wellness

Recovery Through Persistence and Fun

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Yes, my friends, worst fears have been realized!  I have become a comic book collecting nerd again and I’ve never been happier!  This shot was from a collector convention I recently attended

Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Who You Are

Do you think that you could come and crawl
Inside of me for just a moment

Look out through my own eyes
To see yourself for the very first time

Looking who you really are
With the eyes of another

It makes me think that you would understand
That so many things can change

Maybe it would inspire you
To lose a little weight

Remember more often to wash your hair
Wipe that little residue from the corner of your mouth

And stop
And stop

Insulting who I really am
Every chance you get

But I suppose that’s all too much to hope for
I can’t really ask you to change so much

But I was hoping if you did that you would see
Despite those things I love you all the same

Leif Gregersen
March 25, 2016

 

Hello Dear Readers!  This has been a great week for me.  As some may know, I am now the editor of two online magazines dealing with mental health (SZ and Anchor) and it is incredibly rewarding not only to work in the field I have chosen as a career, but also to work in something that I strongly believe in, which is mental health support and awareness.

I wish I could give my readers some message of how I got to the position where I am, but I think a lot of what I want to say has been said before.  Instrumental in me doing as well as I am is simply my housing arrangements.  I have been living in supportive housing for some time and with some supervision and help managing my life I have been able to live relatively stress free and been able to pursue some of these goals such as writing.

One of the things my new boss at the magazine, an incredible man named Bill MacPhee who has overcome schizophrenia talks about is that when you have an illness you have to be persistent.  I totally agree with this, it is so important to keep trying to succeed at whatever you want to do.  Some people with mental illnesses have lowered abilities and hence lowered goals, but the rule still applies.

It was funny, but a huge turning point in my writing career came from the strangest source.  I was at the house in the project I live in where we prepare our meals and there was this man named Bobby there.  Bobby always seemed to be angry and people had told me he didn’t like living there.  But one day I happened to find out that he had gone to journalism school and I asked him how he got magazines to run his writing.  In a short and simple conversation, Bobby kindly explained how to contact a magazine editor with a query and get an assignment.  Within the next few years I had been published all over North America and had made a fair bit of spending money thanks to simply not treating Bobby at face value.

There are many things to be learned by giving people respect and being interested in the things they do.  I feel that just about everyone has something to teach us, something to give us, and of course, being social creatures, just about everyone has the potential to be a friend.

So anyhow, I think I was talking about persistence.  Something I try to do is to write something each and every day.  Not everyone is destined to be a writer, but especially in the case of people living with a mental illness, it can be so important to keep a journal, a record of your thoughts and whatever you want to write down.  This is something for you, you never need to show it to anyone.  My mom used to keep one and she started out by recording how her mood was for that day and then talked (to herself in writing) about the things that were working in her mental health journey and such.  It can be very healing, and if you do ever decide to write something, the skills you will learn expressing yourself in your journal will carry through.

Living with a mental illness can be extremely difficult.  There are times when I really feel my medication isn’t working.  It is so important to have someone to talk to in these times.  This is why another thing I like to stress for a person with a mental illness is that they have strong friendships.  It might even be a good idea for that friend to be a fellow sufferer (or psychiatric ‘survivor’ as some say).  It may not always be best to dump all of your difficulties on this person, but if you have a friend you can talk to on a regular basis, there is always that ability to get together and talk or watch a movie or sports game and distract yourself, get out of your ‘head’ for a little while.  If you are able to do that with one or two close friends, you will find yourself dwelling less on the negatives.

One very powerful tool I have in my recovery toolkit is meditation.  I have actually heard that people who use meditation on a regular basis can actually reclaim lost areas of their physical brains, that it is a healing and regenerating process.  All I really do when I meditate is sit quietly and count my breathing from one to ten.  I close my eyes and as I count to ten, I simply try to focus on an object that has some meaning to me (some may use a ‘buddha’ statue) and keep my mind clear.  If thoughts about money or worries or anything start to come up, I just gently start my count over and try to focus.  Sometimes I can get lost in this process and sit for more than half an hour, almost unaware of time.  When I am done I end up feeling really good, it relieves stress, it clears your thoughts, there are many benefits.

Well, Dear Readers, I will leave off at that for now.  As always, I am open to any questions or concerns, complaints or anything you like, simply send me an email at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do my best to get back to you.  Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

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

A Little Basic Planning and the Apple Watch

DSC_0145            A Beautiful Christmas Day View Of The MacDonald Hotel In Downtown Edmonton

(don’t forget to scroll down past today’s poem for my blog entry)

Good Friends Through The Years

 

As each year passes good friends will come and some will go

As these times pass us by I want to write and let you know

 

You my friends and loved ones are the best part of me

If only I had more than just simple words to make you see

 

How much of my life I truly owe to all of you

And how you make my heart and soul feel new

 

Life was tough and bad luck had me down for quite a while

But now when I feel down I can think of my friends and smile

 

