Month: February 2016

It Can Be A Long, Long Road But A Beautiful One

DSC_0077          This is a photo I have used before (sorry, something wrong with the upload feature) which is a sunny Spring day in beautiful Jasper National Park

Today’s Poem:  ( scroll down past this for today’s blog ) and don’t forget to look up my book, “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords.com.  This award-winning memoir is just $3.25 US for download.

 

And Yet Time Marches On

 

First we are born and then we crawl

Time marches on

 

Then comes school and that harsh love withdrawl

The clock ticks on

 

The years fly past

So very fast

We near sunset and yet

We’ll go the distance and forget

Time marches on

 

Teen years come they’re oh so dear

Close friends are always near

And the very thing we fear

Graduation where our mothers shed a tear

And time ticks on

 

Those were the best days of our life

Then we face the world of hate and strife

Cut away teen privilege with a butter knife

Leave our childhood behind as man and wife

Time ticks along

 

It’s just like a treadmill race

Too hard to get off and face disgrace

Work hard to just stay in one place

Lost years will never be erased

Soon time is gone

 

With some love and a little work

Grown up kids won’t think dad is still a jerk

Even though you never really would

You wish to slap away that smug little smirk

Gone is the light that shone

 

Nowadays all of your hair is grey

You have forgotten how to laugh or play

Everything is the same day after day

And years simply slip away

Time passes on

 

But then a hope of happiness and love comes back

Shortly after your first heart attack

You find that one little thing you lacked

Tickling your grandchild’s tummy as they coo and laugh

 

Life will pass on

 

 

Leif Gregersen

February 28, 2016

 

This poem is dedicated to my Bestefa, Kristen Gregersen born on February 29, in the 19th century.

Good day dear readers.  I had actually wanted to upload a photo of one of my sisters dogs and then talk a little about pets and pet therapy.  I guess I can just ramble a bit about how things have been going instead.  First off, I am now one step further towards not needing to be on a disability pension.  I had been contacted by the owner of Magpie Media, which publishes two online magazines “Anchor” and “SZ” and he had me write about six or seven articles for him.  He was so impressed by my work and the things I can do (one of them being maintain a blog) that he has hired me as a salaried editor of both magazines, I signed the contract the other day.  In other news, today I got back a manuscript I was having a friend edit for me which was a compilation of 14 short stories.  The friend is a well known author whose first novel was both a bestseller and a feature film and he had given me a strong thumbs up on nine of them.  I will have to do a bit of work on the others, maybe even trash a couple, but I think there is a good chance that this collection may be my first conventionally published work.  I find writing so rewarding, it is really amazing.  I hope some of you have read one of my books.  I am transferring the ebooks over to smashwords.com but the paperback versions are available on amazon.com or any chapters, coles or indigo store in Canada.  Just walk right in and type “Leif Gregersen” into their computer and six of my books will come up which you can order in.

So anyhow, I have also been working for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta.  I go around to classes of various kinds and give presentations about mental illness.  I start with a power point presentation and then I give about a 15 minute speech about my own experiences.  One of the things I kind of wanted to stress today is that for those of you who may be youth or young and things seem bad, I really want you to dig deep down, tie a knot in the rope you are at the end of and hang on.  I had a lot of troubles when I was younger, but bit by bit, year by year things got to be so much better for me, and I have to say that I was pretty damn messed up for a while.  I am almost aghast to say this but when I was put in the hospital the first time for psychosis my dad took my prized posession, my .22 rifle away from me and sold it and gave me the money.  I really needed the money but that rifle was everything to me.  I used to love going out and hunting and shooting targets.  I had become really accustomed to it and it started to feel for me like a soldier’s rifle that has become a part of him.  I was mad he sold it, but I still had my gun license and I had actually planned to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle I found in a pawn shop and rob a bank with it.  I just wasn’t thinking clearly.  Mind you, it was very hard to get myself back into good mental shape and I went through years and years of suffering and poverty, but I have come out the other side and it feels wonderful.  I have these incredible memories of concerts I worked at, of going to Hawaii and to Toronto and now life is really falling into place for me.  It worried me that I have a problem dealing with stress, but I have found some strategies to cope.  First off, I had my Psychiatrist put me on an anti-depressant called “Trazadone” and it has lifted my mood a bit and helps me to sleep.  Getting a good sleep at night is a huge thing.  Then I am trying to be careful not to work too much, which may get harder with my new position, but if I have to cut out one of my other part-time jobs completely, I will do it.  Self-care is so important.  So sleep, relaxation/decompression time.  I also have been trying to spend more time each day in prayer and meditation.  And I have filled out forms for a low-income gym membership with the city of Edmonton and I plan to do some dog paddling and hot tub sitting.  For now I just take a lot of hot baths and showers.  I hope some of this helps people who read my blog, it would be great if anyone who does read it gets back to me.  You can message me here, or on Facebook, or email my main email at viking3082000@yahoo.com  I hope all of you have a great week!

