Month: April 2015

Been a Few Days

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Don’t forget to Scroll down past the picture at the bottom of this post for today’s poem!

Hello Dear Readers and Friends!

I haven’t been posting much, I have been so freaking busy these past few days I haven’t even done any writing to speak of.  Today I did write a poem and I have decided that I will continue to write and post my poetry here and at my Facebook page, Valhalla Books where you can find a lot of my archived poetry.  I don’t even know where to begin with all the stuff that has been going on.  I have a friend who has been generous enough to let me use his vehicles and whenever I have a vehicle I run myself off my feet.  Yesterday I decided to take a break and I grabbed my snorkeling gear and swimsuit and headed for the swimming pool.  I am blessed in two ways with regards to the pool, one is that there is a really good one just two or three blocks away, and the other is that I have a free pass to go there as much as I want.  Life really is good for me in Alberta (Edmonton), I live in a subsidized group home, I get a disability pension, I get a free swim pass and a subsidized bus pass.  I really wonder a lot what people who have Psychiatric disabilities in third world countries or even states without plans for disabled people do.  I would like to invite any of you to share your story with me by emailing viking3082000@yahoo.com  I am really interested to hear how people do because now that I have completed my two memoirs that talk about my life with Bipolar Disorder (Through The Withering Storm and Inching Back To Sane), I am very interested in writing more non-fiction books about mental illness.  At one point I was working on a documentary for radio on this subject but I got frustrated with the radio station I was working at and quit.  It was kind of a good job to have but I was spreading myself too thin.  It was a volunteer job mind you, but very rewarding and it gave me a place to go each day and I was learning so much about computers and technology.

Anyhow, I can’t really think of a topic for today.  I think one thing I can talk about now that Spring is in Edmonton is the healing power of walking.  I can’t walk an awful lot because I developed plantar’s faciitis, but I still try to get in as much as I can.  As I probably mentioned, when I first got out of the hospital 14 years ago my Dad would come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk and bitch and complain about politics and so on and it was very healing.  Today I went to visit my ex-girlfriend’s mom in a senior’s home and I took her to a very nice park we have in the city here and she felt a lot better after sitting near some water among green trees and grass and watching the gulls and the geese and the ducks.  I am so amazed by birds myself, when I watch them-and I don’t want to offend anyone-I often think of how to me it seems impossible that such perfection as birds could have come about by evolution.  To me it makes a lot more sense to think of a creative designer in the Universe, but that’s off topic.  If there are people out there with mental health issues, I suggest that you take a bus or drive to a nice park, unless you live near one and just drink in the beauty of God’s creation for a half hour each day, treat it like a sort of meditation exercise and maybe even bring a notebook and write for a little while about how the sun and the grass make you feel.  I am a firm believer in the healing power of keeping a journal, my mom did it for years and swore by it.  I didn’t start doing it until I moved out on my own, but it formed the basis for a lot of my writing.

I am looking forward to the rest of the week, on Friday I am going to my job with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta to give a talk at a junior high school to two separate classes.  I really enjoy giving these talks and doing my bit to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Then next Friday I have booked a book signing event at a downtown bookstore.  What makes me excited about that is that I have a new book out now, called “Those Who Dare To Dream”, a historical fiction novel for young adults that I feel has some appeal to older audiences as well.  It is kind of funny the reactions you get from people when you tell them you are a writer.  Some people are so impressed that a person could fill up so many pages with words, other people think you are automatically rich or famous.  The truth could lie anywhere in all that, but I certainly don’t consider myself rich.  I am very lucky that my bills are covered and that I have enough money to print up books when I need to, but I am just happy to write and read all I can.  Well, I think I will leave off at that.  Don’t forget to scroll down past today’s photo for today’s poem.  All the best dear readers!

 

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Once a Poet Once a Lover

 

Once there was a girl who was kind and sweet

Seeing her smile was always such a treat

She loved me though I didn’t love myself

She had beauty and brains and even wealth

 

For years I waited, wanting her soft touch

But when it came to me it seemed too much

Sometimes the things that we desire the most

Leave us lonely, empty just like a ghost

 

She could have saved me so much awful pain

Turning her away was simply insane

I felt I had to make my own way through

And so I write these lines for all of you

 

I’ve tried to give my all with just my pen

I’ve tried to give back what I took times ten

Always hoping to touch another heart

To soften someone for cupid’s love dart

 

Because when someone’s heart is hard and cold

No matter their age they are sad and old

No one really feels worthy of romance

You stop living if you won’t take a chance

 

