law said to my dad once, may she RIP. “The church we went to didn’t want us to have sex standing up in case it might lead to dancing.” They had all kinds of problems with things that they honestly seemed to just pull out of their ass and they constantly interpreted and reinterpreted the bible to whatever self serving point they wanted to get across. I should have realized this was the wrong place for me when they started accepting debit and credit cards for donations in the church at Sunday service. But in truth, I could just about honestly say meeting the people my age, even though I couldn’t dance with any of them, saved my life. Isolation is a curse.

One of the funny things I have noticed is that as the crowds get whittled down to a precious few, people seem to get nicer. Every time I waited at a bus stop in the past few days someone struck up a conversation with me (keeping their distance). Seeing they were just lonely and that everything around us was beyond the norm, I obliged them. I used to have a knack with strangers, but a few times I have run across people who were aggressive and downright mean. I still talk with a lot of people but I restrict it to those I know. I had an incident happen at a book store a couple of weeks back where I started to chat with a young woman about books and the clerk came up to me and said, “Excuse me Sir, I can’t have you approaching other customers.” man did that ever hurt! Fortunately the young woman stood up for me. I think possibly a lot of that stuff had to do with the location of the store, being in a tumultuous part of downtown, but I wonder how much of it was a part of me being almost 50 now. What gets me is I have been a steady customer of that bookstore for over 30 years and I consider one of the owners a good friend. I even won a contest a few years ago that this same store put on for a short story contest, it was the first thing I ever won. No time in life to lament such things though, but once bitten, twice shy. Hey-I should go back to that book shop when the same guy is there and bite him, that would be a great idea!

Well dear readers, I think I am taking up too much of your time with this extra-long blog. Please, all of you, take care of yourselves and take care of others. Email if you like, I can take book orders through the mail and paperbacks of my new book are just $12. viking3082000@yahoo.com

The Long and Lonely Journey of a Writer With a Mental Illness

 

formatted AOX3 march 18:2020

Please Click This text to download my new book in eBook format

Good day to all my readers and beloved fans! After long months of typing away and scanning, taking photos, requesting documents and researching, I have completed my book “Alert and Oriented X3: A Snapshot of a Psychosis”

I have had so much success in this past year getting work as a creative writing teacher, selling my other books when I give talks for various organizations, that I simply don’t see any need to try and make a few bucks off something that I really enjoyed doing, and that so many people could benefit from. So I am freely distributing the eBook to “Alert and Oriented X3” to anyone who wishes a copy, and I am also encouraging all concerned to make as many copies digital or otherwise that they like and share it freely.

It is in times like this that I like to think of some of the wonderful people that have helped me along through my recovery journey. Near the top of the list is my boss at the Schizophrenia Society, Tanya Behm. Tanya not only allows me to sell my books when I give presentations, she gets up and promotes them for me when we work together. Next on my list is my dad, who I have sneaking suspicions of being a writer himself. My mom had told me when he was younger he had submitted some things and didn’t have any luck and so stopped doing so. I really feel this is a shame because my dad is so intelligent when it comes to reading and writing that I come to him for all kinds of advice, and I often have him proof read my short stories.

The list goes on and on, there is Caroline, who is tied in first place to be my best friend with bestselling author Richard Van Camp. Both of them accept me with all my quirks and oddities and both of them have been extremely kind and supportive.

Next on the list but by no means any less of a dear friend than any other is Charity Slobod. Charity is an incredible young woman who works in professional development and has a master’s degree as well. Charity was just about the only thing that kept me going while I was experiencing the 30-day hospital stay I had last year that this book is written about.

My brother Kris and my sister Michelle are way up there in my cheering section, being kind enough to help proof-read, offered suggestions, and always had their doors open for me when needed.

