Poetry, Bipolar, and Coping Skills: Becoming an Advocate

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

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The Rushing Waters of Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park

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

This Time Means So Much

 

Now in the darkness

Combing through my life

Now in the starlight

Moment by moment

 

I fear there were things

I could have completed

I fear there were things

I must have done wrong

 

Here in the darkness

I try to replay the madness

Here in the nighttime

I try to forgive myself

 

What did she mean

When she asked me to leave

What did it mean

When she never called back

 

Here in the moonlight

I don’t know if she even liked me

But here in the darkness

I can make it all make sense

 

Here in the dim light

My thoughts torture me

Here in the night light

I hope to lay all the past to rest

 

It helps me a little

To meditate on the cinch points

It helps me I think

To not make those mistakes once again

 

Here in the cool night

Staring up at the stars

Watching the moon’s glory

I find strength to move on

 

Leif Gregersen

September 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

Leif Gregersen

 

 

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