What About Friendships?

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some of you may have seen this picture before–I am having upload problems with my wordpress account.  Still a nice little summer-ish image.

 

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry, and don’t forget to check out my eBook “Inching Back To Sane” for just $3.25 US at www.smashwords.com  (link will take you to my book’s page)

 

Far Too Many To Name Here

 

On the days when my life has some meaning

On the nights when I don’t have to pretend

I can lay writing poems and dreaming

About times spent with you my dear friend

 

The people I share this brief life with

Are so precious and dear to my heart

Each moment spent with a friend or a loved one

Make me wish friends never had to depart

 

There were friends from my youth that threw parties

And when older girlfriends would often stop by

But the dear friends who truly lasted the longest

Were the ones with whom I could love, laugh and cry

 

Sharing good times and bad added with some real caring

Good friends can be family, loved ones or those we just met

What matters is that friends are all about sharing

When their friend is happy or sad or upset

 

Life takes a toll on all as it passes by us

Living each day means dying just a little too

But when I’m gone I don’t want people to fuss

It wasn’t so bad; I had a good friend in you

 

 

February 22, 2016

Leif Gregersen

     Good day dear Readers!  Well, it has been a fair while since I made a blog entry.  I have been feeling a bit stressed out (in fact I was so stressed out I made a video about stress using some of the information I learned from researching stress!)  There is a lot of info out there about stress, some of it good, some of it bad.  Of course there is this Kelly McGonigal who quotes studies that it is your attitude towards stress, not stress itself that makes it good or bad.  I am not really sure, I just kind of felt like I hit a wall at one point shortly after finishing compiling a short story collection a little while ago.  I took a few days and literally did nothing.  I didn’t work out, I didn’t go for any walks, I just curled up and hid from the world which I don’t think is the best thing you could do.  I was having a lot of trouble sleeping–most likely because I wasn’t exercising enough to tire myself out or need to repair my body with sleep, but I had little to do so I tried some different methods, one of them some over the counter sleeping pills, another a prescribed anxiety medication called rivotril or clonazepam.  I also tried melatonin, all of them but the over the counter pill in moderation with consent of my Doctor.  I am going to see my Psychiatrist tomorrow and talk to him about the sleeping pills then, but I am reluctant to have him prescribe me something because I really hate to get dependent or tolerant to any kind of medication that isn’t absolutely neccessary to my mental health.  I also had a man with a Master’s Degree in social work tell me that a Doctor advised him that using sleeping pills can result in memory loss, so that too is a factor.  It sure is funny getting older.  My eyes are starting to go, it takes me longer to recover from workouts and it is so easy to get out of a good routine.  Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little about friendships, so here goes:

Some of the first and most important friendships I made when I was first diagnosed as mentally ill was with other people in the hospital.  I found this was very difficult with women or gay males because, them being sick as well they confused a lot of things with sexual overtures and possibly had enhanced ideas of their own attractiveness (as I did myself.)  Although some hospitals, some nurses and some psychiatrists seem to be against it, I think it is extremely important to have someone to talk to and pal around with in the hospital.  I can see how not having any friends could make things unbearable.  Then there is another thing aside from the attractiveness thing, the last time I was in the hospital 15 years ago I mistook a woman who was there for a woman I knew and despite the fact that she was married I pursued a relationship with her.  I was kind of surprised that I was able to succeed at this effort, before she left the ward I was on she actually referred to me as her ‘boyfriend’ while she had been quite hostile and suspicious before that.  It was very troubling though because as we got to be good friends the staff was doing everything to keep us away from each other.  What bothered me was not so much the policy, it was that it seemed to come down to the opinion of one nurse that she simply didn’t want us associating even though we weren’t having any kind of sexual relationship.  Other staff had actually, almost under threat, encouraged socializing, but I don’t want to get into that.

