writer

Habits and Those With Poor Mental Health Conditions Like Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Has anyone out there read the classic work “The Gambler” by I think Dosteyovski? It tells the tale of a man so obsessed by gambling that he plots to murder his landlady. I won’t ruin it for you because the whole point in bringing it up is that it portrays an incredibly accurate depiction of a compulsive gambler. I myself was a compulsive gambler for some time, and not only was I totally sure I suffered from this affliction, I also understood that it comes along with the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is a part of my schizoaffective disorder diagnosis. I could abstain for long stretches, then all at once I would have a severe compulsion and an almost unfailing faith that I would walk out of the casino with more money than I walked in with. Despite making my own computer programs to test my winning strategies and being something of a former math whiz, I would put money in, perhaps win a little at first and then chase my losses until I had nothing. But this hasn’t been my only addiction.

As a young kid, I had an addiction to comic books. I would work myself to death to try and accumulate as many as I could, and even when I got older and stopped reading them, I would often have dreams about still having the literature hidden in my parent’s closet. I simply could not get enough, even when my parents told me no more comics. Then at 14, I started to smoke cigarettes. That was an addiction that took me 18 years to quit.

Perhaps one of the most damaging of my addictions was alcohol. I found it was that magic elixir that would loosen the chains of my anxiety and remove inhibitions. When I was drunk I could meet girls, dance, do whatever I wanted and even if I got into a fight or got beat up for my stupidity while drinking it didn’t hurt that much.

And now I am trying something new, something that is on the edges of anything I ever tried. I want to take all of my possessions and minimize them and somehow stop fixating on getting better clothes, better furniture, better video games. Even though I am 47 I am finding that there are some professional development courses I would love to take but the money just isn’t there and the rules of having the government sponsor a person for part-time learning have changed.

With all of these addictions, I am trying very hard to find a way to not just cope with the ones I have, but to try and avoid getting any more. I met a young man of 33 yesterday who was homeless and addicted to Fentynal. He likely won’t survive the winter unless he can get lucky enough to be put in jail. That is a very scary thing for me to consider, especially when I consider that there isn’t that much difference between him and I other than that I am much older and less able to bounce back from something of that nature.

When I was in a 12-step program years ago, my now-departed sponsor told me once that when you apply the steps of abstinence in your life, you don’t have a cure for your addiction, you have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of your spiritual condition. He also said that when we abstain, if we don’t deal with whatever personality trait or flaws that caused us to become addicted to something, our illness can manifest itself in other ways.

Clean and purge is all I can manage for now. I do plan to keep a bible and a few books that have meaning for me, but I would like to get to the stage of relying on the library instead of buying and accumulating more and more books. Maybe when I get myself down to the bare bones and can focus on the thing I love the most (writing) I will have enough to not just deal with my addictions, but to really turn myself into a better person all around. I have so little control of my mental health situation. All I can really do is take my medications as prescribed and talk to my nurse and doctor as often as they want me to. I know for a fact that on a fixed income if I can slow down consumption of things such as diet pop (one of my new addictions), purchase of comic books (an affliction that has come back to me) and buying books, I will likely be more able to take care of myself. One of the best things I have found when I want to make an effort to stop a habit is simply to not allow myself to think of the subject. If I have to get off the bus a stop early to walk around a bar that has gambling machines I will. If I have to not go near the mall to not be tempted to buy new clothes, I will do it. And the one thing, the one magical thing that I can always do for myself is as simple as picking up a book, just an interesting book. Reading is such magic, it takes a person to another world, it takes a person inside the mind of the author, it gives a writer a whole new world to create with total omnipresence. Thanks for reading my blog, I couldn’t be a writer if people out there in the world didn’t read my work.

Are There Alternatives to Psychiatric Medication?

 

What a beautiful summer day to lie in the grass and watch a soccer game. When I was younger, I really didn’t factor in the fact that your body decays (in most people) as you get older. I had read a few articles about people in their 80s running marathons, and athletes having comebacks at 50. I started to decline a long time ago, and it likely had to do a lot more with my bull-headedness not wanting to listen to advice like not running in excess of 5 miles, not running on pavement, getting proper shoes for every type of exercise. That was the beginning, I destroyed my knees at the age of 20 years old. But what really got to me was not just this disability, it was also the medications I took. They made me drowsy, lazy. They made my hands shake and messed with my balance. Getting through this was one of the more difficult times of my life. I was good at a few sports as a youngster, I was a decent basketball player, but for all of my teen years I was a smoker which made this nearly impossible. I also loved to play pool, going to the pool hall every morning instead of the second half of my Law 30 class. I dreamed about one day having a pool table at home, and I think I could have been on my way. But medications derailed me. What could I do?