It has been such a long journey. I started writing possibly because of the isolation I experienced when first diagnosed. This had a lot to do with the stigma and misunderstanding of mental illness. After being alone and extremely bored for long months, I returned to school in hopes of finishing my high school diploma and attending University. It was there that I met Caroline, who has been such a dear friend ever since. (that was almost 30 years ago). We have both had our trials and difficult times, but no one can make me laugh like Caroline can. She sort of rescued me from being borderline suicidal all those years ago and I love her for it.

There were times when I would sit and do nothing but write and write all day. Soon after I started writing I fell into the trap of vanity presses, but still had no money to give them. I published a few poems, tried to attend church and did actually make some awesome friends like Jade Holownia and his wife Brandy.

Living on my own, there were times when I became so lonely that I reached out for anyone to ease my pain. That led me into serious troubles having street people try and take over my apartment. I tried so hard back then to return to a normal life, get a job, finish school. But it seemed so impossibly hard while I was in a poor state of mental health and taking medications that took a toll on me as well.

Still, somehow I felt that I needed to keep writing, and I paid a lot of money to have my first book edited but couldn’t find a publisher. I ended up self-publishing and with a great deal of determination and hard work, started to sell my first few copies. It is hard to say where the real turning point came. I had been writing short stories but not sending them out, and I met a man who most would call a grump, but for some reason he treated me extremely well. One day I found out he had gone to Journalism school and I asked him how I could get into magazine writing. In just two minutes he explained the whole thing to me and that year I think I published and was paid for about 5 articles in major publications.

It all seems like such a blur, but I do really want to thank Charity again because when I met her, I was at the point of having done a lot of things, but not having any major success. Charity not only helped me so much with my work, but she was so much fun to talk to and do various things with that, along with the Schizophrenia Society work I was doing, plus the odd workshop and class, she gave me a life that was worth living.

Sorry for just prattling on, I feel I have reached a major milestone in my writing. A good friend who contacts me on Facebook is an incredibly accomplished poet, among the top poets in Canada and he is also a professor of creative writing at a local university, just told me that I am “A Great Memoirist, truly great.” I can’t even begin to say how much it means to me to hear that. Writers get so much negative feedback, and it is a lifelong struggle for most to find any kind of success, and all at once with the words of a friend, I have arrived at the point I have wanted to be at since my days in elementary school when I wrote and illustrated my own comic books. In those days, my parents kept our house full of all the greatest books and authors, and each day a few times a day I would pass by a shelf with books loaded down on it by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, just to mention a few. I thought to myself that if I could ever write a really good book or two, I could in some way become immortal like these writers. And now, as I sit typing, with no thought at all of slowing down, I am left with a very satisfying and happy glow that whatever happens next in my life is a footnote, I have done something incredible. I want all of you to share in this feeling so please download and copy and give away as many eBooks as you can dear readers! I think the link above will allow you to do that, if you find you can’t download it that way, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will email you one free of charge.

Yours,

Leif Gregersen

Diagnosed With Bipolar or Schizophrenia? Your Life Is Not Over!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is always time to grow, to change, no matter how

far you may have strayed from the thin thin line we call society. I think a lot about my hospital stay in 2001. I had lost friends, I lost every stitch of my property. I had lost all self-respect, and I think what was worst of all was that I lost hope. I was so conditioned to turn myself off from everything that went on around me. That was survival in the psychiatric hospital. Ignore the injustice, ignore the violence, trust no one and be prepared to be humiliated in every way possible by the staff and the other patients.