It is a lonely thing to sit and write

While everyone is deep in dreams all night

But if I can express my deepest soul

I will live on past death, which is my goal

 

It matters not that I have loved and lost

It matters not that I have paid the cost

Because as long as words still come to me

My heart, my mind, my soul will all be free

 

And though us poets write of love and war

As we all journey to that distant shore

We shall one day be clothed all in white light

Live on and love on for ten trillion nights

 

And in that place my perfect love will be

Her long curly blonde hair flowing and free

Her smile, her lovely model’s shape and face

Will be beside me in that resting place

Poetry Night Out To Kick Off The Edmonton Poetry Festival

 

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, it has been a long but very rewarding path, but I have helped judge my first poetry contest and was one of the organizers for what turned out to be a very successful even here in my neighborhood.  I wish I could put in more poems, a lot of them were really good, but I decided just to keep the video above to people I know who performed.  I got up and read some of my own poetry as well, which felt pretty good.  At first though, I looked at some stuff I had written and it really didn’t seem up to snuff.  I have been neglecting my poetry writing roots for a few months now.  I think one of the big things was that I kind of want to have the distinction of publishing more of my poems and you really can’t do so if you post them first to a web page.  So because of this I have been writing poems but keeping them to myself, which makes it difficult to push myself to produce each day.  For a while I was also trying to write poetry in meter and rhyme, which helps when you are performing, but it is often difficult to keep on writing more poetry.  All in all though I can honestly say that it feels great to be a part of something like the contest and event that I detailed in the video above.

In other news, I have been feeling stressed out lately.  It is funny, something my mom once told me, way back in the times when she was having troubles coping with stress (my mom, now passed had a mental health problem as well) she told me that there is such a thing as good stress, which was why she didn’t like Christmas so much.  She felt so forced to cook a home run meal, she felt it was so important to have all her family and guests get good presents, and it was really hard on her.  I can understand now completely because I have been having a lot of really good things happen to me but it has made me want to cocoon myself in bed and sleep my days away.  Then today I got up finally and took a vitamin that is supposed to help with stress.  I guess it has some kind of B complex vitamins that your body loses when it goes through a lot of pressure.  All I really know is that it helps me take a short nap and makes me feel a little better.  For a while I was taking it every day and I suspect the regular dose made me feel a little worse.

As far as the good things that have been happening, there has been a few of them.  One of the things is that I have completed and sent off a print order for my new Young Adult Novel “Those Who Dare To Dream”  I am going to try and post the cover photo below if I can manage it.  Then there has been of course the poetry festival event called ‘Gettin’ Gritty Inner City’  I have been working with good friends and community members Gary Garrison, the author of an incredible book about Canada’s prisons called “Human on the Inside” and David Prodan who is a hardworking housing  project manager who teaches a writing class I have been attending.  Then I have been in touch with a newspaper reporter who is interested in writing about the disabled and it looks like he is going to write an article about me which will put me on the minds of quite a few people.  Lastly I have been in touch with a person high up in the chain of the housing project I live in who wants to get me into his annual general meeting to give a speech and sell my books afterwards.  On and on and on, so many good things, but so much stress.

For anyone out there who has a mental health issue and wonders how to deal with stress, I could recommend what seems to be working for me.  First of all, I don’t really think that people with severe mental illnesses should work full time.  I personally work part-time though I have two part-time jobs but neither of them engage me more than a few hours a week.  I suppose writing could be considered a job, but for me that is one of the best ways I can decompress.  Another thing I have found incredibly useful is Yoga, and whenever I pop in my Yoga video I bought for $10 or so at a drug store and stretch and strengthen myself, I try to spend at least 15 minutes after meditating.  I wish I could meditate more, it is one of the most powerful things for easing incessant anger problems, stress problems, and generally makes a person feel better through and through.  The method I use is to simply turn off any light, sit cross legged, close my eyes and just be aware of my breathing.  It is nearly impossible to do it, but what I try to do is to keep my mind and empty, and clear out my head with each new breath.  It may seem silly, but I think that by doing this I learn to change the focus of my thoughts and it really seems to work.  The trouble is doing it every day, remembering to do it I mean.

