addiction

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

Please scroll past today’s poem to read today’s blog post!

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

Once Again It’s the Middle of the Night and I’m Wide Awake

Hello, dear readers! Well, my struggle continues. Today was actually kind of a great day, when I got up, I had to go to Staples with Taro (the manager of this building who handles my efforts to put on writing workshops). We had an enjoyable time having a quick coffee at Tim Horton’s, then I went to teach my class. I think it went really well. There weren’t too many people there, I think just five in total, but I really felt like I was in my element. I am starting to get better at handling classes with people who have mental health issues. One of the things I have noticed is that often people with these issues may be very confused about directions I give them and I don’t know if this is something cause and effect, but these people have a desire to speak and participate in the class even though it might be off topic. Today (creative writing) and yesterday (Wellness Recovery) I tried just letting them speak for a few minutes and then tried to direct them back to the material or gently encourage them to let others speak. It is actually really cool the way I am learning more about my own mental illness and my own writing skills as I do this. The only part that kind of worries me is that the person who was most supportive of my efforts to do the creative writing classes has been promoted and the new person may not be as supportive or trusting of me. The way I got this job was by going to a writer’s group and basically showing that I had enough knowledge to facilitate my own class.

To get back to the whole insomnia thing, I think one of my problems is that I have a few remedies in my cupboard that help me to sleep and I think sometimes I use them more than I should. One of them is melatonin, which works well but isn’t quite as much of a designer drug as some sleeping pills are. One of the problems with it is that it leaves you very drowsy even after a long sleep. When I take melatonin, I will get a good sleep, wake up to do what I must that day, then I have a strong desire to go home and sleep some more, which I often to and then I end up like I am now, wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. There is another side effect to it that I don’t know if everyone experiences, it happens when I take a lower dose than I need to get me to sleep, my lower back gets a restless, edgy feeling that completely prevents me from sleeping. I often have to get up and walk around or do something (like writing in my blog) to stop it from bothering me. My doctor has also said that if I have problems sleeping on occasion it is okay to take a couple of gravol. These anti-nausea pills give a pleasant sleep, but only if you are already tired enough to lay down. Also, I don’t like using them because I worry about dependancy and using a pill that wasn’t meant to help a person sleep. I feel that people with mental health issues walk a very thin line between abusing and carefully using our pills. The funny thing is that I seem to have no problem sleeping in the afternoon, and one of the ways I can sleep at that time is by taking a multi-vitamin which prevents me from having bad dreams.

So, no real solution to anything today. Just a lot of words about some sleep aid alternatives. I use one last method to help me sleep sometimes, what I do is just get up and write here in my blog. I honestly hope I am helping people by putting this out, please feel free to reach out to me if you like anything I have to say or want to chat. My email is as always, viking3082000@yahoo.com all the best!

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                     Hope you enjoy today’s photo and poem. Blog after the Poem today.

 

Crystal Meth

 

Trapped among the flames of sweet desire

Without knowing it I dance a little closer to the fire

 

Years ago it wasn’t anything like this

Now I could smash a plate glass window with my fist

 

Steal whatever is behind the glass

Sell it for a pittance all in cash

 

I’ll do anything to get another hit

Except maybe wait any more for it

 

I bought into the dream of what it was about

Feeling good washed away any of my doubts

 

I started slow, I used to just smoke a little weed

I crossed the line going from want to need

 

I could stop and go to detox for a while

Go to twelve step meetings choking on my bile

 

But I’m too true to my own self to just kick

Living without the crystal seems so sick

 

Meth gives me a reason to get out of bed

And look in the mirror to check if I am dead

 

Steal a little, deal a little it will be alright

Until the cops come to get me and I have to fight

 

You can still get a little low-grade in the can

By doing things not meant for any man

 

Screw it all anyway the world is so freaking fake

Those that say this stuff will kill you are on the take

 

I can scam my parents for enough to get a twenty

They wine about the money but they have plenty

 

In fact they owe me more than just that little bit

I don’t care if it puts my dad into another fit

 

How does anyone expect me to live without the meth

When all around me is poverty and pain and death

 

I could quit, but right now I need the high

After just a couple tokes I will fly

 

You’re right when you say meth kills you from inside

Don’t mourn for me because my soul already died

 

Leif Gregersen

September 7, 2017

 

Well, good morning/evening dear readers. I thought I would talk a bit about addiction. I felt compelled to write the above poem without ever having experienced smoking Crystal Meth. I did read some pretty harrowing accounts of true stories of addicts. I even once was walking down the street I lived on and found a bag full of the stuff. I also find needles all the time and I constantly have to deal with drunk people looking for money, cigarettes or anything else they can get out of me. I try to give a little when I can, but sometimes a person gets jaded.

