Poetry, Bipolar, and Coping Skills: Becoming an Advocate

Poetry, bipolar and coping skills: These are what started out as my therapy and what made me become a public speaker and author, advocating for mental health awareness and mental illness understanding.  I hope all of you enjoy today’s blog, I am writing it after having the extreme honor of being asked to speak at the U of A medical school as someone with life experience with mental illness and the treatment of my disorders in the hospital.

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The Rushing Waters of Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park

Today’s Poem:  (please scroll past for today’s blog entry)

This Time Means So Much

 

Now in the darkness

Combing through my life

Now in the starlight

Moment by moment

 

I fear there were things

I could have completed

I fear there were things

I must have done wrong

 

Here in the darkness

I try to replay the madness

Here in the nighttime

I try to forgive myself

 

What did she mean

When she asked me to leave

What did it mean

When she never called back

 

Here in the moonlight

I don’t know if she even liked me

But here in the darkness

I can make it all make sense

 

Here in the dim light

My thoughts torture me

Here in the night light

I hope to lay all the past to rest

 

It helps me a little

To meditate on the cinch points

It helps me I think

To not make those mistakes once again

 

Here in the cool night

Staring up at the stars

Watching the moon’s glory

I find strength to move on

 

Leif Gregersen

September 19, 2016

     Well, I would like to talk a little about how I became something of an advocate for mental health awareness.  I owe a great deal of what I have become to a young woman named Jillian Jones who worked at the Schizophrenia Society and supported and instructed me to the point where I could go to schools, training classes, community organizations, including colleges and universities and talk about how mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder affected me and why it is so important to have an understanding of mental illness.  Of course, there were many other people, one of them being an old friend named Donna who one day said she could help me get the book I had written published and referred me to an excellent editor.  Without my book, I don’t know if I would have gone on to give talks and promote mental health awareness like I have.

There are a lot of people and organizations I would like to acknowledge, but the fact is that mental illness is something so insidious that it takes a lot of help from a lot of people over the whole course of a person’s life to overcome it.   Sometimes I feel bad that it takes so many of society’s resources to keep me going, but the fact is if you look at things honestly, I would be costing society a lot more if I either was a permanent patient in a hospital or if I were homeless and insane.  Many people like to shy away from the word insane, but the cold fact is that without my medication and treatment team, I would soon be insane.  Psychosis would slowly creep up on me, I would get grandiose and delusional thoughts, and I may even act on them.  I am so lucky that it has been fifteen years since those things have happened, but I constantly have to remind myself that the dark specter of mental illness is just under the surface of my psyche.

I don’t want to just write about the negative side of mental illness, though, I would like to write about some coping strategies I have learned.  One of them, of course, is goal setting.  I recall first getting out of the hospital and being asked by an occupational therapist what I wanted to do for a career.  Some may have said they didn’t think they would ever work again, and I have to be honest, I had some doubts, but I said that I wanted to be a writer.  She asked how I would go about this and I said I would train myself over the next five years.  It actually took ten, but I think if I didn’t have that goal in mind in leaving the hospital it would have never happened.  When a person has a life affected by mental illness, there is a long chain of things that should happen.  First, they need to be put on medications, which could mean, but not always, that the person has to go into a hospital.  Somehow they need to be made to understand that they must trust their treatment team and take their advice.  After they get more stable, I think it is important to take a lot of life skills training.  These classes can teach a person how to interact with others, communicate, control anger, and many more things.  Life skills training in things like cooking and managing a household are goo too, but that isn’t the life skills I mean right now.  After that, no matter what age the person is, unless they are able to resume working a job they had before, is to get some kind of education.  Personally, I took a lot of free courses through the public library which not only allowed me to learn how to use this website, but also taught me magazine writing, poetry writing, and many other skills that have helped me support myself with the aid of a disability pension.  The next step after educational training is to get a job, even if you have to start as a volunteer.  Volunteering can be so rewarding, I used to visit seniors and talk with them and read to them.  The great thing about volunteering is that you can pick what you want to do and get real world experience in something that you never dreamed you would be able to do.  I have a friend who volunteered for a long time at a community police station, another friend who was a welder in an aviation museum.

Well, that will be about the whole shebang for today.  It would be great if people could comment or give feedback to me about what they feel about my website.  I can be reached at the email viking3082000@yahoo.com if anyone wants to discuss things privately.  Mental health to all!

Leif Gregersen

 

 

Making the Transition: Living Alone After Hospitalization

 

Living alone after a hospitalization can be difficult.  It took me 15 years!  I started out in a group home where I was supported, and everyone in the home had been hospitalized at one point for a mental illness of some type.  This made for less stigma regarding my illness (bipolar/anxiety/schizoaffective disorder) and forced me to learn a lot of skills that are helping me thrive in my first self-contained apartment in yes, 15 years!  Of course, there are my books which I feel are the most important part of my recovery.