The next thing I do to reduce stress when I feel it coming on is to grab my snorkel gear and head for the swimming pool.  It feels so good to get down there and first warm up my joints in the hot tub and then slip into the cold water, don my mask and flippers and just live underwater, gently swimming laps for the next 20 minutes or so (I feel good right now just thinking about it).  Maybe it has to do with the snorkeling I did in Hawaii, but it just feels so good, so refreshing and renewing.  Then I head home and try to sleep a little more.  Not everyone can manage this though, I am sure the vast majority of people out there with a mental illness, even in first world countries have very little resources.  I think though, that people can travel to a place in their mind where even incessant noise of traffic or yelling or anything really can mean nothing.  Maybe some of these people can even take transit or walk to a place that is free of distraction and do something the Buddhists call ‘walking meditation’.  It is a hard thing to describe, but you can do it in the most basic way just by clearing your mind, focusing on your breathing and doing something I like to think of as ‘cultivating kindness’.  Anyhow, I suppose I am once again rambling.  I want to thank my readers at this point for helping me to feel open enough to write about all this personal stuff, I hope it helps in some way.  Remember, you can always email me if you want to talk at viking3082000@yahoo.com

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Taking Things Day By Day

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Today the Canadian Military Was On Exercise In  An Edmonton Park

One of the things about having a mental illness is that you often end up with a lot of time on your hands and very little to do with it all.  I can recall periods where literally for years I would do very little if anything that was at all meaningful.  At the time this can feel comforting, but I want to warn people that time can pass by quickly and with it a lot of opportunities.  One thing that I feel kind of strongly about is that a person who has Bipolar and is properly managing their condition, really should have a volunteer job or a regular job, even if just part-time to fill up their days.  This can make such a huge difference in life, starting with the extra few bucks it brings in to simply getting out and meeting people and interacting with them.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is because there were periods in my life when for long stretches I stayed at home, watching TV, smoking cigarettes, and when you couple the isolation with depression, you get so bad off sometimes you actually want to be back in a hospital.

I can think back to many occasions when I thought I desperately needed someone or something to ‘fix’ me when in fact I was being non-compliant with meds or treatment suggestions.  I had a pretty good Doctor at one point and he had set things up so I could get into a group home and take some life skills classes, he had even set me up with a Psychologist, but perhaps partially out of fear and partially out of laziness, I didn’t take these opportunities and he made the decision that he would no longer see me.  This felt hurtful, and I was very bitter about this but I didn’t take the bitterness and try to make things better, I took it and decided to hurt myself because of it.  One of the main things I did was stop seeing any Psychiatrist, which didn’t seem to hurt at first, but over time my condition eroded to the point where I was very sick, very delusional.

These days, things are a lot different I like to think.  One of the big things of course is I have my writing, including this blog, to give me something to do, give me a bit of purpose and meaning in my life.  The other thing is that I have decided that the side effects of my medications are not bad enough that I will face getting sick again and go off them.  The third thing is that I am now in a group home where I get a little bit of structure and interaction with others.  There is also my Dad, who is getting on in years, but is still a great source of inspiration.  Now my days are filled with things to do and places to go.

The way that I know I need to keep myself active, see my Doctor and live in a group home is simply by how my dreams go for me.  I often have these vivid nightmares where I imagine I am in my teen years again but in the dream I come to the realization that I am 43 and have barely accomplished what a lot of 30 year old people have done.  This really scares me sometimes because though I know getting older can’t be helped, I have for some reason always feared wasting my life away.  Going back all the way to my elementary school and junior high days, I think of how much time I spent watching Television that was 95% a waste of time and not even exercising or reading or anything.  I could never tell what might have come about especially since my younger years were severely disrupted by my illness, but I know that if I had found a sport I could enjoy or read books of a higher level than comics, I would have been far ahead of those I grew up with, while now having not done those things nearly as much as I could, I haven’t even finished high school and likely never will.

It isn’t  a total loss of course, but a good example is my writing.  For years I wrote and didn’t know anything about getting books published.   For years I published books without knowing how to market them, and if I had worked a little harder and focused on what I wanted to do in a more realistic fashion at a more realistic age, I would have been so much further ahead.

I am hoping that these words can somehow shed some light on the importance of filling up your days, of trying to sit down and take a clear look at what you want to accomplish.  Setting goals is extremely important.  If one doesn’t set goals, you simply wander aimlessly until hopefully at some unspecified point you somehow, possibly get somewhere.  A goal makes you aim and fire and hit a target rather than just shooting blindly.  Set your goals, and work towards them.  And as time passes, re-evaluate your goals and check to see how you are doing with them.  It really can save your life.  All the best, dear readers!

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Friends: Why They Matter

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An old saying goes that “a man who has one friend is a rich man”.  This is definitely true.  It makes me think back to the days when I was determined to live on my own yet I was dealing with so many problems that even family members had a hard time being around me.  I had one good friend who lived two blocks away, and though he was a hoarder and a bit of a jerk, it meant a lot that we could get together and share what little food we had or go places.  He got me through a lot of tough times.  I recall that despite any drawbacks he may have had as a friend, he was kind in some ways and we spent many nights watching his VCR recordings of Simpsons TV programs.

