schizo-affective disorder

Sunny Summer Days are on Their Way

DSC_0262Something that is so healing for my mental trials is to go to parks and take pictures of birds with my dad.  Here in Edmonton in the summer we have so many wonderful places, and everything from Bald Eagles to Blue Jays to photograph.

Hello Dear Readers!  What a great picture I found to introduce my blog today.  I have such love for my dad, he is a wonderful guy.  We didn’t always get along that great, there are times when he was grumpy and even times when things he did seemed mean, but the fact is that he had been there and supported and loved me for many years.  I would encourage anyone who is struggling with family relationships or mental health issues or both to take the time to show your family they matter and that you care.  They are the people in this world we know better than any others and are most likely to be by our side when problems come up.

Aside from all that, I wanted to talk a bit today about a growing movement that I am a part of.  It is a thing called the “Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or WRAP.  It is a course, which is used here in Alberta to help people overcome mental health and addictions issues and I think it can be extremely beneficial to anyone who takes it.  There is something that goes along with the course that you can download to a smartphone called “The Wrap App” where you go through a lot of the things the course covers.  Basically you write down all the things you love to do, then you write a list of all the things that stress you out.  Then you go on to make more lists, and the ‘wrap app’ helps you organize these lists.  I recommend taking the course if you can because when you do, and when you make your lists, you become sensitive to things like what stresses you out, what are some indications that you are not as well as you normally are.  You can put down something like: when I get stressed, I tend to lay in bed all day and try and sleep away my problems.  So then, with the help of your wrap plan, you notice you are sleeping a lot and then you look on your list of things you like to do and maybe you go swimming or for a bike ride or watch a movie or play a video game.  It is a great way to get to know yourself, and there are more advanced topics such as who you want to be in charge when you get sick, who you don’t want to be in charge and what hospital you want to go to.  Not all of us will be well forever, medications have this annoying habit of stopping being effective, and other things can go on.  Having a plan puts you so much further ahead.

One thing I am very happy about is that I was recently approved to take the WRAP facilitator’s course, which means I take a 5 day intensive course and then I will be able to be a class leader, after an apprenticeship of sorts.  It really excites me that I can help others to overcome their problems and to use my own illness to help others.  I think that it will also be really cool not only with my current magazine writing about mental health, but also for my future desires to write more non-fiction books about overcoming bipolar and subjects like that.

When I write this blog, I try to think of my readers, and it worries me often that a lot of people who read my work don’t live in such an ideal place as I do (health insurance-wise).  Just to run down things a bit for you, I get a small disability pension that covers my rent and food and other bills, then I get health care provided free of charge, including dental and my medication is paid for.  I can’t even imagine what people go through in places where mental health treatment is hard to come by and medication and treatment (not to mention rent and food) are equally difficult to come by.  For a lot of years I was struggling with some of these issues before I was put on my disability benefits and I was always looking for a job.  I remember being so saddened because a neighbor and friend of mine was running a gas station and wanted me to start work for him and the same day my dad came by and took one look at me and said he was taking me to the hospital.  I wish there were easy answers.  When it comes down to money, I often like to tell people about a short book I once read that really helped me get a handle on my finances, it was called “The Richest Man in Babylon.”  This 100-or-so page book talks about enhancing your skills and setting a budget and putting away no less than 10% of your earnings, and it even gets into simple wisdom about where to invest your money when you have built up a surplus.  One of the things that bothers me as well though is that people who read this blog and people who can read the book are a relatively small, highly intelligent section of the population.  So I would encourage those who read this who have managed to deal with their problems to try and share their knowledge with other psychiatric survivors and help them find a small taste of freedom and self-respect.

Well, dear readers, that is about it for today.  I hope I have given some wisdom to help carry you through.  Of course the greatest wisdom really is that time heals all wounds.  I was near desperation, in a fog of depression and constantly wishing I had money or resources when I was younger and over time I learned a lot of coping strategies and also I had opportunities come to me to earn, learn and live that have put me in a good position to lead a happy life.  I wish all of you a happy life and encourage you to drop me a line any time.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Shameless Self Promotion Book Blog Day

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Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” in paperback at amazon.com by clicking this link