When you get out of the hospital, you go into another phase of needing to make friends.  For me, for a good while my only friend was my Dad.  He would come down to the place I was living, pick me up and take me for a walk in Edmonton’s stunning river valley almost every day and it was simply wonderful.  A little fresh air and exercise, some good conversation and a chance to re-establish a bond with a family member was so therapeutic.  But eventually a person has to have more friends, in my case not only because my dad was getting older and had troubles driving, but also because I was putting a lot of demands on his time.  A lot of times friends were simply people who lived in whatever housing I was in.  This can be a real problem if you are in an unsupervised group home or residence for people with psychiatric disabilities and either there is no staff or the staff don’t watch out for their clients.  A young man at a house I rented a room in was literally a sociopath.  Many many times I got up at odd hours to help him, drive him home from work in the middle of the night, buy him meals, lend him money, lend him food.  The list went on and on.  Then one day I woke up late for work and was really hungry and here he had gotten drunk and left a cold pizza out on a counter ready for the flies to get at.  I grabbed two pieces of the pizza thinking I would pay him back later and found out when I came home that he had called the police and tried to press charges on me for eating the pizza.  I moved out of there (after another incident that I will relate another time) and into a five unit apartment house.  The ‘caretaker’ (he called himself the landlord though he didn’t own the place and didn’t even get a free suite for his ‘work’) was off his rocker.  He seemed normal enough, but was a real jerk.  I got to be good friends with him too, and all these strange things kept happening, and he had a habit of showing up and giving me orders as to how to keep my suite, what I was allowed to do and all that.  Then one day I came home and here he was just leaving my apartment with a smile on his face as he locked the door with his own key.  I was gone pretty soon after that.

At that time, and before that, I had decided to try and rekindle old friendships that had been damaged when I last went into the hospital.  This was very difficult and even impossible in a lot of cases, but I managed to get back on good terms with an ex-girlfriend and we have had a very mutually beneficial relationship, I even have become friends with her other family members and done things.  I have no easy answers to making friends, but one thing I do know is that the more stability in your life, the better chance you have in making friends.  One of my best friends right now is actually quite a well known author.  He used to work as a writer-in-residence at the University and he liked my work and I liked his and we kept in touch and now we meet up quite often.  The important thing to learn from that situation is to have a creative outlet in your life.  It can be writing, it can be music, it can be pottery or Yoga, or even meditation.  If you have stability in your life and you have something that helps you get out of bed each day you will eventually make friends that you can count on.  I don’t want to scare anyone off making friends in a group home or other assisted living situation either, but I don’t think it is best to rely too much on this source either.

Well, that was a long one.  I should leave off at that.  It feels great to sit and just let the words flow.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and if anyone is interested, I have now posted my book “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords as an Ebook for just $3.25 US.  Have a great day!

Dear old dad:

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There Were Beaches To Be Taken

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Today’s Poem: (scroll down for blog and a second photo for today)

 

Insanity Poem

I am the shore; the beach

And I see endless waves capped by headless demons

Each with an issue of blood, a smell of death

Demons riding gentle sloping water mountains

Always coming

Waves that carry Satan’s surfers

Deep in the recesses of my soul and mind

I thought only Christ could walk on water

No, not in my head

If I knew my brain would do all of this to me

What once could I have done to it?