That was a time in my life when, due to both illness and poverty, I lost a lot of friends.  One time two of my former Air Cadet buddies took me on a trip to Jasper, a beautiful rocky mountain park 3 1/2 hours from Edmonton, and I made a complete fool of myself.  For some reason I equated being friends to alcohol and I consumed way too much of it and did a lot of stupid things that I don’t remember.  Things have changed a lot since then.  I have decided that the perfect amount of alcohol for me to take in is zero, and the best way to accomplish this is to stay away from the stuff completely.  No bars, no comedy clubs, no casinos, etc.  By some strange twist of fate, this has caused me to become very reliable despite the extra sleep I often need and the benefits are huge.

I have one good friend right now who lost his driver’s license, and trusts me enough to use his vehicle all I want in exchange for a few rides here and there.  My two roommates, though chosen for me by the group home I live in I count as friends and they let me skate along doing very little around the house and both of them buy all of my books off me.  One of my roommate friends, who is an East Indian from Texas, reads just about all the stories I write while in draft form and gives me feedback.

It is hard to say which of them is my best friend, but I have three friends right now that are extremely important to me.  The first of them is Caroline, a young woman who I have been close friends with over the past 23 years.   We met in school and for a short time we had a romantic relationship but the friendship part of it never waned.  Even last night we talked on the phone for 3 1/2 hours.  I really don’t know what I would do without her.  She is such a good friend that I know for a fact that if it weren’t for her, I would have moved back to Vancouver, on the west coast a number of times, which only would have caused problems for me.  The next extremely important friend is my Dad.  I can’t even begin to say how important he is and has been.  I recall being just a tot and sitting beside him in a child’s chair eating his favorite snacks of cheese and crackers and having him teach me to play chess at a very young age.  Yesterday I went and picked him up from his senior’s home and we went to a bookstore and out for coffee, and it just feels good to be around him.  We talked about a lot of things, but mostly my favorite topic-books, and he made some suggestions about a short story I sent him to look over.  At the end of the day he sent me home with two books by William Faulkner he wanted me to read and two other books he bought for me at the store.

The final friend of the three is a man I met while he was working as writer in residence at the University of Alberta.  His name is Richard Van Camp and he is an incredible guy.  He wrote a book called “The Lesser Blessed” which was made into a movie with Benjamin Bratt among others (Bratt was on the original Law and Order, was Julia Roberts’ boyfriend for a while and appeared in movies such as Miss Congeniality among others).  Richard has opened a whole new world for me in writing and is constantly trying to help me get published.  He is one of the most giving, funny, warm and caring people I have ever met.  Without these people in my life I fear I would slip into a depression in no time and at the very least stop writing, at the worst feel life wasn’t worth living.  I have to say though, that these friendships would not help, and would most likely be destroyed if I were to go off my medications.  I take three medications, one being the anti-depressant Prozac, which works a miracle on my depressive symptoms, Depekane, which is a mood stabilizer, and an injection every two weeks of a time-release anti-psychotic.  These are absolutely essential to my mental health and well being.

The last thing I wanted to address was the friends I have in the group home I live in.  I have the incredible luck to live in a multi-house, partially supervised group home run by a charitable organization.  I get an incredible deal on my rent though I have a very nice house to live in and a large room with space for the desk I am now writing on and most of my stuff.  There are a lot of great things about this place, but the most important of them is the fact that everyone here is either someone who suffers from a mental illness, or someone who is being paid to help someone with a mental illness.  Things are far from perfect.  People can sometimes be stubborn or uncaring, but with just a small amount of peace-branch offering from me just about everyone here can be counted as a friend.  This means that I don’t have to hide my illness, I don’t have to lie about not feeling good on a particular day, and I don’t get any funny ideas that all of a sudden I don’t need my medication, and lastly, it is very near impossible for me to isolate myself.