(apologies: Today’s introduction and photo ran a bit long.  Please enjoy today’s poem and scroll aaaalllllllll the way down to the bottom to read today’s actual post!)

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This photo on the right is a picture I took while visiting my sister in Toronto.  it is three tiers of a wing of the Ontario Provincial Parliament building.  I really love to explore and photograph lavish art like this, especially when it draws on the architecture of the ancient Greeks as does a lot of ornate government buildings.  I don’t really know that period in history that well, but I think this trend is because of the fact that Greece is credited as the birthplace of Democracy.  One of the things that keeps me going, having a lot of fun and experiencing new things is travel, which I think is essential in my quest to be more independent.  I always try to get the most out of my travel dollar, booking my own flights, staying with friends or in Hostels.  One of the best things to do is to learn the local public transportation system as I did in Toronto and London.  Please see below the poem underneath this text for the rest of today’s blog, and if you like my poetry or other writing, please support me by buying a book off amazon!

 

A Madman Who Was King

  

The air is cool, the night is dark

I’m lost among my books

Pages of pictures of people

Through the ages

Their eyes all seem so stark

 

I dreamed about one of these before

Perhaps I was just a child

He’s the only one with just a little more

A look a little wild

 

Gazing into the picture neatly framed

Trying to see the soul it represented

One that is long forgotten perhaps because

Into madness this man had descended

 

It is said he had a particular madness

That warped the most brilliant of all thoughts

And hence all in his life he ever accomplished

Was to be left tied in leather knots

 

I lose myself in this portrait

In the image on the page

Wondering if in a time like now

This poor soul could even draw a living wage

 

It may be over 200 years

It maybe be an ocean or two away

But when I look in this man’s eyes

I think if he were well he would have something to say

 

But they would just fill him up with pills

Until he had no more independent thought

Until he no longer cared to chase

Any hope of the dreams that he once sought

 

It was said he was a happy man

Until they took all he had

But that taking his writing away

Was the only thing that made him sad

 

You see this man had dreams

And could express them like no other

But when he showed the slightest sign of madness

They locked him up and gave his kingdom to his brother

 

It is such a funny thing to me

This ancient man a king in a far off land

Because despite high birth and massive wealth

No one wept for him or tried to understand

 

Living Alone After a Hospitalization:

Well, when you get out of the hospital you are going to need to look at a number of things.  The first time I was out of the hospital 15 years ago I had become such a wreck that things were done for me.  This was extremely difficult for me to face, but I had to accept that I had a real illness, and honestly, let’s take a look at the difference between a physical illness and a mental one–is there really a difference?  Is there something about the brain that is separate from the body?  The fact is, the brain had mass, is an organ, needs blood, and can go haywire just like a bladder or liver or heart.  No one should be ashamed or feel they have to make excuses about having a mental illness, it isn’t something a person chooses to do.  Just like they are doing with drugs in some countries, instead of shuffling people off and stigmatising them, we need to look at harm reduction and community involvement.

So, the first thing I really started to do when I left the hospital was to write.  I had a computer though I had no printer or Internet connection but I would play games and write.  I would write poems, journals.  I didn’t send any of them out like I do now, but I needed to start somewhere.  I had a goal and I was willing to work towards it no matter how long it took.  Before that time I had written some stories, some poems.  Things were very different then, to write a book you kind of had to lock yourself away and then send it to a publisher or agent, pay all kinds of fees, you often got ripped off and even if you had good news come back it would take years.  Now people are using SEO to write books that come up on all kinds of search engines, self-publishing them and sending them out, and they are garbage.  Not to say writing was never crap before, but it seemed that people spent a lot more time polishing and perfecting their work.

So let’s break down what we have so far.  You’re in the hospital, you get out and you don’t know if you can cope and worry you may go back in a few months.  First of all, take some time no matter how hard it is and take your medications.  You have a physical illness that can almost 75% of the time be corrected with medications.  That number goes up when you add in group therapy and counselling.  So get the treatment you need.  It truly sucks that some people in the US live without a health plan to get themselves these things, but you have to do everything you can to get better.  No one thought I would get better when I first got out, but here I am now supporting myself with writing work and book sales and I’m travelling and I have all kinds of great opportunities come my way.  If you live in the US, why not try and contact a pharmaceutical company about getting discounted or even free medication because of hardship?  This is a tax write-off and also a major Public Relations step that the big companies often do.  You may see a Psychiatrist at a free clinic who isn’t helping you, but you can look into getting a more effective doctor that you can work with by paying on a sliding scale.  I knew one guy who was seeing a Psychiatrist for $1 a visit, and he helped him a lot.

The next thing that is very important is to have a goal, to have something to work towards.  It could be a new computer, it could be a reliable car, it could be anything.  For me, it was having a girlfriend and getting out of the cycle of living on disability benefits.  I haven’t accomplished these totally, but I have female friends in my life who I really care for, and my disability benefits are now reduced because I work and I get benefits from another program that I paid into.  Again and again I will say that you need goals because without them you are just floating, you can’t look at the past year or years and figure out what was working and what wasn’t, you aren’t going in a direction.