Medications have gotten better since then, and I even know of a few people who take what I do and it works for them and also their hands don’t shake at all. I really don’t ever want to recommend people to go off medication, but there are instances where a person can be on too much, a Doctor can usually spot this in a moment. This is why sometimes it is useful to get a second opinion, especially when you find your medication side effects debilitating. My mom, near the end of her life, was on a lot of medications, but my parents put a lot of faith in her psychiatrist. It hurts to think she could have had a better mental state or a better quality of life if she had been on less. One thing I want to emphasize is that in her final years, she would never miss a psychologist’s appointment because in her mind and my dad’s, that was the only treatment that helped anything.

There are two sides to this coin, one is that I have encountered (and I am no therapist or doctor) studies that said therapy alone is better than medication alone. Of course as I said, I don’t recommend going off meds, but if you can somehow combine your treatment there are chances of feeling better than you are now and any time healthy means you are headed towards a time when new and ‘better’ medication can be developed. My former Psychiatrist, an amazing man named Bishop, whenever I asked about a new medication he would say that what I had was working well, he didn’t like tinkering with people who were doing well, but left it up to me, emphasizing the question, “do you want to take a chance at going back where you were?” Well, for me that was no option. Last time before I saw that doctor that I had been in the hospital I was in a terrible state, being beligerent and abusive, deluded into thinking the world revolved around me and having people respond in kind with everything from flat out insults and threats to a severe beating from a guy who didn’t like the way I crossed the street. No, I did not want to go back there.

Some time later, with a doctor that my old doctor recommended, a decision was made to try a newer medication, and I got very ill and spent a month in the hospital–after I had worked so incredibly hard to build my life back and show stability and such. All at once I was delusional and paranoid to the extreme again. Sadly, this is something anyone with a mental illness must come to expect and prepare for. For more information, look into something called “The Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or WRAP. They have an app for phones that allow you to outline things like trigger warnings, ways to help with symptoms and more. The app is based on a course that I found very helpful, and attribute my quick recovery from the relapse of my condition too. It also helped that I had gained a great deal of knowledge about my condition, perhaps mostly by being a part of the Schizophrenia Society.

So, today’s blog is getting pretty long, I will sum things up and try to explain more in a future blog. First off, look into funding or affordable therapy. In Edmonton there are even free therapists as I am sure you can find in any major Canadian city. You drop in, fill out a form, and wait and see someone confidentially who is qualified. But this is a quick fix. When you find you care stable enough, I recommend things like the WRAP course and others, but I also recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Just as a warning though, I believe they state that it takes a commitment of around 16 (if I remember correctly) sessions to read benefits. If you are having any problems finding resources, please email me and I will see if I can help connect you. Look for services you are insured for, and also for services operated on a sliding scale. I once spoke to a hospital counsellor after my mom passed and she wanted me to pay $20 or $30 a session, not so much because she needed the money, but she wanted to make sure I was able to commit and consider my treatment a priority.

I will just sum up and say, if you are having mental health difficulties, first try and contact your psychiatrist, then any psychiatrist, then a medical doctor, learn all you can about your illness, get active in learning (books) and groups (Wrap and many others). Find out all you can about your medications, then find out about counselling. And don’t worry if you seem to take one step forward and two back in your mental health journey, we all have good days and bad days.

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Link to my first memoir:

Through the Withering Storm

 

Growing Up With Illnesses Like Bipolar and Also Having Severe Anxiety

This is a shot I took of a soccer field near my house. When I look at this photo, I tend to notice that though an exciting game of soccer is going on, the bleachers are empty. It takes me back to the one year I played organized sports in my home town of St.Albert. There was a rep team made up of hand-picked players, one for boys and another for girls. Both of them beat us royally, which was not considered a fair match, so when, in our final game–in overtime–we beat the only team that had ever beat us in a fair match, for a few brief moments we were on top of the world.

Soccer is a wonderful experience, and I suggest any parent should encourage their kids to participate. For a long time I used to try and encourage parents to put their kids in cadets, but few have ever done it. With all the training, the sports, the friends, and the travel you get from it, it seems almost ridiculous that anyone would not want their kids to join. Air cadets was something that taught me skills that got me through a lot of very difficult times, and still to this day, 31 years after I left, I rely on a lot of those skills to make my living and get along in the world.

But to try and keep more on the topic I wanted to speak most about, I would like to try and discuss anxiety. Because I was never given any kind of diagnosis, and it is even unclear today at the ripe old age of 46 what exactly the doctors think is wrong, I missed out on a lot of opportunities in my life. I don’t know if there really was any good treatments for anxiety when mine was at its’ worst. I can try and describe what it was like though.

