writing

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

 

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Mental Health Crisis and Severe Breakdown Advice

A nice frosty December photo from my trusty iPhone 7.

Well, the past couple of days have been extremely difficult ones, I have spent a lot of time hiding in my bed not wanting to face the world. One of the cool things that I did do was head out to North Edmonton to meet with a young woman who needed help with her writing. I know I am suited for the smaller creative writing classes I teach, but now that I am doing more mentoring I feel one day I may be able to take on a job like my good friend Richard Van Camp does often, which is being a writer in residence at a library or University. In a job like this, you spend half of your time working on your own project, and the other half helping the general public with writing they want help with.

So what I most wanted to do was to put into words what has been going through my head these past few days. I don’t know if many people understand totally what schizophrenia does to a person, but I will try and relate it. Usually when I have an episode, it means something has set it off. When I first got sick, there were many tests done to make sure there wasn’t other things happening to make my behaviour so extremely weird for lack of a better term. They took drug tests, thyroid tests, cat scans. When all came back negative they were ready to diagnose me but the odd thing was that they didn’t seem ready to tell me what this diagnosis was. I had a lot of problems, delusions being the worst of them. I was also experiencing the mania side of bipolar disorder, not eating, working out a mile a minute and staying up all night reading. It didn’t help that there was a lot of pressure at home and at school, as well as the night shift job I was working.

Slowly, over time, I slipped further and further away from reality. I began to think that if I just kept trying harder and harder at doing everything perfectly, things would go well. I took a trip to a mountain resort with family and friends and that perhaps was where everything was falling apart. It is hard to explain, but I was hugely taken advantage of by my sister’s boyfriend who used subtle and not so subtle persuasion to cause me to ruin the engine on my car, spend all the money I had on the trip and other things, and he had also filled me so far up with his garbage political ideas that he himself didn’t practise that I even saw my own father who put. a roof over my head as a terrible, messed up person. It really doesn’t help to blame anyone truthfully, but a lot of my confusion and utter inability to continue to work and function was due to this despicable character.

Somehow, it seemed to me as these things were happening, and I can’t blame them all on my sister’s boyfriend because they happened to other family members as well, that all the things that had been impressed on me about hard work and discipline gave way to me thinking I could get away with quitting my job (which I did by simply walking off in the middle of a shift) and taking my focus away from providing for needs such as money for an apartment so I could move out of the house. I began to believe strange things, like if I wanted something I could just go into a store and take it and not pay for it and that 99% of the rest of the population got through life this way. A whole new reality formed in my mind, new delusions coming by the second. One of them was that there was no such thing as marriage and commitment, that I could somehow sleep with any woman I wanted, I just had to go to a nightclub or dance and start a one-night-stand. This was another delusion that had roots in things my sister’s boyfriend had told me. Before this, I was a strong believer in no sex before marriage or outside of marriage and was pretty much dead set against abortions. I am so glad my sister eventually got free of this guy. He did have some positive qualities to him, he was funny and fun to be around, he also was influential in my sister eventually earning a master’s degree in education. But if she hadn’t left him and married I often wonder if my beautiful, wonderful niece would ever have been born.

So all of these delusions crept up on me. One of the more prominent ones was that police were some kind of different species of human being and that, along with some of my other warped beliefs that would get me into trouble with the law, that jail and getting arrested was considered almost heroic. It all boiled down to one morning when I went to gym class and just a few minutes into my class I picked a fight that I have regretted nearly every day of my life since. I left the ice rink with my teacher, went to the office and was arrested and taken away in front of all of my peers. This, which at the time seemed like it was a positive thing, was the most damaging walk of shame I have ever experienced.

I was taken at that point to the Psychiatric Hospital and though I have often talked about it being a dirty, violent and extremely disturbing place, the reality of it was that in a very short time this place got  me better, got my thoughts in order. It is so weird to think of all the delusions I had, from being ridiculously rich to having the prettiest girls in my school secretly in love with me back to seeing the world through totally rational eyes, then months later these delusions would slowly come back if I wasn’t still taking my medication. Until it happened a number of times, I didn’t realize how when I started to accumulate millions of dollars and the TV was talking to me directly that it wasn’t something the medication and the “evil” doctors were doing to me. When it actually occurred to me, during a time of clarity, that it was so much better to have sane thoughts despite the difficult side effects of psychiatric medication, which ranged from serious tiredness and grogginess to drooling and making my hands shake, my life truly began to turn around. 17 years hospital free!

