Month: October 2016

Mental Health and Sleeplessness/Insomnia (Poem/Photo Below Blog)

Do you have trouble sleeping despite being on strong medications to help you rest?  There are ways to treat insomnia that can help you a great deal.  It depends partially on what your diagnosis is.  I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which means I have to watch out for highs and lows in my mood, and, of course, need medication.  I find that often in either extreme of mood I have trouble sleeping.  Insomnia can be very difficult to deal with, and when you are already struggling to hold down a job and perhaps suffering from a mental illness, it gets even worse.  I think one of the best ways to deal with insomnia is, first of all, to try and eliminate napping.  This is something I find difficult because I often have a lot of time on my hands on days when I don’t have work or class.  I don’t like watching TV much so I either have to force myself to work on something, or nap and end up not being able to sleep at night. It takes discipline, and maybe it will take another part-time job or hobby but napping has to go.

One thing I found that can help a great deal with not being able to sleep is to exercise.  Many people don’t have the benefit I do of a nearby fitness facility with pool and weight room, but there is still a way to do push-ups, go for walks, join a Yoga class, or if you want to try Yoga, simply get a mat and a video you can work with at home.  Something I have to be very aware of with this solution is that sometimes exercise can send me into a manic state.  People with mental health issues other than bipolar may face such things as worsening symptoms of paranoia or visual/auditory hallucinations. Talk to your Psychiatrist and perhaps they can work out something that will help you get out more, perhaps a medication that helps calm you down or some group therapy that will help you transition to form your own connections in your community.

Another problem that those with a mental health issue face with regards to sleeplessness/insomnia is that one of the worst things you can do is to get your biological clock out of ‘whack.’  When you go to bed at different times or sleep all day, you are making it hard for your body to know when it should shut down and rest.  One of the best strategies to coping with this problem is to try and go to sleep when the sun goes down, and, no matter how much coffee it takes (but not after 6:00pm) to get out of bed in the morning, do your best to get up early.  Add this to not napping, exercising or socializing during the day and soon you will improve one of the key problems people with a mental illness face.

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Find Love But Love Yourself
The past is a cruel cruel mistress
Who sometimes will not let one go
I want to say though I’m embarrassed
Some important things to know
One can’t just let all of their memories
Haunt them through all of their days
Each person’s time on earth is limited
And right now my son, you are in your prime
Watch for the ones who are most lovely
So good-looking you can hardly cope
Those women have their choice of men
And many of them will choose to love a few
Open wide your eyes my son
Let each sunrise find you blessed
Feel the renewing breeze, the cool, cool air
Give thanks to the hand that feeds your soul
Of all the things I’ve told you
There is only one you must bury in your heart
Love only those that love you back
Or be sad and broken; torn apart
Perhaps a few times as my youth slipped past
I could have had the woman of my dreams
But things do not always work that way
Respect and love whoever you end up with
Dreaming of the perfect one
Left me no closer to the truth
That as I dreamed life slipped away
And I missed out on most of my youth
So many happy carefree times
Spent in play or traveling
I had no idea there was more joy
In the feelings your own family can bring

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Employment: How Much Can You Handle, How Much is Too Much?

Employment and Stress Blog With Poem at the End of Post

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                   How Much Employment is Too Much?  How Do You Know When You Reach Your Limit?

Please Scroll Past Today’s Blog if You Want To Just Read The Poem of the day!

     Well, I would like to talk about our limitations with regards to employment.  This is a very difficult question for me because I was raised in a family of people who worked very hard.  As you may have figured from my picture above as well, in my formative years (12-15) I was in an Air Cadet Squadron and there was a strong emphasis on work ethic and conservatism.  I did well in Cadets, I loved that I was rewarded for working hard, and often out-working my peers if I could.  But time and stress started to hit me and when I got a little older I was influenced by someone a little more left-wing.  It was a person who did believe in hard work, he just hated it.

When I was younger, I had a lot of jobs despite that I was likely a young person suffering from a mental illness.  Even before I was very old I worked in my dad’s shop, I delivered papers, I got my sister to pay me to do her chores (she had a job and made good money as a waitress in a steak house).  My plan was to have a huge comic book collection that I would use to finance my University Education.  I was 10.  Later in life I wore myself down to where I would spend most of the money I made from successive jobs on things like stereos, computer games, cars, motorcycles.  I think it was a mistake.  There is no way to tell how things may have worked out for me, but if I had taken the energy I put into buying those things and put them into my studies, I could have easily gotten scholarships.  One of my big problems was that I didn’t know anything about scholarships or University, having no family members who had gone there, and that I was digging an early grave for myself surviving on pizza and coca-cola and getting so little sleep I turned sleeping in class to an art form.