I was 14. I had been taken out of school for an assessment at the General Hospital in Edmonton for two weeks, and during that time I was allowed to attend cadets. On one of those two nights, I had been assigned to get in front of a class of my peers and give a talk about my hobby-which was collecting military combat uniforms. Now, I will digress for just a moment. When I gave that talk, I hadn’t interacted with anyone my age for quite a few days. I felt that my social skills had just gotten rusty, when it was actually a diagnosable illness I had that wasn’t being treated. I got up in front of the room, and I felt a strong pull taking my gaze away from the audience and looking down at the floor. I also became aware of my looks, my acne, and I blushed crimson red. Maybe what hurt the most was walking past a person who was in the class having a laugh with a friend about how horrible my performance had been.

All through my younger days I drowned in anxiety. I would sit out every single song of every single dance the cadets held. The idea that someone could like me or find me attractive was seemingly out of the question. There were a few times I can recall though that I clearly had bipolar disorder as well (I also have a third diagnosis, of schizoaffective disorder). A friend gave me a ride home from the cadet hall where we had been dropped off after a weekend camp at a base near Red Deer. I can’t even describe it. Maybe the tiredness set me off, I really don’t know. But it was the first time I can remember feeling elated, talking way too fast about too many things, and not having a clue that this was something very out of character for me.

All through my teen years I struggled with insomnia, and a good part of it was my own fault. I would stay up late, eat hot dogs or muffins I had brought home from work, then for some reason as time for school approached, I would get this idea in my head that I could be a superior student like I had once been if I studied every word of a textbook. So many times I got these big ideas, then ended up sleeping, and also sleeping in for class. Skipping breakfast, I would race off to school. When the day ended, I would go home and take a nap. This was not only a bad idea that made it harder for me to sleep properly at night, but I would get these nightmares that were just horrible. This was one of the few times that I started to realize that something was going very wrong with my mind. I told my mom about the bad dreams, and she basically responded by asking me what I thought she could do about it. As problems piled up with me, the loneliness, the social anxiety, the insomnia, the depression, and poor sense of self piled up, I almost went to see a psychiatrist but instead waited until I was forced to see one. I really hope anyone who reads this doesn’t tread down that path, especially the young people.

Back at that time, along with anxiety, I had severe depression. I often say that I wasn’t really sure if I was experiencing depression because I had no real close friends, or if my severe depression made it hard for me to open up to and form solid friendships with people. It may apply to a lot of people, but when I think back now to the three or four really close friends I had, I regret ever meeting them.

One of them was a clear alcoholic who was overweight and wore thick glasses and somehow thought he was the coolest and most attractive person ever. Sometimes I am taken back to the odd fun times we had, and I think it would be neat to look him up. Years ago I tried to do so and he really seemed to feel the need to compete with me over anything I said and look for ways to humiliate me. Him and the people he hung around with never really left my home town. There was one guy who I actually really liked and has always been a friend, though a casual friend, and he became a University Professor and moved out of province.

Come to think of it, a lot of the people I knew in school were alcoholics. I was desperately trying to quit back then, but was encouraged into binging a few times with another fair weather friend. Drinking in some ways was magic. It lifted my depression, relaxed me, helped me overcome my social anxiety. The only bad effects was that it was killing me, I was leading an extremely dangerous and risky lifestyle while I was drinking, some of the hangovers I had were epic, and as I drank I watched my family fall apart from similar and different addiction issues. I hate the term ‘self medicate’. I drank because, like many people, I had a subconscious connection with booze and the rarer and rarer good times I would have when using it. Now the very idea of what I used to do as a teen seems ridiculous. Ego contests to see who could drink the most, drinking parties in a delivery car while delivering pizza. Turning into some kind of monster, picking fights with friends or making moves on females that only a 15-year-old could ever get away with.

Getting over those depressions and anxiety was a long road. It was nearly impossible while I was adjusting to medications my doctor prescribed me to try and deal with my fractured social skills. Finding the Schizophrenia Society has been so key in getting me healthy again. I work a few days a week, I earn a little extra money for groceries. I have some solid friends and a lot of self respect from finding a way I can help others even when I am kind of broken myself. Of course having an incredible, intelligent and caring father means a great deal as well.

At first, I really didn’t know what to expect from the Schizophrenia Society. I figured if any students I was going to speak to were anything like I was in my teens it would be hell. But 98% of the students I present to are incredibly interested and responsive to what I have to say. I worked my way up and have given presentations to police recruits, student nurses, criminology classes. It isn’t all that uncommon for me to speak to lecture halls with 200 students. The difference in my anxiety and social skills have been massive.