I think that anyone out there who has an illness needs to find a way to make friends with as many people who suffer like they do as they can.  The clinic I go to has a day program and different life skills classes, and that sort of thing can be a good start once you get out of the hospital.  There are also such things as the Schizophrenic Society, Bipolar Support groups, and more.  How do you make friends?  That can be difficult, but the first step is just to be in some way part of a community.  It could be the neighborhood you live in, it could be where you work, it could be where you work out, and if none of those apply to you, I think one should do their best to volunteer.  One year, though I hid my illness back then, I had an amazing vacation two weeks long in a remote area of Alberta that was incredibly beautiful simply by volunteering as a camp counselor.  It was so amazing, I met a couple of really nice young women, I got to work with some great kids and there was a swimming pool and hiking trails and more that I could take advantage of.  Another volunteer job I had was helping a pastor at a senior’s home.  I got to visit these wonderful old men who were mostly veterans and hear their stories and I am still friends with the pastor I worked with, now 15+ years later.  If anyone wants to ask questions or needs help locating resources in their area, feel free to drop me a line, if I can’t find something I have resources that may help.  My email as always is, viking3082000@yahoo.com  All the best!

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Transitions: How Can We Better Deal With Them?

 IMG_7699THIS IS A PHOTO FROM SACRED HEART CHURCH OF THE FIRST PEOPLES, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WHERE I TRY TO ATTEND MASS EVERY SUNDAY

Many things in life can be a transition.  When we finish high school and either get going with a job or a relationship or College, we go through the transition of leaving our parents’ home and starting out on our own.  When we meet someone and either get married or just take the step of moving in with them, we go through a transition that can shake the foundation of our relationship or cement it into something that will last a lifetime.  The transitions I most want to talk about today is what a person with a mental illness goes through in different situations.

The first transition may be the most difficult one.  You are young, you are healthy, maybe you are happy, maybe you aren’t.  And then all of a sudden you hear a voice in your head that tells you something disturbing or you start to have delusions that you are something you are not.  Delusions can be anything.  I don’t always feel comfortable talking about mine, but I will share some of them here.  One delusion I had once was that I was soon to become King of England.  This seems absolutely preposterous, but in small increments with what was going on in my head it made sense.  First off I was deluded into thinking that I had some kind of great wealth.  I owned companies, land, I had held offices that were paid jobs that I simply managed by telling people that I was in a meeting or at a conference.  Somehow all of these things came together to make me feel I was wealthy for some reason.  Then there was the book.  My Dad has a book from Denmark that was researched about our family.  It traces my blood lines back all the way to the twelfth century, it looks amazing, the cover is hand-carved wood and most of it is in Danish.  My mentally ill mind put these things together and then hallucinated news reports that the Queen of England was finally stepping down and that the ‘book’ told of Kings and Queens in my past and there you have it.  Incredibly far from the truth, but very real nonetheless.  I ended up going to the hospital willingly after reports from my Doctor, my parents, and I am sure others that I had gone completely out of my mind.  The transition of going into the hospital was a difficult one.  I had to get on medication and give it time to work.  It took months because my Doctor labelled me as ‘difficult to treat’.  Basically, I got sick of him, requested a different Doctor and called him incompetent.  Let me warn you that it can be extremely problematic to poke a hole in a Doctor’s ego.

So the next transition that I speak of is the one of going into the hospital.  I had such a hard time existing in that place.  I was a heavy smoker and we were only allowed to smoke during the day.  At night there was no way to access the smoking room.  This seemed cruel and unusual, but I guess it is even worse now because the hospital has become a non-smoking institution.  Smoking is a big thing for psychiatric patients, our bodies react to cigarette smoke in similar ways that we react to medications.  It stabilizes our thoughts.  I have strong memories of getting up in that hospital ward and having horrible hallucinatory delusions that got a little better with each smoke I had.  First off the TV was talking to me and was very grim, then after a smoke it got a little better and so on.  I suppose this was a transition from relative insanity to relative stability.  But the really difficult transition was in going from my comfortable little apartment where I felt comfortable and could have coffee or cigarettes any time I wanted to being under extremely strict rules.  Another thing that was hard to adjust to was to having to live not just according to a written set of rules, but to the rules of each individual staff member while my a$%hole Doctor had told them to put me into isolation at any time they felt like it.  I would get so angry in there, scream and kick at the door and do things like pee in the bottle they left in there for me and then try and throw the waste under the door so the person watching me would be standing in it.  It was the worst.  But deep down inside I kept telling myself that one day this would end, one day things would get better.  I thank heaven that the emotional scars of those experiences weren’t so bad that they torment me with bad memories and dreams each day as some of my first hospital experiences did.

