psychiatric hospital

The Way I Deal With Obsessive and Addictive Behaviours Along With My Psychosis

(Blog after photo)

This is another of the beautiful buildings in Edmonton, Canada Place. During construction I worked in this ornate structure with my Dad, painting numbers on stairwells in at least six fifteen storey stairwells. I had two other jobs plus full-time school at the time.

So, I can’t really tell you if I have an obsessive compulsive disorder. I do know that I often feel compelled to do funny things. As a child it may be touching every light pole as I walked past it, then it festered and grew to not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Soon I began to do increasingly odd things. Comic books seemed harmless until I hoarded and amassed thousands and protected them as though my life depended on them. Before that it was stamps, after that it was military clothing. At fourteen I ended up in psychiatric care and was given medication but no diagnosis. On leaving, though I would often dress up in camouflage or even military work uniforms around the house, I stopped doing it when I went to school. That was the age of alcohol and arcades, cigarettes and all-night sessions in front of the TV on school nights. Quitting any of these habits was so hard, but I showed little foresight knowing things like booze and smokes would ruin my life many years early. Every teenager seems to think they will magically quit before cancer sets in and that they themselves had discovered things like sex, drugs, and alcohol.

At nineteen, I made a vow to quit drinking. I went to meetings, tried to stay away from bars and managed to get six months of clean time in. Unfortunately I became more addicted to cigarettes and had a wicked addiction to coffee, all hours of the night and day. It all finally came to a head when I was in my 30s and I made some coffee one morning and lit up a cigarette, finished it and had another. Then I threw up on the kitchen floor. Something had to be done.

Persons with schizophrenia can have a very hard time quitting tobacco. It has been found that tobacco affects some of the same neurotransmitters that psychiatric medications do. It actually soothes extreme psychosis, which in my opinion is a condition far worse than torture. I didn’t quit coffee, but with the help of patches, a support group, a counsellor, a pharmacist and even a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions, I stopped smoking. It was the hardest and best thing I ever did, but it was almost too late. My breathing was seriously affected by 18 years of smoking and even now, 15 years later I am not recovered.

Coffee was difficult as well. It tasted good, it kept me alert, it seemed to stem the tide of urges to smoke. But perhaps worse than coffee I was addicted to overeating. This was not an easy thing to deal with in a group home where you pay one price for food and eat all you like. I ballooned from 170 pounds to 260. Even just looking at that number, 260 is staggering to me. I stayed in shape, I had a very physical job. Most of that weight was muscle, but a lot was fat as well. It took being diagnosed with diabetes to get me to cut down on my food. I have lost 40 pounds now but have a long way to go.

One of the funny things about all of these addictions is that there are 12-step meetings for all of them. I don’t want to comment on any except to say they help, but anyone who goes into one of these should be extremely mindful that there are many sick people in the groups. In my six-month dry spell, it was a so-called friend from AA who dragged me into a bar and bought me a drink, sending me spiralling on a binge that nearly killed me. Overeater’s Anonymous was a great meeting though often dominated by women who can be extremely sensitive to anyone (like myself) a little rough around the edges.

In conclusion, I guess I would most like to quote a film by Frank Capra, “The Snows of Killamanjaro” where a man spoke of preaching only “Moderation in everything, including moderation.” More to come on this topic.

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Hard Work and Dilligence Pays Off Every Time

a1 honey bee

This is a beautiful picture of a honey bee in a local garden in Scarborough where I am staying

    Many years ago I had been living in beautiful Vancouver, BC and loved every minute of it.  I had a great apartment, a few good friends and a few pretty good prospects at girlfriends.  Then tragedy struck and I became very mentally ill for a time.  I was living in a rooming house and had a bad dream and went for a long walk.  My mind was all over the place and I had delusional thoughts that kept telling me I was on the moon in the future, that I had been carried through time and that I was a robot like in the terminator movies.  I didn’t know how to ask for help so I called the police and told them I thought someone had given me some hallucinogenic drugs.  I went into the hospital and soon lost everything.  No more property, no more friends, no more money.  I thought I could go back to Edmonton and find respite staying with someone I knew, perhaps even my parents but after a long trip across the rocky mountains this was also impossible and I ended up in a shelter.  After the shelter I graduated to a psychiatric ward and there I met a man who changed my life.