Well, dear readers, that is all I think I have to say about bipolar and anxiety for now. If you want to know more, or ask a questions, please contact me. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, talk to your family doctor about a referral. And if you are in crisis or feel suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room. Best,

Leif G

 

Poetry, Mental Health Talk and a Dragonfly

 

 

(Scroll past today’s Poem for Today’s Blog Post)

Travel Through the Circle

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As a child life was so simple

Simply laugh and play and run

I was under God’s protection

And cared for by everyone

 

Then I got a little older

Suddenly the world was not so nice

Everyone seems to want a robot worker

To just pay tax and sacrifice

 

And then I met a woman

I loved her dearly; she was fond of me

I made my first commitment

And within that love-bond I felt so free

 

Love at first seems to be the great redeemer

That finally makes your soul complete

But now even that is all behind me

As into loneliness and middle age I retreat

 

Life is not so simple

Once you travel through the years

But there is one thing I know for certain

For self-love you need to face your fears

 

I was scared of being hurt by my partner

So I hurt her before she could hurt break my heart

If I had only told her that I loved her

I wouldn’t have this pain of being torn apart

 

But you have to keep on living

For those you will one day leave behind

Always care for the children

And a new kind of love you’ll find

 

May 28, 2018

 

Well, I started my day by boarding a bus and heading to the blood clinic. I was given a blood sugar level test and the clinic people decided they were able to proceed with the further test for diabetes since my blood sugar level was below 7.8 but they wouldn’t tell me how far below. I was given a drink that was almost syrup and then had to sit and wait for two hours then was given another blood test. The second test was to see how well my body handles sugar. Two days ago I was given the word that I have diabetes. This was a little hard to take. I have worked in senior’s homes where people with diabetes have had multiple amputations because of the illness, and when I was a kid I was deathly afraid of diabetes, so much so that I greatly limit my sugar intake and exercise as much as I can. But it is a cold, hard fact that I am going to need to change my diet even further. The hard part about that has to do possibly with the medications I am on. I crave fatty foods, I get hungry in the middle of the night and get up to eat small snacks. I don’t recall in the past five years if I have ever felt that my blood sugar level was low, but there certainly have been many times where I indulged in fatty foods to excess. I kind of feel that this is an illness that many people with a mental illness face, if not for the medication, for the simple reason that their lives are so devoid of normal pleasures, eating becomes the only thing they can do to feel good.

All in all I feel fairly supported by family and friends. I have decided to begin a vegetarian diet where I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables, but occasionally indulge in small amounts of white meat such as chicken and fish.

As far as my life in general goes, I am facing what could work out to be a tough month. I have signed a contract to teach poetry classes at a homeless agency with the hopes of teaching street people enough about poetry to compose poems for a special booklet that is being published to help deal with opiod abuse. This is actually a fascinating subject, I have been reading up what I can about it, but the funny thing is even at the biggest book store (actually the only new book store in Edmonton that has many branches-Chapters/Coles/Indigo) there are books available to order, but none at all on the shelves. Even at the library I was only able to get two short books with just facts about drugs that were aimed at teenagers.

Something I don’t like to admit is that in a small way I have an addiction of my own. I have a very hard time sleeping and often stay up all night (writing blogs and stuff) but if I have something important to do, I may take a sedative or sleeping pill to help me rest. I would prefer to do without these completely, but often it comes down to taking something or being out of it or even sleeping right through something I really want to do.

I am also having some worries about my mental health because I am going to see my Doctor on Tuesday and he is going to try me out on a new medication, either ability or invega, I don’t remember which. On the lighter side, I used to have a roommate who has been put on one of these two drugs and he has gone through a noticeable change. I am just nervous that if I try this new drug and there are any problems, it will mess up my opportunity to teach that poetry workshop that runs all through June. Anyhow dear readers, thanks for joining me on my journey. I see there are comments from my previous blog entry, I look forward to reading them and encourage anyone who reads this to send me mail or messages. Best,

LG

 

 

 

Sidewalk Poetry and Discovering I’m An Artist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, dear readers. Today is kind of unique. The two photos above display both my love of photography and of poetry. These are two poems that I submitted to a contest to be sandblasted into the sidewalk in my neighbourhood that were accepted.

A lot of interesting things have been going on in my life but that is not what I want to talk about today (and likely shouldn’t ever unless I finally win that Nobel Prize I’ve been after). I am going to be teaching two classes in the next month and have completed training to be a telephone peer support counsellor. Working for two nonprofit organizations is odd for me, but filled with joy and pleasure. I work with so many people whose whole mission in life is to reach out to the most disadvantaged in our society and to make their lives better. I even am starting to keep running into people who have been marginalized for many reasons and really feel a strong bond with them. Many people know about opiod abuse and the deaths that fentynal and other drugs have been causing, but few of these people are educated enough about the feelings and dangers associated with these drugs. I have been asked to facilitate four poetry workshops at an inner city agency for people to learn how to express themselves better through poetry. The poems that come out of this project will go into a booklet that will be distributed to some of the rougher parts of town.