At the age of 18 I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what to tell you.  It had been a long and difficult winter, I had been fighting with my dad almost daily, he had tried a couple of times to kick me out of the house and no one seemed to care at all about me, and I was soon to have nowhere to live meaning I would lose all my property (including the comic books).  Added to that, a close friend committed suicide which devastated me, and for some reason I began to think that I could develop a new way of thinking and acting that would make people like me and turn me into some kind of hero.  This was the point when I started to slip away from reality.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I was working a job where I was getting screwed over for a promotion among mostly men twice my age.  This is where the word ‘psychosis’ comes in handy.  ‘Psychosis’ involves a loss of contact with reality.  Slowly I slipped into it, and soon all kinds of crazy ideas went through my head.  I ended up in the hospital and when I got out, all there was to help me to live was social services/welfare.  I felt so wronged by society, I took out my anger on employers, on my family.  It was a mess.

There is much more to talk about on this topic, but basically, I want to say that if I had seen the signs of stress coming, if I had been able to quit school and my job and be honest with my family about what was going on in my head and get help, there is a real likelihood I could have avoided numerous hospital stays.  But I don’t want to think like that.  I do want to think like my life has ended up well.  I have some incredible friends and an amazing life.  I just kind of wish that I can write these blogs and that someone out there can see some of these signs in themselves and be able to avoid some of the terrible things that happened to me.  It really is no fun having a breakdown and ending up in the hospital.  Most of the time you go through it, then recover and just get sick again, often whether you take your medication or not.  I see it often, and it is incredibly sad.  Some of the best advice I heard a person in this situation get was to a former employer, Bill MacPhee, who was told, “If you don’t find something to do you’re going to be in and out of the hospital the rest of your life.”  Bill wrote a book, he speaks at conferences all over the place and he has a couple of companies that serve people with mental health issues.  I hope you enjoy the poem below!

Edmonton, Fall 2016

 

The days of cold and wet have come to be

We will soon lost upon a snowy white frozen sea

Although the summer this year was a little longer

The power of the frozen north is stronger

 

I can’t tell you why I love this place, my home

I know that it appears I’m always alone

Up here the icy cold cleanses clean it all

And up here I haven’t got quite so far to fall

 

On the rainy coast out West I get sick and cough

In the desert heat of Arizona I would be lost

It comes down to being free, and what is best for me

I love this crisp cold place can’t you see

 

Not long ago, it’s true, I flew very far away

And to be honest, a part of me wanted to stay

But here I have those I love and my simple life

And a best friend who once could have been my wife

 

Maybe it is wrong of me to be afraid of letting go

But I’m happy here, and happy to let life unfold this slow

I also want to be here for my dad who soon may pass away

Because I know it shall be my turn one day

 

There is something special when you live somewhere a while

I feel re-energized with each kind hello and smile

I also like being able to volunteer and serve the poor

There is no other way my life could possibly mean more

 

And so I spend my days with those I care for near

And spend my nights writing my poetry right here

When life is lived to the fullest there is no more fear

That when I’m gone no one will shed a tear

 

And perhaps if what the bible says is true

When I am forever gone I will be born anew

In a place that was meant for a poet like me

Floating on a cloud in a perfect joyful sea

 

Leif Gregersen

Mental Health: Is Holding On and Waiting Enough?

When have you done too much waiting for your mental health to get better?  When is the time to throw in the towel and stop holding on?  I hope you never give in or give up.

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        I am so fascinated by these little creatures in so many ways.  Took this on the front steps of my sister’s house in Toronto this past summer.