So I hope at this point you have goals and you have found a way to optimize your medication and can afford it.  I don’t want to bore you with too much reading today, but I think the next thing to think about is relationships.  Mostly family, but friends and life partners too.  Work hard on making these as strong and loving as you can.  Work hard to build trust and look for ways to show people you care, talk with them about their feelings and your feelings and invest in them.  They are the ones who are really going to help you as time goes by.  That’s all for today Dear Readers, I am going to post a picture below, I hope you all are benefitting from my words.

Leif Gregersen

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Loving Someone With a Mental Health Problem

Loving someone with a mental health problem.  It can be a very difficult thing to accomplish, but very worthwhile.  Scroll down past today’s poem and photo to read my blog about just that.

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This is a photo of my dad, who is my rock and salvation.  He married into a family with mental health issues and never stopped caring, never backed away.

 

Debbie

 

When I think of the perfect summer day

I think of you and I walking in the heat

We had no car no cash for the bus

But with you by my side I felt so complete

 

There was a certain special something to you

You had such beauty, and under that a loveliness true

I recall your long, ungainly, uncovered feet

Walking on the grassy part of the street

 

You never seemed to care at all what you had

As long as you had someone to share it with

And you had so very much to offer

Walking with you was pure bliss

 

There were so many things to love about you

Like how you let your thin shirt reveal your sweet breasts

Or how you could transform yourself into a bookworm

And study hard and get perfect scores on your tests

 

But I think what made me truly love you

Was how you were able to care so very much

For the smallest creatures in the animal kingdom

To people who had been hurt by life’s harshest touch

 

In my life I’ve not done well with many women

And I thought that was how the story would end

We all make mistakes and have problems that’s human

But I picked right when I picked you as my best friend

 

Leif Gregersen

August 22, 2016

     Good day, dear readers!  I haven’t been making blog posts on a regular basis for some time, but I think I will soon correct that error.  I have been learning a bit about how to make my blog better and more popular and I am hoping that will bring a new enthusiasm to this process.  I am currently in Toronto and having a fairly good time with the place.  It is huge and so I have been a bit reluctant to stray far from my sister’s house, partly for monetary reasons, and partly for mental health reasons.  It gets so hot here, I don’t know how people can stand it.

In a couple of weeks, I am going back to my job as a presenter for the Schizophrenia Society and I think it will be a very rewarding month.  I am going to speak at a medical school and our annual fundraiser which should be pretty awesome.  While I was here in Toronto I spoke at a mental health conference (on a panel) and I have to say it feels good to get some recognition going.  A lot of people really seem to respect that I have written books about my illness and all that.  I can only see things getting better career-wise, but still, I have to remember to do my daily maintenance on myself.  Above all, I need my medication, and then I have to work on the simple things.  Am I eating in a healthy manner, am I exercising, am I isolating myself?  There are a lot of things that I have to keep focused on.  Fortunately, as time goes on it gets easier.  Sometimes I am so amazed that it has been 15 years since I was in the hospital.  I have to admit to being a bit worried about what moving out on my own (in the week after I get back) is going to be like, but there will be support there and there is more support from the mental health clinic I go to.

Aside from that dear readers, I hope you all are well.  Remember as I said in my poem, we are all human, we all make mistakes, be kind and forgive yourself, rebuild and move on when that happens.  Thanks for all the support!

Mental Health and Life Management With a Poem To Entice You

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

Today’s Poem:

All We Really Have

 

Take a moment now and stop and stare

At the green glow of summer everywhere

White whispy clouds and deep blue sky

Don’t stay inside where you will surely die

Venture out under the sunshine all you dare

 

Summer may be coming near it’s end

And it does become harder to pretend

We won’t miss the sun again this year

 

Soon frozen winter hands will encroach

All the outdoor spaces and places we love the most

Are all our happy, carefree days simply done?

 

It saddens my heart, my mind, my soul

That we must now make toil our only goal

Until once more the outdoors are warm and sublime

 

Through the colder months of wind and snow

We get older as the young children grow

Pausing only to mark the birth of Christ

 

And then in Springtime as the flowers bloom

We fast and try to comprehend the doom

Of the only truly loving one who never sinned

 

Then once more our thoughts turn to different things

Such as the pain and joy a family brings

But not a man or woman regrets it for a moment

 

Because no matter how much I will lament with this pen

The Summer sun will be here again

To turn our sad faces to smiling happy bursts of light

 

But yes even then we will soon forget

That for each hour of joy we owe a debt

Of an hour of ice wind and snow

 

And when those times come upon the land

I think our Lord God understands

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

 

And to cuddle close as we watch TV into the night

As lonely others pass and envy our light

That comes not from TV or light bulbs at all

 

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

As we wait for this precious summer to depart

Those who have shared your life with you from the start

And those who pierced you with cupid’s dart

For all in all love is all we really have

 

Today’s Blog:

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

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

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

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

Mental Health and Poetry With a Couple of Photographs

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Another Shot From My Day Trip To Jasper With My Dad.  So Beautiful There.