One reason someone, especially someone like me shouldn’t get jaded is that not long ago I wasn’t much better off than these people. There was the time when I was mentally ill and had to live in a homeless shelter which was the very definition of hell, and there were also times when I was trapped badly into addictions with either booze or gambling or cigarettes. It seems that I have gotten over most of those things, but temptation still comes at me from every corner, and I am sure it happens to a lot of people with bipolar in a similar way. Just yesterday I had to make a decision to sell some stock I had that had a lot of promise to do well because I realized that if I didn’t I just might get the gambling bug again. It is hard to describe, but gambling addiction is a lot like adrenalin addiction. Adrenalin addiction causes some people to base jump, bungy jump or even rob banks or liquor stores. When I was gambling, I was so restless all the time and edgy until I could go and put some money on a blackjack table or into a slot machine to try and get some ‘free’ money. I ended up going to 12 step meetings for a long time after stopping, and they helped, but I think a person can become too dependent on such methods of recovery.

Alcohol was another thing altogether. I started drinking as a young child, just a little champagne on Christmas and such. By the time I was 14 I was raiding the liquor cabinet and the wine closet. I soon found out that I would get out of control in a hurry. One time I nearly froze to death after drinking a bottle of whiskey in the winter and passing out in a snow bank. Another time I broke a friend’s collar bone, another time I broke the leg of a manager I worked for. I tried to slow down my drinking, but later in life I realized that unless I quit completely, eventually I would end up in a situation where I wished I hadn’t taken a drink.

The simple fact is really that if you suffer from a mental illness, you can’t just give up on yourself and dive into a bottle or throw your life away with drugs or gambling and crime. Your mental health is just one aspect of many facets of a life and quite often a person can work on being as healthy as possible in all other ways than mental health, and then work with their doctor to deal with their mental health issues. I am so lucky to have support, a good doctor and some positive role models who don’t smoke or drink and care for my well being. I hope this brings some light to someone who reads it, as usual, feel free to message me at viking3082000@yahoo.com, I would love to hear from you!

LG

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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Working Towards a Better Understanding

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What an amazing day I had today.  Thanks to being set up as a member of the mental health writer’s guild, I have added ten new followers in just one day.  That means a lot, especially if I can somehow help even one of those people.  My thanks go out to everyone who signed up to be notified of my new posts.

It hasn’t even been a day since I posted my last blog, but I had a few things I felt would be good to talk about.  For  a long time I have been working as a stage hand for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and though the work is getting difficult as I age, I think I would have a hard time not continuing with this work because I have so many amazing friends there.

Tonight my job was to set up and tear down the stage for Black Sabbath, but the concert was cancelled just a few hours before show time.  I don’t know how they managed to let everyone know about this, I am sure there were literally thousands of hugely disappointed fans, but none of them were at the venue to complain or riot.  Maybe it has to do with how polite Canadians are.

One of the things of note that happened tonight is that I started talking with one of my co-workers and found out he is a writer as well.  We had an interesting talk in between times of having to do things and he shared with me that he had a friend who he is sure is bipolar.  I gave him my business card with the address to this website on it and told him he was welcome to have his friend contact me.  This really amazes me because for many years I thought it was a terrible thing to tell people I have a mental illness, but so many times I am finding, when I do people start to talk about themselves having difficulties, or a family member or friend who has difficulties.  Mental illness is really something that touches all of us and hiding it away on some far off corner of our closet doesn’t help anyone at all.

