suicide

Every Little Victory In Our Lives Leads to a Place of Happiness

Hello Dear readers. I have been breaking with convention a bit and posting things of a slightly different nature as you may know. There have been a couple of things going on, one of them is that I have been experiencing a fair bit of stress lately. The funny thing is that the stress seems to stay in my blankets. Namely, I feel stressed about facing the world but if I can get up and get dressed I stand a much better chance of facing my problems and at the very least leaving the house to try and do them. Last night was kind of a special night for me because I love to participate in 5-minute live story readings for cash prizes, and the theme for the story was ‘disability’. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect theme, I loved the idea of talking about my illness and where it took me. The main problem was that I had to make it as though I were telling a story, even though my story was pretty much completely non-fiction. I won’t go too much further into it, I thought I would try and post a relevant photo first and then paste in the text of the story I wrote in case any of my readers would like it. Once again I strongly encourage any regular readers to write me with any questions, I can even keep the responses anonymous, and I have no problem even doing some heavy research to answer any questions you have. I think the biggest thing I can say is that once you find a good medication and have a stable life, you can then go into things like a life-skills group where they teach you to better communicate with others, then perhaps once done this successfully, a person who has been in a hospital for a long stay for psychiatric reasons can look into part-time education (and I often recommend distance learning, especially if you are a little older), bettering themselves, keeping their lives low-stress, and then when you are ready move to the next step of finding normal employment. I think this is a time when volunteering is really good because a lot of employers like the idea that you will work for nothing (just kidding) and many other advantages like filling in any large gaps of time in your resume. So, here goes, picture below and then at the bottom of today’s message I will paste in my winning story. Take care everyone!

 

Story Slam Winning Story

So much of my life I wanted to be a hero. Fight for your country, catch a criminal, save a life. People who did these things and looked good doing them were heroes or so I thought.

 

Getting older changed the game. Drink the most beer, pick up the best-looking girl, make the most money. Then, one day as I was near to finishing school it happened.

 

I had heard of phthalidomide before but had never seen a victim of it. A young, healthy man, born without arms, changed me forever. He spoke to our school for an hour, and as he went, he played the saxophone, talked about going to College, and what it was like for people to stare at him everywhere he went.

 

This young man was a true hero. Someone who spread hope. I could hardly even imagine what he had been through. I told my mom that I felt bad that this unfortunate, birth-defected person had done so much while I had done nothing despite that there was nothing wrong with me.

 

Soon after, I dove into a self-improvement kick. I quit drinking, smoking, started working out and retreated into my schoolwork every free moment I had. Somewhere in that process something went desperately wrong. As the pressure built, I kept being harder on myself. I began to slip away from reality.

 

I have no idea what set me off. All I know is that I started to have thoughts and ideas that no rational person would. I gave things away, fell into a deep, dark depression. My mind, my senses were filled with confusion. I was slowly going insane and had no clue what to do about it.

 

One day a friend came to pick me up and I just wasn’t myself. I was nothing like myself in any way. My friend had the presence of mind to take me to a hospital and soon I was given a powerful injection and confined to a seclusion room.

 

I just couldn’t seem to understand that despite that this had never happened before, it would happen again, and would never go away. When they released me, I threw out my pills, and just days after, I picked a fight at school and was taken by police back to that horrible place and was kicked out of school.

 

It took years after that for me to find myself. I ran from my illness. Vancouver, California. Trouble was, I brought my brain with me. Each day was a struggle to keep sane. After another relapse, I finally returned to Edmonton, accepted my diagnosis and took my medication.

 

So much happened over those years. A thousand lifetimes lived and lost in dreaming or reading or trying to find some kind of work I could handle. I was in no condition to deal with stress, sleeping 12 hours a day because of medications. I was dirt poor and there seemed no hope, no future. When I was around 25, after a harsh rejection from a young woman I once cared about, I took a near lethal overdose.

 

I laid in bed for days, and while I was under my dad came by and put twenty dollars under my door. That money was enough to get me a cab to the hospital where I spent five more days in intensive care. I wasn’t supposed to have recovered, but miracles happen, and they happen for a reason.

I left the hospital after seeing how much I hurt my family and friends with a new determination. Life from then on wasn’t perfect, but each moment, each sunrise and sunset was precious. They were borrowed moments, time I would never have had if no one had cared about me.