The transition I really want to talk about is perhaps the most important one.  It is the transition of leaving the protection of the hospital, going back out on your own or at least to a place outside the hospital.  In the past I have moved into places that were obviously there to take advantage of mental patients and the tiny incomes they get from disability benefits.  I was in a house for three months where the rules were ridiculous, the landlady picked favorites and treated everyone else like shit, not even giving them enough food to survive on and screamed in your face any time she felt like it.  Although I knew it would most likely lead to poor mental health, I tried to move into a private apartment after that one.  The cycle would have started out with me getting off a regular schedule, isolating myself, and then literally wanting to go back to the hospital just to ease the loneliness and depression.  But instead I was very lucky and I ended up in the group home I live in now.  It is run by a company called E4C, or “Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation” and is such a great place to live.  I am in a house I share with just two roommates, and it is a 5 bedroom house and I live in the master bedroom.  There is a weight set in the basement, we have free digital cable TV, there is  a park nearby and the neighbors around us are awesome and we all take turns cooking suppers and the food is actually really good.  I have clashes sometimes with the staff or other people living here, but they are soon settled.  There is something I really have to watch in myself that was spoken about very well not only in a 12-step group I once attended, but also talked about in a sermon by a TV preacher Dr. Charles Stanley, one of the better ones of that group of preachers.  It is called H.A.L.T.  basically, you have to be very careful of your actions, and if you want to avoid making poor decisions, watch out for when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  I find it is usually under circumstances like these when I get a bit angry at my roommates or staff members.  Anyhow, I think I will leave you my dear readers at that.  I think the last thing I want to say is that going through the transition of leaving the hospital can be a rough one, but if you can find a place where you feel you belong, where you feel a sense of community and self-worth, either by volunteering or by working with people you like doing things you like, and if you faithfully take your medications, you will get through and hopefully not ever feel so bad that you either want to go back in the hospital or do something drastic.  I think I have boiled it down to a few key things: medications-on time.  Exercise-a half hour a day so you feel better and sleep better.  Meals-healthy and don’t miss any, and also try to eat healthy snacks like fruit if you must snack in between, and try to get eight hours or even a little more sleep than that each day.  Best wishes and email any time. viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC00318THIS PHOTO IS FROM LAST SUMMER AT THE ZOO IN EDMONTON.  THOUGH I LOVE TO PHOTOGRAPH ANIMALS, IT OFTEN MAKES ME SAD TO SEE THEM IN CAPTIVITY

Another Sleepless Night-I’m Just Going to Ramble Today

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Good morning dear readers.  I have been interested lately in graphic novels.  I was even having fun collecting them, but not only do I have an obsessive side about collecting things, I have poor impulse control when it comes to buying things.  I also have a thing that I think is unique to people with Bipolar/Manic Depression in that I somehow need to purchase things, or find some kind of excitement.  When I was much younger I collected comic books, younger than that I collected movie trading cards.  All the time I had to be working towards a bigger collection or earning money to increase my stocks.  It is a good thing I think to try and do at least one thing a day, but my desire to find something memorable in life to do, brought on most likely by manic behavior can be good and bad.  It was good when I was learning to write and I would either write a full page in a journal or a poem each day, but when I was a teen I simply had to get out and at least try and meet a member of the opposite sex and also have a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night.  I am sure I was one of the few people who went into a Pentacostal Church on a Sunday not having completely washed off the hand stamp from the night club from the night before.

This drinking culture was a very negative thing.  I don’t think I ever, in all the times I went there, met a young woman who I could date or even dance with.  What I do remember doing was going to these places and either having to shout over the music and never have any kind of conversation that would allow me to get to know someone, or to simply hang around looking for young women I had known from before that I could strike up some kind of conversation with.  Neither of these led to anything.  I don’t know if I am simply not attractive or if these places are just selling a dream for the price of a cover charge and alcohol.

Being in a 12-step program not long after my teen years ended didn’t even help that much.  As things began, I went 6 months without a drink but then a fellow member who I regret ever meeting, decided he was going to be some kind of hero and buy me a drink.  This followed with a very nasty relapse into binge drinking and cost me a couple of close friends from my teen years.  What I did find though, was that whether or not I was attractive, if I could get to know a female around my age and let her get to know me, I would do very well with the opposite sex.  Places like the bus, bookstores, work and classes I took were the best places.  The problem became when I would sign up for a class and only stay in it long enough to try and pick up the attractive women who were taking it.  It is almost frightening to think of how many of my thoughts revolved around sex and my ego as a pickup artist.  It was a bit different when I was in flying school, I would meet all kinds of prospective partners and get their phone numbers-Vancouver was a much easier place for me to ‘operate’ partly because I was away from all the bad memories that Edmonton held for me, partly because I was much more confident, and I am sure a good part of it had to do with my almost limitless energy that didn’t manifest itself quite yet in delusional thinking.