I wanted to talk now a bit about the symptoms I have been experiencing in the past few days, but I don’t want to write a blog so long no one will read it. I will do my best to write about more up to date mental health issues in the blog to follow. Thanks Dear Readers, and Happy New Year!

Mental Illness Doesn’t Take a Holiday On Christmas Day

Scroll down past my special Christmas Poem for my Christmas Day Blog.

Christmas Poem December 25, 2018

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Christmas dinner for all is such a fantastic time

No matter your sins, your faults or your crimes

 

Mountains of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and yams

No one sees the stress and the effort only mothers understand

 

Even on our most precious holiday, we orbit the sun as we turn on our axis in place

Each split second, a smile for good or devious origins comes to another child’s face

 

In a country of opportunity, freedom, equal rights and democracy

To bullying children all that matters is the cash value under the tree

 

But the love that kids share with the family members who congregate

Can often be just enough to turn the tides of their fate

 

Show a child that by hard work and effort they will prosper and grow

That precious Christmas vacation will bless them more than you ever could know

 

My favourite Christmas happened somewhat like that

My Uncle Glen was alive and so was our Lilleven our wonderful cat

 

We feasted and laughed, even had a taste of rum and some wine

Uncle Glen got a bottle of liquor and it seemed the whole world was mine

 

I stayed up to watch Jimmy Stewart’s best character give all of himself

All his effort and hard work for others to end up being put on a shelf

 

The message that movie carried deep into my fifteen-year-old heart

Made me tear up, made me vow to make a new start

 

Care for your loved ones, show those struggling there is a much better way

What better time to start on the savior’s most magical day

 

No one will look back when you’re gone and think of your self-serving deeds

The best way to become immortal is to give toil and tears to those truly in need

END

 

Good day people of all faiths and nations. The clock has turned and as I write, (in Mountain Standard Time anyway) it is now Christmas Day. Yesterday I received an injection of Abilify, which comes to the clinic in powder form and then the nurse mixes it up and injects it into one of my shoulders. It is intended to replace a medication I was on earlier which had to be administered twice a month and was considered not as good as the new one. It is going to be difficult, but I want to try and stay with this new injection but there are some reasons why I am beginning to have my doubts. The biggest one is that I am starting to move into the borderline of hallucinating. I don’t see people or things that aren’t there, but, along with making me pretty tired, and often only out of the far range of my peripheral vision, things that can’t move (table, cutting board) seem to move all on their own. I have also been getting flashes of thinking people are behind me or in the room. Worst of all is that I have been getting pretty paranoid, though that situation is improving. One of the things I have been trying to do is ride the bus less, which can be pretty difficult when it is minus 12 to minus 15 Celsius outside and you have to get across the city by walking. Regardless, I have been doing it.

When I do get on the bus, I find myself deathly afraid that I am going to be mistaken for some kind of predator. A couple of times, there has been a female on the bus who goes out of their way to stand near the bus driver, ask for a special stop, then run as fast as possible when the bus stops. This I am sure isn’t always because of me, but once or twice I have been pretty certain. It doesn’t help that there is so much stigma out there regarding people with schizophrenia, and that a couple of years back I was given the gears by an ass of a police detective who got my name from my boss and seemed to suspect that because I was an (un-uniformed) security guard, I fit a description of a uniformed security guard in the area who had assaulted a woman.

The really good thing is that I found out that my new nurse (Best Wishes on your retirement Willie!) not only has a Registered Psychiatric Nursing Diploma/Degree, but also a degree in Psychology. The other cool thing is that she knows her comic books, so I think she may be a huge help to me as time unravels.

I didn’t want to stop the blog today before talking a bit about Christmas. It is the time of year when beds in psychiatric wards and hospitals fill to overflowing. Often this is from suicide attempts from people who are in a terrible state and the Christmas holiday reminds them of lost loved ones, estranged loved ones, and perhaps also their own isolation. These people need our time, our patience and our understanding, not our judgement. Sadly, as many do say, the worst thing you can do is give them money. It will go to addictions a lot of the time. If it doesn’t, say you try to do the right thing and buy them groceries, it is likely they will take their allotted grocery money to use on drugs or alcohol. I personally think the best thing a person can do to help people who have mental health, addiction or homelessness problems (often some have all three) it is best to try and put in some time at a social services agency (Edmonton: Mustard Seed, Bissell Centre, Hope Mission) another thing that can be done is to donate non-perishable food to these places, or even go to a local dollar store if you live in a cold climate and buy a bunch of gloves and hats for people. Giving donations directly to the charities can sound like the ideal thing, but I have been very wary of some charities. I gave more than I thought I could afford more than once to charities that spend upwards of 80 to 90 percent of their donations on raising more donations. This made me sick to my stomach. I would say if a person wanted to donate to a charity, especially a local homeless charity, go down and volunteer and find out what your money will be spent on. Just a suggestion. Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Poetry, Creative Writing, Wellness, and Mental Health Awareness Presenter and Facilitator.

