mental hospital

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:

Working or Volunteering After Psychosis With or Without Bipolar or Schizophrenia

 

For many of us who suffer from a mental illness, one of the most difficult things to do is to return to work, or if you feel you are unable or not ready to get a paid job, finding a volunteer job. One of my first volunteer jobs was extremely rewarding, I worked in an extended care hospital for veterans. The funny thing was that I found out about this place when I was working a paid job. I was with a security outfit that was responsible for patrolling this hospital, and once my supervisor took me along on one of his nightly patrols and I felt really touched by the concept that these were men who sacrificed such a great deal to keep Canada and other countries free. I was looking for a volunteer job because my pastor’s wife had suggested that if youth in my church have free time, there are so many places that they could ‘shine their light’ so to speak. I started out volunteering with the chaplain of the hospital, a man from Holland who had been liberated at the end of World War Two by Canadian troops, who he described as true gentlemen. I would try and find more people to come to his bible study, I would wheel the patients around, and after a while the Chaplain, who we knew as ‘holy Harry’ assigned me some men to visit on a regular basis. It took a lot out of me sometimes to spend time with these men in their last days of their lives, but it felt so incredibly rewarding. I had even for a short time considered working there as a practical nursing attendant.

One of my other volunteer jobs was absolutely incredible. I volunteered for a children’s summer camp, funny enough, something that I once believed I would never be suitable for because of my tough-guy image in Air Cadets and other organizations I was with, but when the director of the camp stood up at a church gathering and asked for volunteers, I thought it would be the perfect vacation. I personally felt a little weak in my abilities and perhaps even my faith (I was still a cigarette smoker at the time) and so when I was assigned a cabin with four or five boys they had another counsellor with me and we would share our duties. I loved working with the kids, but I also loved the fact that the food was great, I met some really nice young women, there was a pool, horses and an archery range there, and on and on. I had no money, I was paid no money, but I had a better time than most of the vacations I took when I had plenty.

I think my biggest concern at the time of the kids camp was that people would find out I had a mental illness. I even hid my medications from them and took them in secret. What scares me is that sometimes I think to some people it may be obvious that I have a mental illness, especially at that time because my bipolar symptoms weren’t very well controlled. I do remember having times when I was moody and clashing with one or two other camp volunteers. But aside from all that it was perhaps one of the most fun times I had in all of my early adult years (20-30)

One of the reasons it is difficult to get a job soon after leaving a hospital, or even years after, is that a person’s life skills and employment skills atrophy from lack of use. I know that if I spend too many days in my apartment not contacting the outside world, I will become shy and nervous all over again. There are two things that I feel most help with my social anxiety, one is prozac (but no, I am not recommending it, it just works well for me, every person is different) and challenging myself to do more things that require a person to feel comfortable around others. The Schizophrenia Society has been great in helping me push my limits because it is very common that I will speak to a class or organization, large or small, and I have become so comfortable with public speaking that I greatly enjoy it. For anyone who feels they could use a similar confidence boost, try looking up an organization that hires or accepts volunteers that is like the schizophrenia society in that they give presentations to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness. If these aren’t available, an excellent thing to try that will benefit you for the rest of your life is to check out Toastmasters. They help people learn public speaking and leadership skills. I took their course at 15 and it has benefitted me so many times over.

When you are in a hospital or psychiatric ward for an extended period of time, there are ways that you can keep up your Life and employment skills. There will be a time when you don’t feel up to it, but push yourself, and try to get into group therapy, or even one on one therapy with a psychologist, and look into occupational therapy that is offered. In the institution I was in, there were a lot of choices of occupational therapy. You could work in a wood shop building things for yourself or for Charity, you could work in a recycling shop like I did once where you take apart old electrical meters so the parts can be recycled. Occupational Therapy covers a broad range of things, it can even include (as it did for the seniors in the extended care hospital I mentioned) simply reading the newspaper and discussing it. I would recommend trying to read the newspaper (once you feel up to it) every day to keep in gear with the outside world, even if all it benefits you is by giving you a reason to know what date it is (which used to be one of the first questions you were asked for a competency test by a psychiatrist). It can also be very useful to try and get computer time if possible. Newspapers and computers have so much information about things you may need to buy when you leave the hospital (say like a new dresser) they also have listings for things such as jobs, apartments, even movies and other events.

The other side of keeping your Life and Employment skills up is to participate in sports as much as you can. I almost never get a chance to play tennis, but a few years ago I got to play all I wanted and it kept me feeling better, thinking better, and having a more positive outlook. Sports can do so much, and it isn’t such a bad idea to connect with a YMCA/YWCA or city facility where you can swim or play drop-in badminton or just about anything that keeps you moving and fit. Even desk jobs require a certain level of fitness to be bearable.

One thing I do know is that I am a very lucky person. I work 2-5 hours a week and my disability benefits allow me to keep that much without being deducted. Here is another reason why you may want to consider volunteering. In my case, as part of my benefits, I not only get a swim pass worth about $400 a year, I also get a bus pass at 1/3 the regular price, plus it pays my dental, medical and prescription expenses. Not everyone will have these expenses, but I am sure that anyone who experiences mental illness knows that medications can become extremely expensive. I’m in a situation where I would just about have to have a full-time job that doubles what I get now in disability benefits to maintain the same income as I get now when you consider I will have to pay for my medicine. That is also just half the story because I would also lose my apartment because it is a subsidized place that is geared to income, and if I had a full time job instead of working part-time and getting disability, my rent would triple. The largest issue? I really don’t think I could handle a full-time job for very long. And so I work as much as I can, and try to live simply and continue to write and hope that one day I will get a letter from a publisher that isn’t rejection letter number 3,567.

As a person who works hard but is only partly employed, I end up having a lot of time on my hands, and this can be a lethal thing for people with mental health issues. Loneliness can sneak its way into a person’s life, people with mental illnesses tend to isolate and sometimes either stop their medication or simply become extremely depressed. This leads to something that I find so awful it is almost hard to write about it. A person who is ill, who, if properly cared for could live a great life, becomes so depressed and lonely because their life lacks purpose, that going to the hospital seems like a better option than staying in their home. Not only this happens, but sometimes these people who want to go back in the hospital find that the hospital will only admit them if they make a serious attempt to take their own lives, and sadly a lot of people either attempt or die by suicide. This is something that is kind of close to my heart because one of my duties with the Schizophrenia Society has been to call people who need support, most often people isolated by their illness. These are wonderful people, kind, intelligent and capable people who could do so much, but they seem to have been forgotten by just about every level of society.

 

Well, dear readers, that blog went on a little longer than I expected, and I didn’t cover all the points I wanted to cover. As usual, if you would like me to speak about a topic you are interested in, please do email me, I can be reached at viking3082000@yahoo.com If you would like to help keep this blog going and support me, please consider heading over to the books page and either emailing me to order a book or use the link to buy a copy on amazon. The two books (of eleven I have in print) are “Through the Withering Storm” and “Inching Back to Sane” and they deal with my experiences suffering from and being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and anxiety. Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

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

 

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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!  viking3082000@yahoo.com