I guess what I have most in mind right now is a belly ache that has been bothering me for a few days now. I am pretty sure it’s nothing serious, but there is some pain and a doctor I went to see has set me up for x-rays, an ultrasound, and some blood tests which I will get done in the morning. The thoughts I have on these things is that a lot of us can so easily get caught up in work, in planning for a vacation, and many of you who read this blog, can get caught up in trying to somehow attain that elusive situation of good mental health, but it does very little if your physical health isn’t on track. I keep watching a video on Youtube from a movie by Oliver Stone (Any Given Sunday) where Al Pacino gives a talk to some football players at half time and says (and I paraphrase) “When you get old in life, you start losing things. The trouble is you don’t know about it until they are already gone.” It really makes me think about how important good physical health is, because we are all getting older, even the smallest baby and the happiest billionaire (if there is such a thing as a happy billionaire). Sometimes I piss and moan about all my health problems, from arthritis in my joints to my declining vision and the sore muscles I get when I exercise. If that’s what 46 is like, I wonder what 80 or 90 will be like if I make it that far.

I have a brother who is going through some really difficult times with his back and other issues, and I wish I could somehow help him, but I wonder sometimes that if he was even in perfect health if there was a way he would feel content and positive about it. His is a sad case, he suffered for many years from mental illness and I got him some help and he was soon put on a disability pension. At first, he looked at the bright side of it and talked about using his time to learn a language and other things. But I think what the problem was at that time was that he didn’t take a hard look at his mental illness and get to work on that so he could move on and do some of these wonderful things. I feel very responsible for his condition because I got him help when he first asked for it and I have been in a position to do things for him to help him get through the tougher times.

So what I want to say to all of you, is very old and very cliche. Take care of your health. Love yourself enough to go for annual checkups, quit smoking or using drugs or alcohol. They only take away from what can be wonderful experiences. Get your exercise, especially on cold days when you don’t want to. Care for those you love and be generous with them. When I was a young boy it seemed like I would never grow up. I often think of a book my brother was reading when I was in elementary school called “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and thinking to myself about how old someone in grade four was compared to me. Don’t waste your life, if you are out of work make the best of it. Walk to the library each day with a notebook and write poetry, use the computers and suck the marrow out of life. If you have a mental illness, find ways to use the bad things that you went through to help others who are going through the same thing. One day you may realize that giving really makes life worth living. And with that dumb little poem, I will wrap up.

LG

Coping With a Sleep Disorder and Bipolar

(scroll down for a look at today’s poem)

 

So, for those of you who don’t know, this is me some years ago. Since then I have gained a few pounds, my hair is not naturally blond anymore and I have quite a bit more money than I did then. This picture shows me wearing faded jeans with holes in them, a leather jacket my brother gave me and a sweater that used to be my Dad’s. Funny how when you look back, in some ways you had everything someone could wish for, but at the same time had nothing.

In this picture I was still a young man yearning to be a writer. Now, I am actually a person who is considered a professional writer. As I did then, I now live alone, but have a lot more supportive and encouraging friends in my life. I think back then I had a condition similar to the one I have now, that is a sense that I’m not really there, that the things going on around me aren’t real.

Anyhow, to get down to brass tacks, once again I have found myself needing to get to sleep for something important and completely unable to sleep. I have even taken some melatonin and a sleeping pill together and can’t even seem to lay still in bed. I often wonder if a day filled with high energy activating does this to me. Yesterday I took a long walk with my dad and then went for an invigorating swim. First thing this morning, I walked about six kilometres to an appointment and back, then walked later to a hospital to visit a sick friend.

I don’t really seem to understand what the solution is to this dependence I seem to be getting for sleep aids. I know that if I go on the ones my doctor will eventually prescribe that they will start to affect my memory. I also know that there are certain rules I am not following regarding my sleep. The first one, is that often I sleep in. The second is that I don’t avoid caffeine after a certain hour, and one of the worst ones is that I often take naps. If I could somehow stop doing these things I am sure I will be able to lick my problem with sleeping pills, but they can be very hard things to do, especially when a person doesn’t work full-time. I don’t know now if I am able to work full-time, though I do feel I am close. It almost scares me that in my life I have never really held down a full-time job for any amount of time. I just end up getting too stressed out, I become unable to sleep as always and walk around work like a zombie. Eventually I just sleep in, unplug the phone and let them fire me as I get the morning rest I feel I desperately need. This is a luxury I am sure is not available to millions of people who have a mental illness and don’t have a disability pension.

Well, that is about all I can type on that subject for now. I think I am going to try and write a poem today, any feedback would be appreciated.