I still became severely ill. Once while in psychosis, I took a tour of the Legislature Grounds and was so abusive and obnoxious that I was escorted off the grounds. It’s a fact that people with mental illnesses are more often victims of violence than perpetrators of it. The misguided attitude that you can do anything, the poor choices you make are the cause. I needed to be in a hospital, and things were so serious this time I wasn’t let out for six whole months.

Some of you may know the rest of the story. A long incarceration, a longer recovery. A new job spreading the word about stigma and mental illness. Other work teaching Wellness, Recovery, and Creative Writing to people who suffer. The years slid past and here I am. How far have I come? From being kicked out of the Legislature to being given a special recognition by Canadians For a Civil Society to Participate in Human Rights Day in the same Legislature I was kicked out of eighteen years ago. Am I a hero? I couldn’t tell you, but in my long journey of growth and recovery I think I may have come to a point where I have done more good than harm. Thank you.

Mental Health: Is Holding On and Waiting Enough?

When have you done too much waiting for your mental health to get better?  When is the time to throw in the towel and stop holding on?  I hope you never give in or give up.

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        I am so fascinated by these little creatures in so many ways.  Took this on the front steps of my sister’s house in Toronto this past summer.

Please scroll past today’s poem for a very important blog post

Younger Days

 

 I was feeling trapped by loneliness and pain

I never thought life would get any good again

As a young man, I was scared of growing old

I didn’t like the stories about old age my elders told

 

And now I’ve made it all the way to middle age

Trying to make my way with words upon a page

And I have to tell you things really aren’t that bad

I have all the toys and friends to keep me from being sad

 

In fact, when I look back now upon my youth

I kind of wish someone had told me the honest truth

That there may be some pretty hard times when you are young

But if you dig in and hold on life can get so very fun

 

When I think of all the joy my little niece has given me

I can’t deny her arrival set my soul free

I love that little girl more than anything

I can’t describe the joy a young child can bring

 

When she was growing up I was born all over again

And I didn’t ever have to lie, be fake, or pretend

I could just be the Uncle who loved her so

I hope that these are things you already know

 

Now I have so many friends I truly love

True friendships are a gift from up above

So stand fast and don’t worry about being a child

I promise you that life will get so wonderful and wild

 

 

Leif Gregersen

October 15, 2016

   Have you ever sat and watched a spider spin their web?  It is a mind-numbingly tedious process.  But in order to eat and to survive, they must do it.  Spiders have to start at one side of where they want their trap to be, then climb back and forth, back and forth, spinning their tiny web enough times for the most amazing geometric structure, then spin the inner circles that connect those lines.  If someone comes along and wipes out their work, they start right over at the beginning.  I hope that this is the way you see overcoming your mental illness or other difficulties in your life.  Never, never, never, never give up.

     I don’t know how much I can handle sharing with you, my dear readers, but at a time I was very messed up and didn’t understand what was happening.  It amazes me that I got through all of that and now am a successful writer with many friends, a past of many wonderful trips and experiences and a genuinely happy life.  Twenty-six years ago I was a far ways from it and maybe if I can share a little of my story with you it might help you to help yourself or your loved ones from going through the same thing.  First and foremost, I had no understanding of mental illness, and it crept up on me.  The illness manifested itself while I was in school and I did a lot of irrational things that got me in trouble.  I was taken to a secure ward in a mental hospital which was absolutely the worst experience of my life.  It felt as though my brains were scrambled, but still there were a lot of people at the hospital who really were trying hard to help me.  The thing was, because no one I knew had ever talked about mental illness, my opinion was that if I told these people about the thoughts and problems I was having they would simply lock me up longer.  The miracle of it was that in short order medications were found that had me back in excellent shape in a surprisingly short time.

Of course, I didn’t continue to take treatment.  Over the years, I was in and out of hospitals a lot, and I came to a point where I just wanted the pain to end.  I took a serious overdose of acetaminophen and came very near to ending my life.  When I saw the pain and difficulties I caused my family, I decided I would never attempt suicide again.  I had to have some kind of hope in my life though.  It was excruciatingly difficult, but I kept trying to find a doctor and medications that worked for me and I forced myself to get a job and at least try and make my own way in the world.  I found a lot of help going to church and some 12-step meetings, though for years it almost felt like my whole life was just about going through the motions.

