Psychiatry

Drugs Other Than Prescribed Medications For Those With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #depression #mania #psychosis #psychiatry #drugs #alcohol #recovery

 

I can recall a wise friend of mine once telling me about his experience in AA meetings. He said not only that he had been diagnosed with it, but also that in the 12-step program he was in, people with bipolar disorder were greatly over-represented.

Something that I often have thought about is, how do people go from regular people to alcoholics and then addicts? I watched a very insightful TV miniseries that came out of Britain called Traffic which was mostly about Heroin. I found it interesting in many ways. One of the things that was enlightening was not only that there is a huge problem with heroin addiction destroying lives in Britain, but that the opium poppy, which is what heroin is derived from, is grown openly as just another cash crop. I don’t know all the places that it is cultivated, but in another documentary I saw about the present war in Afghanistan, American and other countries’ soldiers are instructed not to harm the opium crops or obstruct any of the farmers from cultivating them. It seems so tragic that this problem could be cut off at the source but it is a very complicated problem. First of all, the Afghan farmers who grow the opium poppy don’t get very rich of their crops, they barely earn enough to feed their families and it would cause such extreme hardship if the crops were destroyed and forbidden throughout the whole country that there would be starvation and death to follow.

Another thing that must be considered is that if the production of opium poppy crops went underground, there would be a great deal more profiteering and violence surrounding it. Opium has existed for thousands of years in Asia and there are large numbers of people all over the world in serious dependance of the drug.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to instruct a poetry class in a homeless drop-in centre that had a safe injection site. The purpose of me teaching this subject was to help people to be able to express themselves about how they felt about the opiod crisis. This referred more to things like fentanyl and oxycontin, though heroin and other needle drugs are used in the community. What I learned from this experience is that a great deal of the people who end up homeless and addicted start out just like any normal person. They go through school, get work experience, find a job, and then one day they have the unfortunate experience of painful illness or injury. They may get benefits for disability, but a lot of them have to rely on savings and selling possessions like vehicles and houses just to put food on the table. These people get prescribed pain killers and soon find they can’t do without them. Then something happens (in a lot of cases) where the person realizes that street drugs work better and are much cheaper than designer painkillers. Then we open Pandora’s box and before you know it, the person is addicted and homeless. Then of course there is another side of it, a childhood trauma, often sexual abuse makes a person so incredibly ‘messed up’ for want of a better term that they turn to drugs to blank out the pain and the nightmares and bad memories.

I think at this point it might be useful to state that there are some drugs that end up as gateway drugs, but attitudes and concepts of this are changing. Now, even experts are saying that the real gateway drug is trauma. But I have known some people who were in recovery who told me about how they got started. In my own case, I actually used THC before I even drank alcohol in amounts sufficient to inebriate myself. I only did it a handful of times but things happened when I did this. I found in doing it I made the only strong connection with my older brother of my early teen years. Soon after I started smoking cigarettes and then I began to drink, just a little at first, but soon I was getting drunk every weekend, and soon after that I was drinking at least something every day. I almost couldn’t understand why I started to like alcohol so much because my dad was a drinker and I blamed a lot of my problems on his aggressive behaviour after his daily intake of at least 12 beer. I remember being so worried he would get an impaired driving conviction or that one time when he was driving drunk with the whole family in our van he would go off the road at high speed and kill us all. Looking. back, that could have been where a lot of my life-long difficulty with anxiety came from. I always felt (at school with bullies) that my health, safety, even my life was in danger. That anxiety stunted my social growth. I never had a girlfriend in school, never went to a single school dance. I did know a couple of young women and had a date or two but I couldn’t even look females in the eye, I was so ashamed that they would find out how messed up I was. Then came a cadet dance. Just about every time I went to a cadet dance I just sat in the corner, but this time, a friend brought a large quantity of beer. I got really drunk and came very close to having sex with two young women in the same night. It was a deadly connection I made in thinking that alcohol equalled calming of the nerves, which equalled sex. It took me a long time to quit.

