asylum

A Bird In Flight, A Poem, and a Short Talk About Sleeping Pills

 All I can do is marvel at animals that are capable of flight, the one thing in the world I have found makes me the most happy and energized

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry

 

Winter Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As the days slip by so fast

It often seems that nothing lasts

 

Not our love or our generation’s song

Our time to rejoice and play is gone

 

If things only lasted long enough for me to feel

That the loves I once had were real

 

Just as real as all the days

Sadness came to me in waves

 

I have regrets that my only way to cope and deal

With my pain was to take a pill and just not feel

 

Feel either good or bad just dead

But not trapped inside my own head

 

When I was not quite yet a man

From commitments I always ran

 

Not understanding how love grows like a flower

Gaining beauty, gaining power

 

I wanted so badly to be free

I masked and hid the love inside of me

 

Now I’m both lonely and alone

Never quite feeling like I have a home

 

Deny it, but I say we still can have a chance

As long as there is one more dance

 

Though I think you understand the fact

Time is slipping by for us to act

 

There is also one thing I wish you knew

I hate myself for hurting you

 

I also think something else is true

You get sad and lonely too

 

So take my hand and come with me

Knowing that love still can set us free

 

November 14, 2017

 

Good day dear readers! I have been so encouraged by the increasing support and exposure I am getting for my blog that I have decided to do more entries than I usually do. Either that or I have found that working on this blog is one of the best cures for insomnia I have this side of sleeping pills.

Perhaps the whole idea of sleeping pills is a good issue to discuss today. For the past four days I haven’t taken anything to get me to sleep and I feel better for it, but not 100% yet. I should tell some of the back story, I have a lot of commitments from working for the Schizophrenia society to teaching creative writing and other things and I really need to be rested to do these things well. Lately I have been trying a few different sleep aids to help with this and they seem to do more harm than good. I thought maybe if I talked about them here that people would be able to avoid some of the pitfalls. To start with, I have my Psychiatrist’s approval to use melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that can help balance out a person’s sleeping habits. It has some funny effects though, one of them is that if you (or at least in my case I have, I am sure other people have had different experiences) take it for a while and start to tolerate it, the pills can do something much worse than help you sleep, they can cause extreme restlessness that amounts to a type of seizure of legs and back muscles/bones. It is a very disturbing experience, one I have only ever before had in the psychiatric hospital when injected with a serious tranquilizer because I was “bad”. I still take melatonin now and then, but I am very careful about how frequently I use it. The other problem I have found with it is that it can make you very drowsy the next day and leave you with a desire to sleep a very long time.

The next pill I sometimes take for sleep is one that is called clonazepam or rivotril. I take it in the 0.5 mg orange pill. It looks a lot like the average gravol tablet and is very powerful. It is a tranquilizer along the lines of valium, but without some of valium’s more serious side effects. This is a prescribed medication and I am only given a few every couple of weeks which I use sparingly. This pill seems to be highly addictive because when I take it I feel very relaxed and soon drift off to sleep and feel better for the next day, but if I don’t take it for a few days I start to get edgy.

Those are the major ones. There is a pill called imovane, a blue little football shaped pill that I suggest people avoid. It is extremely addictive. I also want to warn people that sleeping pills in just about any form I have encountered them end up being a crutch and can seriously affect a person’s memory. Time and time again I have found that the best sleep aid is to get out and get plenty of fresh air and exercise. In my own daily routine, if there isn’t something for me to do that requires a long walk, I think of something. I seem to always be able to find a reason to get out of the house like walking to the warehouse grocery store a few miles away or walking to the post office. I used to like to bring and iPod with me when I did this, but lately I have just enjoyed walking as a form of meditation. I have to say that in the past short while I have been getting a bit lax about my walks and exercise in general and I have felt much worse as a result, physically and mentally.

The final thing I wanted to mention today was that if you find yourself sleeping days and staying up nights, there is a cure, which can only really be done in the summer. You need three weeks and not much else. What you do is go out camping, leave behind all of your electronics and get up with the sun each day. In three weeks your biological clock will naturally reset itself.

Best wishes dear readers!

Leif Gregersen

Advertisements

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!

All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 

 

Peter Hemingway (Coronation)

 

It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

Gather Around The Fire and Let Me Tell You a Story

DSCF5089

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, it has truly been an eventful last few days.  I put a lot of effort into advertising and setting up a book signing and it went okay but I had expected much better.  I had the book signing at a wonderful and very supportive bookstore, in fact it is the last independent bookstore in Edmonton and it is called “Audrey’s Books”.  I put up a lot of posters around downtown and even got a couple of newspaper reporters, my good friend Scott Hayes in the St.Albert Gazette and a very cool guy named Cam Tait in his twitter feed.  It is hard to understand when is the best time or season to sell books.  One year I went to a craft sale at the hospital I was once a patient in and sold around 20 books and ended up with something like $400 in my pocket.  The next year I went back and sold next to nothing.  The cool thing is that I am building up a resume and will soon be moving from being a stage hand to teaching writing, selling books and giving talks about mental health and so on.  I have been giving talks about mental health now at schools for a few weeks and I really enjoy it.  I am starting to get more comfortable with speaking and I am getting a great response from the people I talk to.  It is all through “The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta”.  I don’t know if anyone out there has a branch of the Schizophrenia society, but they do a world of good.  Presentations at schools, classes in managing your illness and your rights and support groups and many other things.