 

Years, Months, and Days All Slip By In a Haze

 

life keeps lingering in the dark wee hours

the joys of youth slip away that once were ours

we long for days when resting simply meant putting down your head

now I begin to fear my next refreshing rest will come when I’m dead

 

To think of times of stuffy bears and being tucked in by dad

the only joy I needed in life was the love my family had

a brother, sister, mom, and dad and a little cat

riding bikes with friends far and wide with my Pittsburg Pirates hat

 

summer came so slowly and slipped away so fast

now it seems that summer only meant happiness far back in the past

I don’t want to reminisce too much and cut open a scar

Because I know when I think of my departed mom my thinking has gone too far

 

So let me dream of the future, accept but forget the past

let me think of conquests and adventures that soon will go by so fast

In honesty it feels so good to live alone and choose my own personal fate

I have everything I wanted now, including freedom for which I no longer have to wait

 

Yes it was hard to lose my mom and one day I will lose my father too

I can’t explain how I will feel on that day or what things I will have to do

I just know that being a grown-up means facing some pretty harsh realities

But it all can be so special because as a grown-up you are free.

 

 

Hope Faith and Love. And the greatest of these is Love.

This is the view of Edmonton from my back door. The tall tower on the right is going to be 80 stories tall, which is now possible in Edmonton because we closed our municipal airport

Please Scroll Down Past Today’s Poems for Today’s Blog

 

Love confounds me

When I know you are with him

And I am here. alone

Did I not give you so much more

Than long curly hair and muscles?

                                                                  *                  *                  *

Hold on my son your pain will subside

We are only a few decades

Away from holiness

Peace everlasting

Hold on

                                                                    *              *                *

A moment ago

It all seemed so perfect

And yet with the passing of time

I think maybe

Sanity still eludes me

 

Hello Dear Readers! So much has been happening lately I don’t know where to start. All I can say is that if you are out there suffering and it seems like there is no hope, hold on. If you are seeing a family member struggling and it seems like you are going to lose them forever, hold on. If you have lost a loved one or feel like so much has happened you will never recover, hold on.

Just a few short years ago my life seemed like it was over. I had spent six months in a mental hospital, I had no more faith in myself or modern Psychiatry to help me but I inched ahead. Somehow the world was a better place when I left the hospital and I was able to experience recovery. It took years. It took pushing myself past all the limits I had. It took working a job that was extremely difficult and dangerous. But somehow at the end I stopped and looked and there I was, just the same person who had accomplished so much at a young age. I learned that it didn’t matter what type of limitations life put on me there were no limitations in my heart and soul. I have been writing, I have been teaching, I have been giving public talks about my illness and my own story and it feels wonderful.

Each one of you out there may have something holding them back. I’m too old. I’m disabled. I don’t have the money. Age means nothing. We all have the possibility of living far beyond expectations. Money is a number on a paper doll. Learn to live on 90% of what you bring in and seek out knowledgeable people to help you make the extra grow and before you know it you will be able to do anything. If you are disabled, take whatever you can do, measure it, time it, and do it now, today. It could be reading a poem, typing a short story, sending a letter to someone you are about. Tomorrow do a little more. The next day do a little more. Soon your days will be filled with accomplishments and satisfaction that will make you forget you are disabled. There is so much hope for all of us. All we have to do is remind ourselves how precious each day is, how incredible it is to have others in our lives to share the good and the bad. I will leave you with that and hope you can leave me comments and look through my website. Once again, for Edmonton residents, my books are available at Audrey’s Books on Jasper Avenue and also at the Edmonton Public Library. Keep the faith!

Don’t Let Even One Day Slip Past You

***Edmontonians  and St.Albertians Please note my books are free at your libraries. The Edmonton Public library even has four of my books as eBooks and Edmonton Public Library cards are free!***

A Lovely Shot of the River Valley, Shortly Before the Snow Came

Well, this was a happy time when I could wander far and wide in Edmonton. One of my favourite newer hobbies is to take ridiculously long walks to keep my thoughts clear and my lungs pumping good oxygen. Just about anyone who knows me well enough will have heard of how my kind old father helped me to recover from a severe bout with mental illness by taking me into this same River Valley each day and going for a long walk with me. My Dad and I still both walk a lot, but since now neither of us has a car we mostly walk on our own. I am a firm believer that if you do some light exercise each day it is good for mind, body and soul.

It is pretty much midwinter now and the temperature in Edmonton often drops below minus 20. That doesn’t bother me too much, I can dress for the cold, but what does scare me a bit is falling. A close friend fell and hit her chin and needed stitches and also had a concussion. Falls on the winter ice here can lead to all kinds of injuries. So far I have been very lucky. As a quick bit of trivia, I should state that there is much less chance of slipping on ice when it is very cold, because what causes slips is moisture on the ice. If anyone has been ice skating, the reason skates slide so well is because when they are sharp, they dig into the ice and cause a thin layer of moisture to be created.