Check out today’s blog entry after today’s poem

First Responders

 

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

So long as proud men and women seek the light

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

No one in the world is alone to blame

In the end the winners will be in the right

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

 

Some evil people count destruction as their only aim

But as long as good people always keep up the fight

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Raise up a cheer for those who carry the flame

By their acts they give the blind new sight

So long as heroes who make sacrifices are given due fame

 

Some feel the only good in life is gain

But our salvation still shines bright

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Each of our heroes may not quite be the same

But on all of them shines a holy light

So long as heroes who make sacrifice are given due fame

The human race will always be a worthwhile game

 

Leif Gregersen

July 23, 2016

     Hello to everyone out there who faithfully keeps up with my blog.  I don’t really have a lot of profound words for you today.  I am lavishing in the memories of London, England from my June trip, it really was amazing.  I have been thinking about the Imperial War Museum which used to be a mental hospital.  I think it is kind of fitting to have such a place to commemorate war, it seems to be such an awful, crazy thing.  I had a near death experience not too long ago and it reminded me of my own mortality.  I fell off my bike on a steep trail and got knocked around pretty badly, even bit a good chunk out of my tongue and got the wind knocked out of me so it was impossible to breathe for a little while.  I wondered at that moment if I would ever breathe again.  I sure didn’t expect life would be this good or that I would be this frail at 44.  I remember as a kid reading about men in their 70’s doing these incredible feats, and I don’t doubt I could still do some things, but there are a lot of things I can’t do.  As a result of taking medications and my hands shaking, just about anything that requires a steady hand is impossible.  The medication also affects my balance and my memory.  My doctor and his staff are aware of all of these side effects, but we also agree that I am much better off with these problems than I would be if I weren’t on a medication that stabilized my mood and kept me from experiencing psychosis.  It is so hard to describe what psychosis is like.  You hear things, you think things, little things that happen seem to have huge significances, and you get a lot of irrational ideas in your head.  It is scary to think of how far gone I was during my last visit to the hospital.  I will never forget experiencing this horrible feeling of depression and restlessness and looking at a tile pattern on the floor and somehow my brain mixed it around and turned it into a vision of Nazi Germany and all the horrors they perpetrated. It may seem really odd, but it would make sense to someone who has experienced such things.

I don’t want to dwell too much on all that, actually this has been a great week.  I participated in a story slam, where you put in $5 and get to go on stage and read a 5 minute story and up to ten people can read and at half time they pass a hat which everyone puts $5 into.  The stories are judged and the highest score gets all the cash in the hat.  I went home the proud winner of $100 which isn’t huge, but enough to make a nice difference in my monthly budget.  It is funny to think of how much effort it took me to write the story, edit the story, prepare myself to read it and all of that.  Then it took tremendous effort just for me to get out of bed and walk the 2 miles to the place where the event was taking place.  I really didn’t want to go, I had no faith in my story or my abilities, and I didn’t want the stress of going there and going up on stage, but somehow I did it.

It was good to win that, but stress is eating a hole in me right now.  I am supposed to be moving this week and I still haven’t gotten word that my suite is ready.  I was really hoping to get out of this place I live in now and be done with it, but I just may have to stay another month which will cause all kinds of problems.  And then, constantly, I am bombarded with these thoughts, memories of my past where I play negative things over and over in my head.  Somehow I muddle through though and get things done.  I am now a paid blogger for healthyplace.com and I wrote my blog and recorded my video today for them.  Next step is just to post my blogs and then invoice them for my pay.  It is kind of cool.  That is what is great about being in your 40’s (I’m 44) there are so many little things you learn to do to cope with life.  I can’t imagine life without all my little jobs here and there.  Anyhow, that is my life for one more week, I appreciate you all following me, and as a token of that appreciation, I am going to post another photo just below.

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Trying To Enjoy Life. Good Sleep, Good Food, Good Friends

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I hope no one gets ill looking at this little fellow.  In a way I find him beautiful

The Simplest Things

 

You will think it’s funny

For me to talk this way

You see I had a happy time this evening

In a simple, pleasant way

 

I sat down to enjoy some food

With a lovely pair of adult friends

No kids around, no crayons

No waitress to offend

 

A new chance was given to me today

One that I once thought was forever lost

I had a chance to sup with lovely people

And wasn’t asked to front the cost

 

A little chicken, some cherries

Some salad vinnegrete

And off me fell the pain of loneliness

And the millstone of regret

 

For some time now I have been a number

A man without a face

Giving everything I had

To win the silly human race

 

I never thought a simple meal

Could bring so much joy to me

I have been trapped in my own prison

And just now for an hour I was free

 