Aside from all that, I am feeling good but I think it will take some time for me to adapt from a more labor intensive job to working in classrooms and such.  I have a few other frying pans in the fire which I hope will help me transition away from my stage hand job.   The first one is a class I would recommend for anyone, it is called WRAP or wellness recovery action plan.  I suggest anyone out there google it and look into it.  It is a fantastic program to get a person aware of their strengths and weaknesses and times when they may need help and how to set up plans for such times and many more things.  One of the neat things about it is it is peer led by people with mental health issues, which means the facilitators have gone through what you have and have come to a point of recovery.  The other neat thing is that once you take the WRAP course, you can ask to be put on a list and then take a more advanced course over I believe a 5-day period, 8 hours a day and then you can become a facilitator yourself and you get paid for it.  As for the other classroom things I was mentioning, I have been approached by a friend who leads a writing group to run his classes at some point soon for pay.  Part of the job will entail me going out and getting more people involved in the class, but I already have some good ideas for doing that.

I think though, even though it seems all this is a great thing, that I have to be very careful.  Having a full schedule can be rewarding in one way, but it cal also be extremely stressful and stress is definitely a trigger for me, as it is for many of us with Bipolar Disorder or other mental health issues, so I am going to be very careful not to overtax myself, make sure I get enough rest each day, make sure I set aside time for myself to just decompress and read graphic novels or listen to my favorite music.  Once again, I would love to hear from any of the people who follow this blog and encourage you to write to me at my main email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care and scroll down past today’s photo for a poem I wrote today!

DSC_0050

Changes

 

It has been so long since the golden, breezy fall

It seemed at times that Spring wouldn’t come at all

We shoveled walks and waterproofed our shoes

Waited for signs of winter ending soon

Now finally we start to hear the songbirds’ call

 

Deep in the winter it is too easy to forget

Soon there will be sunny days without regret

We burrow in our homes and watch TV

Images of perfect skies and turquoise sea

Though few would leave this place on a bet

 

Myself I spend a lot of time reading at night

Peaceful and quiet imagining is my greatest delight

Worlds through mind’s eyes I never knew

Stories new or old, fiction or true

And to often take a pause and see the Northern Lights

 

In this green and growing city Edmonton

Where my life upon this Earth was first begun

I grew up with so many joys

So many friends, so many toys

I want to stay here until my life is done

 

Yes, we have a massive world class mall

And our boys have fought for Queen and Country like them all

But I feel our potential is so much more

That our many cultures can truly open up a door

I feel Edmonton has a higher call

 

First to address the brotherhood of mankind

Then equality for the disabled, sick and blind

Then equal rights of women and men

Take up your sword, your voice, your pen

We are leaders here, we must leave no one behind

 

It seems such a tall and impossible thing to do

But I want to put a challenge to all of you

India was freed by Ghandi, just one man

What he did any wise and pure soul can

We can do it, I believe in myself and I believe in you

 

 

Leif Gregersen

May 9, 2015

Taking Things Day By Day

DSC_0191

Today the Canadian Military Was On Exercise In  An Edmonton Park

One of the things about having a mental illness is that you often end up with a lot of time on your hands and very little to do with it all.  I can recall periods where literally for years I would do very little if anything that was at all meaningful.  At the time this can feel comforting, but I want to warn people that time can pass by quickly and with it a lot of opportunities.  One thing that I feel kind of strongly about is that a person who has Bipolar and is properly managing their condition, really should have a volunteer job or a regular job, even if just part-time to fill up their days.  This can make such a huge difference in life, starting with the extra few bucks it brings in to simply getting out and meeting people and interacting with them.  One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is because there were periods in my life when for long stretches I stayed at home, watching TV, smoking cigarettes, and when you couple the isolation with depression, you get so bad off sometimes you actually want to be back in a hospital.

I can think back to many occasions when I thought I desperately needed someone or something to ‘fix’ me when in fact I was being non-compliant with meds or treatment suggestions.  I had a pretty good Doctor at one point and he had set things up so I could get into a group home and take some life skills classes, he had even set me up with a Psychologist, but perhaps partially out of fear and partially out of laziness, I didn’t take these opportunities and he made the decision that he would no longer see me.  This felt hurtful, and I was very bitter about this but I didn’t take the bitterness and try to make things better, I took it and decided to hurt myself because of it.  One of the main things I did was stop seeing any Psychiatrist, which didn’t seem to hurt at first, but over time my condition eroded to the point where I was very sick, very delusional.