My friends and I don’t all have the same image of a perfect world

But into that same great void we will all one day be hurled

 

There are friends so close and true they are almost family

I have so many dear friends that mean so much to me

 

Some know me only through the words I write

But they are there for me in darkness and in light

 

It is heavenly to have good friends in the summertime

And having friends in deepest winter can be sublime

 

It’s more important that your friends are there through good or bad

There will be times when friends seem to be the only thing you have

 

As a teen friends and I loved to pile into a car

Race off and get some beer or find a bar

 

But the friends I have now like me with or without booze

It seemed that all my teenage friends could do was use

 

And then there is true love warm and precious that can grow

From someone who is already a friend of yours you know

 

A love like this can make your heart feel reborn and new

Nurture these friendships, they can change your world for you

 

Just take care to proceed with caution lest you end up alone

Let any love grow slowly, naturally all on its own

 

And one last thing you really need to know

Love can cause you so much pain when it goes

 

But care for your friends and keep trying for that perfect love

Love and friends are the road to heaven and a gift from God above

 

Leif Gregersen

December 28, 2016


     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, a few more people have joined in the past few days.  I have been having problems with my creativity lately and decided that I should try and focus on poetry which comes a little easier to me than short stories.  Then yesterday morning I woke up and was still extremely groggy but had a great idea, to write about my true life experiences in Vancouver as a 19 year-old but add in elements of fiction.  It worked out nicely, and with the help of a few friends I worked it into something that I felt a bit proud of.  Anyone interested in seeing an advance copy feel free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to send you one.

As far as mental health goes for today, I think that if I can do a bit of work, especially creative work, along with my daily life and mental health maintenance routine, I will be happy.  My daily mental health maintenance routine is something I knew about but learned a little more about in a class I took called “Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or Wrap.  It is a really beneficial course, it teaches you to become more aware of your triggers and to plan out things you can do to de-stress yourself.  I think I find it most useful in planning a day in which I just feel better mentally.  This includes of course taking my proper medication, but then goes to stuff that applies to anyone.  Clean clothes, brush teeth, make sure and eat three nutritious meals a day and get some exercise.  The exercise part is a bit difficult, but in this past year I made an investment in the Apple Watch Sport and it monitors and reminds you of three categories of fitness: how much you stand (it recommends once an hour for 12 hours of each day) how much you exercise (it recommends 30 minutes a day) and how many calories you burn (this you can set).  It takes into account your steps, your movements, your height and weight and is an excellent addition to a person’s daily routine.  At $500 it isn’t that affordable, but I should note it does a lot more than remind you and help you plan your workouts.  I can ask my watch anything, just like google (as long as my phone is within bluetooth distance) the other day I was at a loss to remember a writer and just asked my watch and it told me right away.  You can also ask it just about anything you can ask Siri on your phone like math questions, addresses.  It updates you on messages, lets you use it as a phone to call or receive calls.  I simply love it.  The other cool thing is that right on your watch face you get the date, the time, the temperature, your workouts and even the next sunset or sunrise time.  It makes things so handy to have all of this right on your wrist, my only real complaint is that it has to be charged approximately every 24 hours.

To get back to the mental health maintenance plan though, after exercise, I find it important to spend some time each day interacting with people.  If I don’t interact with anyone I take two giant steps back in feeling comfortable around others and I have to readjust myself when a social situation does come up.  So I spend a lot of time on the phone and try to engage my roommate and other group home residents at supper and other times.

Another thing that has a lot to do with mental health maintenance is how clean your house, apartment or room is.  Having a clean and organized room is huge.  I recently picked up a book called the ancient art of tidying up or something close to that and soon after reading it I threw out a bunch of stuff that may have been worth something but I wasn’t using it.  I also found a lot of garbage that wasn’t of any value at all and now I can walk around and do things in my room a lot more efficiently.  I have a ways to go, but it has already started to make me feel better.

I have been trying something to make myself happier lately that a good friend has kind of been pushing me to do, I have tried to add in more leisure time to my life.  Simple, fun things that I have always liked but not done because I felt it was more important to work until my fingers started to bleed on my keyboard.  I have been buying comic books and even toys and video games just to keep that inner child of mine happy, and it seems to work well and has even made me more of a personable, social person, which only adds to the medicine wheel of happiness.  I also know I would get a lot out of going to church, but I have had a hard time doing this.  I did attend midnight mass on Christmas which was really special and a lot of fun, I love Christmas carols!

Well, dear readers, I leave you at that.  As always I appreciate any feedback, comments.  Don’t forget to have a peek at my books page, I have written nine books now and would love if someone who follows my blog could read one or more of them (available at amazon in print and eBook) and review or comment on them.  Anyone curious should have a quick look at the amazon page for my first book, “Through The Withering Storm”, it recently got an incredibly good review by a well known psychologist with a Master’s Degree.  Happy New Year to all of you and let’s hope 2016 is a better and more peaceful year for everyone in the world, perhaps especially right now for Syrian refugees.

LG