 

When young; so many things undone

 

I thought then that life would be peaches, roses

All at once complete

And happy

Happy as the minute the clock ticks away

Finally making it to the 3:30 bell

On that last day of school

Before short precious summer days of sun and fun

Those days were not so fun

When school ended for all time for me

And life was still newly begun

 

Leif Gregersen

February 10, 2016

     Good morning Dear Readers:

Well, I don’t really have a lot off the top of my head to say, but I suppose I can still manage to rattle of f a bit of stuff.  I had a very cool job interview today for a temporary position as the teacher of a writing class and I have to admit I am feeling pretty good about it.  I will be helping adults to develop their writing skills and though it is part time, the hourly wage isn’t too bad.  I am really looking forward to something that is my own idea, I want to try and take my class on a field trip to the amazing Edmonton Public Library and show them some of the many resources available to all citizens of our great city.  Most of these people will be adults with mental health issues which makes me feel even better about the job.  I have always really enjoyed working with people who are at a disadvantage, whether it be an issue of their age or mental state or physical state.  For some time I volunteered at a veteran’s extended care hospital and I really loved some of the wonderful old men that were there.  I got some good story ideas from it and made good friends with the hospital chaplain who in more recent times has been a great supporter of my writing efforts and a wonderful guy.  I know what I do isn’t volunteering, but I would encourage anyone dealing with a mental health issue who has gotten beyond the initial difficulties of establishing housing, medication and a routine to volunteer their time in projects like this.  It can only help you get regular jobs further down the line, help you to meet people and keep busy, and be an amazing learning process.  I always encourage people in Edmonton to contact the volunteer network, but in many cities there are places where a person can be put in touch with volunteer opportunities.  The neat thing is that you can basically choose your job.  I knew a young woman with schizophrenia who was able to get valuable accounting experience using this idea.

One of these days I wouldn’t mind going through a couple of book reviews.  I wonder what some of the favorite books of my readers are.  My favorite book of all time is Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in which he tells the story, a true memoir in a way, of a trip he takes across America with his son and two best friends on a motorbike.  As he drifts down the highway he has these talks with himself and thinks through a lot of stuff in his life.  This book was one of the first books I read that talked openly about mental illness, I think I have read it numerous times, it was so good.  The same author also wrote a sequel to this book more about sailing called “Lila”.

There is another book that had a great influence on me called “The Richest Man in Babylon” but I won’t get too deeply into that now.

I suppose I could talk a bit about growing up and friends.  One time I was discussing friends and friendships with my Psychiatrist, and he told me that he doesn’t have that many friends, and has no problem functioning at a high level.  I had some times when I was young that I desperately wished I had friends, anyone to play with, talk to, get into trouble with.  From as young as seven to even just a few short years ago I was very alone.  One of the worst summers of my life was when I was sixteen and I spent the whole summer with no friends at all, deep in a depression working full time, driving around with no one to talk to, no fun things to do.  What was odd about it was that just before school let out that year I had a lot of friends and even went on a few dates with some very attractive young women.  Then, seemingly just as school ended everything kind of went to shit.  I have played these times over and over in my head and I have never been able to understand where things went wrong, what I might have done to shun these people from me.  A couple of years later when I was severely mentally ill I had such a hard time understanding why so many people seemed to be against me.  It had seemed that all my life I had only contributed to the community, done good things.  Maybe I will never understand.

The only thing now that I really understand is that it feels good to be a hard working, giving person and to have many friends.  I also know that I would be in serious trouble without my daily medications, especially the one that stabilizes my moods and Prozac, my anti-depressant.  I have been so content lately most of the time, much more so than in previous years.  I really like being an adult and attending church, having neighbors who are good friends and supporters.  I often associate all my good fortune partly to quitting drinking, gambling and smoking some time ago, and in a much larger way to publishing my first book (I have now published 12 and have 10 in print).  What is takes is just a little concentrated effort, with a goal in mind, a destination, just a little effort each day towards that goal be it big or small, and I honestly feel dreams can come true.  For many years I dreamed of being a writer and now I can honestly say I am one and that I likely have a great career ahead of me.  Anyhow dear readers, I have made a decision to put out a blog with a poem a little less often, but still keep checking back for a new one once or twice a week, and as always, please feel free to contact me or to post comments to this site.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

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Sunny Summer Days are on Their Way

DSC_0262Something that is so healing for my mental trials is to go to parks and take pictures of birds with my dad.  Here in Edmonton in the summer we have so many wonderful places, and everything from Bald Eagles to Blue Jays to photograph.