Please scroll past today’s poem for a very important blog post

Younger Days

 

 I was feeling trapped by loneliness and pain

I never thought life would get any good again

As a young man, I was scared of growing old

I didn’t like the stories about old age my elders told

 

And now I’ve made it all the way to middle age

Trying to make my way with words upon a page

And I have to tell you things really aren’t that bad

I have all the toys and friends to keep me from being sad

 

In fact, when I look back now upon my youth

I kind of wish someone had told me the honest truth

That there may be some pretty hard times when you are young

But if you dig in and hold on life can get so very fun

 

When I think of all the joy my little niece has given me

I can’t deny her arrival set my soul free

I love that little girl more than anything

I can’t describe the joy a young child can bring

 

When she was growing up I was born all over again

And I didn’t ever have to lie, be fake, or pretend

I could just be the Uncle who loved her so

I hope that these are things you already know

 

Now I have so many friends I truly love

True friendships are a gift from up above

So stand fast and don’t worry about being a child

I promise you that life will get so wonderful and wild

 

 

Leif Gregersen

October 15, 2016

   Have you ever sat and watched a spider spin their web?  It is a mind-numbingly tedious process.  But in order to eat and to survive, they must do it.  Spiders have to start at one side of where they want their trap to be, then climb back and forth, back and forth, spinning their tiny web enough times for the most amazing geometric structure, then spin the inner circles that connect those lines.  If someone comes along and wipes out their work, they start right over at the beginning.  I hope that this is the way you see overcoming your mental illness or other difficulties in your life.  Never, never, never, never give up.

     I don’t know how much I can handle sharing with you, my dear readers, but at a time I was very messed up and didn’t understand what was happening.  It amazes me that I got through all of that and now am a successful writer with many friends, a past of many wonderful trips and experiences and a genuinely happy life.  Twenty-six years ago I was a far ways from it and maybe if I can share a little of my story with you it might help you to help yourself or your loved ones from going through the same thing.  First and foremost, I had no understanding of mental illness, and it crept up on me.  The illness manifested itself while I was in school and I did a lot of irrational things that got me in trouble.  I was taken to a secure ward in a mental hospital which was absolutely the worst experience of my life.  It felt as though my brains were scrambled, but still there were a lot of people at the hospital who really were trying hard to help me.  The thing was, because no one I knew had ever talked about mental illness, my opinion was that if I told these people about the thoughts and problems I was having they would simply lock me up longer.  The miracle of it was that in short order medications were found that had me back in excellent shape in a surprisingly short time.

Of course, I didn’t continue to take treatment.  Over the years, I was in and out of hospitals a lot, and I came to a point where I just wanted the pain to end.  I took a serious overdose of acetaminophen and came very near to ending my life.  When I saw the pain and difficulties I caused my family, I decided I would never attempt suicide again.  I had to have some kind of hope in my life though.  It was excruciatingly difficult, but I kept trying to find a doctor and medications that worked for me and I forced myself to get a job and at least try and make my own way in the world.  I found a lot of help going to church and some 12-step meetings, though for years it almost felt like my whole life was just about going through the motions.

One of the things I needed to do perhaps the most was to get my life on a schedule, even if I was occasionally sleeping all day or staying up all night.  My method of doing this was to start going to the swimming pool.  By the grace of God, the city of Edmonton started a plan where people who were disabled or impoverished could get a free pass to use city facilities.  It was very hard at first, but I forced myself to go and forced myself to fit into the groups that went there at the same time as me and before I knew it, I had friends that went there and worked there and lifeguards were helping me train and it was fantastic overall.  This exertion made me sleep better, made me feel better, and improved my life in so many ways.  In a lot of ways I thought I would never participate in sports again after knee injuries as a youth, but now I was getting very fit and it was helping nearly every part of my life.

Being in shape led me to be able to work more, and eventually just by the sheer fact that I got along with people and was helpful, I was given a job working security on movie sets in Edmonton.  This led to other work as a stagehand for concerts and life just kept on improving.  As time went past, I started to use my free time to work on my writing, and basically just took things one step at a time until I had built a body of work that I was proud of.  Meanwhile, my niece was born and my purpose in life soon became all about spending time with her and trying to be the best Uncle I could be.  None of this would have ever happened if when I was younger I decided life sucked now and would suck forever and stopped trying.  If you have a goal or a dream, sit down and make a plan.  Keep a success journal to record yourself moving towards that goal each and every day.  It can be something as simple as taking a walk to a community college and looking at courses that you could take.  It could be as simple as just taking a walk.  But please, never, never, never, never, never give up!  Life can take you so many amazing places and I honestly believe that our Creator will never give you more than you can handle.  Joy and happiness to all of you!

Leif Gregersen

Working and Living With a Mental Illness

Working and Living With a Mental Illness blog below today’s photo, beneath that find today’s poem.