Around the age of 20, I started to take psychiatric medications on a regular basis and I tried to quit drinking. Then I nearly killed myself one weekend drinking extremely strong rum on a camping trip. I blacked out everything after my first drink. I took my medication after drinking and vomited all over the place and alienated friends completely that I had known for years. Luckily though over the years I was able to keep control of the drinking and I used THC very few times. What scared me though was going through my early to middle adult years and finding out that friends had done such drugs as crack, morphine, cocaine and just about anything a person could name. I wanted to cut ties with them but as a person with a mental illness I had few friends so it was difficult.

Along the way I developed some theories of addiction that I think are relevant to share. Sometimes, people use drugs to self-medicate away some of their mental health issues. I recall a party I went to where I downed a bunch of beers quickly and then was bouncing off the walls in a state of mania. I thought, as I thought that alcohol meant more female attention, that alcohol also meant a release from my depression. For as long as I connected good times with booze I was unable to stay quit for very long. Fortunately maturity really helped me and at this point it has been years since I drank or used drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Some people who are really successful, like high-priced lawyers or rock stars end up doing a lot of drugs and I think I understand why. They work extremely hard, rise up to the top, have everything they ever imagined, but deep down they are just ordinary people who need things like love and satisfaction in life just like anyone. Their lives seem empty or they regret that things will never get better and in this time they turn to drugs. It’s astounding what some rock stars have done, like Stephen Tyler of Arrowsmith admitting that he had consumed literally six million dollars of cocaine in his life.

Mental illness can lead to addiction. Substance abuse, and this can lead to homelessness, and alienation and eventually even your life isn’t worth that much. What I feel has to happen is that people need to learn more about themselves, possibly through therapy, group therapy or 12-step meetings. What needs to happen is that a person has to rebuild a world view. They need to come to understand the importance of living the clean life, the good life, the advantages of being stable and trustworthy and the steps they need to take to become that way. It starts with abstinence, but the work isn’t done with just that. My wise friend from the 12-step program, now departed, once said that “We don’t have a cure for addiction, we just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” With that I will leave you dear readers. Remember you can write me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com and that my books are available on amazon.

Alternative Recovery Strategies For Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder

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

 

                                               Tanya Behm, my incredible boss at the Schizophrenia Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surgeon General Shows How to Make Face Mask

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

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

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

Please click here for more information

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

Best,

Leif Gregersen

SOCIETY’S MAGIC TRICKS ON THE MENTALLY ILL AND HOW OTHERS SEE THEM

always seek an elder’s wisdom! and if you like this blog, please feel free to download a copy of my latest book, Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis, just by clicking the photo of the bridge at right

 

There are a lot of ways society has tried to make many things seem like magic or sorcery. It is interesting to note that magic and sorcery were mentioned in the bible. My own way of explaining that is that there were mind and mood altering substances far back in our history such as many forms of alcohol and drugs, and those that used them were thought to be practising sorcery. I wouldn’t be surprised that modern day pharmacy had its roots in the powders and elixirs that were once attributed to witches and warlocks. Even the milder drugs like pot change the way you look at things, it can disturb your concept not just of how you feel, but of how others perceive you. THC can in a way be a self-induced form of insanity for want of a better term.

Some years ago I found myself at a gathering at a bar on the edge of downtown Edmonton, and I was invited to a private room with the band afterwards. I wonder when I look back if there was something else in the joint that was passed around because I had a couple of small tokes and went totally loopy and paranoid. One of the things I did was to try and show off by taking the medications I was on and tossing them onto a coffee table. I mistakenly was thinking that people would know what drugs I was on and want to try some of them to add to their high. I also went into someone’s room and borrowed the phone and left a half-hour long message to my ex-girlfriend, who was living with her boyfriend at the time and when I returned I was so convinced that everyone in the room wanted to kill me that I climbed out the window and down the fire escape then walked about 3 miles home instead of waiting to share a cab home. It is experiences like these that often get people confused about pot and other drugs, (alcohol included) I know of a few people who swore by the medicinal properties of cannabis. One of them had MS and had actually gotten a letter from a politician allowing him to smoke it (before it was made legal). I just heard of a young woman I have known for quite a few years having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and treating it with pot as well.

I am also fond of relating the story of mid-20th century psychiatry and drugs like LSD. Psychiatrists were encouraged to take LSD so they could better understand their patients who had delusions and hallucinations. The father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Frued was known to liberally prescribe cocaine to his patients. I don’t know how bad these situations got, but I do know in both cases that once the drug was no longer available in these ways (legal prescription, etc) a lot of psychiatric patients had a very hard time managing.