It felt a little odd to talk

Instead of just wolfing down my food

When there is no one around

Nothing like that even seems to be rude

 

I want my whole life to go on like that

Breaking bread with my close friends

Perhaps even upon that wish

My sanity depends

 

Leif Gregersen

June 13, 2016

     Hello My good readers!  I hope all of you are on an amazing journey right now headed directly for all of your goals and dreams!  I hope I don’t sound too positive, I am in a pretty good mood today.  I went to help out a friend today and karma repaid me with a real blessing.  Basically, a friend down the street needed help with a new TV and Xbox he got for his grandson and simply gave me all his old stuff, which is incredibly new and in good shape.  I don’t need the stuff, which is a TV and some video games and I talked to my friend and he doesn’t object to me selling them.  Comes at just the right time, I am soon going to be moving and soon after that I am off to Toronto.  It is kind of funny because when I was younger I thought Toronto was the trip of a lifetime, but now compared to all my other journeys it is just another two weeks without my own laptop.

My mental health seems to be going well.  I am occasionally taking melatonin as a sleep aid and find it makes me very tired the next day.  I really can’t stay up past a certain time or I ruin my sleep schedule for the whole week.  For a long time I was able to get to be early every night, but now that I have more writing work to do and preparation for classes and things I am teaching, I have a lot of all-nighters.

I met with my friend Richard Van Camp today, what an incredible guy and incredible writer he is.  We had fun drinking bubble tea and tooling around Edmonton in his little car.  My main problem these days is not friends or money or things to do, it is simply looking down at my oversized stomach and wondering how I let it get so large.  I am 250 pounds and kind of sensitive about the whole weight problem of mine.  It has a lot to do with medications, of course, they give me such a large appetite.  One of the things I really should do more research on is corn, especially popcorn, I am pretty much addicted to it, I have a large bowl with margarine and salt nearly every day.

They say you should love who you are no matter what, and in some ways I guess I do, but it worried me that my health is failing.  It isn’t easy for my two bad knees to carry the extra weight, it is obviously hard on my heart.  I get a lot of exercise in but I never seem to be able to get my blood pressure down and my endurance is greatly diminished by the fact that I was a smoker for 18 years and did serious damage to my lungs.  I don’t really want to write all this to complain, I am very happy in many ways with my health and fitness, but I do want some people, especially younger people to be able to read or hear about things I go through as a result of poor choices and possibly avoid them.

Well, I hope some people that are reading this have been referred by healthyplace.com, I am now going to be a regular blogger there on the subject of Stigma.  I should let people know not only about that, but also about the fact that I have two books on the topic of bipolar disorder and recovering from it (memoirs) called “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which I would love to send you for cost plus bare minimum shipping.  Let me know if you are interested in more of my writing at viking3082000@yahoo.com

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You Might Think I’m Crazy

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This is another beautiful picture from Jasper National Park.  I love this photo.

(please scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog)

As Far as I Can Go

 

In younger days I dreamed of far off places

These images ruled my waking thought

One day I would meet new minds, new faces

Somehow the dreams stopped and I forgot

 

The years went racing past for me

Promised too many more than I had

I realized I would never be free

Trying to please others, make them glad

 

I had made good money, done good things

But inside I was a broken man

Too much giving away only brings

People further from their plans

 

Then all at once a moment came

That changed my life once more

By a simple realization I was back in the game

Soon packed and ready, soon out the door

 

I took my camera, took some jeans

My passport and a little cash

I wasn’t rich by any means

But there was enough in my stash

 

I journeyed across the country first

Why not see first what you have precious and free

The thrill of locomotion nearly made me burst

I could not believe this was happening to me

 

Then I travelled over oceans

Jetted through the skies above

I loved just being in motion

I met so many people that I loved

 

Take the time I beg you

To see another place

Experience the different, new

Life is a journey, not a race

 

Leif Gregersen

As Time Moves On, The News Keeps Getting Better

Good day, dear readers!  I am so excited to be up and writing this blog, things seem to be going incredibly well for me lately.  I have been entering contests and writing short stories, I sent off a manuscript the other day, and I think things are really going in a good direction.  It looks like a busy summer ahead for me, I have three presentations to give for the Schizophrenia Society, where I give a talk about mental health, then relate my own story for a while and then answer questions.  I am headed off to a high school for two of these and a business college for the third.  These people I present to treat me really well and often buy books or even give small gifts like a pen set or t-shirt.  Once I even got an umbrella and I am running out of room for all the coffee mugs I have been given.  The other thing I have to do in July, other than cash the cheque I got for winning the 24-hour short story contest I placed #1 in, is to teach a class in creative writing to some high school students at a special summer University program.