Something I also wanted to touch on here is self stigma.  This is when a person feels guilty and blames themselves, even harms themselves for their condition.  Many years back, when I first had a serious hospital admission, I had so much guilt.  I had embarrassed myself, my family, lost friends, ruined relationships, lost respect and just about all of my material possessions.  My solution to all of this, as it was around the time of the first Persian Gulf War was to throw away all of my hopes and dreams and to sign up for the military wanting to be killed in battle to restore what I thought I had destroyed through my own fault.  Of course this could have ended in me dying, but fortunately my psychiatric records kept me out of the Canadian Forces.  I still wanted to punish myself though and began running, as much as 50 miles a week.  I ran so much that I did some very serious damage to my knees and became not only psychiatrically disabled, but physically disabled as well.  By some wonderful chance of fate, my knees have healed and I have been able to go back to a normal job and make some money to supplement my disability benefits.  What surprises me though is how a disease of the brain can affect people in such a way that it gets manifested in physical ailments.  One example is that when you take medication, your mouth often gets dry and saliva is a person’s first line of defense against tooth decay.  So, people with bipolor or other disorders often have bad teeth.

Another thing that suprpises me is just the sheer volume of people who have mental health issues, especially when you add in addictions problems, even alcohol dependency.  It is a bit sad to say but if I keep working in the mental health field for the rest of my working days, I will never be out of work.

I hope some of these words can help those who read them.  To the person I spoke to today and to many of the people who are new to this blog, I want to say that a diagnosis of a mental health disorder is not a death sentence and that things can really get better.  Be a proactive patient/consumer/mental health survivor.  Get out and join groups online or in your city where you can meet with others and share your difficulties and triumphs.  Advocate for yourself and for those who are too far gone to have a voice of their own.  If you are just curious about mental health, find books and talk to your family Doctor about it.  The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.  And, as always, feel free to drop me a line, I can be reached at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I would love to be able to help you and be your friend.

Homelessness and The Mentally Ill

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Well, here I am in Toronto, Canada’s largest city and I have been having a great time.  I have spent a lot of my month here just decompressing from the stress I was experiencing in Edmonton.  I have a heart for homeless people, and I am under the strong belief that a lot of them are actually just untreated mentally ill people.  I recall one day while I wasn’t in the best head space myself being in downtown Vancouver and seeing a man with a tinfoil hat and instead of mocking him or giving him change or anything I just stopped and saluted him and he gave me a smile.  I also think though that there are some horrible people out there who understand how delusional thinking works and they say things to make you think your delusions are real.  Sadly I have done it myself, one time in a Psychiatric ward there was a woman who was always causing me grief.  One time she even came up to me and kissed me and said we had already been married.  Another time my Dad came to visit and she walked up to him and told him I was a bad person and that he should spank me.  I got back at her one day by telling her she had just been on TV and that she was going on a rocket ship to space because she had discovered a new planet.  For days she went around introducing herself as an astronaut, which seems a bit funny, but really is terribly cruel.  In Edmonton there was a young man I see a lot, he has red hair and he is homeless and a couple of times I have given him food or money and once I stopped to talk to him and found out that we had gone to the same junior high and had some of the same teachers.  He also told me that he suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  What is kind of scary I think is that I live in a group home that is very beneficial to my mental health and a lot better than any other group homes I have seen, but it is only set up to house 20 men while there are literally thousands out there who need places like this, many of them completely homeless.

I don’t know if I have discussed this much, but I kind of feel that addiction is a form of mental illness.  I was told during an interview I did for a volunteer radio station by one of Edmonton’s top Psychiatrists that a huge mistake people make is to see alcohol and marijuana as benign drugs.  I know my  brother went through hell because of his heavy pot use and that my Dad literally caused himself frontal lobe damage with years of drinking.  I have dodged these two bullets, but I came across something worse, a gambling addiction which nearly destroyed me.  All these things I should say go hand in hand with Bipolar/Manic Depression.  In the care and treatment of your illness, I strongly urge people on psychiatric medications of any kind to be completely abstinent and to be extremely careful about anything that can be addictive.  In a way, I have also had something many people would consider Obsessive Compulsive, namely that just about all through my life I have collected collections.  It began with stuffed animals, then moved to stamps then books, then GI Joe toys, then comic books and on and on up to right now when I still buy more books than I ever have time to read.  And the funny thing is that with a lot of strength and effort I have been able to overcome these addictions but I have to be very much on my guard because often another addiction will come around the corner at me.  I think one of the most important ways to stay psychologically (as opposed to medically, or in a psychiatric sense dealing with body chemistry and all that) is to have a support group, perhaps many of them.  Sometimes I count the people I meet some mornings at the swimming pool as a group but there are many more kinds, addiction support, writing groups and on and on.  These are great ways to make close friends outside the field of mental health treatment, though, as I had done through the schizophrenia society and a program called the Wellness Recovery Action Plan it never hurts to learn more about how to manage and cope with your mental health issue.