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I didn’t really want to allow this to turn into shameless self-promotion, but then I was thinking that there really are some people out there who could be helped by this book I have written.  It is a memoir, 200 pages and is available at amazon.com or for order at any Canadian Chapters, Coles or Indigo book store.  The book began when I was just 20 (I am 44 now.)  I basically wanted to sit down and teach myself to become a writer and I figured the best way I could do this would be to first write about myself, because people are more comfortable talking about themselves.  When I speak of this it makes me think of advice I got in dating from my older brother to let women talk about themselves no matter how disinterested you may be.  So anyhow, I started to write this book in short stories and it changed and morphed a lot over the years.  The first one to read the early drafts were my sister and my close friend Caroline.  After writing for a long time I had some copies printed up on an old copier and gave one of these to Caroline.  If I hadn’t done that, and if she hadn’t saved the papers for many years like she did, this book may not only not exist, I might not even be a writer.  One day years later, after I had long given up hope of being published, Caroline gave me the photocopied pages and I started all over again.  Another female friend a few years after that knew an editor and after having the book gone over at no small expense, it was ready to be published.  I had  a hard time finding a publisher so I self-published and slowly over even more time more and more people became interested in my story and I sold quite a few copies.

The point of the book though is that it tells my story of how I started out as a young overachiever and slowly started to descend into madness.  It tells of me being 14 and being sent to a psychiatric ward and how difficult those times were for me.  It tells of the years before I was finally hospitalized and how I went through so many depressions and difficult times that only seemed to be relieved when I was under the influence of alcohol.  But then, after some very horrid experiences in the mental hospital here, I finally came to an acceptance of my illness and as a result started to really get better.  One of the things I am very proud of is that this book has been read and reviewed by many people, in fact if you look at the paperback page (link provided) you will see that one of the people who reviewed it is a professional, well-known psychologist (Stephanie Sorrel) who gave it a perfect rating.

I feel this book really can help people with bipolar disorder and other conditions because it is a true life, personal experience, and though not perfect throughout, it can help those who suffer to see that they are not alone and that there is hope.  I have also sold a good number of books to mental health professionals.

Anyhow, I just wanted to allow people to have a look at what I do for a living and have the chance to participate in my efforts to educate people about illness, reduce stigma and promote wellness.  Anyone who has difficulty finding a book or can’t afford one, I will definitely consider giving a free copy to them, though possibly it might be a computer file that they can either print up or read on their computer.  Please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and let me know what you think.  And for those who have read the book, it would be great if you could review it on amazon.com for me.  Have a great day, I think I will be posting a book information blog like this once a week for a little while to see if it sparks online sales.  Best!

LG

Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” at amazon.com by clicking this link

We Are All A Part Of The Same World

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Well, I just got back from watching the movie “Trumbo” and I really enjoyed it.  I hate to sound like some numbskull but I don’t know the name of the main actor.  He was the guy from ‘Breaking Bad’ and was absolutely brilliant in the role.  The main thing that bothers me about it is that I know when movies are made they end up very far away from anything to do with what really happened.  I am really intrigued by this story though, it was about a writer named Dalton Trumbo who wrote screenplays and was blacklisted in the early cold war years and was stonewalled from working in Hollywood because he had been a member of the communist party.  There were a lot of really interesting scenes in the movie, I think there were some accuracies, one of them that surprised me was John Wayne’s role as an advocate for anti-communist policies.  I don’t really know why this fact bothers me, I always really kind of liked John Wayne, I have always thought of him as larger than life, from such movies as “Sands of Iwo Jima” and many man others.  It could have to do with the fact that I had an Uncle who was John Wayne to me, he was tall and tough and didn’t take any bullshit.  I had a falling out with this Uncle when I was a teen and it really kind of hurt.  I am glad though and very grateful that I was able to visit him on his deathbed and I think he felt some pride in what I had done then.  Not to mention that, the old son of a gun borrowed five bucks off me and passed away before I could collect it so he had the last laugh.

To touch on the writing aspect of things, once again I wanted to tell people out there that have any interest in writing that they really should shoot for their dreams.  A few years ago I wrote, had edited and published my first book and it seems like I have been in a whole new time loop since then.  It is like life has slowed down and all my days are so much more meaningful, all the non-writing work I do has a point to it.  As some may know, I have now written and self-published nine books and I just want to write more and more.  And now as I have been concentrating my learning and effort and reading and everything really on this goal, things are starting to fall into place for me.  I just finished reading a book about a young woman with schizo-affective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and it gave me some really good ideas.  I have now been in touch with a psychiatric hospital and they are interested now in having me come and give a talk at one of their professional development events in the New Year, which means I might not only get a nice speaking fee I could sell quite a few books.  Things like this are popping up all over the place and I am actually thinking I am going to be run off my feet next month.  Not to mention that, I have been doing a lot of writing for magazines and now I am having no problem getting through each month and even spoiling myself and some family members with nice things.