I Really Seem To Have Come A Long Way

It is almost hard to believe that just a few short years ago, though I was making good money, I was working a job I didn’t like and I had just put out my first book and was greatly disappointed at the response to it.  A good friend of mine told me not to worry, I had just put it out and here it is four or five years later and things are going so well I can hardly imagine what life was like before.  One of the coolest things I did this year was to go to my old hometown library and give an hour talk and reading from my work to a group of adults.  Also, I had the incredible thrill of winning a ‘Story Slam’ and $130.00 in cash in April.  Again, and again I am finding that things will come to those who are hard working, honest and patient.  It has taken me five years now to get to the point where I can work on my writing full-time, travel (like I just did to London, England and will soon be doing to go to Toronto and possibly the Northwest Territories) and really enjoy my life.

There Were So Many Ways I Could Have Lost My Way But I Didn’t

I have to admit that along the way there were a lot of distractions that could have derailed my efforts.  Things like gambling, the urge to go back to drinking or smoking, urges to spend money on ridiculous things or get back into high risk investing (which would have led to gambling and, ultimately, my destruction).  But I stayed the course and it is really paying off. A lot of the great things that have happened, I feel I owe to the teachings of Buddhism in a way.  I have spent a lot of time in meditation and tried very hard not to be a materialist and when you have no desire to accumulate possessions, it becomes very easy to live within your means.  An even larger part of who I am today has to do with attending a Catholic Church (though I am still not yet a Catholic) and trying to care for people and always do the right thing.

A Man With Nothing Helped Teach Me Kindness Yesterday

Just yesterday I walked outside my house and a man was sitting up against the door to my garage (I share a house with two roommates) and at first it made me angry.  It was raining, and if it hadn’t been, I may have gone and asked him to go somewhere else.  I went on walking to get my supper and I realized that this person was probably wet, likely going to get sick and had some kind of terrible trauma in his life that led him to this point.  It wasn’t much at all, but I went back inside, got a brand new poncho I had bought for my trip to London and scraped together some change to give him, which I did with both things.  I told him to get something to eat but I noticed that he was drinking beer and I tried to warn him that he could get into trouble for open liquor.  I felt really kind of useless because the guy was already wet, and it was likely not only that he would spend the money I gave him on more beer, but also that he was hoping that he would be put in jail because it would be a better life than living out on the street.  It really was heartbreaking.  Anyhow, if anyone out there could send this poor man a good thought or a prayer I would appreciate it, I am going to leave you with a picture from London and hope all of you have a great day, depressing story or not.

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Six Under, Five Over. Welcome to Hell

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Here is a slightly lopsided picture from my trip.  Some may recognize it, it is Buckingham Palace, home of Queen Elizabeth in London, England.

(please look past poem for today’s blog entry)

Six Under

I thought if I ate enough greens
Took vitamin C every day
And not just the chewable tasty ones
It’s not easy you know
Swallowing all those healthy pills
Odorless garlic and B complex
I had honestly thought if I spent a fortune
On all the healthiest of things
Plus went for a walk each morning
Did a little yoga when I could
And let’s not forget recycle everything

That I could avoid it

When I say it I mean death

Grim cold death has choked me
Taken my breath away
I had tried to be a nice guy
I stopped my car for pedestrians
Wore sweaters
Talked to old people
Asked unattractive girls to dance
I thought that would be enough
That somehow it would pass me by
But here I am dead
Having never seen the north or south pole
Never having toured America
On a Harley Davidson
But in all honesty I’m happier now
I didn’t like bean sprouts and kale
Spinach made me a little sick
It’s so much better
Six under
Leif Gregersen
June 26, 2016

     Good day, dear readers!  I see I have lost two followers, let’s see if I can gain them back with some effort and good blogging.  Things have been going well for me and I have been going through some intense ordeals.  The first big ordeal was travelling all by myself to London, England as you may have gathered from the photo above.  It was the most amazing trip of my life, though I did get some anxiety over different things such as rough weather when I was flying and the extremely long time it took to get to London.

At first, I thought London seemed a bit old and dirty, but when I got nearer the heart of the city I discovered it is still very much alive and vibrant.  It was interesting to see places that I have put into writing such as my two young adult novels (“In the Blink of an Eye” and “Those Who Dare To Dream”).  The first thing I had to do when I hit town was to ride a train for an hour to the place where I was staying.  I stayed in a Hostel called Clink 261 which was the best Hostel I have ever experienced.  They put on a free breakfast, they kept the place fastidiously clean, there was a TV room and lockers, it really was top notch, and it was located close to a lot of great stuff.

I had some difficulties being around so many people, in the Hostel and in the street.  London is a place teeming with human life of every imaginable variety.  People driving cars at breakneck speed on the wrong side of the road, people lining up just to buy a newspaper or cup of coffee, tons of people packed in subway or ‘underground’ trains flying all over the place also at top speed and of course a plane lands in London about every 3 minutes I was told.

What I liked best was Trafalgar Square, not only for the sentimentality of visiting it as a kid many years ago, but also because of its central location and numerous monuments, the most prominent being the one on a pedastal of Lord Horatio Nelson who died in the battle of Trafalgar where he defeated Napoleon’s Forces.  I also visited the Imperial War Museum and soaked up all that I could and then discovered that it was once a mental hospital and nearly got sick looking at films of men come back from the first world war.