There are so many things that we are told to take on faith that we see with rose-colored glasses that they are no less than magic. A new car is promoted as more reliable than any car ever, with more power at better fuel economy. People get tricked into thinking they can buy this car with all their savings and never have to buy another car or even be outperformed by a newer car. The sad reality of planned obsolescence, proven time and again (just look at 40 year-old cars and how much they have rusted or broken down) that once were touted to be just as “magic” as the cars of today. Marketing does this to us a lot, whether it comes from a billboard or a review or a commercial.

One of the problems living in a society with this kind of “magic” is that money and ambition are encouraged. Work harder, buy more, feel better, get more work done, work more efficiently, rise in your organization, get more stuff. Die rich. Something I have been learning since my mid-forties is that how much stuff I have has very little to do with my happiness. My happiness has so much more to do with personal recognition from friends and family, and yes, even some of the people who follow my work. I got interested in the teaching of Marie Kondo and some other Minimalists and I have truly found that it is so much better to have one working computer than five older crappy ones. It is so much better to have three sets of clothes and a couple extra t-shirts and work shirts than to own more clothes than I can keep up with washing and finding a place for.  Two hundred books and ten thousand comic books seem to be a wonderful thing, but if I can never read any of them because they are poorly organized, scattered around, and drowning in each other, the truth is I am much better off with just having one or two books that I read and then donate or trade in at a used bookstore, and also taking advantage of the library system. Having fewer possessions has made my living conditions better, allowed me to work more efficiently and not feel overwhelmed all the time with a messy house, dirty dishes, and paper and stuff all over. I have a long way to go with downsizing my possessions, but if a person can look at something they own and really think hard about whether or not this thing truly makes them happy, and then makes a hard decision to sell it or donate it or clean it and organize it properly so you can get use out of it, they are going to feel so much better all over and get so much more done.

This Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) method really is magic. Marie also has a regular show on Netflix where she goes into people’s homes and transforms them. The greatest thing is that she doesn’t get people to pay someone to clean, which rarely if ever has lasting results, she teaches them how to organize, tidy, dispose of unneeded things that they may have an emotional attachment to. Once you do this for someone, you don’t just clean their house, you change their life.

One has to become a critical thinker I believe to be able to function without being brought into some of the traps out there that destroy so many people’s lives. When I was 14 I started smoking and it took away my money, my health, and it made me become ostracized by a lot of friends. There really was no magic in smoking other than the part where you satisfy your craving for nicotine and for a short time you feel good. I will never forget the day at the end of my grade 10 year that (thanks to stuffing off, starting to drink alcohol, and to a great extent to smoking cigarettes) I went from class to class to get my final grades and I failed more than 50% of them. I was devastated. I have to say though, a person raising kids should keep as much of a watchful eye on them around the age of 15. I don’t blame my parents, but both of them smoked and my dad drank and both of them allowed me to smoke and drink, and school, which was most important to me, and then Air Cadets, which came in a close second were screwed up beyond salvation. I never did end up going to University as a result of my poor showing in grade 10. Something I have found out though is that to this day almost half of all cigarette sales are to people with mental illnesses and the tobacco companies know it.

Probably one of the most important things that should be impressed upon the impressionable is to make goals. Goals are so powerful. Goals get you moving in a direction rather than a person just moving and not knowing where they will end up. I think it saved my life to decide from a young age that no matter what I would do, I would end up a writer. If I had a clearer idea of how to do that, had written out my goals, and applied some simple logic, I could have thrived at school and done what I most wanted much earlier in my life. I have heard that when a young person has at least one positive influence in their life outside their family, they are so much more likely to not have drug, alcohol or other problems. This is why programs like big brother/big sister are so amazing. The real magic in our world doesn’t come from fast cars or smooth whiskey, cold beer or satisfying cigarettes, it comes from our love, respect and caring for each other.