 

A Little Psychiatry and Nutrition From A Dude Who Has Been there

 there must be pots of gold in Edmonton. I’ve never seen two rainbows up close like this (Please look below today’s poem for today’s blog entry)

 

Through My Living Room Window

 

The setting Spring sun is reaching out with its golden rays

Right into my living room as I rest.

For a moment as I contemplate the coming summer

Contentment washes over me

 

I’ve slept too much today, the warm nurturing sunlight

Made my living room the perfect place to snooze

So hard to shake that lazy tired feeling from me, I must rise to write.

I sit and let my thoughts linger over endless childhood adventures

And all my adult responsibilities. For a moment it doesn’t seem fair.

 

Do all the people on this Earth feel these weak moments?

Times where they consider giving up the fight

For two cars and a house?

 

I know that as I listen to the quiet din of the inner city, and

Let my eyes drink in the green of the grass and budding trees

Thoughts of Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Florida possess me

But still I know in my heart

Summer in Edmonton is going to be amazing

 

Leif Gregersen

May 12, 2018

 

Good day my friends. Another sleepless night has come upon me and so I am finally going to sit down to write a little. My bipolar (aka manic depression) has somehow gotten me to cut down on food enough and exercise enough to lose some weight. I would put pictures up of the difference but I don’t really want to disgust anyone. Basically, yesterday I walked around 4 or 5 miles to the pool, had a dip and swam a couple of lanes and weighed in almost 20lbs lighter than I had a few months ago on the same scale. The really difficult about losing weight, and I can’t tell you how much psychiatric medications had to do with it, was just going through the initial shock of fasting. I was having ongoing stomach problems and a Doctor sent me for tests for diabetes and I had to fast for 12 hours. This was at first excruciating, even though I was allowed to drink water I thought I was going to go insane. It actually reminded me about what junkies talk about when they start to realize they are either going to get a fix or become extremely sick. I didn’t really get sick, but it took everything I had to get through that night. The sad news at the end is that I was diagnosed with diabetes, but now that I am finally into a ‘losing weight’ mode I think I will be able to control the bad effects. It is a bit scary to think of, studies show that a diagnosis of diabetes takes an average of 12 years off a person’s life. There are a lot of things I could do in 12 years. There is also risks of poor circulation leading to loss of limbs and also needing to take injections of insulin at a later point. I really wish I had done something about my weight sooner. I can only blame myself for this, I thought if I just kept sugar intake low and exercised all I could I would be fine, but this disease snuck up on me.

One of the things that is interesting to note here is that if you have a mental illness, say schizophrenia or bipolar, or are like me and have schizoaffective disorder and anxiety, it will also sneak up on you. I will never forget the slow, gradual change that came over me just before I first had to be put in the psychiatric hospital. My concept of reality began to change. I didn’t see myself as a thinking human being, I saw myself just as an animal able to feel warmth and cold and pain and comfort. Slowly this got worse and a psychosis developed that made me think the human race was split into two distinct groups, one of them at war with the other, the other unaware of the dirty tricks the first consistently played on them. I can’t believe I was only 18 when all of this started happening. Another kind of scary thing is that I am now 46 and though I am doing extremely well, there is a lot of lost time to make up for that I don’t think I will really get a chance to recover from. I am pretty happy about my present situation though, I have discovered a love of long-distance walking (for 4 weeks now I have walked over 10 miles on Thursdays after work and often walk at least that much on the other days.) I have some very amazing friends like Richard Van Camp who is an incredible author and on and on. I hope some of these words get to people who read my blog. If you feel you are going through something like severe depression, get some trusted advice from a doctor. Have your condition monitored, consider how much an anti-depressant can help. If you hear things or see things that no one else does, talk to someone about it. It isn’t wrong to have a mental illness, and it is never wrong to seek help. The only wrong thing is that so many people are afraid of mental illness and create stigma surrounding it that people think they will be worse off if they share their thoughts and emotions with others. And as far as the diabetes goes, if you can do it, get out for walks. Walk in a mall if it is too icy outside. Get a membership at a pool and try aquafit workouts or even just water-jog (basically dog paddling but you keep your head a little higher and go in laps). Take what you eat into consideration. I’ve now been told to avoid white foods like rice, potatoes, sugar, and a number of others. Get a blender and learn how to make fruit smoothies, they are delicious and very good for you. Salads can be so simple, just get a tomato, some lettuce, some kale, a cucumber, green pepper, and celery and chop all of them up, add some light salad dressing and you’re off. This is just very simple advice I’ve been learning, there are a world of dishes out there that will help you lose weight and get healthier. I do recommend that you consult a Medical Doctor before exercising or dieting and look into taking classes on nutrition, exercise, and healthy living. I can only give tiny bits of things I have been learning but I can emphasize that the feeling of losing weight and being out in the summer sun getting healthy exercise is so amazing it is almost impossible to describe. Don’t leave it until it is too late, make a decision now, turn off your monitor or close your laptop and phone for an appointment to get something done about excess weight or depression, or any mental or physical health concern. I have to tell you things can only get better and you’re worth it!