He  was a cab driver and he became something of a father figure to me.  He took the time to teach me about spirituality, about living in a community and inspired me to one day try to become a catholic.  He was just a simple, hobbled old man but he was well known, well liked and owned a house and had many friends.  I will never forget how he told me that his life would not be the same if he had still been a drinker.  He told me that years ago he was on skid row drinking lysol to get high and now he had a good life.  I didn’t really take what he said to heart for a long time, but four years ago I decided to get serious about my life.  I started out with a low-end job for minimum wage but it got me places.  It got me here to Toronto and out west to visit Vancouver again, and it led places.  I was looking at things differently and I had a home where I knew people and was supported and before I knew it a lot of things fell into place.  And what it all seemed to come down to was that if I hadn’t taken responsibility for my life, if I hadn’t put my foot down and decided it was time to grow up, get treatment for my illness, and put my life in order it would end in short order.  Now as I write this I have so much.  I just got an offer for a part-time job doing something I love, something I never thought anyone would pay me for, photography.  I have written books and have the support and respect of so many people as a result.  None of these things happened overnight.  15 years ago I was in the mental hospital and wasn’t even trusted with my own money.  I started slow, I got on medications that worked for me, perhaps more through help from a psychiatrist than my own doing, but I kept taking the medication when I got out of the hospital which was my own doing.  It took a long time to adjust to taking pills but I managed it.  I had to ease my way into work so I started riding my bike a lot and going for walks and then I trained my mind by reading and writing as much as I could.  It also took a lot of effort to win back the respect of someone I cared very much for.  It took a lot of long letters and poems and long talks on the phone but eventually she was in my lifef again.  At one point she gave me a stack of papers in a plastic bag and told me I had told her to hold on to it.  This was my life’s work up to that point, the book that became “Through The Withering Storm”.  I kept working on it, kept learning, kept working my jobs and after many failed attempts and a lot of money spent on editors, agents and printing, I got my book out and never looked back.

I think a lot of what I am saying here has been said before, but there are a couple of things that are a bit different I think.  One is that in my younger days I really wanted to come to understand God, perhaps because of the strange and overpowering delusions I had.  I simply felt that there had to be some evil power, and that if there was evil, there must be good and I wanted to be on the good side.  This led to explorations in buddhism and christianity and also just general spirituality that made me a much better, more stable person.  I also want to stress that it can make a huge difference in a person’s life to have an older person as a good influence.  For a long time I didn’t feel my Dad was a great influence because he was a drinker and we didn’t get along for a long time, but that changed too.  The man who helped show me a lot of that stuff and taught me so many things is now gone, he has passed away, but his words still inspire me and I have had an amazing life as a result of things he taught me.  I don’t want to downplay the role my Dad played though, he never gave up on me no matter how bad things got.  There were things he did I didn’t agree with but in the end he cared enough to keep helping me, keep giving me good advice and to eventuallly quit drinking.  I hope some of these words can help people in the way my Dad and this anonymous old man did.  Keep reading for today’s poem!