I hope some of this at least makes sense, I know I tend to just blurt out my writings in my blogs sometimes, but I really hope to reach people with what I say. That will be my last point. One of the best things a person can do with big decisions is to seek out advice. I have been so lucky to have my dad in my life who is a very experienced and intelligent man and whenever the smallest or biggest thing happens I can count on him. There are others though, my sister is very smart too, and I have a friend up the road who is older and very kind and intelligent who I seek out for advice. The trick is to weigh carefully how good the person will be at giving advice. If you want advice on buying a car, talk to a certified mechanic (and always get one to look at a used car before you buy it) not someone who just uses a car. If you want advice about saving money, look for classes where you can learn from people that don’t get a percentage from what you invest, but instead are highly qualified and knowledgeable about a person’s needs and capabilities. Thanks to everyone for reading all this, please contact me or comment if you have questions, as always my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

 

God and Spirituality: A Sunday Sermon About Mental Health and Mental Illness

Hello Dear readers. just thought I would encourage anyone who hasn’t had the chance to check out my sister site, Dear Ava (click here) for great Mother’s Day gifts and a wonderful blog.

I have some exciting news, I am near to getting approval to start to distribute two of my other books for free as eBooks here on this site. Please stay tuned and click the Tower Bridge photo———> at right to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis” —————————>

I wanted to share a great review I received about this book from the CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, so here goes:

Leif Gregersen provides up-close, first hand insight into the world of schizophrenia. Known as potentially the most devastating mental illness accompanied by horrible societal stigma, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and especially mis-characterizations of those living with and recovering from schizophrenia, Mr. Gregersen humanizes this illness by his own lived experience. Most importantly, we see a person, not just a diagnosis. We see his identity as he tells his story. His identity is not rooted in symptoms and pathology but in purpose, meaning, and how he wishes to help others to become more compassionately present with those with mental health challenges and their family members and friends.   This whole process or journey is now called, “recovery.” Recovery is living beyond the limitation of a mental illness with meaning, purpose, a sense of identity and resiliency, social inclusion. Mr. Gregersen lives a life of recovery.

Dr. Chris Summerville, D.Min., CPRRP, LL.D (Honorius), CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada

So what is a church really? There are so many loose definitions. I was talking to my cousin on this topic a short time ago and really we started to get down to what the Buddhists believe, that the place of worship is a place of refuge. I admitted to him that my place of refuge, before I started going to church on my own was a library, specifically the library in St.Albert. One day shortly after I stopped collecting comics I started watching a wonderful series done by Levar Burton (Geordie Laforge from Star Trek: The Next Generation) called Reading Rainbow. He used to talk about all kinds of reading, and even how picture books can have a value. Since I loved reading and comic books were no longer cool, I started at the children’s section of our city library and looked for things that sparked my interest. One of the first books was one about the FBI. It had a lot of pictures and some easy to read text, but the funny thing is I learned so much about the FBI (former the Treasury Department) that I have a working knowledge of the agency to this day. After that, I worked my way upstairs to the adult sections and I think I started out with history books. I was fascinated with World War Two and I was a cadet at the time, so a large knowledge of combat and weapons came in pretty handy when friends and I got into discussions about our mutual passion. I went on to pore through photography books, books of old old cartoon strips, comedy books, and even managed to sneak a book about nude photography past the librarian. For years when I had the time I would head to the library and read as many magazines as I could. When I lived in North Vancouver on the coast, I was so much of a regular at the magazine stand the Librarians knew what I liked to read and got to know me. Then of course there were the novels I devoured, especially if they had a historical or military theme. It was almost a natural progression for me to become a writer. What the best part of it was, was that after being released from the psychiatric hospital and being low income and not having too many friends, writing was the perfect thing for me. I didn’t have to have qualifications or degrees, I just had to be able to put pen to paper and all my reading experience served me well. When I told my cousin this and asked him what his refuge was, he said it was his stereo. He has worked in some of the top music stores in the country, he is an accomplished band and studio musician, and to him music was his refuge. I encourage anyone with stress in their lives that either have a mental illness or not to find something to take refuge in. For a lot of people it can be a musical instrument, especially a piano. I used to carry around a harmonica even though I wasn’t very accomplished at it, I liked making sound and trying to play songs and find rhythms. For a while I also tried to play guitar, and even with my horribly limited knowledge of it, when I sit down with a guitar I enter a whole new world.

