mentally challenged

All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 

 

Peter Hemingway (Coronation)

 

It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

A Blog and a Poem For Brian and the Work He Does

DSC_0067This is basically the busiest place in North Western Canada.  Calgary to the South and Vancouver to the South-West may rival it, but this is the Alpha and the Omega of what happens in the North.

     Good morning dear readers.  Just to let you know early, for those of you who like my poems, I have written one today and will be posting just under the last photo in today’s blog.  Kind of a funny thing, I thought I did a pretty good job of writing a blog yesterday, but I didn’t get too many views.  I don’t know if I am getting boring or if I am just not using the most optimal tags.  There is also the fact that the weather has been gorgeous and sunny over a lot of the places I get hits.

So today is going to be a bit of a lukewarm blog.  It is just past 4:00am and I can’t sleep so I decided this might be a good time to foster up some creativity.  Oh, before I forget, anyone who likes is totally free to email me about this blog or anything else at: viking3082000@yahoo.com I hope you do whenever you get the chance.

So yesterday I was involved in a music festival right in my neighborhood at a small park in what we call little Italy.  Some of the music was really amazing and I was given the opportunity to go up on stage and read my poetry.  I often wonder where poetry will take me, I love to write it but I seem to lapse into the same kind of style a lot.  I will leave you my dear readers to judge and let you know that I would appreciate any honest feedback I can get.

The outdoor festival was amazing, I had a table set up with books and though I didn’t sell too many, I was interviewed by a TV station and I ran into the candidate I am supporting for the next Federal election in Canada which happens in October.  She is an incredible, energetic, community minded, hard working and very nice young woman.  She is with a party called “The New Democratic Party” or NDP which is a left-leaning party that swept the Alberta elections just a few short weeks ago and has left a lot of people very excited at the direction things are going to go for Albertans.  It is my personal hope that more will be done for the mentally ill in the way of funding for hospital facilities and possibly even disability pensions, though I have to admit that I already get kind of a generous one.

So what does a person do when they can’t sleep?  I hear the dyslexic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there really is a dog.  Okay, that was pretty sick, but you snickered a bit didn’t you?  I heard another pretty good one from my good friend James Derksen.  He has this book that publishes contest winners who are asked to write in with their absolute worst novel beginnings.  In one of them there was a paragraph:  “Mr. Van Gogh, I suggest you consider painting as a career because you clearly have no ear for music!”  Okay, I will stop there.

Saturday night I decided to do some more serious reading and I picked up a book I had received in the mail from amazon a few days ago.  It is called “The Depression Workbook” and it is giving me a lot of interesting ideas.  It is written by the woman who founded the course that I am taking which is called WRAP, or Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  I have been reading about a lot of interesting new ideas, some that I support, some I have a hard time swallowing.  One of them is a statement that I would have been very reluctant to accept ten years ago which states that only you can be an expert on your condition.  Doctors can help, but they don’t know which medication really makes you feel better or worse, you have to do your part.  Another thing that I already know but really want to look into is having tests to see if my moods go up and down as a result of hormone deficiencies.  I seriously doubt my Doctor has been wrong about me having Bipolar all these years but I think it might be a good idea.

It is funny to think back to some of my first days in the mental hospital when I was still a teenager.  They doped me up like crazy and my mind was all over the place.  It didn’t help that I hated everything about Psychiatry including the Psychiatrists even though a lot of these people were doing everything they could to help me.  One of the reasons I think I felt this way had to do with how the initial staff that I encountered in going to the hospital treated me.  The people on the lock-down ward I went to first were brutal.  There was this one male nurse who once slammed my face into a hard floor and put me into a wrestling hold while someone arbitrarily decided I could use a shot of some evil tranquilizer that made my muscles lock up.  By the time I got to see the Psychiatrist, I had very little faith in anything he had to say.  The funny thing is that my Doctor in that locked ward right on the first time I went into the mental hospital is my Doctor to this day, now 25 years later.

I am learning a lot from this Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Little things like making sure people know which Doctors you don’t want to deal with and which hospital you want to go to.  I had kind of thought that I would never need to go back in the hospital, but a lot of circumstances could put me in there.  Having a plan, and possibly even having a bag packed could help a lot.  Last time I was in the hospital I had to wear the same clothes for months and had nothing from home.  I went through the humiliation of swapping blue jeans with a guy because they wouldn’t give me a belt and my pants were literally falling off me (I wasn’t eating much either).  It seemed the cruelty and inhuman treatment was constant.  I have to say though that the mental hospital I was in was really a beautiful place.  No matter where I went, no matter how sick I got, no matter what happened to me, somehow I would end up back there and I would end up better.  Sometimes it felt really awful in there, but it had more to do with me being very mentally ill.

It’s a weird thing but it almost seemed like the staff and others could see right in my eyes whether I was delusional or not.  What bugs me the most is that while I was there the people on the staff made me out to be some kind of monster.  Quite often other patients had picked fights with me and I did the bare minimum I had to do to defend myself and then I heard later that the nurses were trying to convince those people to have me charged.  There were a lot of stories like that, one of them had to do with this female nurse who said she would pick me up a cassette walkman for me and she kept coming back to me and asking for more money for it.  They would seize my property and give it to others, and one time they actually tried to force an end to a friendship I had made in the hospital.  And this didn’t come from the top, this was a decision made by some random nurse, not even the head nurse.  “I have already told her to stay away from you.” she told me.  Then others would get angry when I joked around with people and act appalled that I wasn’t making friends with other people.  It really is something I wish on no one and sometimes I think I would like to blow that place up and build a proper place for people who have illnesses to be treated like human beings.

Anyhow, that is how it goes, I have been trying so hard to redirect my thoughts when I get into rants or dredge up old memories.  I have been using a relaxation video from YouTube, one I posted a few days ago and it seems to be helping.  I think what I really need to do is to take a proper meditation class and learn how to be more mindful of my surroundings and less mindful of things in the past that I can’t change and only make me upset.  Enjoy the poem Dear Readers, write soon!

Leif Gregersen

DSC_0016 2Construction has always fascinated me, the very idea of building something that will mean so much to the inhabitants or employees in it, the idea of creating something solid and permanent.  The other day I worked building a local hockey rink and I am hoping the puck boards I set up will last through many a fun game played by local kids.

 

Hope Mission

 

Today I saw a sight that broke my heart

So many downtrodden men with lives all torn apart

As I saw them around me tears welled up in my eyes

For once I didn’t want to wear my tough guy disguise

 

These homeless men were lining up to sleep upon a floor

A guard was checking for weapons or booze right at the door

One poor soul had neither socks or shoes

Someone was saying Jesus dying was good news

 

I how I wish I knew a way to really help these men

Without putting myself in their very situation once again

Yes, a few years ago I had no place to call home

Sick and lost and wandering the streets alone

 

By love and luck and friendship I somehow overcame

Oh my sweet God in heaven let these men somehow do the same

And let me be your instrument to help them in some way

I don’t want to think I couldn’t even stop to pray

 

So many came here when we put out the call

That there was money here and plenty of jobs for all

For a time here things did look pretty good

But things never seem to change in this neighborhood

 

Though now a sweeping change is bringing hope

Of giving those who have nothing enough to cope

I wish with all my spirit one day these men have much much more

Than getting just a little bit of money and then being shown the door

 

As well as stomachs, these men need to fill their souls hearts and mind

With the hope of dignity and self-reliance they themselves find

Some of the wisest words I know of would be a perfect start

“Every one of us has a God-shaped hole inside our heart.”

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015