So, these past few days have been a bit difficult for me. I should remind everyone, especially this time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) that our low sunlight hours can cause a depression on their own, something known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I was down in the dumps this past week because I got word that a manuscript I submitted to a publisher was declined. For a while I really felt like all of my efforts have been in vain and that I would never see any kind of success as a writer. Then my bestselling author and film producer friend came over and we worked out a plan to rework the manuscript and find another publisher. I also found an email I had been sent about the same manuscript that said it was very good in many ways but needed a couple of things tweaked. I feel a lot better now and have tried to fill the time I would otherwise have been moping with active work writing an promoting my writing. More and more I am thinking I need to focus on making a name for myself over even paying the immediate bills I am responsible for. I can already afford the bills if I am careful, and if I can get my name out there eventually the money will come.

The other point I wanted to make to you, my dear readers, is that when you are down or when you are lonely and nothing seems to be going right (this is starting to sound like the lyrics to  a “Doors” song, I apologize) the best thing you can do is force yourself just to do one little thing. For me it may be reading a short story or picking up a book of poetry. It may involve writing an email to an old friend you miss, some kind of creative or enriching thing. When you start to feel better, do two things, and soon you will have accomplished something. Reading your short stories could add up to having become an expert on the genre. Writing emails could give you many caring friends who you can talk to through your depressions. It’s not always easy, but it always works (so I have found). With that Dear Readers, I bid you a fond farewell. And for Edmontonians, don’t forget to get your free library card and check my books out of the Edmonton or St.Albert libraries. Soon to be also coming to Vancouver Public Library. All the best!

Push Yourself, Every Day, In Every Little Way

    A view from the meeting room for the University of Alberta Humanities 101 class

Hello dear readers! I have two apologies to make, one that I haven’t contributed to this blog in some time, and two that I don’t have a poem for you today. A lot has been going on in my life, I have taken on some new duties. One of them is setting up and facilitating workshops for a very cool project in the McCauley community of Edmonton called “Word On the Street” the project takes in contributions of short poems from community members and in March there will be a jury selecting 40-60 poems each of which will earn the author $100.00 plus the poem will be sandblasted into the sidewalk in the area. Anyone who reads this and works, lives, or volunteers in McCauley in Edmonton, drop me a line and I will help you enter (viking3082000@yahoo.com). I am also going to take on a new aspect of my work with the Schizophrenia Society, I will be working as a phone peer support person once I can fit in some time for training. It is funny, but for many years I thought my old job was ideal, doing no really difficult paperwork or challenging problems. The pay was phenomenal and I got to see all kinds of concerts sometimes right from in front of the stage. The truth is that I am so much happier now that I am working with people who have mental health issues, and using my abilities and knowledge to further the cause of reducing stigma and easing the discomforts of being mentally ill. In a strange way it is almost like I have been given a gift of being mentally ill and by using this experience to help others I am making myself happy.

Life seems to be going well for me. Again, a message for anyone living in Edmonton, you can now get 7 of my books and 4 of my eBooks at the Edmonton Public Library. One of the things I think is great about the library carrying my books is that I am slowly becoming more well known, slowly being asked to do more interesting and rewarding things. To go back ten years and think I would have ten books out and two more on the go would have seemed nuts. I should put in a plug here for formal education. It took me so long to write my book, longer to find a publisher, more time to experiment around to find out how I wanted them printed and distributed. If I had somehow gotten into a creative writing program, I could have hit the ground running. I have a very close friend who did just that (though our situations are not identical) and he now has a wife, a child, a new car, a great job and 20 books in print and more offers coming in all the time. One of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t take advantage of all the different types of learning I could have when I was in high school. I did manage to get a pretty good education, but there were things lacking that didn’t need to be. I could have explored my physical side and challenged myself more by taking part in Phys. Ed. and sports in general. I could have taken cooking and home economics and been a much better fed bachelor. I also could have taken mechanics and shop and had a much more well rounded education and had skills that served me. Drafting could have never hurt. Of all the courses I did take though, funny thing was that typing was likely the most important and has paid me back in so many ways, at least since I have been writing. One little course in grade ten changed the course of my life.