One of the funny things that is starting to happen is that I am becoming such good friends with my cousin that I am now helping him to write things, and he is starting to give me advice on how to write songs that he hopes to later put to music. But there are so many more things you can do. With the pandemic and all, I went and bought myself an expensive model of one of my favourite WWII planes, the B-25 Mitchell. I am looking forward to blocking out some time for it and watching with excitement as the plane begins to take shape.

Of course, through all this I think the best advice I have gotten when I talk about my books and my walking and other things that keep me going was from my psychiatric nurse. She simply said that my mental health is the absolute priority. I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if I got ill again and had to go in the hospital. No one trusts you there, a lot of sick people who may even be unable to grasp ideas like covering up a cough or wearing a mask or practicing social distancing is all about. So I am doing my best to make my appointments, and to take all of my medications. I have noticed that when I get a bit out of kilter with the isolation, I tend to forget about my medications sometimes. I do get all of them in blister packs which is great because you just have to pop out the pills you need at that particular time of day and you are fine.

I am so lucky to have not only a course of medications that work well for me, but also my body has adapted to the medications so now they work really well on my symptoms but allow me to pursue certain things like my extra long walks and writing sessions. I can’t prescribe medications for people out there but I can say that if you get active in your treatment, listen carefully to your psychiatrist and ask a lot of questions, and perhaps even work through some of your issues in group or individual therapy there is a major chance you are going to make a full recovery, even go back to work. I guess though, since this is a Sunday blog that I should put out a request for a very special client of mine. She lives alone and has Tueurettes syndrome, she can’t stop swearing and doesn’t leave the house and feels very ashamed of her illnesses. She is truly a very kind lady and was nice enough to get two of my books from the library and read them.

Just to talk. little about church again, people often refer to a place of worship as a church, but really no matter how many solid bricks in the building, that isn’t a church. The people who attend the church, who participate in giving and sharing and working together and supporting each other in a Christian walk, those people are the church. I don’t want to get too far into it all, but you are welcome to post comments that I will respond to. I guess I would like to close by defining spirituality and religion, if I can get it right. Religion is for people who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who have been to hell and don’t want to go back. I would encourage anyone who attends a church, or even just wants to live a better, less stressful life to try to embrace the spiritual. Remember we are all immortal souls in need of love and caring, young and old. Avoid judging people, and if you see them hurting, why not help and maybe even tell them about how attending a church, reading the word of God (the bible) and learning to pray can transform just about anyone. Good night dear readers, more to come soon!

 

Mental Health During Isolation and Pandemic Distress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Little Detroit Muscle

By: Leif Gregersen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

END

 

A Little Bit About Music For Those Who Are Sick of Hearing About Coronavirus

Hello Dear Readers! Just experimenting with a new format, you can click any of the highlighted links in the following blog, I just ask that you keep in mind that these items are copyrighted and it would be great if you could support the makers of these materials by buying a book or CD of theirs. Enjoy and let me know what you think of blogs made in this way

 

Bob Seger’s Roll Me Away

Roll me away. This is a song about, among other things, a motorcycle trip for someone who is feeling lost and doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the world. I think a lot of people, not just those who suffer from a mental illness have that deep-seated desire to get on a bike and leave everything behind. I know that one of the most amazing and magical books I ever read was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” not just because it was the very first book I ever read that spoke of mental illness, but also because of the glamorizing of the idea of exploring the US on a motorbike. I have had a few bikes, and the time I spent riding them represented some of my happiest times. Below is another version of the best bike I ever had, a 1978 Honda 750-four. I loved everything about motorbikes, the power, the open air, the feeling of freedom. The bike was, for lack of a better term, good medicine. But sadly eventually my mental illness got the better of me and I became too timid on the bike, unable to ride it even at normal highway speeds due to anxiety.1978 Honda CB750 Four | T48 | Las Vegas 2014