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                      This is a little dragonfly I met while on an excursion to Elk Island Park with a friend the other day

      Working and living with a mental illness.  It can be one of the most difficult things a person can do, but in many ways, it can possibly save their lives.  I recall when I was young it never occurred to me that being in a psychiatric hospital would preclude me working.  Towards the end of one of my stays in the hospital, I was withdrawing and spending money like it was going out of style and the staff called me on it.  I told the truth, I had a job waiting for me the day I got out.  Mind you it was a temp labour job, but it was money and I was willing to work.

Many psychiatrists will look at their patients and decide the best thing for them is to put them on Aish, a program here in Alberta that looks after the needs of disabled people.  Myself I was very ill for a long time before the question came up, and I was the one that raised it.  I had been living on $500 a month in a $350 a month apartment and it was getting really difficult to get by.  I found I could work a fair bit in my job as a security guard, but that I would often run out of steam and the pressure would get to me.  Each job seems to have its own kind of pressure.  The difficulty with being a security guard was the long night shifts when I would work and live after work with very little contact with the outside world.  Then there were jobs that just seemed impossible to get through the day doing, like working in factories, especially some of the plastics plants I worked in.

I am often left wondering if one of the major things that happened to me in the psychiatric hospital, and I don’t claim to say this could have been helped, was that I lost my connection to my schedule.  For a long time I had gone to school all day, worked most evenings, did my schoolwork and studying and I could cope.  Then after being in the hospital, it seemed that everything had too much stress to it, that I could no longer handle the rigors of little sleep and long work days.

I thought I had found the perfect job when I got on as a permit holder with the union I worked for most recently.  I did so many fun things from travel to seeing concerts and working on movie sets and theatre and opera houses.  The money was fantastic as well and I could afford to indulge all my whims from having a car to having numerous computers to tinker with and learn about.  But a different kind of stress started coming up.  Part of it was the physical strain of all the hard work and heavy lifting, but another part of it was just the people.  Rotten, cruel, judgemental hardly begins to describe it.  There was this one guy who figured he was pretty tough and so he would be completely rude right to a person’s face, even if they were trying to include him in a joke or tell him something he didn’t know.  There were a lot of older guys who were total dicks about how to do the work or even just how to stay out of their way.  And if you showed any signs of not being able to do the back breaking work, they would humiliate and belittle you to no end.  I finally had to give it up.

I think I have managed to carve out my own niche these days.  I am taking a community-University class, I am doing a great deal of writing.  I even have put my name in for a job as a peer support counsellor for the mental health care system.  Life has gotten really good and in some ways I can see it getting better.  I think one of the key things about working while you have a mental illness is that it is so important to have a future, to lay out plans, to feel as though your life is going in a direction.  It can start very simple.  It can start with just writing a little in a journal each day and building up.  It can start with going to the swimming pool three times a week to get yourself in shape to get a job.  I actually have a friend who has severe schizophrenia who has managed, just with a minimum wage job to save up and buy a BMW motorcycle and a 2-year-old Cadillac.  Setting up goals and dreams of doing something like that can go a long way towards motivating someone to work, and if you do get out there and find something, it will make your whole life so much better.

You Took Me In and Cared So Much

 

I was fighting sickness, tired and all alone

Then McCauley, you gave me a home

It took a while to stake out my place

But soon I learned each name, each face

 

As a child I thought money was the living end

Now money seems just a game of pretend

Pretending happiness from something fake

Never trying to give, only trying to take

 

Here now where I live laugh and sing

I walk the streets like my favorite Danish King

A man who didn’t think himself to be

More than anyone, he was a King who could see

 

See that glory and riches only serve a few needs

And that true joy from giving comes only ultruistically

Thinking about this, I cut through Coboto Park

Walking through lit up trees in the dark

 

I also ponder all of this as I walk past the grafitti wall

Pop culture art freely given to one and all

And how I enjoy my breakfast at Spinellis Café

Then go off to live and love another day

 

This place has been my home for fifteen years

Through births and victories and grief’s salty tears

Now I want to welcome you, neighbor, friend

To live in this little paradise and keep coming back again

 

Old friends, you’ve seen me live near you, you’ve seen me age

And I know enough about all of you to fill many a page

One day I’ll sit down and write out stories of all of our lives

McCauley’s sons and daughters, lovers, husbands, wives.

 

Leif Gregersen

 

Attraction: What Draws Us To People?

Attraction: What Draws Us To People?

