Month: March 2016

Recovery Through Persistence and Fun

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Yes, my friends, worst fears have been realized!  I have become a comic book collecting nerd again and I’ve never been happier!  This shot was from a collector convention I recently attended

Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Who You Are

Do you think that you could come and crawl
Inside of me for just a moment

Look out through my own eyes
To see yourself for the very first time

Looking who you really are
With the eyes of another

It makes me think that you would understand
That so many things can change

Maybe it would inspire you
To lose a little weight

Remember more often to wash your hair
Wipe that little residue from the corner of your mouth

And stop
And stop

Insulting who I really am
Every chance you get

But I suppose that’s all too much to hope for
I can’t really ask you to change so much

But I was hoping if you did that you would see
Despite those things I love you all the same

Leif Gregersen
March 25, 2016

 

Hello Dear Readers!  This has been a great week for me.  As some may know, I am now the editor of two online magazines dealing with mental health (SZ and Anchor) and it is incredibly rewarding not only to work in the field I have chosen as a career, but also to work in something that I strongly believe in, which is mental health support and awareness.

I wish I could give my readers some message of how I got to the position where I am, but I think a lot of what I want to say has been said before.  Instrumental in me doing as well as I am is simply my housing arrangements.  I have been living in supportive housing for some time and with some supervision and help managing my life I have been able to live relatively stress free and been able to pursue some of these goals such as writing.

One of the things my new boss at the magazine, an incredible man named Bill MacPhee who has overcome schizophrenia talks about is that when you have an illness you have to be persistent.  I totally agree with this, it is so important to keep trying to succeed at whatever you want to do.  Some people with mental illnesses have lowered abilities and hence lowered goals, but the rule still applies.

It was funny, but a huge turning point in my writing career came from the strangest source.  I was at the house in the project I live in where we prepare our meals and there was this man named Bobby there.  Bobby always seemed to be angry and people had told me he didn’t like living there.  But one day I happened to find out that he had gone to journalism school and I asked him how he got magazines to run his writing.  In a short and simple conversation, Bobby kindly explained how to contact a magazine editor with a query and get an assignment.  Within the next few years I had been published all over North America and had made a fair bit of spending money thanks to simply not treating Bobby at face value.

There are many things to be learned by giving people respect and being interested in the things they do.  I feel that just about everyone has something to teach us, something to give us, and of course, being social creatures, just about everyone has the potential to be a friend.

So anyhow, I think I was talking about persistence.  Something I try to do is to write something each and every day.  Not everyone is destined to be a writer, but especially in the case of people living with a mental illness, it can be so important to keep a journal, a record of your thoughts and whatever you want to write down.  This is something for you, you never need to show it to anyone.  My mom used to keep one and she started out by recording how her mood was for that day and then talked (to herself in writing) about the things that were working in her mental health journey and such.  It can be very healing, and if you do ever decide to write something, the skills you will learn expressing yourself in your journal will carry through.

Living with a mental illness can be extremely difficult.  There are times when I really feel my medication isn’t working.  It is so important to have someone to talk to in these times.  This is why another thing I like to stress for a person with a mental illness is that they have strong friendships.  It might even be a good idea for that friend to be a fellow sufferer (or psychiatric ‘survivor’ as some say).  It may not always be best to dump all of your difficulties on this person, but if you have a friend you can talk to on a regular basis, there is always that ability to get together and talk or watch a movie or sports game and distract yourself, get out of your ‘head’ for a little while.  If you are able to do that with one or two close friends, you will find yourself dwelling less on the negatives.

One very powerful tool I have in my recovery toolkit is meditation.  I have actually heard that people who use meditation on a regular basis can actually reclaim lost areas of their physical brains, that it is a healing and regenerating process.  All I really do when I meditate is sit quietly and count my breathing from one to ten.  I close my eyes and as I count to ten, I simply try to focus on an object that has some meaning to me (some may use a ‘buddha’ statue) and keep my mind clear.  If thoughts about money or worries or anything start to come up, I just gently start my count over and try to focus.  Sometimes I can get lost in this process and sit for more than half an hour, almost unaware of time.  When I am done I end up feeling really good, it relieves stress, it clears your thoughts, there are many benefits.

Well, Dear Readers, I will leave off at that for now.  As always, I am open to any questions or concerns, complaints or anything you like, simply send me an email at viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do my best to get back to you.  Have a great day!