 

The Prizefighter
I hope you know by now every little bit we lose
Happens because of another choice that we choose
And there will always be some hope, some way
That those little things will come again some day

Sometimes when you are down and out
You want to just give up and shout
Shout out all your fears and doubts
But that isn’t what this life is all about

Living this life is taking all you get
Never being afraid to place a bet
Load the dice by digging deep
Knowing winners train while losers sleep

It’s not about just being number one
Or trying your very best and having fun
It’s about learning how to run a better race
With each new trouble or trial that we face

Sometimes it comes down to doing what is right
Having the guts to stop the fight
When you see someone get beaten bad
If it was you you would wish someone had

Doing the right thing may not seem so cool
But then you’re not just some little fool
You’re a child of God as much as anyone
And let’s face it we’re all under the gun

When you run the race make sure you still have the breath
For the marathon that’s coming up next
You’re going to have to lead the way
You’re going to be the one with something to say

You may have to carry someone and take their load
And it may be a long, long road
But don’t doubt me when I say there will be a reward
It’s not all about just distances and scores

There’s a place that’s waiting for all of us right now
I can tell you I know it’s true but I can’t tell you how
All the good you do will help you make it there
You have to constantly love and forgive and share

All my life I thought just first place wins
But at the end of the race is where the fight begins
We all must grow up and give up some things we love
For the unimagined reward that waits above

All your mistakes will be forgiven there
It will be peaceful and loving unlike anywhere
So don’t give in and lose the fight
Steel yourself and forever do what’s right

A little faith is all the price you pay
When you get there it will be a blessed day
You will know that you are finally home
You will never again be sad or feel alone

Leif Gregersen
August 18, 2015

What The Creator Gave Us All

DSC00035                SCROLL DOWN PAST TODAY’S POEM FOR MY BLOG ENTRY FOR TODAY

The Children, The Garden and The Pets We Love

 

We seem to have messed around with the creator’s plan

He gave us all to share and nurture life in this sacred land

Most don’t seem to care that we poison our mother earth

Each day that we live starting at our very birth

 

Many people have said many times to me

You will go crazy living in the North Country

But this is the only place I know that I can see

Clean air and water, this is the place I need to be

 

This is our precious home to walk and gather as we sit

I worry so much about what man’s hand does to it

Don’t people know there is room for all to fit

If not here then in the deepest recesses of the fiery pit

 

That is where we all will go if we take this place

And destroy it collectively, the whole human race

It was given to all of us by the creator’s grace

And one day our creator we will all have to face

 

Each blade of grass, each tiny bird

Was bequeathed to man in God’s word

Yet species die off every single day

And mankind’s hope slips further away

 

We frack for oil and leave the waste behind

Are these fat cat oil billionaires blind?

All they seem to see in the land is dollar signs

To pull one strand of the web will make the web unwind

 

It makes me feel so sad that soon there will be no hope

When we lose all our plants and animals how will we cope?

All these precious creations given to us all

Soon will be no more and mankind will truly fall

 

In a far off place one tired old medicine man

Was the only one who could truly understand

No matter the reward, this was a lousy plan

To refuse to change, though we know we can

 

I ask you all to be a good steward of our planetary gift

The creator will reward us if we make something of it

The earth, the air, the water and all the life

Avoid the pain, avoid the deep and searing strife

 

It is all so simple, yet so many have it oh so wrong

You need to hear the medicine man there was a solution all along

You can’t walk in peace by covering the world in leather

Cover just your feet and in harmony walk this land together

 

Leif Gregersen

April 1, 2015

THE PLACE OF RELIGION IN THE LIFE OF A PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT

Well, this is a difficult topic.  I remember that one of the very first times in my life that I went to a church of my own accord I was in Alberta Hospital, a Psychiatric hospital near Edmonton.  My mind was ablaze with delusions and so were the minds of several other people in the room.  It was a Catholic service, but I had no idea about different religions or services.  All I could really remember was that when I was about 12 or 13 my brother and sister would take me to church and one time my brother pointed out a particularly cute young woman and told me that girls like that were half the reason he went to church.  My reason for going to church was that I was having delusions that some very wealthy people were conspiring to either bestow great riches and rewards on me or to kill me or thwart my efforts to control the world, etc., etc., etc.  It was actually a bit, no a lot–scary.  I somehow believed that in order to be the world or business leader that this mental hospital was somehow trying to convince me I wasn’t, I had to go to church.