I have come a long way now from all that. I am living on my own, doing so many things. I am even working in the hospital that once held me against my will as a patient/inmate. I think a lot of the reason that I have been able to turn things around so far is simply my sense of will. I have always had a strong sense of will, a strong idea in my head that I could picture a goal no matter how abstract or seemingly impossible, and then work out the steps to achieve what I wanted. In 1990 what I wanted was to go to Vancouver and start my life over. Problem was, I didn’t even have money for a bus ticket and I had never been to Vancouver except as a small child with my parents. The whole trip started on a bad note, I had been sleeping in my room and my dad woke me complaining that when I slept during the day I stayed up at night and used his electricity. It all seems so unfair now especially since I had a major mental illness but his reaction was to threaten to call the police and have me put back in the psychiatric hospital. That was my breaking point. I definitely at the time wasn’t displaying any signs of sickness, I just thought it was unfair that he was so cruel to me and reacted with anger. It seemed to me like all my life I had been arguing with him and he would always win because he would end up most likely beating the crap out of me but here and now when this incident happened, I was big enough to fight back so all of a sudden he had to get his power back by lying to the police about my mental state. Granted though, I should have been working or looking for work. I did have a job in a plastics factory but with all the medications I was taking they fired me for being too slow on the assembly line. I had also been turned away from the military because of my history of being on medication. Not to mention that I had offered to pay my dad’s power bill. But he was drunk and that meant he was right and I was wrong and the police would see it that way too. I came very close to punching him in the face as he reached to pick up the phone. All I had time to do was to grab a bag I had stashed that had a raincoat and some sandwiches in it and I headed off. I willed myself all the way to Vancouver. There were some incredibly harsh spots like when I walked from around noon until past dark on the side of the highway. I camped out, covered myself in my raincoat and started a small fire to keep warm. I woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare that I was camping in my backyard again like I used to do as a kid but had actually slept for hours and the fire was out. I scrambled to rekindle it and then in the daylight that came soon I hit the highway again and got a ride all the way to Vancouver. But the point was that I set my mind on something and didn’t let anything stop me from achieving it. I could have done a lot of things better, but I did well considering my situation.

Getting to Vancouver was an incredible experience, I loved just about every minute of it, but I was living in denial, which the psychiatric profession calls anosognosia. I didn’t believe I had a mental illness or needed medication, and that was the one limitation I should have accepted before any other. There was no way to will myself to be better when I was facing depression, mania, and psychosis. In Vancouver I ended up getting ill again, went back to stay with my parents after being arrested for hitch-hiking, then in a state of psychosis spent all the money I had gotten from social services/welfare on cab rides to places my illness told me I had to go. The whole fiasco ended in the morning, like I did later in Vancouver, I desperately tried to get help by calling the police and telling them I was poisoned. Once more I was taken back to the psychiatric hospital, and once more I went off medications and ended up in Vancouver.

This time when I got out I laid out some plans and set myself up to go to finish school. I was very determined to get the courses I needed to study further and was actually accepted into a journalism program and found a scholarship for disabled people that would pay the whole bill. A few short weeks before the program started it was cut, and so I kept my goal clear in my mind and began to write short stories and poetry. It is scary now to think of how marginalized I was, how poor and how far off any of my goals were. But I kept reading even when I was given medications that made concentrating nearly impossible, and I started to write short stories and poems, even sent a few off with poor results. I never let those things stop me, I understood that what made a person a writer or a pilot was what they had inside themselves not how far they excel compared to their peers or other irrelevant factors. I pieced together short story after short story about my life and when I had a semblance of a book I made copies and gave one to a close friend for safekeeping. Years passed and I completely forgot about writing until one day after my horrific 6 month stay in the hospital my friend gave me back the manuscript I had her hold for me and I started to work on it like mad. What came of it was likely not much like what my first drafts were, but after editing I had something very worthwhile, something that told the story of mental illness and how I pushed past my limitations and found an incredible job which carried me to the point where I could be a writer full time and make money just off my writing and teaching.