Leif Gregersen

Another Day Going By, With a Poem To Inspire You

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                   Needed to have a photo done for an appearance in “Moods” magazine, this was the best one I took I feel.

(blog to follow today’s poem)

Collector

Words upon words

Line after line

Hundreds of pages

Thousands of books

If only

I could consume every book that I buy

I sit in my room

Swimming in the glow of knowledge

Basking in the light of wisdom

A sea of learning, growing, so many chances

To see the world through another’s eyes

I will never have time

Never be able

To digest all the words

I have laid at my table

From comics for children

To Sartre and his bright genius nausea

I have no greater joy

Than leaving this world

This mind

To live in another

Travel through time

Journey through words

Some of them mine

Leif Gregersen

March 20, 2016

     Good day to all my amazing followers.  The blog has been doing so well lately and I wanted to thank all of you.  I am not sure if this has happened before, but I recently got a new subscriber who is a really cool psychiatrist, I feel that sort of thing is the ultimate endorsement.

Spring is nearing, though in Edmonton winter still teases us with the odd snowy day or freezing cold morning.  I am feeling very good about myself as my first issue of “SZ”, one of the two magazines I am now editing is nearing completion and all seems right with the world.  In a couple of weeks I am also taking on another job working just for a couple of hours on Mondays teaching creative writing to a group that meets at a local club for people with mental health issues.

I don’t have anything too specific in mind to talk about today.  I guess one of the things, since I am doing so well that I would like to talk about would be hope.  Fifteen years ago when I was in the hospital for six whole months, I had almost completely lost hope.  I had been extremely sick and in order to get me back thinking straight it was necessary for me to be on a lot of pills that left me a tired, drowsy mess, and I also had gotten into some financial trouble, but no one in my life let me give up.  There was some really hard things to swallow.  When I was sick I had ruined some very important relationships.  The truly sad thing was that I had one friend who stuck by me but I later had to cut him out of my life because he was a manipulator and a user of people.  But my parents and my brother and sister and later my ex-girlfriend did stick with me and it meant so much.

I think one of the luckiest things that happened to me back then was that I found the group home I now live in.  The place is very reasonable in rent and I like just about all the people that live here and work here, and perhaps most importantly I have been able to plug into the local community and make many friends that don’t have to do with anything mental health related.  One of my favorite things to do is to write free articles for our community newspaper.  I have gotten a lot of kindness and support from doing this not only from people who read my work, but especially from the editor of the paper who has helped me with everything from this website I am now reaching you with to getting me paid work as a photographer.  Friendships like this go so much further than networking and extra work now and then though, I really feel blessed to have such cool people in my life.

But to get back to the subject of hope, I think there was always hope for me I just didn’t look for it so intently when I first left the hospital.  For a long time I would just read a couple of pages of a book I liked, go on the computer a bit and spend the rest of my time sleeping.  Slowly over time I built up to spending more time writing and with the help of many of my friends one day my book became a reality and it has gone out now to likely more than 300 people.  I really like the concept that my writing can help those who come across it and a big part of the hope I talk about has to do with me wanting to reach out to people who suffer from mental illness, so I keep on trying to improve things like my public speaking skills and writing skills.

I really wish I could kind of package all of this up and give some advice to anyone out there who reads this.  I guess the big things I have to say I have said before: keep trying to do even just one small thing each day, have goals and try and work towards them even just a tiny bit.  Your goal can be getting better, your goal can be to have two friends you can talk to, but make the effort to move closer to them.  Another thing I may have covered as well is that there are some things people with mental health issues really should heed.  First of all, it is best to try and live in supportive housing like I do, but if you can’t, please do not try and live alone.  There is just too many ways for a person to fall by the wayside when they live on their own.  Living with a family member can be great, but not always possible.  If you do feel you can live alone, make sure you are hooked into some kind of home visit or plan where you have to check in with a nurse or counselor.  And keep your home clean, tidy and make it somewhere you can retreat to, unwind, get away from the stress of the outside world.  One mistake I made once was to let someone come and stay for free at my place and before I knew it they had invited all of their friends to live there.  It nearly destroyed my whole life, you have to be strong and hold to boundaries.

Above all, I think the most important thing to remember is just to take care of yourself.  Look at yourself and ask yourself the question, am I going through anything I need to change or stop?  Ask yourself how you would feel if a brother or sister or parent was going through what you are and if you would let them suffer in silence.  Be good to yourself, nurture your relationships and take life one small step each day.