Hello Dear Readers!  What a great picture I found to introduce my blog today.  I have such love for my dad, he is a wonderful guy.  We didn’t always get along that great, there are times when he was grumpy and even times when things he did seemed mean, but the fact is that he had been there and supported and loved me for many years.  I would encourage anyone who is struggling with family relationships or mental health issues or both to take the time to show your family they matter and that you care.  They are the people in this world we know better than any others and are most likely to be by our side when problems come up.

Aside from all that, I wanted to talk a bit today about a growing movement that I am a part of.  It is a thing called the “Wellness Recovery Action Plan” or WRAP.  It is a course, which is used here in Alberta to help people overcome mental health and addictions issues and I think it can be extremely beneficial to anyone who takes it.  There is something that goes along with the course that you can download to a smartphone called “The Wrap App” where you go through a lot of the things the course covers.  Basically you write down all the things you love to do, then you write a list of all the things that stress you out.  Then you go on to make more lists, and the ‘wrap app’ helps you organize these lists.  I recommend taking the course if you can because when you do, and when you make your lists, you become sensitive to things like what stresses you out, what are some indications that you are not as well as you normally are.  You can put down something like: when I get stressed, I tend to lay in bed all day and try and sleep away my problems.  So then, with the help of your wrap plan, you notice you are sleeping a lot and then you look on your list of things you like to do and maybe you go swimming or for a bike ride or watch a movie or play a video game.  It is a great way to get to know yourself, and there are more advanced topics such as who you want to be in charge when you get sick, who you don’t want to be in charge and what hospital you want to go to.  Not all of us will be well forever, medications have this annoying habit of stopping being effective, and other things can go on.  Having a plan puts you so much further ahead.

One thing I am very happy about is that I was recently approved to take the WRAP facilitator’s course, which means I take a 5 day intensive course and then I will be able to be a class leader, after an apprenticeship of sorts.  It really excites me that I can help others to overcome their problems and to use my own illness to help others.  I think that it will also be really cool not only with my current magazine writing about mental health, but also for my future desires to write more non-fiction books about overcoming bipolar and subjects like that.

When I write this blog, I try to think of my readers, and it worries me often that a lot of people who read my work don’t live in such an ideal place as I do (health insurance-wise).  Just to run down things a bit for you, I get a small disability pension that covers my rent and food and other bills, then I get health care provided free of charge, including dental and my medication is paid for.  I can’t even imagine what people go through in places where mental health treatment is hard to come by and medication and treatment (not to mention rent and food) are equally difficult to come by.  For a lot of years I was struggling with some of these issues before I was put on my disability benefits and I was always looking for a job.  I remember being so saddened because a neighbor and friend of mine was running a gas station and wanted me to start work for him and the same day my dad came by and took one look at me and said he was taking me to the hospital.  I wish there were easy answers.  When it comes down to money, I often like to tell people about a short book I once read that really helped me get a handle on my finances, it was called “The Richest Man in Babylon.”  This 100-or-so page book talks about enhancing your skills and setting a budget and putting away no less than 10% of your earnings, and it even gets into simple wisdom about where to invest your money when you have built up a surplus.  One of the things that bothers me as well though is that people who read this blog and people who can read the book are a relatively small, highly intelligent section of the population.  So I would encourage those who read this who have managed to deal with their problems to try and share their knowledge with other psychiatric survivors and help them find a small taste of freedom and self-respect.

Well, dear readers, that is about it for today.  I hope I have given some wisdom to help carry you through.  Of course the greatest wisdom really is that time heals all wounds.  I was near desperation, in a fog of depression and constantly wishing I had money or resources when I was younger and over time I learned a lot of coping strategies and also I had opportunities come to me to earn, learn and live that have put me in a good position to lead a happy life.  I wish all of you a happy life and encourage you to drop me a line any time.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

More About Relationships and the Mentally Ill: A Focus On Community

DSC_0001A warm winter’s day caused me to grab my camera and head out to capture one of these brave little guys for my blog.