All this must seem very confusing, and I am sure I am not telling the story all that well, so I will try to go back a few notches.  In my 18th year, back in 1990, almost a year after I should have graduated high school, I was still going to high school and had been under a great deal of stress.  Add to that I had yet to have any kind of girlfriend and then the fact that I was genetically prone to mental illness, and you have a real mess.  Over the course of a month or so I was in and out of hospital Psychiatric wards and had also spent some time in a Psychiatric Hospital.  One of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital was start drinking beer, a very bad idea with any medication, and I got a little drunk and called up a young woman I was very fond of who brushed me off but said she would still be my friend.  Over the next while, I suffered from psychotic delusions so real and so intense about a number of things that even now I marvel at how the human mind can come up with such false ideas and somehow tailor every day experiences to make them even more confusing.  My only idea was that there really was a God.  But that isn’t always the healthiest thing to convince a mental patient.

As time passed, my thoughts slowly returned to normal, but not until after I went through quite a bit.  One of the things that stands out for me is that when I was at my sickest, a hospital chaplain would come and visit me, a very kind and wise man from the Anglican church.  Later on in my mental health journey, I was in the University Hospital and I went to a service there and, while having a hard time with delusions, had another chaplain explain to me that the bible had predicted the end of the world and some of the things in it were really happening in the world despite that it was written thousands of years ago.  This was extremely disturbing, but somehow I tried to learn more and after a lot of mishaps, I found a church that makes a lot of sense to me with a priest I really like and respect, and on some Sundays I actually make it out to mass.  The problem though is that there were times in between where I was obsessed with reading the bible, times when I thought I had special status because I read the bible and prayed and went to church, and even times when I had delusions about Jesus.  So what is the solution, what is my grand answer to what people should believe if they are sick and hurting and want the comfort of religion or even spirituality?  I don’t think a loving God, and I believe he is a loving God, will hold anything against a person who has made mistakes because of an illness.  My priest even told me once that when you are mentally ill and deep into a depression, though it is not exactly giving permission, it is a forgivable sin to commit suicide.  In no way do I want to condone suicide though, it is a horrible thing, but often people who are in a depression are not in true control of their actions.  This gave me comfort because I lost an aunt and a very close friend to suicide, both from depression and I would like to think I will see them in heaven.  Aside from the forgiveness part of it though, I want to try and explain here that suicide is something that hurts so many people, something that is never beneficial.  One of the sad facts is that unless you make a serious suicide attempt, a lot of hospitals won’t admit you for help you may feel you need for other things.  I am so lucky because I have found a home that gives me structure and enforces medication compliance and regular Doctor and Pharmacist visits.  I myself have lived on my own and fallen away from those things and let myself get isolated and been near wanting to kill myself.  One of the few things that helped me through those times was having the ability to go to church and bible studies.

Now, I just want to say a few words about when religion can be a bad thing.  Some mentally ill people get obsessed with reading the bible, some of them misinterpret or have delusions about things in the bible.  This can be very unhealthy, but I don’t know what the solution is.  I know one lady who has Schizophrenia who had a breakdown as a result of reading the bible too much and needed help, needed her Doctor to step in and tell her to stop reading the bible and increase her medication.  Regular visits to your Psychiatrist and counselors are your best bet in watching out for things like this to happen.  Regular visits where you are as honest and comfortable as you can be with these people.  In my life, and I feel like I have a pretty good life, I sometimes use Yoga for exercise and flexibility, I sometimes use techniques I learned from Buddhist teachers to meditate and clear my thoughts, and I also attend a Catholic church.  In the end, I feel it is most important that I’m a Catholic because the church has a lot to offer me and the people seem so kind and helpful there to everyone.  It doesn’t stop me from finding comfort in other religious practices though, I just kind of feel that people need to follow the wisdom from an old Frank Capra movie, I believe it was called “The Snows of Kilamunjaro” in which an old monk summed up his philosophy in one sentence:  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  Take care and keep commenting!!

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