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Good day dear readers!  this picture is a repeat, but still a pretty cool one I think.  I took it at a place called “Two Step” which is a popular diving spot on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog!

 

Real Love

I can’t abide these bold young men

Trying to change the world with a stoke of a pen

Not by writing poems for the good of all mankind

But by the size of the checks that they can sign

I was once like them it’s true

I thought I had to be rich to win over you

I thought that if I could give you everything

You would one day want to wear my ring

But my journey down that path

Was never meant to last

You spurned my love and I forgot

About gaining happiness from the things I bought

I once thought the best people had the most wealth

But found they had lonliness, wasted lives and poor health

And someone beautiful intervened for me

I’m so glad they did, they set my soul free

Love is never real when you find it while pretending

Love like that always leaves an unhappy ending

Someone has to see the very best in you

For any love to be strong, lasting and true

I was born my father’s son

And from the very day I had begun

I wrote poems, stories of love and life

And that was what always got me through strife

If someone had ten times their present wealth

They would have no extra love, happiness or health

Life is really just an inner journey in your mind

To find what makes you more real, more loving and kind

When you give up on owning worldly things

You can learn what joy undying love will bring

Love with your whole heart and see it’s true

All other things will one day be added unto you

Leif Gregersen

March 15, 2016

 

Hope you enjoy today’s poem, I haven’t been posting much lately as I have a new job as Editor of two online magazines.  They are both magazines dealing with mental health issues owned by the same person and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for me.  I will still be posting blog entries when I can though, I can’t forget about all of my followers!

Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little today about recovery.  There are two kinds of recovery commonly thought of when you are dealing with a person who is afflicted with a mental illness, you can talk about recovering from the illness, and being in a stable state or you could also be referring to things like alcohol dependancy and other addictions.  I woud like to briefly touch on both in today’s blog.

I feel that right now I am in a state of recovery both from my addictions and from my illness.  I have stabilized on medications, and gone through a very long process of getting better.  I have not come all the way.  Some of the symptoms I still experience are bouts of mild mania, times of slight depression, but luckily two things are in place: I have a very good life that I am leading that gets me through tough times and I have found medications that work well for me.  Many people may wonder if once they get to a position like mine if they can stop seeing their doctor.  I really don’t agree with this, I actually like to see my Psychiatrist once a month if I can though he is confident with me waiting longer periods.  I still need tweaking sometimes with regards to medications, like my last visit when my doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant to help me get better sleep, and not only is it important that your doctor be aware of how you are coping, but also that you are plugged into your best source of advice on new medications and treatments and many other things.  For this same reason I also feel it is a good idea to get to know your pharmacist.  The cool thing about your pharmacist is that he gives quality medical advice for free.

That was a short bit about recovery from a mental illness.  I guess I should also say that it is so important to keep up hope that life will get better.  One of the best ways to keep hope going is simply to try and keep busy.  Get a membership to your local pool and if you aren’t the athletic type just dog paddle around a bit and enjoy the sauna or hot tub if they have one.  Get involved in support groups or your local Schizophrenia Society if there is one, they can offer a wealth of resources.  Having friends is also a huge thing.  Before you know it you will be doing and feeling a lot better.  I myself was very sick 15 years ago when I got out of the hospital after a long visit and my Dad would come and get me and we would go for a long walk in the park each day.  I often think these walks saved my life.

But I should try and get in a few words about recovery from addictions.  When I was a teen alcohol was an allowed substance.  I could drink at home or at parties, sometimes my Dad and I would even drink alcohol together.  I was in a poor state in my teens, mostly in a depressive mood and it seemed the only times I was happy (more than likely manic) was when I drank.  I never progressed to drinking every day, but I often got into trouble and had negative behavior when I was under the influence.  Fortunately I am now more than 4 years sincde a drink of any kind and I feel I am in the best years of my life.  What it took to get here was a lot of determination, a lot of effort to change negative patterns, and for the first while, a lot of time in support groups.  Alcohol and drugs is such a sticky subject for those of us with a diagnosis of mental illness.  I have heard a doctor say that once a person is put on prescribed medications for mental illness they should never drink again.  This choice is yours, I just want to say that it is not impossible and can really change your life for the positive.  I also quit smoking and stopped going anywhere near any form of gambling and with the help of part-time work I am able to do some amazing things like going to Hawaii or even buying the computer I am typing on right now.

Thanks Dear Readers, I hope you got something out of today’s post, as always, feel free to comment or email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com