another song that means a lot to me is a Bruce Springsteen creation, Born to Run I love how Bruce starts out the video version, he says, “Remember in the end, nobody wins unless everybody wins” One of the things that draws me to Bruce Springsteen is that not only does he seem to suffer from depression, perhaps even bipolar disorder, but also that he has a social conscience, and I suspect he leans pretty far left. When I was a teen I was completely obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, I can recall writing out the lyrics so I could memorize them. One day I was in a class in high school and I sang this song as best I could and a girl that heard me sing it had a tear run down her face. The song is about young people and their mating dance and how cars end up defining people and many other things, but I one aspect of this song shines out, that is the mention of suicide. When you listen to a lot of Bruce Springsteen, whether this is something intentional or fictional or not, you can really get an idea of what severe depression as a diagnosed illness can be like. When I was 17 I had the best possible car a person could have, I had some great friends, an awesome job, but it all seemed to be slipping away from me and I couldn’t shake the feeling of deep, debilitating sadness. Anyone who experiences this and has had the proper treatment and is in recovery from depression should read a book I picked up recently called Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny. She does an almost endless amount of research on clinical depression and other mental illnesses and tells her own story of being a journalist while suffering from her mental illness. I count myself very lucky because my depression is extremely well controlled by anti-depressants, which allows me to get treatment for my other issues, but in the end, music is my healer.

There is another song that means a great deal to me by a man who, from what I understand, is a friend of Bruce Springsteen’s, called Running on Empty by Jackson Browne there are so many lyrics in this song that really speak to me. He sings about love, about the open road, about things that every person is either doing in one way or another (running away from life–in a car.) it seems to take the influence of a lot of popular culture that is expressed in other ways. One of the biggest things that brought me to this music, this song in particular is that I think it was on the Forrest Gump Soundtrack. I went through a period in my life when I did nothing but run away–I hitch hiked to the coast, I travelled the western states, and one of the things that was my only solace at the time, I ran. I ran ridiculous distances, pounding away at the pavement night after night. The runner’s high was pretty amazing, but deep inside I was hurting terribly and I ended up running so much that I injured my knees to the point where I had a lot of trouble just walking for years to come. The weirdest thing was that after I went on my journeys, there was no more home to return to, no real place where I was welcomed. I recall when I was only on the coast for a couple of months and had to come home to take care of some stuff and when I got off the bus my whole family was there to welcome me. It never happened like that again, in fact one time I made it back to Edmonton while I was struggling with my mental health I had to almost sign my life away just to get a ride to a hospital from my sister’s boyfriend.

Well, I hope you like the format I did today’s blog in. Please feel free to write to me and comment on if you prefer it or not. I can see myself putting in more YouTube links to help describe some of the mental health issues I have gone through and those I have recovered from. My address as always is viking3082000@yahoo.com and I hope you stay healthy. The most important part of what is going on right now is that you follow the rules: don’t come close to others, do your best to sterilize and/or wash everything you can, including indoor surfaces, doorknobs, even your food, and stay inside. Best wishes everyone!

 

 

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

New Book Exploring a Recent Psychiatric Ward Admission and a Month Battling Psychosis

Hello Dear Readers! Well, it is with great joy that I introduce to you my latest book, which tells of a recent hospital admission to an Edmonton Hospital in 2019. I had grand plans for this book, but I decided that it was more important to get it out to my readers and to those who suffer with or love someone that suffers with severe psychosis or other mental health difficulties. It is in this spirit that I have put the book up for sale on Amazon for only $12 in paperback and for the next couple of days the eBook is free. After the time when it is free, the eBook will be just $1.49.

The book is something that was inspired by the book “Girl, Interrupted” (not the movie, the book). I decided I wanted to really show the mind of a person who is ill, and so I took poetry I wrote by hand during my stay in the hospital and added commentary to it, as well as put in other poems I wrote at other times, then several essays, introductions from some family members and even copies of my clinical notes. The title, “Alert and Oriented X3” comes from a term that my nurse used several times to describe the state of my mental health in the clinical notes. There are 5 ways you can be ‘alert and oriented’ and I seemed to come up as just a 3 a number of times.

I have felt extremely blessed to have so much support from you my readers and my friends and family to write and to give talks about mental health in Universities and Training Centres that I really just want as many people as possible to enjoy the book regardless of cost to me. If you keep checking back, I may be able to put on some giveaways at this site and mail out some select copies in the hopes that you will leave a review for it on amazon.com. I will also be making the eBook free, and if you like it and recommend it, I have also decided not to set it up so it can’t be copied, so please feel free to share the file you purchase with anyone you know who would be interested.