But who can really blame a young kid for not understanding the world he is about to face? I was lost in struggles for girls, struggles for popularity, struggles for friends and to work enough to afford a car. I often think about how if I had spent just two hours a week actually working on something to benefit myself, be it math skills or anything really, I would be so much further along. And I had that time to spare, there were nights when I would stay up past midnight and watch six hours of late night black and white shows (plus David Letterman). I had a lot of priorities mixed around. One of the things is that if I had known how dangerous it was to use pot I would never have used it even the few times that I did. I may have tried to find a place to live when the fights with my Dad were really bad. All that is the past though, and in reality, the future is pretty bright. I do honestly wish though, just about every time I see some dumb kid making a mess of his or her life back when it was early enough to do something about it, I wish I could reach them, talk to them. Change their minds. Well, dear readers, that is pretty much the signal for me to stop typing when the sun breaks through my window. All the best and feel free to comment or drop me a line.

Leif Gregersen

A Bird In Flight, A Poem, and a Short Talk About Sleeping Pills

 All I can do is marvel at animals that are capable of flight, the one thing in the world I have found makes me the most happy and energized

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry

 

Winter Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As the days slip by so fast

It often seems that nothing lasts

 

Not our love or our generation’s song

Our time to rejoice and play is gone

 

If things only lasted long enough for me to feel

That the loves I once had were real

 

Just as real as all the days

Sadness came to me in waves

 

I have regrets that my only way to cope and deal

With my pain was to take a pill and just not feel

 

Feel either good or bad just dead

But not trapped inside my own head

 

When I was not quite yet a man

From commitments I always ran

 

Not understanding how love grows like a flower

Gaining beauty, gaining power

 

I wanted so badly to be free

I masked and hid the love inside of me

 

Now I’m both lonely and alone

Never quite feeling like I have a home

 

Deny it, but I say we still can have a chance

As long as there is one more dance

 

Though I think you understand the fact

Time is slipping by for us to act

 

There is also one thing I wish you knew

I hate myself for hurting you

 

I also think something else is true

You get sad and lonely too

 

So take my hand and come with me

Knowing that love still can set us free

 

November 14, 2017

 

Good day dear readers! I have been so encouraged by the increasing support and exposure I am getting for my blog that I have decided to do more entries than I usually do. Either that or I have found that working on this blog is one of the best cures for insomnia I have this side of sleeping pills.

Perhaps the whole idea of sleeping pills is a good issue to discuss today. For the past four days I haven’t taken anything to get me to sleep and I feel better for it, but not 100% yet. I should tell some of the back story, I have a lot of commitments from working for the Schizophrenia society to teaching creative writing and other things and I really need to be rested to do these things well. Lately I have been trying a few different sleep aids to help with this and they seem to do more harm than good. I thought maybe if I talked about them here that people would be able to avoid some of the pitfalls. To start with, I have my Psychiatrist’s approval to use melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that can help balance out a person’s sleeping habits. It has some funny effects though, one of them is that if you (or at least in my case I have, I am sure other people have had different experiences) take it for a while and start to tolerate it, the pills can do something much worse than help you sleep, they can cause extreme restlessness that amounts to a type of seizure of legs and back muscles/bones. It is a very disturbing experience, one I have only ever before had in the psychiatric hospital when injected with a serious tranquilizer because I was “bad”. I still take melatonin now and then, but I am very careful about how frequently I use it. The other problem I have found with it is that it can make you very drowsy the next day and leave you with a desire to sleep a very long time.

The next pill I sometimes take for sleep is one that is called clonazepam or rivotril. I take it in the 0.5 mg orange pill. It looks a lot like the average gravol tablet and is very powerful. It is a tranquilizer along the lines of valium, but without some of valium’s more serious side effects. This is a prescribed medication and I am only given a few every couple of weeks which I use sparingly. This pill seems to be highly addictive because when I take it I feel very relaxed and soon drift off to sleep and feel better for the next day, but if I don’t take it for a few days I start to get edgy.

Those are the major ones. There is a pill called imovane, a blue little football shaped pill that I suggest people avoid. It is extremely addictive. I also want to warn people that sleeping pills in just about any form I have encountered them end up being a crutch and can seriously affect a person’s memory. Time and time again I have found that the best sleep aid is to get out and get plenty of fresh air and exercise. In my own daily routine, if there isn’t something for me to do that requires a long walk, I think of something. I seem to always be able to find a reason to get out of the house like walking to the warehouse grocery store a few miles away or walking to the post office. I used to like to bring and iPod with me when I did this, but lately I have just enjoyed walking as a form of meditation. I have to say that in the past short while I have been getting a bit lax about my walks and exercise in general and I have felt much worse as a result, physically and mentally.

The final thing I wanted to mention today was that if you find yourself sleeping days and staying up nights, there is a cure, which can only really be done in the summer. You need three weeks and not much else. What you do is go out camping, leave behind all of your electronics and get up with the sun each day. In three weeks your biological clock will naturally reset itself.

Best wishes dear readers!

Leif Gregersen