Mental and Physical Wellness and the Beautiful June Sky

Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog

 

On The Verge (A Villanelle)

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Winning isn’t always the only thing

Sometimes it pays back more to sacrifice

Strong people learn lessons that losing brings

 

I know falling behind can truly sting

One day you will be glad you paid the price

Winning isn’t always the only thing

 

Giving up will never make you a King

Just ask yourselves if you are men or mice

Strong people learn lessons that losing brings

 

One day you’ll get a medal and they’ll sing

Unless you give up despite my advice

Winning isn’t always the only thing

 

In life as athletes you are just in Spring

I hope these humble words to you suffice

Strong people learn lessons that losing brings

 

Dig deep inside for constant improving

And in the game always look cold as ice

Winning isn’t always the only thing

Strong people learn lessons that losing brings

 

June 2, 2018

 

Blog entry for today:

Good day dear readers. I have been having a pretty amazing past few days despite that I got both good and bad news. If I were to sum up the things that went well, I would try to use just one word, “community.” I feel very blessed to live in McCauley (which is where the photo above was taken) because now that I have been here 17 years, I am making so many friends, getting connected with so many opportunities, and I even feel that my illness is further into remission than I thought it was.

This past weekend, I had a table at a music festival in the arts tent and I was really happy to find out that people like my photography and put a high value to it. I had framed up a few photos and sold 3 of 4 pieces I put out. One of the things I love about photography is that you need a lot of the same skills a hunter does like patience and awareness of many things such as light, the paths that subjects may take (in my case often birds) but you don’t kill anything. I hate to admit it now, but when I was a teenager I had a rifle and it was just about the only thing that gave me any joy to go out in the wilderness and hunt small animals. Now I hunt them with a camera and it pays me back in way more joy and even a few bucks now and then.

The music festival was pretty amazing, I also was the M.C. for part of the show on Sunday and got to hear some amazing bands. It is amazing how good live music sounds, if it is good music it reaches right to your heart.

I should actually talk just a little about some of the bad side of things here. I might have mentioned already in this blog I have been diagnosed with diabetes. A lot of people get it, but it is  in no way a small thing. The complications from it are far-reaching, it can lead to things such as blindness and losing limbs. And it can be extremely difficult to follow the diet that is recommended for it. I have to admit being a little blindsided by the whole experience of finding this out. I would say though that I am glad I found out so now treatment and adjustment can begin. I suppose these types of things are just a part of getting older.

To say a few things on the topic of mental illness, I am actually almost starting to see my illness(es) as a blessing of sorts. Now that I went through the horrible times of being mentally ill, being in a hospital, almost losing all hope and many other difficult experiences, I feel that I have something important to share with others that only I can talk about because I’ve been through it. I just want to end today’s blog with a message of hope. There really is recovery be it far off on the horizon. There really is a state of remission you can get to where you have complete or close to complete control of your symptoms. I’m at that point now and I cherish each moment I have to sip a cup of tea, sit in my favourite chair and read, watch a movie or a Youtube clip. I know I’m not going to be 100% healthy and happy forever, but I’m going to hold on to the good times with friends and family and even the enjoyable times I spend by myself as much as I can. I can’t tell anyone if there really is an afterlife, that is more a matter of faith than anything and you can’t just tell someone to have faith and expect them to understand everything you do all at once. I just know that family, friends, love is precious and for as long as I can I’m going to hold onto my health and wellbeing so I can enjoy them to the fullest.