One of the things I needed to do perhaps the most was to get my life on a schedule, even if I was occasionally sleeping all day or staying up all night.  My method of doing this was to start going to the swimming pool.  By the grace of God, the city of Edmonton started a plan where people who were disabled or impoverished could get a free pass to use city facilities.  It was very hard at first, but I forced myself to go and forced myself to fit into the groups that went there at the same time as me and before I knew it, I had friends that went there and worked there and lifeguards were helping me train and it was fantastic overall.  This exertion made me sleep better, made me feel better, and improved my life in so many ways.  In a lot of ways I thought I would never participate in sports again after knee injuries as a youth, but now I was getting very fit and it was helping nearly every part of my life.

Being in shape led me to be able to work more, and eventually just by the sheer fact that I got along with people and was helpful, I was given a job working security on movie sets in Edmonton.  This led to other work as a stagehand for concerts and life just kept on improving.  As time went past, I started to use my free time to work on my writing, and basically just took things one step at a time until I had built a body of work that I was proud of.  Meanwhile, my niece was born and my purpose in life soon became all about spending time with her and trying to be the best Uncle I could be.  None of this would have ever happened if when I was younger I decided life sucked now and would suck forever and stopped trying.  If you have a goal or a dream, sit down and make a plan.  Keep a success journal to record yourself moving towards that goal each and every day.  It can be something as simple as taking a walk to a community college and looking at courses that you could take.  It could be as simple as just taking a walk.  But please, never, never, never, never, never give up!  Life can take you so many amazing places and I honestly believe that our Creator will never give you more than you can handle.  Joy and happiness to all of you!

Leif Gregersen

Mental Health and Life Management With a Poem To Entice You

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                This is a photo I took with a special close-up lens.  Photography can be so rewarding and fun

Today’s Poem:

All We Really Have

 

Take a moment now and stop and stare

At the green glow of summer everywhere

White whispy clouds and deep blue sky

Don’t stay inside where you will surely die

Venture out under the sunshine all you dare

 

Summer may be coming near it’s end

And it does become harder to pretend

We won’t miss the sun again this year

 

Soon frozen winter hands will encroach

All the outdoor spaces and places we love the most

Are all our happy, carefree days simply done?

 

It saddens my heart, my mind, my soul

That we must now make toil our only goal

Until once more the outdoors are warm and sublime

 

Through the colder months of wind and snow

We get older as the young children grow

Pausing only to mark the birth of Christ

 

And then in Springtime as the flowers bloom

We fast and try to comprehend the doom

Of the only truly loving one who never sinned

 

Then once more our thoughts turn to different things

Such as the pain and joy a family brings

But not a man or woman regrets it for a moment

 

Because no matter how much I will lament with this pen

The Summer sun will be here again

To turn our sad faces to smiling happy bursts of light

 

But yes even then we will soon forget

That for each hour of joy we owe a debt

Of an hour of ice wind and snow

 

And when those times come upon the land

I think our Lord God understands

We need to sleep in curled up and warm now and then

 

And to cuddle close as we watch TV into the night

As lonely others pass and envy our light

That comes not from TV or light bulbs at all

 

I just ask that you heed me a little and hold close to your heart

As we wait for this precious summer to depart

Those who have shared your life with you from the start

And those who pierced you with cupid’s dart

For all in all love is all we really have

 

Today’s Blog:

Good day my fine readers and friends!  I have to say though the poem I wrote has a touch of sadness to it, I had one of the best days ever today.  My sister is in town with her husband and my niece and she threw a party for her old friends and our family and I had an amazing time.  It was one of the best parties I have gone to for many reasons.  One of them was that my sister’s friend Steve was there and he was a good friend of my sister’s when I was just a 12 year-old kid and as I sat listening to my sister and him talk it reminded me of the many things that I am so grateful for with regards to my sister, that she really works very hard to help people and has huge wellsprings of compassion in her heart, mind, and soul.  For a long time I just saw her as kind of an angry person, but when she was with her friends I guess her guard was let down and she was able to talk about some of the humanitarian efforts she makes like when she taught literacy in a penitentiary and how she now teaches mentally challenged students.  I had a fun time with my niece too, she is an amazing girl and we laughed ourselves sick at the ‘Instagram’ face-swapping app she used to take pictures of all of us.

All that aside, I have still been trying to keep up with my work.  I don’t know how many people out there have read my books, I have had a friend who has given me the incredibly kind offer of helping to edit and re-work the book “Inching Back To Sane” which has some good content but is in dire need of better organization and maybe a few other things.  I am also working on a manuscript of short stories that the well-known Canadian author Richard Van Camp is going through for me right now.  I feel so blessed that I have been able to win three cash prize contests and make the short list of a fourth.  September will actually be the first time a story of mine has been chosen for regular publication in “The Canadian Tales of the Heart Short Story Contest”  (in case you want to look it up in September, the title of the short story is “Sandra: A Love Story.”