 

Homeless

I sit in loneliness hunger and pain
Facing a night out on the streets again
Walking for miles to where I hid my things
Waiting for the cold each night always brings

My thin bony legs ache and my feet are worn and raw
I think back to days when I would sit and dream and draw
I could have been an artist if I tried
But life all fell apart when my mom died

She was a sweet and loving woman and she cared
One night her boyfriend beat her and I got scared
I tried to stop him and he turned his wrath on me
That night my body was broken, my mom’s soul set free

I wish I could be with her on awful days like this
How she would always bring home a candy bar and a kiss
Now I get a bottle one way or another every night
And my inner will is slowly giving up the fight

In foster homes all they gave was more discipline
I learned to drink and hide my pain deep within
Soon the bottle was the only God I knew
I pray you won’t let this happen to you

If I could only have peace and space to draw like I once could
But that rotten jerk my mother loved took that away for good
I’m only in my forties but my joints all ache
I’ve lost every little thing anyone could take

I feel so worthless now I barely get through each day
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say
You can have a future if you make the proper choice
We all have inside of us a very special voice

Please don’t play the judge even when you see
A dirty smelly homeless guy like me
A lot of us have lost so much it’s just day to day
When you’re this far gone there is no other way

For those of you who practice and believe
There is a way to lighten my load and make you free
It was our Lord Jesus who spelled out how it should be
What you do for the least of my brothers you do for me

Leif Gregersen
August 24, 2015

The Biggest Question of All… Employment!

DSC_0119This is a photo from a park on 97th street in Edmonton near downtown that is dedicated to the sufferring of the homeless.  This is the only park where outside drinking is allowed and is a short walk from where I live

 

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, today is going to be an interesting one, I have a lot of feelings about this topic.  Have any of you had a hard time, say you just got out of the hospital and you feel you are adjusting to your meds and you have been told not to work?  Or maybe you have been sick for some time and you have gotten out of shape or your illness doesn’t allow you much room for stress?  I know of a number of people with schizophrenia who hear voices so badly despite their medications that a job seems impossible, but there are two huge problems associated with unemployment: what do you do for money and what do you do with your time?  I knew a guy who was so worked up about the way working people looked at him that he would tell them bald faced lies.  I recall him telling his Dad that he had a full-time job when I knew he didn’t and it turned out he meant his full time job was protesting the cuts to welfare payments.  Here is another part of the stigma surrounding an illness, people who are ill are seen as lazy or as leeches on the rest of society.  Sometimes all of the stigma surrounding mental illness can get so bad that the person experiencing it can turn to alcohol and drugs as I did for a short time when I was younger.  This puts a huge strain on family members and the person with the illness and is a drain on limited finances as well.

So, I have outlined some of the problems but haven’t offered any solutions.  I do like to try and offer solutions, but I also like to try and put in a disclaimer that your Psychiatrist is your boss, what he or she says you should do is the end of it, and hopefully you have enough health care insurance to have a nurse or support worker you can talk to about more of this.  These people are the experts, they have the access to resources in your local area that can help you.  I know in Edmonton there is a place called DECSA, which helps the disabled find work, but I want to just throw in my opinion.  I also want people to keep in mind that my experience relates to what I have been through, which is to be diagnosed at different times with schizophrenia and other times with Bipolar Disorder/manic depression.  The first and most important thing above everything is to stay off drugs and alcohol and take your meds.  For me getting off alcohol was a huge priority for the first year after I stopped drinking.  I was attending often up to two alcohol abuse meetings a day and I would often walk long distances to these places, summer and winter.  But the cool thing was that eventually I got my life back and could focus on other things.  These meetings kept me busy and made me feel like I was doing something, and when I felt more comfortable with the new drug and alcohol free me, I started to take on more.  One of the first things I did was to cultivate a love of swimming that I once had.  It meant so much to me to get up before anyone else, walk out to take the bus, read a book or newspaper on the bus and then go to the pool where I eventually made a lot of good friends that I would see each day and talk to in the hot tub or sauna and it really felt good.  After a while I made friends with a lifeguard and she was taking pre-med in University and helped me do a lot to train myself up to a healthy level.  All this wasn’t a job, but it was something that gave me activity to do, got me out and meeting people, and it made the time I had to spend between disability pension benefits a lot easier to handle for many reasons.  Then, when it was time to work a difficult and taxing job, I was strong enough and had enough endurance to handle what was put before me.  For a time I made pretty good money and felt really good about myself.  This was one of the peaks of my life and I feel that a lot of people can do the same who have mental illnesses or even are off the employment grid for an extended period of time.  Work your way up slowly, address all the isssues that area barier to employment, get yourself fit and ready to work and possibly volunteer, then put out a few resumes and who knows how far you can go?  There is more to it though, and it is definitely not a simple thing for a lot of people, but I have always been a believer in baby steps.  One small thing each day towards a goal, and as my readers may know, I am a firm believer in written, clear, distinct goals that one can work towards.