LG

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

 

 

 

Four Poems, a Photo and a Brief Blog

 

Have a quick look at the previous photo to put this one in perspective.

 

Here are some poems that I submitted to a magazine but were turned down today. I hope my readers here see some value in them:

Walking Meditation
There is a way to meditate
That doesn’t require chanting
Walking meditation
 
Focus on breathing, the first step is to mind your breath
Be mindful of your surroundings too
Use the clash of images
 
To clear your mind
Breathe slowly
 
Focus
 
And try not to think of this poem
 

END

 
 
 
I Remember You
 
If I described it to you it would no longer matter
This thing you call a relationship
 
If the emotion and the feeling isn’t there
My words won’t create them
 
Years before we met
I saw you on the bus
 
You were so cute, so beautiful
So young, fresh and perfect
 
And when I saw you again
Not only did the years melt away
 
But you had become old enough
To hit on
 
You see, my words can only
Ruin things
END
 
 
 
Living Room View
 
I stared out my window
And pondered my day
The moon in its brilliance
The sunrise approaching
 
Life giving water
Strewn frozen below
Thinking of places
Where the water is ocean
 
Where the sun climbs above you

As you lay in the sand

 
 
END
 
 
The Tall Oaks
 
Further up are the oak trees lining 97th street
They weren’t here before, they just seem to be
From a thousand years ago
 
They stretch their long limbs pretending
To be wariors brandishing swords
As the masses
 
Safely traverse the street below
END

Today’s Blog:

Well, not a whole lot to say today. I am kind of curious if there are any other writers out there who would like to form an online group of some sort to critique each other’s work and support our efforts. There are tons on Facebook, but they all seem impersonal.

Well, my mental health seems to be good. Lately I have been looking into CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and it seems it can really help someone like me. From what I understand, with many sessions and a lot of work, I can train my mind to stop going into negative thinking. Something I don’t like to talk about much is that there are a few ideas ‘stuck’ in my consciousness. Some of them are memories of things I’m ashamed of doing, some of them are results of delusions I had about some girls I knew when I was in my early teens. It makes it pretty hard to function when these memories seem to keep beating me down, but I am starting to see hope that I can gain more control over them.

Other than that, I have been neglecting my physical health a little. One one side, I have been drinking a lot of fruit and vegetable smoothies, but on the other side I haven’t been getting as much exercise as I should. It is so important to keep yourself feeling healthy with a balanced diet, medication taken on time and regular exercise because things can degenerate quickly.

So, I will end things at that. I just felt my readers might like some of the new styles of poetry I have been experimenting with. I hope all of you have a wonderful Spring, except for those darned Australians who I hope have a wonderful Fall 😉

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.

 

 

Insomnia, Gambling, and the dangers of the Stock Market

 

Well, dear readers, I have to make an apology. It has been a long time since I added anything to the front page of this blog. A lot has been going on in my life, I have made a decision to write a third mental health book, something of a recovery manual for those who are family members, caregivers, or sufferers of mental illness, and it is becoming a task larger than I expected. I have felt a bit reluctant to post here because I don’t want to put out information that I will want to copyright on here because I want my blog to continue to be something people can read and share and pass on to each other without concern.

As far as mental health coping skills go, I feel I have been doing something I shouldn’t. All my life I have had bouts of insomnia and recently I have been given the option by my psychiatrist to use melatonin and other mild drugs to help get me to sleep. Then a week ago I felt I was coming down with a cold, and I medicated myself with these and also cough syrup for two days. Whether or not I really was sick was questionable, but the question of whether I was overusing medications to help me sleep wasn’t. It may seem odd, but I worry a lot about addictive behaviour. Those of us who have mental health issues often fall prey to quick solutions to minor problems and eventually end up having much more serious problems. So, for the past two nights I have forced myself to sleep without any type of sleep aid at all, and I may even return the pills my doctor gave me to the pharmacy if I feel strong enough after a few more days. The lighter side of that is that often when I sleep without any type of help I often get up in the middle of the  night and have time on my hands, so you may soon see me on this blog.

One thing I also wanted to mention is that I have found a new mental health group to be a part of, it is called 18percent.com and they have a message forum where I have been meeting some interesting and supportive people. There is a link at the right hand side bar (the orange frame around the head) which is a clickable link that will take you to the website should you choose to check it out yourself.