All in all, I have been finding in the past few years that my forties are the best years of my life.  I have gotten over all that boyhood shyness, I don’t feel any more like I am some second class person in older company, I have developed skills that help me to thrive and I have not only overcome addictions but I have learned many ways to manage the money that my addictions were costing me.  This may seem funny, but in a large way this relates to suicide and how sad it is.  If young people who felt their life wasn’t going to get any better and that killing themselves was their only option, I have to say that if you stick to your guns, keep working hard, never give up on yourself and more, there truly is a much better life ahead.  Of course this also makes me think of the homeless people and how hard it must be to have nowhere to feel safe and to sleep through the night.  Even if they get a job (which is extremely difficult if you are dirty and ragged) it seems like such an impossible task to save the money required for a room or apartment on top of all the other needs a person must have.  What breaks my heart even worse is when you see people using needles and you just know that they are extremely addicted and likely infected with HIV or Hepatitis.  I don’t know what I can do, I do little tiny, minuscule things like giving people a few bucks, buying a person the odd sandwich, but there is so much need out there for these people to be helped.  All I really have is words.  They say the pen in mightier than the sword, maybe if I can truly master this craft of writing I could somehow change the way people look at the homeless and truly do something significant.  Anyhow, I think I am going to attach another photo below, I hope you have enjoyed your blog experience for August 5th!

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This is a building called “The Admiralty Arch” which leads a person from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.  I am so happy that I took this vacation, I am tempted to go there again already.

Riding On A High, Living My Dreams

DSCF5660             A NEW HOUSE BEING BUILT NEXT DOOR, TAKEN WITH MY NEW CAMERA

MY DAILY ADVENTURE:

Well, I attended a small film festival showcasing Aboriginal works last night and it was literally amazing.  The first short film was called ‘Psychosis’ and showed a young woman going insane in the backdrop of both a school and in nature.  I have to say that I don’t watch horror films because normally they don’t phase me, but the images and symbolism of this one freaked me out.  At one point there was a scene where the young woman was sitting beside a grave and they used special effects to make a man that was with her disappear and reappear, it really hit home.  What kind of amazed me was that in these films there was a recurring theme of not only residential schools, but of suicide.  For those who aren’t from Canada, we have a very sore spot in our history where native children were taken from their families and put into residential schools and the whole of the aboriginal nations are still healing from it.

The other film that really stood out was one made in a place called Fort Smith called Mohawk Midnight Runners.  The person who wrote the short story that inspired this film is my good friend Richard Van Camp who has edited and helped with just about everything I have written.  This film was actually about streaking in one way, and in another about depression and suicide.  As the story went, a guy named Paul (sorry I forgot his last name) was a lawyer in this small town and when he had a few drinks he would head down the road jogging naked.  In the film, his friends start a running club where they go out at midnight and run for various causes.  The quality of the filming was superb, very professional and they had rights to use the song “Come On Eileen” which I loved and it was very moving and funny.  What was even more moving was that my friend Richard got up after the film and talked about his friend and about the pain that suicide causes, tears forming in his eyes.  It was a very strong message, a very emotional experience.

What struck home for me was that some years back I had stopped taking my anti-depressant (prozac) and I made a very serious attempt to kill myself.  It hurt my family so much that I decided that was a horrible thing to do.  Later in life, while writing “Through The Withering Storm” my editor commented on a situation where a friend of mine had committed suicide when I was 17 and she said that “suicide is the ultimate form of revenge”.  I don’t think this was true in the case of Richard’s friend, but it may have been in my friend’s death.  I haven’t pieced together everything, but it seemed that my friend (Brad Latta RIP) had lost a girlfriend to a close friend and had been kicked out of his mom’s house and just saw no way out.  I don’t think he intended to hurt so many people and I also have a strong suspicion he had Bipolar Disorder, but it was a terrible tragedy.

Well, I hope I haven’t made anyone feel down with all this dark talk.  Really life is going very well for me.  Yesterday I went to a meeting regarding our local poetry festival (anyone in the Edmonton area contact me for details.. viking3082000@yahoo.com) and on Friday I am going to be paid to participate in a panel discussion about mental health awareness.  I am feeling truly happy and truly validated.  I guess I want to say to anyone out there that reads this blog who suffers from mental health issues that there really is hope, there really is healing.  I also am starting to edit a Young Adult Novel I recently completed the first draft of and all is right with the world through my eyes.