Another thing that I really enjoyed (I think I will post a photo below for you) was the British Museum.  I didn’t see nearly what I wanted to, but I was impressed by a lot of things in the British Museum, especially King Edward III’s personal library.  (here’s  a photo below:)

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The library was incredibly ornate, very well lit by natural light, packed with artifacts, statues and stacked on both walls floor to ceiling with books, most of them at least 300 years old.  The place was bigger than a lot of shopping malls I have been to and was all the property of just one man, at a time when the Royal Navy had gone 180 some years without giving its sailors a pay raise and children were working at the age of 10 in slave-like conditions to feed the Empire and its war machine.  I am not against Britain when I say this, it was just the feeling that I had.  In a way I think it was almost a good thing for situations like that to happen because the result of it now many years later is that the people have taken over things like Edward III’s library and use it to further the knowledge of mankind.  If one man didn’t amass all of these books, who knows, maybe science would not be as far along as it is.  I couldn’t help but fantasize a bit while I wandered through this great hall as to what my place would have been in the days that Edward III was still alive.  I suppose I would be a farmer in Denmark, and not likely a very wealthy one.  Enough speculation for one day, I am sure I am boring my good readers.  Please pass the word about this blog, I think that with a present state of insomnia I will be making a lot more entries in the next little while.  Please comment if you like my poem above.

A Journey Through The Looking Glass

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Beautiful shot of a little friend at the park near Westmount and Ross Sheppard High

 

Follow this link to read the short story I wrote which won me first prize out of 500 contestants in a 24-hour short story contest!       Leif’s Winning Story

Here is today’s poem:     (please scroll past the poem to read today’s blog)

 

One Simple Moment

I never thought my dreams could all come true

And my greatest dream was just laying next to you

 

A simple life, a home, a car, a chld

Having it with you would have been so wild

 

But at the worst time that I could, I made a bad mistake

And when I tried to win you back it all seemed so fake

 

Life has a way of working out for the best

Even when it seems we’re being put to the test

 

I lost my perfect lover perfect wife

So I decided to take a new look at my life

 

Posessions I thought I once wanted more than anything

Meant nothing when you wouldn’t wear my ring

 

And so I sought long and hard to fill the hole

That was left in me when you were no longer my goal

 

The simple poet’s life is now what I seek

Precious moments sitting meditating by a creek

 

Love is still but goal but of a different kind

Love from the heart of hearts the soul of the mind

 

I have many friends now who love my words and work

I’m so far past the man you knew who could often be a jerk

 

I’m not writing this to convince you to return

I just hope you can see these words and somehow learn

 

Life isn’t just a race from birth to death

Stop your ambitious striving open your mind and take a breath

 

I pray that in this moment you will see

Though I have always loved you I am now free

 

Striving for things will never satisfy a forlorn soul

Let life’s beautiful and simple things be your goal

  

Leif Gregersen

May 31, 2016

 

Well, Dear Readers, I have to say I am kind of flying on a cloud today.  Some weeks ago I entered a short story contest where you are given a prompt to write from and you have 24 hours to come up with the best story you can.  Yesterday the winners were announced and to my incredible surprise I came in first!  Living with a mental illness, a person often gets discouraged.  I have to admit that when I entered this contest I thought very little of it, I was entering just to help sharpen my skills, I didn’t even think I would place in the top 50.  But somehow I managed to write something special that stood out among the pack.  I have won things before, a few years back I won a short story contest put on by a local book chain for which I got $250 in book credit, a prize I loved getting.  Even this Spring I was awarded honorable mention in a serious contest and though I only got $25 for my placement, I was awarded publication and a nice plaque I hung on the wall.

Winning this contest really couldn’t have come at a better time.  I have been working a new job for three months and I just found out the magazine is not going to be in production anymore and that there is no time frame on when I will get paid.  This came just as I am about to leave on a trip overseas.  Luckily I had some savings and other resources or I would have had to cancel.  I don’t know what relevance all this has to people with a mental illness, I actually have been learning a lot from the boss I no longer am working for.  He said in a course he produced himself called “The Bright Futures Program” that unless a person finds something to do they will continue to be in and out of the hospital for the rest of their days.  It can be really hard, sometimes a person does their best to take medications but so many things sidetrack them.  Even peer pressure is a factor, I had a cousin who tried to convince me that pot would cure my bipolar rather than lithium which was preposterous.  It is almost likely that pot was a trigger for my illness, someone with a family history of mental illness (or anyone whose brain has not yet fully grown) shouldn’t touch the stuff, this is information right from Doctors who have spent years specializing in the brain.  But along with peer pressure, there are many reasons people stop their medication, though I think the most important one is that they perceive their life as better without their pills.  I honestly think though, if a person slowly pushes themselves back towards being functional, taking pills will be something they want to do to keep their good mental health despite side effects or other problems.