So I will try and nail it down for anyone who hasn’t started the process.  Do you like to write?  If yes, move to the next item on the flowchart.  Choice A is, do you have a special angle?  Are you disabled, are you a minority, do you have a career or a true story that people find interesting.  If yes, then move forward to the non-fiction part of the flowchart.  Now, the other question is, are you creative or artistic, do you like movies and novels rather than true crime or non-fiction books like memoirs?  Then you may want to be a poet or a novelist or both.  There are so many things to explore, I could write a massive flowchart.  The fact is, you simply have to set out what type of writing you think you would be good at.  Then the next step is something that should be almost mandatory, you should keep a journal.  What’s a journal some of you may ask?  Is it a diary?  Not necessarily.  A journal is more your thoughts, your moods, what you want to capture, what you want to express.  Keeping a journal is something that I feel just about everyone with a mental illness should do, it is an excellent type of self therapy.   It is also a great way to get started as a writer.  The next step, whether you choose fiction or non-fiction is that you should start to expose yourself to the very best writing.  I love to go to big box book stores and scoop up all the literary journals I can afford.  Actually, today instead of doing this I went to the main library in Edmonton and scooped up a few that were available for borrowing.  I have found that when I read top notch poetry, I soon get inspired to write my own, and when I read top notch short stories I can get inspired or motivated to start to write, and I honestly think I write better after reading these journals.  The next step, first being writing a journal and the second being to expose yourself to the best quality writing in the genre you want to write (literary journals, award winning books, etc.) is to actually start to write.  If you don’t have good keyboarding skills, I suggest you take a course or get a typing tutor program.  Nothing in my entire education has served me more than taking one 5 month course in typing 29 years ago.  Nothing.  If I weren’t able to type I would be unable to keep up with my workload, would have been unable to write nine books.  Essential.

So where do you start?  I started my first book as short stories.  I told true stories from my life, put them into short stories and then collected them and over the course of a lot of years and a lot of trial and error, it became a book.  I don’t want to get too deeply into the process of self-publishing, I don’t even know if I am glad that I self-published, it has been very expensive and difficult, but it has been a transitioning phase for me.  I hate to admit it, but I am really not that good of a writer.  My whole education in English is nothing more than a grade 12 academic English course.  I have read a lot of books, but with the guidance I could have gotten in a creative writing program I would have been much better off, I would have been able to go past so many hurdles that knocked me on my arse.  We all have a different journey though.  I could also say I had some good times learning to write and I still find it exciting that I have a long way to go.  I have now gotten to the point where I am financially stable through my writing and disability pension, perhaps if I had gone to a creative writing program I would be much more demanding and whining about not having enough money and using that as an excuse to not create quality work.

Well, I think I am going to leave things at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down for today’s poem.  Tune in tomorrow and I will try and talk a little about magazine writing, something I think a lot of writers can use to help them get through the lean years of their careers and also have a lot of fun.

 

An Ode To Chief Seattle

 

The web of fate is woven by nature for us all

And a rare and lucky few will hear the call

Pulling them away from home, family and friends

But that doesn’t mean for these few happiness ends

 

In fact these wanderers can find things meaningful and more

By seeking self knowledge upon a distant shore

And new wonders of adventure and love can be found

When those who judge and hate are not around

 

Myself I think back often to a rainy day far from here

With new found friends that seemed so wonderful and dear

There was beauty and wonder back then in everything

We weren’t ashamed to laugh and cry and sing

 

But in the end the final choice was made for me

Now my body is chained to this place but my soul is free

I walk now down time worn paths to fulfill my dreams

And it is as if I’m walking on clouds and moonbeams

 

There have been times when life has knocked me down

But something deep inside made me get up for another round

You lose every bout where you stay down and give in

You must fight every battle with all you have from deep within

 

And you must love with every muscle nerve and bone

Never let yourself end up beaten and alone

Hold fast close friends and family and build a true home

And soon you will reap the seeds of love you’ve sewn

 

Whether you’ve been nowhere or to Australia and Rome

You can still feel sad and hurt and all alone

But I’m telling you my dear friends and family if you feel this way at all

Do what’s right and pick up the phone and please give me a call

 

I can’t promise to have any answers that will fix your pain

But I might have a hope of making you smile somewhat again

In the web of fate we are different strands but all one net

One family, one race, one world and in each other’s debt

December 18, 2015

Leif Gregersen