All in all though, things have been going fairly well. A few weeks ago I invested in a stock and have watched it each weekday going up and down and it is now down just about as far as I would ever want it to go. There is a good chance unless the American economy completely tanks that this stock will do well, but I really don’t think that this legal form of gambling is a good way to get ahead. I find myself feeling incredibly powerless as the stock moves and it seems to cause me a great deal of stress, even though I invested no more than I could afford to lose. So that is my advice for today. Try and not do what I keep seeming to do, which is get into trouble by thinking there are shortcuts in life. I have built my reputation up with a non-profit here in Edmonton to the point where they want me to teach classes both in wellness and recovery and creative writing, and I think the money they pay me if carefully used and saved up will be a lot more than I could earn gambling on penny stocks. There is of course also the greater fear that if I allow myself the vice of this type of gambling, I weaken my will against going and doing even more damaging types of gambling in casinos and at poker tables and such. I appreciate you reading all the way down to this point, I hope all of you have another day of wellness, and welcome any feedback or comments you may wish to make.

Work, Mental Health, and the Occasional Sleeping Pill

Downtown Edmonton during our winter deep freeze

     Hello my good readers! No poem today. I have been writing poetry lately, but all of it is for a cool contest I am helping to get out to the public. It is called “Word On the Street” and it is a contest to win a little money and get one or more of your poems engraved on the sidewalk. I think it is just about the coolest idea to come along in some time.

Well, along with working on this poetry project, I have been doing a number of things. One of them is going to occur in just a few hours, I am on a working group to help determine human resources needs for a new Edmonton project called a “Recovery College”. I have done some things before relating to this type of thing, there will be a number of courses people can take to get themselves on the right track to mental health and wellness. Because of my experience for this sort of thing, I have been asked to put together a course of my own right in the building I live in.

There are just so many things going on in my life it is hard to accurately think about all of them. In a couple of weeks I am going to give a presentation to the Edmonton Police Recruit class about mental illness and they have expressed interest in purchasing a number of my books to provide to cadets. It really feels good to be a part of something like this. I feel a special kinship to police because I was a security guard for such a long time and I grew up with a strong military influence in my life, doing these talks is very rewarding and I get to understand that police are just regular people, sometimes with preconceived notions. What I often like to tell them is that a good number of the cadets in the class I speak to are going to experience things like depression and PTSD. I think this helps them to be more empathetic to people who have a mental illness, and no one encounters more people in the middle of a mental health crisis than police.

Along with that I am trying to keep up with my writing, working on a short story collection with a friend, and doing my best to maintain good mental health. One of the problems I am having that I wanted to discuss is sleep and sleep medications. I am very reluctant to go on regular prescription sleeping pills because of two things, they are addictive and they can affect a person’s memory. So I have been using different things that are hopefully less harmful, from melatonin to over the counter sleeping pills. One of the side effects that seem to come with this method is that on the weekend I will often sleep way too much perhaps to catch up on REM sleep. I am grateful though, I have been really good lately at getting up in time for work and other things that I need to do. As a kid I needed an alarm clock and even that was no guarantee I would get up on time.

It is scary to think about my lack of proper sleep when I was a teenager. I was constantly tired and was drinking coffee at the age of 14 and up to try and cope. There were times when I would stay up late watching TV or go out to drink some alcohol until very late and then have to wake up in just a few hours to work and it must have taken quite a toll on me. That was one thing I liked about being considered disabled when I first lived on my own, I could sleep all I wanted and it seemed that it was a healing process.

It is so hard to try and crack the code of my insomnia. For a long time I was getting a lot of strenuous exercise working setting up stages, but that didn’t always guarantee me a good sleep. I am actually starting to think that exerting mental energy is just as important as physical energy in getting yourself tired enough to sleep at a proper time and also sleep through the night.

I don’t recommend it to a lot of people with mental illnesses, but I am finding that living on my own is an incredibly rewarding experience. I don’t know if it would be if I didn’t have a very conscientious approach to my work. I am able to keep up with writing work and presentations and classes I teach very easily. But all this doesn’t come suddenly. I had to build up to it. A good number of years ago when I was a younger man I had very little faith or belief in work. I saw things like working in a coffee shop or gas station as menial work that was so beneath me that I would go out of my way to do such things as shirk responsibilities and do sloppy work, even steal. I am definitely not proud of that, but I am proud I have gone through enough changes so that I can get jobs, do a good job and feel good about doing that.

Well, dear readers, that was a bit of a long post that didn’t talk about too much. I hope you enjoy the photo I took, I am really looking forward to the weather getting better here in Edmonton and then I will be out taking a lot more photos. All the best and thanks for keeping in touch with this blog!

LG