These days, things are a lot different I like to think.  One of the big things of course is I have my writing, including this blog, to give me something to do, give me a bit of purpose and meaning in my life.  The other thing is that I have decided that the side effects of my medications are not bad enough that I will face getting sick again and go off them.  The third thing is that I am now in a group home where I get a little bit of structure and interaction with others.  There is also my Dad, who is getting on in years, but is still a great source of inspiration.  Now my days are filled with things to do and places to go.

The way that I know I need to keep myself active, see my Doctor and live in a group home is simply by how my dreams go for me.  I often have these vivid nightmares where I imagine I am in my teen years again but in the dream I come to the realization that I am 43 and have barely accomplished what a lot of 30 year old people have done.  This really scares me sometimes because though I know getting older can’t be helped, I have for some reason always feared wasting my life away.  Going back all the way to my elementary school and junior high days, I think of how much time I spent watching Television that was 95% a waste of time and not even exercising or reading or anything.  I could never tell what might have come about especially since my younger years were severely disrupted by my illness, but I know that if I had found a sport I could enjoy or read books of a higher level than comics, I would have been far ahead of those I grew up with, while now having not done those things nearly as much as I could, I haven’t even finished high school and likely never will.

It isn’t  a total loss of course, but a good example is my writing.  For years I wrote and didn’t know anything about getting books published.   For years I published books without knowing how to market them, and if I had worked a little harder and focused on what I wanted to do in a more realistic fashion at a more realistic age, I would have been so much further ahead.

I am hoping that these words can somehow shed some light on the importance of filling up your days, of trying to sit down and take a clear look at what you want to accomplish.  Setting goals is extremely important.  If one doesn’t set goals, you simply wander aimlessly until hopefully at some unspecified point you somehow, possibly get somewhere.  A goal makes you aim and fire and hit a target rather than just shooting blindly.  Set your goals, and work towards them.  And as time passes, re-evaluate your goals and check to see how you are doing with them.  It really can save your life.  All the best, dear readers!

DSC_0203

Where Does Inspiration Come From?

DSCF1292One of the things I love about Edmonton so much is that it is home to such wildlife as this furry little critter, even right in the downtown core

     Hello dear readers.  I want to start off by apologizing for posting such a lame post previously.  I suppose the story wasn’t bad, but I feel I was letting down people who wanted to learn about writing or mental health issues.  Let’s see what I can come up with for all of you today.

To start off, I think I am getting fairly advanced in my recovery from Bipolar.  Now, there is a hurdle I have to go over.  I have to be able to keep reminding myself that I am a person with special needs, not the least of which is medication and Psychiatric help.  I can recall a few times I was at this point, where things seemed to be going good and I got complacent.  One such time I had a few different life events happen that very nearly put me in serious danger.  I hadn’t spoken to a young woman I was once very infatuated with, who liked me as a friend but no more.  Sitting in my apartment all alone for weeks and months at a time, I tried to reach out a couple of times, but it is a sad thing to say that there are some people who you can make a mistake with, whether it be something you control or not, and they never forgive you.  One day I got the new phone book for Edmonton and looked up one of these young women and called her.  She even answered.  I said who I was and then when she answered, I replied that it was good that at least she didn’t scream and hang up on me.  I tried to explain to her that I had been going through some rough stuff but had gotten treatment and that basically I kind of needed a friend at the time.  She threw it in my face that I wrote some irrational letters to her that she had kept to use as evidence against me and also that she pretty much didn’t care if I lived or died.  That was really harsh.  I forget if that was the point I stopped taking my prozac or if I had done that earlier.  Either way, it preceded a massive depressive episode in me.  A short time later, I took an overdose of about 100 Tylenol and some Lithium and a few other drugs I had in my medicine cabinet.  For the next two days I slept and then for the two days after that I was sick and couldn’t even hold down water. (this story is paraphrased from my book, “Inching Back To Sane” by a million to one shot, my Dad had come by and slipped some money under my door and this was enough to get me to the hospital.  I was very near death and hurt my family members very badly.