DSCF5354                      MY BEAUTIFUL HAWAII, BIG ISLAND, TWO STEP BEACH

Short Story Blog and Prison Poem

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Well, here it is Saturday and I fear I would most like to be shopping. There is a flea market where I can pick up comics by the ton and I have been enjoying reading the comics and then giving them to young kids around the neighbourhood and sometimes also giving them out when I do book signings. The other day I went to a party for the new library writers in residence and my neighbour and friend Gary was asked to read portions of his new book about his prison volunteer efforts. Gary is really an amazing guy, he not only works for numerous charities, he is a musician and has a PhD in English. I met Gary in the neighbourhood and then found out we are both poets and so we car pool to one of my favourite Edmonton events, “The Stroll of Poets” meetings which take place Mondays.

Another kind of cool thing about Gary is that he is raising his Grandkids. His granddaughter is this feisty little 7 year-old who is never afraid to speak her mind, she is really a neat kid. Spending time with children really makes me wish that I could have raised a child or two of my own. But all that aside, things are going well. I have this very strong urge though to save up and buy a brand new Nikon Camera on boxing day. There is one that would just take amazing pictures, has a 24.3 MP sensor and comes with two lenses. The main problem is that I most want a good camera for when I go on vacation, but if I buy this camera I won’t be able to afford to go on vacation.

As for my next trip, I am not sure if I want to go to Hawaii again. It is such a beautiful place, and one of the things I really like about it is that it is part of the US. Which means you have all kinds of standards for road quality, clean water, safety in emergencies, and on and on. A lot of friends have been telling me about Costa Rica which sounds pretty good, but I will have to do more research before I commit to it.

This week I wrote two short stories, which I am submitting to literary journals for publication. Before sending them out I had two writer friends look them over and they seemed to like them, but I wonder if they have as much ‘literary’ content that these publications look for. At the very least I will be compiling these stories and others into another collection, and possibly trying to submit them to be published. Right now I am waiting to hear from a publisher on the West Coast of BC about a young adult novel I wrote which I think has promise, but as is often said, any writing is never really finished, it is more just abandoned.

Well, I don’t want to disappoint, so I have written another poem for you my good readers, you can find it just below the photo I am posting under this entry. Enjoy, and please leave your feedback!

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Down Through The Years

 

I used to often feel as though I were trapped inside

My dark and quiet room in which I sometimes hide

It seemed so easy to zone out and cover up my head

When I felt bad and needed my soft and yielding bed

Though I am not a young man I am always in bed alone

I was never able to have a family, have my own home

Through the years I have made some amazing friends

My inner thoughts sometimes fear they all just pretend

To see me as equal, a person who is whole

Not this shell I sometimes feel I am, without a soul

I am not like most, I have a bad affliction

Though not by choice like an addiction

It’s been called an illness, some say I’m just crazy

Some say I’m faking, some say I’m just lazy

My diagnosis gets me treatment and a pension

But still I wait and hope for some new invention

That will whisk this disease right out of me

So I can break these chains, one day be free

Before I was on my pills I did things I can’t forget

Hurt lovers, classmates, increased my family’s debt

How these people were kind enough not to put me away

I am more grateful than I could ever say

Things changed for me, after years I learned to adapt and grow

Each day one small seed of recovery I would sow

My dear old Dad also cared an awful lot

Even though many times we yelled and fought

And then one day I learned a friend had saved some writing

And another close friend inspired me to keep trying, fighting

Not long after that I had a book to show for all my pain

And I slowly started to become whole again

The stories in the book told of what I went through inside

It filled me with new hope, my loved ones with pride

And now when I meet someone who has been wronged

I let them know there is a way to feel as though they belong

Just like me they can take up the pen

Tell their deepest fears, feel young again

Life will not ever be perfect, I still need help and medicine

But I will never give up on myself again

You see, I did that once, I tried to end my life

I put my loved ones through so much pain and strife

I will never again look for a solution in suicide

I now have my work to let out what I feel inside

Bit by bit when you write your life down

You see new miracles all around

The joy of a warm spring day, the smell of flowers

The renewing aspect of travelling’s powers

And then of course is my wonderful niece I will see soon

More beautiful than a warm happy day in june

Since those past dark days I have gone so far

Expressed so much, I have healed my scar

And now I tell you dear reader with these lines

No matter how bad it gets there will be happy times

Think not on all you do not have or will never do

And hug someone who cares for you

Leif Gregersen

December 13, 2014