Delusional thinking was for a good part of my days a driving force.  The funny thing is that once I got proper treatment and accepted my illness, life got to be better than any subconscious constructed world of delusional thoughts.  Having things like a motorcycle and a nice home, a satellite dish and a sports care were just a few of the things life dropped in my lap.  One of the things that is perhaps hardest to deal with is that to this day I still have some obsessive thoughts about a female from way in my past.  I have no desire to contact her, no desire to have a relationship with her.  I don’t even think I would recognize her voice if she called me up and I am pretty sure she is married with children, but she pops up in my thoughts a lot.  For a time I wanted to contact her to confront some of the delusions in my head that told me she was trying to help me through some of my more difficult times, but whenever I tried I was either ignored or even had the police called on me.  I felt so bad about it for a while that I told my Doctor that I thought I was a stalker even though I have had extremely limited contact with this person and he told me that a stalker would never come to a Doctor for help, never admit there was anything wrong.  The other thing that is funny is that it seems that this ‘perfect princess’ syndrome cuts across a large swath of people with mental illnesses.  There is a guy living in a building a friend once lived in who repeatedly tried to approach a young woman who has screamed at him, ran away from him, and put ultimatums to him.  Another friend is obsessed with Tiffany Amber Theissen from the old 90210 TV show.  This is a little less harmless, but I see this again and again.  For a time this weighed heavily on me, and I tried to study what stalking was all about and came across instances where people were so mentally ill that they took it upon themselves to kill the object of their desire.  The funny thing I have learned though is that in the vast majority of cases, this never happens, mentally ill people are no more violent or criminal than any other segment of the population, and when they are violent it is more often directed at themselves.  I hope this gives a bit of comfort to anyone out there reading who may have this problem.  I can’t just sit and tell people to let go, it would be very nice if I could ‘let go’ but these thoughts are beyond my control.  What I simply keep telling myself is that the delusional person has nothing at all to do with the actual person the delusions represent.  I also try to keep a close eye on my manic episodes, even though they are much milder, and I am the first person to request a higher dose of medication if I feel I am slipping away from sanity.  The sad fact for a lot of people is that our illnesses, be they schizophrenia or bipolar or OCD, could possibly get worse and there is no special assurance that physical health will go the other way than mental health.  What I mean to say is that we already have all the problems of normal people plus the cross of our illnesses to bear.  My best advice is to keep seeing a Psychiatrist, be as honest with him/her as you can and build relationships not based on alcohol or drugs or sex.  Find true friends and life will always be worthwhile.

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What The Creator Gave Us All

DSC00035                SCROLL DOWN PAST TODAY’S POEM FOR MY BLOG ENTRY FOR TODAY

The Children, The Garden and The Pets We Love

 

We seem to have messed around with the creator’s plan

He gave us all to share and nurture life in this sacred land

Most don’t seem to care that we poison our mother earth

Each day that we live starting at our very birth

 

Many people have said many times to me

You will go crazy living in the North Country

But this is the only place I know that I can see

Clean air and water, this is the place I need to be

 

This is our precious home to walk and gather as we sit

I worry so much about what man’s hand does to it

Don’t people know there is room for all to fit

If not here then in the deepest recesses of the fiery pit

 

That is where we all will go if we take this place

And destroy it collectively, the whole human race

It was given to all of us by the creator’s grace

And one day our creator we will all have to face

 

Each blade of grass, each tiny bird

Was bequeathed to man in God’s word

Yet species die off every single day

And mankind’s hope slips further away

 

We frack for oil and leave the waste behind

Are these fat cat oil billionaires blind?

All they seem to see in the land is dollar signs

To pull one strand of the web will make the web unwind

 

It makes me feel so sad that soon there will be no hope

When we lose all our plants and animals how will we cope?

All these precious creations given to us all

Soon will be no more and mankind will truly fall

 

In a far off place one tired old medicine man

Was the only one who could truly understand

No matter the reward, this was a lousy plan

To refuse to change, though we know we can

 

I ask you all to be a good steward of our planetary gift

The creator will reward us if we make something of it

The earth, the air, the water and all the life

Avoid the pain, avoid the deep and searing strife

 

It is all so simple, yet so many have it oh so wrong

You need to hear the medicine man there was a solution all along

You can’t walk in peace by covering the world in leather

Cover just your feet and in harmony walk this land together

 

Leif Gregersen

April 1, 2015

THE PLACE OF RELIGION IN THE LIFE OF A PSYCHIATRIC PATIENT

Well, this is a difficult topic.  I remember that one of the very first times in my life that I went to a church of my own accord I was in Alberta Hospital, a Psychiatric hospital near Edmonton.  My mind was ablaze with delusions and so were the minds of several other people in the room.  It was a Catholic service, but I had no idea about different religions or services.  All I could really remember was that when I was about 12 or 13 my brother and sister would take me to church and one time my brother pointed out a particularly cute young woman and told me that girls like that were half the reason he went to church.  My reason for going to church was that I was having delusions that some very wealthy people were conspiring to either bestow great riches and rewards on me or to kill me or thwart my efforts to control the world, etc., etc., etc.  It was actually a bit, no a lot–scary.  I somehow believed that in order to be the world or business leader that this mental hospital was somehow trying to convince me I wasn’t, I had to go to church.