One small drawback to the current form of the book is that I wrote it for people living in Edmonton and in Canada. Most of the book is completely relevant to anyone reading it anywhere, but there are small sections where I put in some contact details for local resources that will be irrelevant to most non-Canadians. If you would like to get in touch with resources for helping you through any kind of mental health struggle, please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do the best I can. You can also contact me at this email if you would like a free digital copy of the book. Happy reading friends, looking forward to seeing what you think of the book which I had to go to hell and back to write.

Leif Gregersen

Guest Blog Touching on a Subject That Helped My Recovery From the Stigma of Mental Illness

https://dearava.com/blogs/news/the-art-of-personalized-gift-giving

Hello my good readers. Please click on the link above to have a look at a blog which relates to something I will be discussing below.
Hello Dear Readers, today I have a guest blog from someone who approached me after finding my blog. It is truly amazing some of the reach that I get when I put out these blogs, and I would like to encourage any of my regular or new readers to contact me. As always, you can comment here or write to me at viking3082000@yahoo.com
      One of the things that appealed to me about sharing this article is that I am a bit of a dysfunctional gift giver. When I like people, I buy them things all the time and give them to them without expecting anything in return. This is the positive side of my giving, but there can also be some negative parts of giving too much. The first thing that I realized after reading the article linked above and copied below is that in fact most people get so much more out of experiences than they do possessions. As something of a minimalist, I have tried to do this more and more. But as I make a reasonably good income for a bachelor I often find myself going too far with gifts. One clear example was when I had something of a crush on a woman at work and I would bring her things all the time. Nothing too serious, but I would get her a book or a magazine, trying to seem thoughtful. I think a lot of this had to do with my own insecurities, wanting to make sure she stayed my friend and stayed in my life. Not long after that, I met an incredible person, an author named Richard. He had family roots in the Northern Regions of Canada and also was an indigenous person. Every time I met with him he had a gift for me and I started to reciprocate. This was a very positive experience as we had many common interests and soon became practically best friends as we met for lunch and did different author events together. He has even been so incredibly generous that he had me invited to a Writer’s Festival called Northwords in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and it is a huge chance for me to advance my career. I would call this friendship with Richard healthy as compared to the young woman I knew at work, possibly because there was a lot more equality. I got some good advice once that basically stated that friends had to be equal in paying for things regardless of their income.
     I do a lot of gift giving, especially with my family. A lot of it started with an amazing little book that was recommended to me called “The Richest Man in Babylon.” The book did talk about accumulating wealth, but it also clearly emphasized how Important it is to treat your family well and get them the things they need.
     Well, dear readers, I don’t want to go on too much as the article I am posting below and have linked above is very complete. I basically wanted to tell a bit about how the subject of gift giving affects those with mental illnesses. Of course so many people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and other ailments have very little money. This is a good opportunity to look for a hobby that will not only keep you interested in your day to day activities, but perhaps also allow you to make gifts. My sister does a lot of bead work, a friend I knew for a long time found a lot of joy in making stained glass. You can even write a song or a poem for the person you know who you want to show appreciation to. I often take photos, have them printed for $2 or so, then get a $4 frame for them and give them as gifts. Have a great day all of you!

The Art of Personalized Gift Giving

We can all agree that gift giving isn’t easy. Everyone is unique, and has to develop their own philosophies on how to give meaningfully to friends, family, and loved ones. The pressure to find gifts that suit a person’s needs can be a source of stress, especially during the holidays. How do you develop a gift giving methodology that causes pleasure and joy, without the stress?

Although not everyone may agree with every idea in Marie Kondo’s hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we feel her philosophy on gift-giving is particularly insightful. For instance, she writes, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.”

The key concept here places more importance on the act of giving a gift more than simply the gift itself. Of course, if a gift is functional and the recipient requests one, the path is clear and simple. Most of the time, however, it’s not so straightforward. Perhaps with a significant other, you may be so familiar and close that gifting becomes second nature. But would about an aunt, uncle or niece? How do you show your appreciation for them if you don’t always see each other, or aren’t sure about their passions and interests? What about special occasions like a first communion, marriage, or graduation?