I talked a little yesterday about relationships and what they can mean to a person with a mental illness, and I felt like I left something very significant out.  It seems to me that when we live somewhere or work somewhere, or are part of something larger than ourselves and our roommates or family, we are talking about a community.  A community can really be any group of people, but for the purposes of what I want to discuss I think it is best to think of a community as a group of significant relationships.  There is our neighborhood, my own favorite community.  I live in a section of town where a lot of Italian people settled some time ago and continue to live among those who speak their language, worship at the same churches and share the same culture.  There are many other sub-communities in this area, there are the homeless people which I often try to think of as the ones who are the most special because, as many people may know, Jesus once said that “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.” This is kind of amazing in my mind because we actually have this incredible opportunity to do something for the King of the Universe and gain points in heaven just for helping people who appreciate such small things.  More on that later.

The next level of community includes both the homeless people and the Italian people, it is simply the people who live in this area.  I am a long way from getting to know all of them, but over the course of the past 15 years of me living in this area I have made many friends.  One thing that I really like is that when I publish a new book there are people who will always get a copy from me.  I have to admit to a bit of laziness as to the marketing side of publishing a book, and it means a lot that at least my first few sales are guaranteed when I put out a new book.  Then of course, there is a much smaller segment of the area I live in of people who are my friends, and I like to lump this together with the people who also live in the housing project I live in.  I currently live in a group home of around 20 adults that share common meals, common chores, some entertainment and who are mostly friends. This community is something that perhaps means the most to me because among these adult males who all have a psychiatric issue, there is very little judging, very little stigma and a strong desire to help each other through life’s difficult times.  Even when I first moved here a long time back I was able to borrow money and trust the people here to borrow from me and there were people to play cards and sports and billiards with.  It changed so much because first off I had made my relationship with my family very strained by years of being in and out of hospitals and isolating myself.  Being around these other ‘psychiatric survivors’ was a life-changing, perhaps even life-changing experience.  There is also the slightly larger community there that includes the people who work here at the group home, who are all trained to deal with psychiatric patients and are subject to rules and regulations by the government.  Knowing I am not alone is huge.  I would love to talk about my immediate family, how much it means that I have a cousin here and three in Toronto who are incredible people and inspire me greatly, my brother and sister who I love doing things with and of course my dad who is a tower of strength even now in his declining years, but that may take more space than I have here and I think just about everyone out there understands the importance of family to some degree.

What I wanted to talk about was a situation where I wanted to become a part of a different type of community and succeeded.  I wanted to become a part of a community of people who stay fit, who have regular jobs, who don’t focus everything on a mental illness whether they have one or not.  I found this community at the swimming pool I went to for many years.  It was hard at first.  Of course I knew how to use the facility, I could swim and sit in the hot tub, lift weights and so on, but there were a lot of people who came to the pool on a regular basis and I wanted to get new friends in my life.  I forced myself to go to the same pool at the same time every morning for quite some time, and for the first while I would just sit around and take up space.  After a while though, I was able to strike up conversations with people and I used something called ‘open ended questions’.  I haven’t mastered this ability, but basically what asking open ended questions means is to ask a person a question phrased so that you don’t get a simple one-word answer.  “Where do you like to go for vacation?”  for example, rather than “Do you like to travel?”  I am not very well versed in this method as it has been some time since I took the class that taught me about them, but I have been able to develop the ability to carry on conversations with people and when you can do this in the same place with the same people, over time you will make friends and with friends in your life just about anything is possible.  I can recall making friends with a supervisor while I was working as a security guard and being offered a job that doubled my pay with better working conditions.  Another time a friend I made at the swimming pool turned out to be the owner of a coin shop, coin collecting being one of my favorite hobbies, and I got some great deals from him and lots of usable advice.

Basically what it comes down to I think is of course, you must accept your illness, diagnosis and must be in a situation of proper treatment for this illness.  At this point you are at a crossroads, and I can understand why so many people go off their medications and get sick again because life can really begin to suck if you are alone and taking pills that have a lot of side effects and don’t seem to help.  But if you can establish yourself, settle down into a good place to live and build a life for yourself, there are ways to overcome the difficulties that come with a mental health diagnosis.  Settling into one place has so many advantages.  I don’t see now how I could ever move, I have so many good friends where I live and love the house I am in.  As a small, simple example, when you get a fixed address you can get a library card.  That means you have access to all kinds of books, magazines, courses, and so on.  You also have a place to go where you can attend talks given by guest speakers (in a larger city I should say) and maybe you will also start to meet people.  Maybe you just start to be friends with someone you ride the bus with to get to the library each Tuesday.  They say that a person with one friend is a wealthy person, and I believe it.  But of course, there is much more benefit to be realized from staying in one place.  Most neighborhoods, even in small towns have community leagues, Scout meetings, Toastmasters groups, photography classes.  Some of these may be difficult if you don’t have much money and can’t work or take on too much stress, but even a volunteer job for 2 hours a week can help plug you into something special.

Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I want to thank everyone that has been adding themselves to follow me and invite all of you to comment or email me.  At the moment, I am hard at work on a short story collection but am hoping to fuel the creative fires again soon and start writing more poetry.  Take care friends, and keep in touch!      viking3082000@yahoo.com

Love, Friendships and the Healing Process

DSC00221This photo is from West Edmonton Mall, it is a statue commemorating oilfield workers.  It may seem a bit out of place in a blog about relationships, but one of my strongest and most rewarding relationships have been with people I have worked with.  I feel there is something very special about people pitching in together for a common goal that forms strong bonds.

Well, today since Valentine’s day is around the corner I thought I might share a little bit about relationships.

There really isn’t a more sensitive topic than this for people with mental health issues.  So many things are up in the air for people who suffer.  Quite often, mental health ‘survivors’ have a skewed image of what love is and so little experience that they end up obsessed with a person who doesn’t want their attention.  I know in my own case there used to be a couple of females who I felt that way about who didn’t feel that way back.  It was very difficult but I had to accept that they weren’t these great wonderful people worthy of my love, just ordinary, perhaps even negative people and move on.

Of course, obsession is another thing and I don’t want to get too far into the topic because I know so little about it, I am not any kind of a qualified person to give advice and it isn’t anywhere near the kind of caring/relationship I want to promote.  When I think of relationships, I think more of the ones I have carefully built up and cultivated over the years.

It is hard to say where to start.  Just about all of the relationships in our life are important.  These may be our relationships with our parents and family members, which are often greatly strained by mental illness, and could also include friendships and romantic relationships.  I think the thing to remember is that every person in your life can be extremely important.  For a long time I had trouble getting along with my Dad, but when I left the hospital last time after a lengthy and painful stay, he was the only one who was constantly there for me, taking me for walks, talking to me, being that all important listener.  As time went by, I was slowly able to rebuild most of my relationships with friends (but not all) and the rest of my family also came back ‘on my side.’

One of the first relationships that I had problems with last time I got sick (I was very ill, extremely delusional and hurt many people who didn’t understand what had happened to me or why) was with the person who is my best friend right now.  I really care for her, I don’t want to mention her name here, some may know her pseudonym ‘Debbie’ from my books.  Her and I years ago had a short stint as lovers and it was simply the most wonderful experience of my life.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my virginity until I was with someone I cared very deeply for and it was such an incredible experience.  Then when we broke up as lovers, we stayed friends.  She stopped contacting me last time I was ill, unable to deal with all my problems.

Over the course of time, I gathered up my courage, went to see Debbie and talked to her and kind of wormed my way back into her life.  Her and I would often go for soup at a favorite restaurant, and when I really wanted to talk to her I would write a paper letter to her, including in it a poem I had written just for her.  Eventually she got married, but we stayed friends and to this day we talk literally for at least an hour on the phone.  It feels so good to be connected to someone like that, even though it isn’t a romantic relationship.

So how does a person with a mental illness cultivate a friendship?  I have always felt that relationships with others are based on conversation, and all too often people with mental health issues don’t have a lot of things to talk about because they spend a lot of time at home, watching TV or isolating themselves.  If a person can get out and start doing more things, not only will they feel better and cope with stress better, they will meet people and have things to talk about to the new people they meet.  I am a firm believer in volunteering.  When I was alone and having problems, I used to volunteer when I was able to visit aging veterans in an extended care hospital.  I did this for some time and not only learned a lot, but I made friends with the Pastor there and spent so much quality time with these wonderful old men who had fought for our freedom.  Added to that, I found that a lot of young women really liked the idea that I was a giving and compassionate person and from what I recall my social life improved while I was doing that.