Anyhow, when you get all that together and you do find employment, it is important to have savings for a lot of reasons, but factor in a part of your savings for a trip.  Myself when I first got back to work after my most recent stay in the Psychiatric Hospital, I saved up and then asked my sister to pay half and bought a ticket to Toronto where I had never been.  I had the most awesome vacation, going to see Niagara Falls, the CN Tower and all kinds of cool places.  In the past 10 years now I have been to Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Northern British Columbia, Northern Alberta and beautiful Hawaii.  All just a small step at a time, and all of this is from someone who thought he would spend the rest of his life in a tiny room doomed to keep making the same mistakes and ending up in the hospital for them.  There is hope, there is always hope!

Below is a poem I wrote for today’s blog.  It isn’t exactly relevant and it is a style I haven’t used before, but I hope all of you will enjoy it.

 

That Which We Lost We Never Knew

Innocence
Do we lose it all at once?
Our grown up souls
Crying, reaching to get through
When, I beg, I pray to really know
When does it all come apart
Sweet virginity just couldn’t be
Once lost
It just seems to not be it

Is it in
A lie you know will be cutting to the bone
A lie given to
A loved one you once thought you could never hurt
But past innocence
Their feelings matter not
Innocence
Though we don’t know how
Is lost
Lost among the breeze

But do we gain
When we lose our innocence
Sometimes it seems
The loss gives us the upper hand
A little edge
On all who came before
A way to stay
And older, wiser soul

Then there is that one
That one, that very special one
That person whom we all must know
Who has our love
And holds in their hands our self esteem
Who never lost
That which we cherished once
Innocence
It flew away among the wind
Happiness
Was never really ours

Leif Gregersen
August 15, 2015

As The Days Go By Take Time to Watch The Skies

DSCF1046                This is a photo of my good friend James who is working his very last day ever on Friday the 15th of May, 2015!!!!!

 

Hello Readers and fans.  Well, it has been an interesting week to say the least.  I apologize that I haven’t been producing as many blog posts as I could have, there has been so much for me to get done.  Some of the things I have been doing may be of benefit to you my readers, one of them is that I have been attending a class called “WRAP” or Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and I am learning a lot of new things about mental health and recovery from it.  I would encourage everyone who can get access to a WRAP class to take the 10 week course.  When you complete it, there is a possibility of becoming a WRAP facilitator for pay as a peer counselor after you take another advanced course for those of you who have mental health issues and want to earn some extra money.

All the monetary stuff aside though, I wanted to share some of what I have been learning with my readers.  Yesterday in the class, we watched a very interesting Ted Talk from a woman named I believe McGonigal through YouTube about stress that I would recommend you look into.  It talked of a study that was done where people were surveyed as to whether or not they felt stress was bad for them and man of them thought stress and anxiety and all that is very bad, but some felt stress could be a good thing.  The ones that thought it was bad had a seriously skewed mortality rate and the ones that thought it was good a much lower one.  These are oversimplified of course.   Actually, I think I will put a link to the video right here:

 

 

watch it and see about stress for yourself, the video is a great tool for people who want to get out and do more, feel better about themselves and challenge themselves.