With all of the nuances that go into gift giving, each occasion and person are unique and require special attention. In this article, we’re here to help guide you on your path to establishing your very own Art of Personalized Gift Giving.

Long Term Happiness is Rooted in Experiences, Not Things. But Experiences Don’t Always Make the Best Gifts.

Certainly, you may have heard that experiences bring us greater joy than things. In fact, there’s significant research that shows this is a human truth. But how does this translate into gift-giving? It’s not so simple to “gift” someone a vacation, nor is it particularly practical. Imagine if your husband or wife wanted to go to Hawaii and you suddenly surprised him or her with an all-expenses paid trip to Maui, and “we’re leaving in 2 weeks!” That’s hardly enough time to react and reconcile each other’s busy work schedules. Simply put, experiences do bring us greater happiness, but experiences are no replacement for physical gifts. Physical gifts aren’t meant to replace experiences, but rather create and memorialize them, making them an essential and special part of our lives.

One workaround here is to use significant life experiences as the basis for the gift or as a means to commemorate an experience. For example, imagine a situation where you grew up with your best friend, staying together over the course of 20 years. Suddenly, they could get married and have to move to the other side of the country. You could give them a gift that truly represents your shared experiences together. Something that allows you to remember the experience and times you shared together.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Too Much Practicality

During the holidays of 2017 and 2018, the most popular kitchen accessory was the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. I personally use one of these on a daily basis (and I admit, I received one as a gift from my mother-in-law). It can be tempting to take something that you like since you had a positive experience with it and assume that it will make a good gift for someone else. This is a logical assumption to make.

However, the reason I suggest to be careful with this mindset is because: gift giving shouldn’t be about yourself. Gift giving shouldn’t be treated as an opportunity for you to shill the reasons about why it saved YOU so much time and money. I can hear the rant already starting: “This Instant Pot will save you countless hours in the kitchen! I don’t know how you could live without one! It was life changing for me!”

Perhaps the Instant Pot will truly be life changing for the recipient. Maybe they’ll even end up recommending it to their friends as well in a chain reaction of pressure cooking frenzy. But what if they are the type of person that doesn’t like to cook? What if they prefer their own methods of cooking and feel pressured to use the Instant Pot, even if they don’t want to? It will end up as simply taking up counter space for them.

The exception of this is if they explicitly ask for something like this. However, it’s wise to be mindful of gifts that are overly pragmatic, or based on your own experience rather than being personalized to the recipient’s true needs.

The Trap of Giving Gifts that are Too Expensive

Growing up, my best friend and I used to exchange gifts for Christmas (shoutout to her: we are still best friends to this day). We started off small with small cards, trinkets, and accessories. One year, I had decided to step things up. I knew she wanted a Tiffany necklace so I splurged and bought her one.

When she received it, she was so overwhelmed and happy about it! This made me incredibly happy too! After a few moments of elation she said: “this is too much, you REALLY shouldn’t have.

Fast forward a year, the next Christmas she ended up purchasing me jewelry from Cartier and I merely gave her a card and some home-baked pastries. Now, it made ME feel like I wasn’t worthy!

Looking back, what I ended up doing is elevate the monetary expectation of the gift. I made the pitfall of equating value of her friendship with a price tag, rather than focusing on our shared experiences together.

Luckily, we made a rule and set a price limit for every year going forward. This common practice among close friends and loved ones can be a fun and effective way to ensure that your gift giving experience stays positive and fun for all involved.

Personalization is the Ultimate Gift Giving Hack

How do we get around the many problems associated with gift giving? After countless Christmases, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, and more, I established that there’s no true way to solve for what ultimately makes for a good gift, which is personalization.

I went on a personalization binge a few years ago and started to go a bit overboard with this. I would shop only for handcrafted items on Etsy. I would create handwritten cards and painstakingly use my poor calligraphy skills to customize the gift.

Did it work? Absolutely. Was it incredibly stressful for me? Yes.

Finally, I realized that going overboard had the same consequences as when I was giving out the really expensive gifts. Instead of investing money, I was investing too much on my time.

Finding the right balance is ultimately the key to good gift giving. It’s up to you to develop the best personal gift giving philosophy for you and your loved ones.