So, if you have something to talk about, how do you approach someone you want to be friends with?  This can be a difficult question and there are no easy answers. (I should note here that I am of the opinion that if you make friends with a member of the opposite sex and let things grow naturally from there, you might develop that all important romantic relationship many people seek.)  One thing I noticed I myself have been guilty of is forcing a relationship and doing things that only serve to ‘creep out’ the person like trying to anticipate what the person likes or wants and going overboard.  My roommate is a very good friend, but often he goes to far, turning on lights for me, turning off the tap for me when I go to get a glass.  It sometimes drives me nuts.  I think one of the best ways to make friends with others is to be a kind person without being intrusive and also having a good sense of humor is a big help.  These traits can be learned, humor often comes from observing others and using things they find funny.  Caring comes from always trying to see things from the side of other people.  You don’t have to go overboard, just try and notice something about the other person.  Did you get a new haircut, it looks good, how have you been doing lately, how are your kids?  Simple questions that aren’t too personal can start off a conversation and that is what you are aiming for.

Well, I can’t cover a lot of information in this short blog, I do hope that I have given people some food for thought.  Be caring, be kind, think of the other person, try to have a life so you are able to have good conversations.  If I can remember, I will try and revisit this subject in the next few days.  As always dear readers, feel free to contact me and I always like it when people leave comments.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Shameless Self Promotion Book Blog Day

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Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” in paperback at amazon.com by clicking this link

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I didn’t really want to allow this to turn into shameless self-promotion, but then I was thinking that there really are some people out there who could be helped by this book I have written.  It is a memoir, 200 pages and is available at amazon.com or for order at any Canadian Chapters, Coles or Indigo book store.  The book began when I was just 20 (I am 44 now.)  I basically wanted to sit down and teach myself to become a writer and I figured the best way I could do this would be to first write about myself, because people are more comfortable talking about themselves.  When I speak of this it makes me think of advice I got in dating from my older brother to let women talk about themselves no matter how disinterested you may be.  So anyhow, I started to write this book in short stories and it changed and morphed a lot over the years.  The first one to read the early drafts were my sister and my close friend Caroline.  After writing for a long time I had some copies printed up on an old copier and gave one of these to Caroline.  If I hadn’t done that, and if she hadn’t saved the papers for many years like she did, this book may not only not exist, I might not even be a writer.  One day years later, after I had long given up hope of being published, Caroline gave me the photocopied pages and I started all over again.  Another female friend a few years after that knew an editor and after having the book gone over at no small expense, it was ready to be published.  I had  a hard time finding a publisher so I self-published and slowly over even more time more and more people became interested in my story and I sold quite a few copies.

The point of the book though is that it tells my story of how I started out as a young overachiever and slowly started to descend into madness.  It tells of me being 14 and being sent to a psychiatric ward and how difficult those times were for me.  It tells of the years before I was finally hospitalized and how I went through so many depressions and difficult times that only seemed to be relieved when I was under the influence of alcohol.  But then, after some very horrid experiences in the mental hospital here, I finally came to an acceptance of my illness and as a result started to really get better.  One of the things I am very proud of is that this book has been read and reviewed by many people, in fact if you look at the paperback page (link provided) you will see that one of the people who reviewed it is a professional, well-known psychologist (Stephanie Sorrel) who gave it a perfect rating.

I feel this book really can help people with bipolar disorder and other conditions because it is a true life, personal experience, and though not perfect throughout, it can help those who suffer to see that they are not alone and that there is hope.  I have also sold a good number of books to mental health professionals.

Anyhow, I just wanted to allow people to have a look at what I do for a living and have the chance to participate in my efforts to educate people about illness, reduce stigma and promote wellness.  Anyone who has difficulty finding a book or can’t afford one, I will definitely consider giving a free copy to them, though possibly it might be a computer file that they can either print up or read on their computer.  Please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and let me know what you think.  And for those who have read the book, it would be great if you could review it on amazon.com for me.  Have a great day, I think I will be posting a book information blog like this once a week for a little while to see if it sparks online sales.  Best!

LG

Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” at amazon.com by clicking this link