All this must seem very confusing, and I am sure I am not telling the story all that well, so I will try to go back a few notches.  In my 18th year, back in 1990, almost a year after I should have graduated high school, I was still going to high school and had been under a great deal of stress.  Add to that I had yet to have any kind of girlfriend and then the fact that I was genetically prone to mental illness, and you have a real mess.  Over the course of a month or so I was in and out of hospital Psychiatric wards and had also spent some time in a Psychiatric Hospital.  One of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital was start drinking beer, a very bad idea with any medication, and I got a little drunk and called up a young woman I was very fond of who brushed me off but said she would still be my friend.  Over the next while, I suffered from psychotic delusions so real and so intense about a number of things that even now I marvel at how the human mind can come up with such false ideas and somehow tailor every day experiences to make them even more confusing.  My only idea was that there really was a God.  But that isn’t always the healthiest thing to convince a mental patient.

As time passed, my thoughts slowly returned to normal, but not until after I went through quite a bit.  One of the things that stands out for me is that when I was at my sickest, a hospital chaplain would come and visit me, a very kind and wise man from the Anglican church.  Later on in my mental health journey, I was in the University Hospital and I went to a service there and, while having a hard time with delusions, had another chaplain explain to me that the bible had predicted the end of the world and some of the things in it were really happening in the world despite that it was written thousands of years ago.  This was extremely disturbing, but somehow I tried to learn more and after a lot of mishaps, I found a church that makes a lot of sense to me with a priest I really like and respect, and on some Sundays I actually make it out to mass.  The problem though is that there were times in between where I was obsessed with reading the bible, times when I thought I had special status because I read the bible and prayed and went to church, and even times when I had delusions about Jesus.  So what is the solution, what is my grand answer to what people should believe if they are sick and hurting and want the comfort of religion or even spirituality?  I don’t think a loving God, and I believe he is a loving God, will hold anything against a person who has made mistakes because of an illness.  My priest even told me once that when you are mentally ill and deep into a depression, though it is not exactly giving permission, it is a forgivable sin to commit suicide.  In no way do I want to condone suicide though, it is a horrible thing, but often people who are in a depression are not in true control of their actions.  This gave me comfort because I lost an aunt and a very close friend to suicide, both from depression and I would like to think I will see them in heaven.  Aside from the forgiveness part of it though, I want to try and explain here that suicide is something that hurts so many people, something that is never beneficial.  One of the sad facts is that unless you make a serious suicide attempt, a lot of hospitals won’t admit you for help you may feel you need for other things.  I am so lucky because I have found a home that gives me structure and enforces medication compliance and regular Doctor and Pharmacist visits.  I myself have lived on my own and fallen away from those things and let myself get isolated and been near wanting to kill myself.  One of the few things that helped me through those times was having the ability to go to church and bible studies.

Now, I just want to say a few words about when religion can be a bad thing.  Some mentally ill people get obsessed with reading the bible, some of them misinterpret or have delusions about things in the bible.  This can be very unhealthy, but I don’t know what the solution is.  I know one lady who has Schizophrenia who had a breakdown as a result of reading the bible too much and needed help, needed her Doctor to step in and tell her to stop reading the bible and increase her medication.  Regular visits to your Psychiatrist and counselors are your best bet in watching out for things like this to happen.  Regular visits where you are as honest and comfortable as you can be with these people.  In my life, and I feel like I have a pretty good life, I sometimes use Yoga for exercise and flexibility, I sometimes use techniques I learned from Buddhist teachers to meditate and clear my thoughts, and I also attend a Catholic church.  In the end, I feel it is most important that I’m a Catholic because the church has a lot to offer me and the people seem so kind and helpful there to everyone.  It doesn’t stop me from finding comfort in other religious practices though, I just kind of feel that people need to follow the wisdom from an old Frank Capra movie, I believe it was called “The Snows of Kilamunjaro” in which an old monk summed up his philosophy in one sentence:  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  Take care and keep commenting!!

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