Aside from that, I thought I would share a bit about my week.  As some of you know, I am a writer and I have written and published about 8 or 9 books and I have also been writing for magazines and publishing poetry as well as newspaper articles.  All my hard work seems to be paying off because I have been offered a job as a writing teacher for a community writing class.  I will start work in June and give three classes, get paid a small amount and hopefully feel very pleased about myself as a result.  Add that to the possibility of becoming a WRAP facilitator and the presentations I have been giving for the Schizophrenia Society and I will soon be doing well for myself.  The most important thing I feel is to keep busy, and keep my creative energies flowing.  I have been discovering new ways of doing this from simply having a car to get me around to taking correspondence courses, volunteering, studying Spanish, this blog and other things.  The amazing thing is that if you do something you like, you will get good at it.  Then, if you get good at something eventually you will get paid for it except in extreme exceptions.  Then, before you know it you have a full and rewarding life.

An awesome example of this is a book I have just finished reading by a disabled Edmonton Journalist named Cam Tait.  He wrote a book called “Disabled?  Hell No, I’m a Sit-Down Comedian!” and it was very inspiring and emotional.  Cam has Cerebral Palsy and had to go through extensive treatments to function from a very early age and has broken incredible boundaries to become a very well loved and well known writer.  His Edmonton Sun Newspaper author page is here:  http://www.edmontonsun.com/author/cam-tait

I was so inspired by the book I want to help promote the sale of it and will be putting up links to the amazon page when I find the time.  I have spoken to Cam, he graciously tweeted about a book signing I had at a local independent bookstore (Audrey’s Books-Edmonton’s last independent book store) and he is planning to do a write up in the Edmonton Sun about me.

Anyhow, I don’t seem to really be able to say much without getting side tracked today.  I am taking the WRAP class, I am getting set up to teach a writing class, I am taking writing.  It all seems to indicate that I am on the manic side of my illness and need to slow down.  Anyhow, maybe instead of getting carried away by the wave of energy, I can possibly surf it to the beach instead.  All I want to really say though, is that anyone who reads this who is having a struggle finding meaning in life or has been in and out of hospitals, things really can get better.  You definitely can get to a point where life is fun again, medication doesn’t have to take everything away from you.  Sometimes it comes down to having a plan, writing down your thoughts each day, writing out what sets you off and laying out how you want to deal with your ‘triggers’ as they call them in my new class.  I am really looking forward to taking more of these classes, and the advanced class.  For a good part of my life I wanted to be a Psychologist and I think this is about as close as I’m going to get.  Anyhow, I want to end things there.  No poem for today, but I have one I wrote that is fairly good and really new that I will put in with the next entry, most likely on Sunday.  Hope you enjoy the photos, I encourage you to follow the links to the video and to learn more about Cam Tait.  Both will be of benefit to you, and as always I welcome you to email me directly, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC_0100this is a shot of the Brownlee building (left) and the Stovell Block (right) in downtown Edmonton.  I have friends who live or have lived in the Stovell Block and no one can really avoid the Brownlee Building.  Luckily I have managed to avoid the Remand Centre (far left) which is now being used as a Homeless Shelter.

Been a Few Days

DSCF5046

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

Hello Dear Readers and Friends!

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

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

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

 

DSC_0038

Once a Poet Once a Lover

 

Once there was a girl who was kind and sweet

Seeing her smile was always such a treat

She loved me though I didn’t love myself

She had beauty and brains and even wealth

 

For years I waited, wanting her soft touch

But when it came to me it seemed too much

Sometimes the things that we desire the most

Leave us lonely, empty just like a ghost

 

She could have saved me so much awful pain

Turning her away was simply insane

I felt I had to make my own way through

And so I write these lines for all of you

 

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

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

Always hoping to touch another heart

To soften someone for cupid’s love dart

 

Because when someone’s heart is hard and cold

No matter their age they are sad and old

No one really feels worthy of romance

You stop living if you won’t take a chance

 

It is a lonely thing to sit and write

While everyone is deep in dreams all night

But if I can express my deepest soul

I will live on past death, which is my goal

 

It matters not that I have loved and lost

It matters not that I have paid the cost

Because as long as words still come to me

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

 

And though us poets write of love and war

As we all journey to that distant shore

We shall one day be clothed all in white light

Live on and love on for ten trillion nights

 

And in that place my perfect love will be

Her long curly blonde hair flowing and free

Her smile, her lovely model’s shape and face

Will be beside me in that resting place