So, dear readers, I want you to ask yourself… where do you see yourself in ten years? What is your ideal picture of a perfect life? For me being in my own large, clean, organized, furnished two bedroom apartment that is very inexpensive to rent and has a perfect spot for me to park my MacBook and write all hours of the day and night is pretty much it. I could go further and say I would like a girlfriend or wife and maybe even a child, but it could be those things just aren’t in the cards for me. Ten years… I will be 58, close to an old age pension. I hope to be still able to write, still able to go for a swim. A trip to Europe once a year would be nice to add into that, maybe even one with my niece. Make a list. How many books do you think you will have written in 10 years, and how many of those do you think will be published? I can’t say enough to young people in Canada about the Registered Disability Saving Plan, where a person under 49 who is registered on their tax forms as a disabled person can start a savings account that the government will match at a rate of 3 of their dollars for each $1 you contribute, if you keep the money in savings for 10 years. Someone who is 21 can practically guarantee themselves to become millionaires by saving $100 a month. But it is hard to think of ten years down the road when you don’t have goals and plans. Maybe you want to run a marathon once a year in ten years. Start now by going for longer and longer walks, then short runs at a track. Consult with a foot doctor and get proper shoes, and you can avoid doing what I did-running on improper shoes and destroying your knees. Plan plan plan. Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them. There is so much more to say dear readers, so please tune in again and as always feel free to send me suggestions on topics you would like to see covered.

Relationships and the Person With Schizophrenia, Bipolar or a Major Mood Disorder

I think that when a person has a mental health disability they have every chance a normal person has to get into a relationship, but there are times and situations to reveal things and times and situations to keep things hidden.

As a person who works in mental health, and has written books about it, I have almost no apprehension about disclosing to others that I have a mental illness. I have always felt that if you try and hide it, it will only look worse later on, and letting out the fact that you have a mental illness is something that in a way tests your prospective dating partner or friend, it weeds out those people who are too shallow to see you as a human being under the protective layers of medication and other strategies to treat poor mental health such as putting them on a disability pension and suggesting they not work.

It’s kind of a funny thing, I grew up in a kind of ritzy suburb of Edmonton called St.Albert where everything was clean yards, white picket fences, and people with no problems, at least that was the way it seemed on the surface. When I contact people I used to associate with when I was growing up there, they still seem to be very proud of their suburban advantage. I will admit, it is nice to be in a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood, but that place drove me crazy. One time my mom sent me to mail a cheque to pay a bill and I walked down the street and opened the mailbox just as a schoolboy was going by. I didn’t think much of it until I got home and someone phoned me demanding to know who I just wrote a letter to. I took what money I had, and struck out thumb first for the coast. It was an amazing experience, and the Rocky Mountains between where I live and the coast, (Vancouver, BC) were indescribably beautiful. I got to Vancouver and stayed in a traveller’s hostel in a kind of bad part of town and I was off my medications, but that semblance of a normal life that I had there was so much better than living under the stigma and judgement of all those people in St.Albert

Sadly, I did get sick (mentally) out there eventually, but I did almost spark up a couple of relationships, though nothing lasting or significant. There was a young woman I fancied who I used to hang out with quite a bit some years ago and she told me that she didn’t think someone without a mental health problem could have a relationship with someone who did. I often wonder if I have been banging my head against a wall trying to prove her wrong all these 20+ years after she said it. I do know that I have received some incredibly cruel responses to trying to get a young woman I meet to go for coffee with me or get her phone number. One of them flat out said to me, “I’m not going to call you.” and threw down the pencil she was about to write my number down with. I suppose that was understandable because though she was fully grown she was still in high school (I was around 22 or so at the time) and people that age quite often lack maturity. One of the let-downs that really hurt was when I asked a friend’s sister if she wanted to meet for coffee after her and I had some really great phone conversations and she said, just as though I was asking her to commit a crime, “Are you trying to date me? If you are I’m not interested.) I’m not mad at these people, and I don’t really fault them for what they said, but it is a good example of some of the kinds of things that will get said to a person who is trying to get to know the opposite sex who has a history of mental illness, and you need to end up kind of tough.