 

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   These are Bison, who flourish at Elk Island Park near where I live in Edmonton

(sorry, no poem today)

     Today I would like to talk a little about attraction.  Why are we often attracted to people who will often only hurt us?  Why do we keep getting into relationships that are toxic?  I’ve only really had two serious relationships in my life, and both of them were with women who were severe alcoholics.  Why would this be?  Well, one explanation is that I come from a family that was affected by alcoholism and in such a family unit there are certain rules.  Unwritten ones, but very real ones and universal ones to families of this type.  Some of the rules include being secretive about one’s’ family, another would be something that stems from that, which is isolation.  Then there are different roles that each person in a family with an alcohol problem takes on.  Somehow people like this seek each other out.  I learned a lot of this from a book called “The Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome” which I suggest anyone with a family that fits this profile look into reading.

When I think of attraction to a person, I often think of charisma, about people in my life who I really wanted to have as a friend who perhaps knew this and took advantage of it.  There was a trip to California I took at age 19 where I was left high and dry, basically left for dead after paying for a guy to travel all the way from my home in Vancouver to his home in Southern California.  I still have a lot of resentment over this as it was hell trying to get myself back home after he ran up my credit card and made a lot of false promises.  But the fact was I had some ulterior motives myself.  He was one of these cool surfer dudes that all kinds of women loved and I just assumed that since he seemed to want to be friends with me that I could one day be as cool as he was.  The problem was he was a pathological liar and most likely a narcissist with no intention of helping me in any way once he got what he wanted from me.

Then there is another guy I think of, someone I grew up with.  He wasn’t the most popular person in school, but he was always trying to be.  A lot of people wanted to climb the social ladder with him and I will have to admit he did a lot of fun things.  In elementary he was almost always at my birthday parties, always thought to be very cool.  Then one day he and another guy I had been friends with decided to simply hold me and beat the crap out of me.  I think this was one of those situations where a person gets hurt a lot and develops a ‘tough guy’ attitude where they decide to hurt others or expose other’s flaws before anyone sees theirs.  I contacted this guy a few years back and the way he turned out was pathetic.  He was working as a stockbroker and tried to advise me to buy a stock that was worthless and always would be.  He bragged about being a womanizer when he should have grown out of a phase like that a long time ago.  I wrote back and told him about my writing career and gave him a long list of why I had no interest in writing about him from his criminal history to some of the things he had done to me.  It kind of felt good.  One of the funny things though was that in high school I had another friend (if one could really call these people friends) who went through hell with the way this same guy treated him and a few months after school ended for us, this friend chastised me for implying that this person, who had devastated him at a very critical time in his growth years, could be anything but a nice person.

I don’t really know if all of that makes a lot of sense to everyone, but I want to finish up by talking about one of the good ones in my life.  When I was age 12-15, I was in something called “Air Cadets.”  This was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  One of the great things about Cadets was that we were led by our peers, we were trained and given all kinds of instruction in things like leadership, photography, citizenship, first aid, and many more things.  But what made the difference for me was two of my Sergeants, Chuck Howie and Kirk Popik.  Just writing those names makes me think of some kind of fictional characters and to me, these guys were larger than life.  Kirk and Chuck were best friends, and for a while, they were also good friends of mine.  They were bodybuilders and had a huge influence on who I became as a person.  Why was I drawn to them as friends?  I think in a way I idolized them, wanted to be like them.  They were dedicated Cadets and in a way mentors to me.  They gave me an example in my life of how I could make myself into anything I wanted to be, and supported me while I tried to do it.  Not to belittle them at all, but Chuck and Kirk sort of stepped in where my family members fell short.

So I don’t think I answered many questions here.  I guess I could say that if you have a young person in your family who is searching for answers, who needs direction, getting them into something like Cadets or ballet or synchronized swimming where they have peers who can be a good influence on them (even getting your child a big brother or sister), can be an excellent way to see them blossom from pre-teens to adults.  As far as attraction to others, I think what I was trying to say is that one should ask themselves if the person they want to get into a relationship with or have as a friend is really worthy of you.  I have a good friend who is quite a bit older than me and it feels a bit funny, but I have found that he is an incredible, giving person.  I don’t know how I managed it, but I also have an amazing friend who is also an author who is extremely generous and kind and caring.  Other than that he is an incredibly intelligent and accomplished author I don’t know what to say about him.  I think if a person wants to find friends that are truly good people, they have to get involved in their community, reach out to people and try to be as truly good a person as they can.  Perhaps after a few handshakes and friendly questions, you will find a friend that makes a positive difference in your life.