How can a person do this?  I started with bowling.  I loved to bowl and was fairly good at it.  I soon found that when I worked out a bit, be it a short swim, a long walk or weights, I got better at bowling.  I admit that now I don’t bowl nearly as much as I would like, but other hobbies have taken over.  I have always loved photography and my Dad and I started going and getting pictures of wildlife in parks (as you may have seen above).  I kept getting better and better cameras and now I enter contests and sometimes even get paid up to $50 an hour to take photos for people.  Would I chance that opportunity to have incredible photography equipment, make good money and do what I love because there are some side effects to my pills?  No way!  I hope that anyone who is going through this problem can see me as a person who slowly worked his way up to something and did it by listening to his Doctors, his treatment team and worked hard to make a good life and a good future for himself.  As always, though it seems no one out there reads this blog to the end, I want to be here for anyone who wants to talk.  Feel free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and let’s be careful out there!

Leif Gregersen

Let Me Fill Your Heart With Poetry

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This is a walking path near my house and the skyline of Edmonton

Today’s poem (blog underneath):

Think What You Like, This Isn’t a Poem

 

Don’t just get out of it

Saying you can’t read it

Don’t say you never really

Got it; it sucks

 

Poetry is in all of us

 

We had poems in the womb

In the loving heartbeat and the voice

Of the one who carried us

 

Poetry is all around us

 

It’s in a huge weeping willow

That sings a symphony

Something you might not expect from a tree

It’s one without music or words

But the greatest one you’ll ever see

 

Poetry is in each heart

 

The young children playing

The teenagers laughing

The forlorn widows weeping

The young lovers loving

 

Poetry.  It’s there in every dance, every song

 

In each step shuffle and move

Let go and go with the groove

Expression and joy

Is all there is to prove

 

Poetry Endures

 

Each year month and day

Will slip away

Take a chance and play

 

Poetry is always there for you

 

It’s my hope to let you know

When you feel there’s nowhere to go

You can reach out of the deepest hole

With a poem

 

God is love.  Love and Poetry go together

 

Poetry is the blueprint

Of all creation

It is who we are deep inside

So come along for the ride

 

Poetry is honesty

 

And know I crafted these words for you

And all of them are true

Don’t ever let yourself feel blue

Poetry can change you, make you feel brand new

 

Leif Gregersen

 

Good day to everyone who follows this blog.  I have been having a much easier time keeping up with things writing posts a bit less and it seems I have a few more followers this way so look for the current pattern to continue.  I am going through an interesting time, to say the least.  As many know, I have worked in the past for a union that handles labour for concerts, plays and film.  I think I just might be able to put that job to rest for a while, plus I haven’t done it in a few months so I don’t even know if I would be in shape for it.  It has been a difficult decision to make because the money is really good, but I just find myself getting too stressed with all the other things I have to do.  Thursday I have something kind of huge happening, I am going to give a presentation for the Schizophrenia Society and a man from the Alberta Speaker’s Bureau, an organization that hires and places public speakers will be there to evaluate me.  I think I will do okay, I’m going to give it my best shot and if I don’t do that well I think I will have to just dig in my heels and join toastmasters for a while and try again.

I have also been teaching a writing class which will be ending in a couple of weeks.  I don’t really know what I’m going to do when I return from London, hopefully, there will be a writing project I can dive into by then.  It is so important that I keep busy, but I often find myself trying to do that in not the best ways.  One of the ways I keep busy is by going shopping, but at the moment, I honestly have all of my needs covered.  I also noticed that when I go to visit my dad or my brother I go there, get down to business, eat or do whatever we had planned to do and then leave.  I guess I would kind of like to go into some kind of therapy to deal with this eventually.  Maybe I have to do incredibly well with my writing and have a lot of money before I can afford to deal with some of my issues.  I do know my sister saw a psychologist for a time and it did her a lot of good.

Despite all my stressors and problems, there is a lot of good things happening in my life.  Of course, I am going to London, England soon and when I come home I will be moving into a very nice apartment.  As usual, though, no matter how good things get I seem to always find myself in a position where if there aren’t people lavishing praise on me I feel like a failure and want to do something drastic like give up writing completely.  Another thing I hate to admit is that though I don’t seem to have any feelings for them anymore, I find myself often thinking about relationships that died more than 25 years ago.  And when I think of that and see pictures of myself I wonder if any of them would even find me attractive now that I have put on all this weight.  Sometimes I feel as though my medication is ageing me before my time.  Sometimes I think I would like it if I had a girlfriend, other times I think that I’m happy to have so many really nice looking and sweet female friends in my life as it is, and then there are times when I possibly don’t like myself enough to feel I should be in a relationship.

I wonder how many other people are in a similar position and feel this way.  I kind of hope if there are people out there they would email me and chat.  As usual, any readers of this blog are welcome to email me, the address is viking3082000@yahoo.com