Sometimes I can’t believe I am now 48 and am not married or have any kids. It always seemed to me that there would be time, I had to wait until I was financially stable, I had to wait for the perfect intelligent, beautiful woman to come along. Some of them have come along and had real problems with how I would act at times, badly enough that they stopped all contact with me. And it really isn’t an issue of me being unattractive, I work out, I’m very fit, and I have solicited honest opinions from a number of women who place me around 9 out of 10 on the old ‘attractiveness’ scale. I think a lot of what it has to do with is simply living alone and not stepping out of my self-imposed boundaries. One such boundary was that when I was young I would go to dances but I would never dance. Not. One. Dance. In years. I had so much anxiety flowing through my veins that I locked myself inside myself. There were a lot of things I could do, and a lot of those things I did well. I was an exemplary Air Cadet, a good athlete, an honour student and on and on. I had little problems working hard at school or the various jobs I had, I could even ask for help, but for some reason though I was totally straight, I felt it was a bad thing to relax and let your hormones take over. When I really think hard about it, I think about how much my parents meant to me, and how sad it seemed that people had to grow up and take on a life of their own and move away and parents would be left to rot in a senior’s home. I have felt so strongly about the injustice of this situation that I have volunteered to work in pastoral care in extended care hospitals, and I even try and visit a friend’s mom in the lodge she lives in because my friend lives way out of town. I also do a lot of things with my Dad and try and call him at least once a day. One of the funny things about me having this idea in my head is that my parents were very honest and forthcoming about the fact that us kids would grow up and go through puberty and one day meet someone outside of the family we wanted to share our life with. My Dad let my brother and I read playboy when I was I think 14. My mom had ‘the talk’ with us. But there was little taught to me in the way of communication, of respecting the opposite sex, which led to something actually kind of horrible.

It was the summer of 1988 and I had been out of Air Cadets for a whole year. I had a job delivering pizza which kept me in pizza and gas and cigarettes but I was extremely depressed and extremely lonely. One day I got a call from a young woman who used to hang out with some other people we both knew, she wanted to meet me at a make-out spot way on the other end of town. I got there and she was all dressed up like a prostitute and asked me to follow her to a different part of the lake. When we got there I sat down with her and she kept trying to coax me into agreeing to sleep with her, she even was rubbing my thigh. I took her hand away and finally, exasperated at what she was doing, and not wanting to hurt her feelings I said, “Yes, but…” and just as I was about to say why I didn’t want to sleep with her she punched me in the face and a bunch of the people I had known came out of the surrounding trees and were laughing out loud at me. It was the worst possible thing to happen, to this day I don’t fully understand why they did it. Part of it I am assuming was that I had a foul mouth at the age as I was working around adults, most of them oil or construction workers who were temporarily laid off and I often swore a blue streak. Other than that I really don’t know what caused those people to hatch such an elaborate plan. It was a really great way to destroy my confidence for at least another couple of years. Then, when I got to Vancouver those people were no longer around, there was no one to judge, no one to impress, and I started to meet all kinds of young women.

The truth is though, in my life I have only really had one meaningful relationship with a woman, and I still talk to her to this day. When I first met her almost 30 years ago we talked and joked and laughed, ended up studying together and going out for coffee a lot. It actually blossomed to a loving relationship for a while but that part of things broke apart after not too long. She is still one of my dearest friends. I don’t know really what all of this adds up to, what I do know is that one should always respect friends and lovers, always treat them as equals. As a young Air Cadet and later as a Student Pilot I had many chances to have one night stands, but I knew that a one night stand would never help me at all. I would find an attachment towards the person and it would be devastating to start and lose a relationship like that, not to mention several times. So I waited and waited and waited, and finally I met someone who I had a real connection to and it was about a million times more amazing than any experience I ever had, and now, 30 years later I still haven’t had to say any permanent goodbyes. As I am getting pretty tired I will leave things there, as always feel free to write to me with any topic related to mental health you would like me to write about in my next blog and I will do my best to accommodate. My email for responses, and for ordering books is viking3082000@yahoo.com   Thanks so much for joining me!       -LNG               Leif Norgaard Gregersen Senior below: