relationships

Mental Health Mind Reading

Scroll down for today’s blog if you want to skip today’s photo and poem. the photo below is a black and white I took of a bedsheet after throwing it up in the air

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January One, 2017; 5:15am

  

Outside is still and dark, silence fills the land

On this day hope begins anew with New Year plans

We gathered in the cold to greet this year

With promises to set aside unhappiness, anger and fear

 

As the new day dawns, I promise to all of you

That there is not one thing that I promise to do

Other than put my friends and family always first

Through the lazy easy happy times and through the worst

 

I do know that many challenges will come to us

I just ask that you do your best and always trust

That our good times will greatly overwhelm the bad

And that you must call me any time you’re feeling sad

 

This day is also set aside to recall the past

None of our futures are singularly cast

Each of us together or apart can change our fate

If we just let go of all that bitterness and hate

 

Anger and anxiety consumes us from within

Worse than not receiving forgiveness for our sins

It hurts us as it drives those we love away

It can cause us to end up alone one day

 

Family is so very necessary for us all

Please don’t forget those great words, “divided we fall”

And please care for the elders in your community

One day we’ll be among them, you and me

 

A love still dwells in my heart for everyone

Not just at year’s end but with each setting sun

For all the friends and lovers who shared my hurts and joys

For those who taught me love, gentleness and poise

 

And I could not pass without saying something for

The teachers who opened so many doors

From my little niece who taught me how to care

To the instructors who wisdom followed me everywhere

 

I now vow to all of you to never stop

Looking past the little challenges, striving for the top

And also, I give a special word to those who wear a uniform and fight

I want to thank you all for risking your lives for what we know is right

 

Leif Gregersen

     Well, I haven’t got a lot to say regarding mental health. I have been experiencing anxiety lately and it has been working negatively on my stomach. As a result, I felt nausea last night and took a couple of gravol which helped the bad feeling and helped me sleep and even relax a bit. I got up and wrote a long letter to a friend I have been relying on way too much for our own good. She is this very kind and caring young woman and we have met for lunch a few times and I actually started to think we might go out, but I discovered she had no such intentions. She is so nice though that she has decided to keep me as a friend which I am very glad of. The problem that’s been happening lately is that she has been busy and I have been short of things to do since everything is shut down for the holidays and I live alone (yes, big mistake for someone with a mental illness!) I contacted her a couple of times and my anxiety started making up all these ideas. First I thought I was bothering her, then I wrote back hoping to make her less worried about me, then she sent me a quick text and I thought that she was ‘weirded’ out about me doing that. I keep stumbling over my words and it isn’t helping that my social skills and confidence are diminished from living alone. I still have a good friend in my life who I talk to a lot, but I would hate to lose this other person as a friend. I am kind of wondering if I need to up my dose of anti-anxiety medication despite the possible dependancy and side effects. I hope someone out there can identify with this and maybe take something out of it they can use. I wish there was a support group out there that was free and ongoing for neurotics like me.

Love, Friendships and the Healing Process

DSC00221This photo is from West Edmonton Mall, it is a statue commemorating oilfield workers.  It may seem a bit out of place in a blog about relationships, but one of my strongest and most rewarding relationships have been with people I have worked with.  I feel there is something very special about people pitching in together for a common goal that forms strong bonds.

Well, today since Valentine’s day is around the corner I thought I might share a little bit about relationships.

There really isn’t a more sensitive topic than this for people with mental health issues.  So many things are up in the air for people who suffer.  Quite often, mental health ‘survivors’ have a skewed image of what love is and so little experience that they end up obsessed with a person who doesn’t want their attention.  I know in my own case there used to be a couple of females who I felt that way about who didn’t feel that way back.  It was very difficult but I had to accept that they weren’t these great wonderful people worthy of my love, just ordinary, perhaps even negative people and move on.

Of course, obsession is another thing and I don’t want to get too far into the topic because I know so little about it, I am not any kind of a qualified person to give advice and it isn’t anywhere near the kind of caring/relationship I want to promote.  When I think of relationships, I think more of the ones I have carefully built up and cultivated over the years.

It is hard to say where to start.  Just about all of the relationships in our life are important.  These may be our relationships with our parents and family members, which are often greatly strained by mental illness, and could also include friendships and romantic relationships.  I think the thing to remember is that every person in your life can be extremely important.  For a long time I had trouble getting along with my Dad, but when I left the hospital last time after a lengthy and painful stay, he was the only one who was constantly there for me, taking me for walks, talking to me, being that all important listener.  As time went by, I was slowly able to rebuild most of my relationships with friends (but not all) and the rest of my family also came back ‘on my side.’

One of the first relationships that I had problems with last time I got sick (I was very ill, extremely delusional and hurt many people who didn’t understand what had happened to me or why) was with the person who is my best friend right now.  I really care for her, I don’t want to mention her name here, some may know her pseudonym ‘Debbie’ from my books.  Her and I years ago had a short stint as lovers and it was simply the most wonderful experience of my life.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my virginity until I was with someone I cared very deeply for and it was such an incredible experience.  Then when we broke up as lovers, we stayed friends.  She stopped contacting me last time I was ill, unable to deal with all my problems.

Over the course of time, I gathered up my courage, went to see Debbie and talked to her and kind of wormed my way back into her life.  Her and I would often go for soup at a favorite restaurant, and when I really wanted to talk to her I would write a paper letter to her, including in it a poem I had written just for her.  Eventually she got married, but we stayed friends and to this day we talk literally for at least an hour on the phone.  It feels so good to be connected to someone like that, even though it isn’t a romantic relationship.

So how does a person with a mental illness cultivate a friendship?  I have always felt that relationships with others are based on conversation, and all too often people with mental health issues don’t have a lot of things to talk about because they spend a lot of time at home, watching TV or isolating themselves.  If a person can get out and start doing more things, not only will they feel better and cope with stress better, they will meet people and have things to talk about to the new people they meet.  I am a firm believer in volunteering.  When I was alone and having problems, I used to volunteer when I was able to visit aging veterans in an extended care hospital.  I did this for some time and not only learned a lot, but I made friends with the Pastor there and spent so much quality time with these wonderful old men who had fought for our freedom.  Added to that, I found that a lot of young women really liked the idea that I was a giving and compassionate person and from what I recall my social life improved while I was doing that.

So, if you have something to talk about, how do you approach someone you want to be friends with?  This can be a difficult question and there are no easy answers. (I should note here that I am of the opinion that if you make friends with a member of the opposite sex and let things grow naturally from there, you might develop that all important romantic relationship many people seek.)  One thing I noticed I myself have been guilty of is forcing a relationship and doing things that only serve to ‘creep out’ the person like trying to anticipate what the person likes or wants and going overboard.  My roommate is a very good friend, but often he goes to far, turning on lights for me, turning off the tap for me when I go to get a glass.  It sometimes drives me nuts.  I think one of the best ways to make friends with others is to be a kind person without being intrusive and also having a good sense of humor is a big help.  These traits can be learned, humor often comes from observing others and using things they find funny.  Caring comes from always trying to see things from the side of other people.  You don’t have to go overboard, just try and notice something about the other person.  Did you get a new haircut, it looks good, how have you been doing lately, how are your kids?  Simple questions that aren’t too personal can start off a conversation and that is what you are aiming for.

Well, I can’t cover a lot of information in this short blog, I do hope that I have given people some food for thought.  Be caring, be kind, think of the other person, try to have a life so you are able to have good conversations.  If I can remember, I will try and revisit this subject in the next few days.  As always dear readers, feel free to contact me and I always like it when people leave comments.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Regarding the Problem of Being a Gentleman

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Let me start off by saying I don’t profess to understand women and I may never do so.  A lot of people out there, some of them writers, say that they know how to pick up women, how to skillfully introduce themselves, joke with them and insult them at the same time to bring out the right kind of neediness.  I don’t support these practices at all.  My belief is that there is just one way to find a life partner.  You start by being a member of a community, perhaps a number of communities.  I met a lot of my most important friends growing up in St.Albert and being a part of school and cadets.  I think it is very hard to find a partner among people you don’t know.  Some people may be bold enough to pick up a member of the opposite sex, go to bed with them the same night and decide from there if they want to continue on with them, but I have to get to know someone.

When I was quite a bit younger, I think some people may have said I was a bit of a hound, always sniffing at the rear end of any woman even remotely attractive.  In a way I was like this, but I never slept with any of the young women I would meet and add to my ‘little black book’ (if anyone remembers what one of those are since we all now have cell phones).  I would go for coffee with them, chat with them on the phone, sometimes even meet up with or lend books to.  It was kind of a negative way to go about things because there was no real basis for a relationship.  Then, when I was 20 I started going to adult high school and one day while out having a cigarette, I met a very pretty young woman and we talked for a long time.  I learned she was a born-again Christian, something that was important to me at the time and that she cared deeply for her family and those around her.  She had a boyfriend but that didn’t stop us from becoming good friends.  That was 23 years ago and I still talk to this young woman to this day.

More recently, I had a female friend who was very attractive, but always seemed to be getting into the wrong kinds of relationships.  She was struggling with addictions but had enough of a head on her shoulders to be a top rated chef/cook and to get a degree in English from a local University.  A great catch for just about any man but constantly getting the wrong ones.  I think a lot of it had to do with the adult children of alcoholics syndrome.  I had met her mom who was a lawyer but not her Dad and my Dad had known her grandfather.  I don’t know where the alcoholic was in their family, but from my reading of the subject (I am an adult child of an alcoholic) this seemed to be the case.  One of the things about a family that has an alcoholic in them is that there is a set of rules that the addiction brings about, one of them being the rule of silence–many people in alcoholic families will live somewhere for 20 years or more and never talk to their neighbors, they have a secret and they don’t want to show it.  There are many other rules of course, but the thing is that when you are an adult child of an alcoholic, or this syndrome is passed down to you by a more distant family member, when you go out looking for a relationship you seek out people who ‘know the rules’.  I wish I could have helped this girl more, I think to an extent I may have been happy to be in a relationship with her myself, but it was not meant to be.

I can recall a few people, including the young woman mentioned in the previous paragraph wanted to know how to find a proper partner.  Looking for someone who ‘knows the rules’ could be misinterpreted as a woman looking for a bad boy.  Many women don’t necessarily look for the bad guy, they may just be looking for someone who understands the rough times they have been through.  Regardless, this young woman and others have asked me how to find a good life partner.  I think the best way to go about this is to find a community to be a part of.  It can be a church community, in fact it often is a church community where some of the healthiest relationships begin because these relationships often have the support of a lot of friends and family members and a good moral foundation to build a good relationship on, but I don’t think that by going to a building once a week you win any special favor from God.  I do love God a great deal, and I have to admit that as soon as I finish this blog today I am going to mass, but people can be healthy and happy no matter what they do with their Sunday.  Some people can join a sports team, some people can find someone they work with and those who don’t participate in things can volunteer and meet some wonderful, giving and caring people.  There is also people you meet at bars or pubs, but I don’t think these are the healthiest of relationships–just my opinion from trying it myself.

The next step after meeting someone is to make them your friend.  If time passes and you can make them your best friend and let things grow naturally from there (which they will if they were meant to be).  I remember when I was younger I knew this was the way I would find my perfect partner, and though in the end my relationship with the girl I went to school with mentioned above wasn’t meant to be a partner/spouse relationship, I have something that means a lot to me and gives me much joy and fulfillment–I have a friend for life.  To put it in terms that younger people may want to understand, if you go out and just try to get lucky at a bar and do pick someone up, maybe do it a few times, you will have a quick release of emotion (and exchange of bodily fluids) but not only will it not be very fulfilling, you run the risk of becoming addicted to cheap thrills and one day you won’t be so much of a stud and you will find a great sense of loneliness in you from never having established an adult and caring relationship.  This is not a hard and fast rule of course, and by no means am I any kind of clinician.  I just am relating what I have seen in my 28 years or so of good and bad relationships.  As always, I am here to talk, if anyone had any further questions feel free to email, my address is still:  viking3082000@yahoo.com

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Relationships For the Mentally Ill

DSCF3413This is a picture of me with a young Air Cadet Glider Pilot taken at a local small airport

 

Today’s Blog:

Some time ago, very soon after I was first diagnosed, I found out that a close friend of my brother’s had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  He had been on Lithium and didn’t like it at all, which was not hard to understand since a few short years later I was on Lithium and had similar problems.  My brother’s friend said that he slowly tapered down on his medication (which I very strongly do not recommend) and then established himself a group of friends that he could call and talk to and keep himself more on an even keel.  He had done well for himself, and likely had only a mild or even a mis-diagnosed form of Bipolar, but how does a person go from being house-bound due to problems handling stress, or something even more common among those of us who suffer, have simply lost a great deal of their friends because the friends couldn’t cope with our mental diversions.

This is a very difficult question, and I want to stress here that I am only able to tell what I have experienced, and that I have no clinical training other than one University course in Psychology and two more from high school, plus of course my years of dealing with the illness.  What I have done in the past when I felt alone was to try and establish myself with a community.  This can be something simple like a volunteer job, your community can include just your boss and the people you directly work with.  I am so lucky to work in a supportive and mutually strong workplace where making each other get through the day is rewarded, not simply trying to outwork someone so they are no longer competition for you.  A fair number of years back though, all I had for a ‘community’ was the three people I shared a house with and my Dad.  For a while this was the perfect thing, I would sleep, get up and watch some TV with my roommate George, who liked to watch four kinds of Star Trek every day and we would casually talk about how we were coping, what our dreams were like and then I would go out for a walk with my Dad in the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and I would get just a little fresh air and exercise and slowly I was progressing towards more of a ‘life’ for want of a better term.

So, to get myself to the next level, I found out that city swim passes were free for people who were on disability, and I got myself a bus pass and would get up each day to ride the bus to the pool.  I would meet a man I know only as John each morning at the bus stop, and him and I still meet in the neighborhood now and then, he is a very fascinating guy and a fan of my poetry now, and then I would head over to the pool.  At first I wouldn’t say so much I was nervous, but I didn’t know really how to make friends or talk to people, I had lost a lot of ‘life skills’ while I was in the hospital and also afterwards not being around new people or even simply ‘normal’ people for some time.  I remember going into the steam room and sitting alone and people would talk about different things and slowly I started to feel very at home sitting in the hot tub and the sauna and steam room and doing a few laps in the pool.  After a few weeks, or perhaps even months of saying hello to the women who ran the front desk I ventured a little further and started to chat with them and once more found people who were new fans of my writing and this was where I sold some of my first books while they were still in ring binders with hole punched paper inside.  Day by day, I started talking to the people at the pool and met some really amazing people.  I met two older people there who had come from Denmark around the time my Dad did and became close enough to them to be invited for coffee at their houses and at McDonald’s after we went for our swim.   I also met a man who was a coin dealer on the weekends and owner of a steel plant during the week.  He was very wealthy but put on no airs and I would often go and see him for a very fair deal on coins that I used to collect.  I met a lot of people, and one of them was a very attractive young life guard who helped me a lot with my swimming and my health in general as she was attending pre-med in school and wanted to become a chiropractor.  I can’t even remember her name but I remember her pretty smile and endless kindness to me.  Establish yourself, allow yourself to get comfortable, push your limits a bit and make friends.  Not all that complicated, but not always easy.

Another topic I think is very relevant to address in this day’s blog is when you lose friends because of your illness.  I had one friend that I used to talk to every day, often drive home and even worked with at the same restaurant while we were in grade 12 in my home town of St.Albert.  He was a very, shall we say–‘solid’ person, meaning he followed the rules passed down to him from his mother and stepfather and worked very hard and did very well for himself.  I was in a terrible state last time I talked to him, my mind was racing and I just couldn’t go five minutes without trying to phone someone.  I ended up calling him a few times and his wife would answer and she was very nice about talking to me but when he found out about it he was upset.  Add to that the fact that I was falling apart and he didn’t understand what I was going through and I lost one of the best friends I knew, certainly knew at the time.  This has happened a lot, and in some ways I am numb to these things happening, but I still think about them a lot and they still hurt in a repressed sort of way.  As far as trying to rekindle old friendships I don’t have any easy answers.  One thing that can be done is to wait until you are sure you are in a positive frame of mind and if you really want to talk to the person again, do two things that I have found very helpful:  write a brief letter explaining not only that you were having struggles but also that you have come back from that state and are now being treated properly and will likely not have problems like that again.  This isn’t any hard and fast thing, but I have saved a very important friendship (with my ex-gf Caroline) that otherwise would have just been lost.  The next step is to prepare to talk to the person directly which can be very difficult, but easier if you sit down and write out a script.  You plan out and write out what you want to say, what the person could conceivably say to you, allowing for permutations and then write out your response.  A little preparation can go a long way.  If you tune in tomorrow, I will try and talk a little about romantic relationships in the life of a person suffering from a mental illness, provided everyone understands that I can only speak of my own limited experience.  In some ways I feel I am very lucky because in my life I have only had one serious romantic relationship and I have stayed good friends with this person through the years, I even am still her friend now that she is married to someone else.  So, Dear Readers, have a wonderful day and please take a look at some of the other parts of this website while you are here, I have some videos, some links to eBooks and paperbacks for sale and even samples of some of my best writing.  Take care and keep smiling!

DSCF1014My good friend Walter Warren Milley, retired soldier, retired postie and a very nice man