As for the other situation, it was the one that preceded my worst ever stay in hospital, which was also my last stay in hospital (when I say ‘hospital’ I mean the Psychiatric Hospital, Alberta Hospital Edmonton) again I was doing well.  I had work, I had friends, I even had a car and a credit card.  Then I decided to lower the dose of my mood stabililzer.  Not eliminate, just lower.  At this point I had stopped seeing a Doctor, I was just getting one of my old Doctors to refill my prescriptions and not having my regular blood tests done that were required of me, and which could have prevented the disaster that followed.  I ended up in a state of severe psychosis and though I was on medications that had worked for me, the new Doctor assumed either I wasn’t taking my meds or the ones I was taking weren’t working, so he changed them around and I ended up much worse off.  This began a hellish nightmare of 5 long months, a large part of them spent in solitary confinement with just a plastic mattress, an uncomfortable blanket and a plastic bottle for a toilet.  Lesson learned: don’t get complacent.  Get to see your Doctor, take all of your required medications.  Talk to your mental health workers if you have them and find some if you don’t.  I am very lucky to be a part of something called ‘the Community Living Program’ or ‘clip’ where I see a nurse on a regular basis who gives me part of my medication by time-release injection and then also see a Doctor who she consults with at least once a month.  For anyone who is a family member of someone with a mental illness, I think this is something you constantly have to remind your loved one about.  I was interested to learn that Schizophrenia as an example, will get worse over time.  Even if you take your full required medication every day it is highly likely that you will need an increase in your dosage of anti-psychotic (please don’t mix psychotic up with psychopath) or you will get ill again.

Let me just say a few quick things about writing here, I feel that writing, for me, and for a lot of people in my community, is something not only that I feel everyone should do, but I also feel that it goes hand in hand with mental health.  The first thing I did as I am sure I mentioned, was to keep a journal.  If you want to keep one, but have problems getting started, think of it as a scrapbook.  My sister saves movie receipts in hers from movies she liked and my Dad used to save all kinds of things like old cigarette packages that listed a price of 10c and candy bars and all sorts of things.  My journal was like that in a way as well.  I would write about movies I saw, make my own reviews, write about books I read or was reading.  Basically, your journal is your best friend and some of the best advice I can give to start journaling is to write down what you would tell your best friend at the end of the day.  So, I hope everyone feels a bit enlightened after reading this.  Today I wrote a poem about sitting in elementary school watching the clock and watching the alley beside the school to see my dear sister coming home from the bus.  I got my inspiration from a ‘poetry workshop book’ that I bought off of amazon.com.  I get so many great writing resources from amazon, they simply have everything.  Even my local 1,000,000 book public library can’t compare to what I can find on amazon, and quite often the book is as low in price as 1 cent plus a $6.49 fee for shipping.  As an added bonus, it is really a neat feeling to come home to a package of some new goodie waiting for you.  I do this for other people as well, I sent my ex-gf who is also one of my best friends a complete set of the original twilight zone series, I sent my niece a Karaoke machine.  Credit cards can be fun.  And they can be a disaster for the mentally ill, but I will talk about that in another blog.  Perhaps tomorrow I will write a bit about my knowledge of personal finance, I am sure many of you out there could benefit from some of the books I have read and experiences I have had.

DSC_0119This is a statue in a special park made solely for the homeless people in Edmonton.  In this small park, there is no closing time and you can drink alcohol without fear of police intervention.  It is sad sometimes to see such symbols of suffering, but also very necessary

Inside the Insane Asylum

IMG_7692This is the inside of Sacred Heart Church of The First Peoples, where I go for mass when I have the time.  The Priest here is a wonderful man, Father Jim Holland and is greatly loved among all community members, catholic, protestant, European or Native (or others)

     Hello dear readers!  Well, today was actually a pretty good day.  I am still getting over a cold that has lasted for 2 weeks now and my brother has told me I might want to try something called Cold F/X which has been on the market for some time and is quite expensive, but when I hear a recommendation from my brother, I often heed it.  For most of the weekend I have been sleeping, taking these Advil cold and flu pills and when I went to the post office in my local pharmacy, I tested my blood pressure and it was way higher than it has ever been.  I don’t quite yet want to stop eating my nightly popcorn, but I am looking at healthier alternatives (like using so called ‘heart healthy’ margarine) and I have already scaled back my eating and salt intake.

Today I wanted to talk a bit about what it is like to really be inside a mental hospital.  I relate a lot of my experiences in my latest book, “Inching Back To Sane”, but I wanted to touch on it here as well today.  I was thinking about how quickly attitudes towards smoking has changed.  A few years back when I first went to AHE (Alberta Hospital, Edmonton) you could smoke anywhere, and get cigarettes anywhere.  You could even buy cigars and all that.  Even when they were cheap though, people were often very reluctant to share cigarettes, myself included.  At first I didn’t mind so much but there were literally people who would wander around asking again and again until you gave in.  One time I recall sitting in the lock-down ward and this guy (who incidentally I have seen in the community, way to go dude!) named Robert came up to me while I was smoking a cigarette and asked me for one and I told him I didn’t smoke and he went away.  Another time I was in the cafeteria in another part of the hospital and a young woman actually punched me in the face because I didn’t give her a cigarette.  It is a sad sight to see now as people are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but outside and there is no place in the remote location the hospital is in to buy cigarettes.  I know smoking is horrible for your health and all, I had a terribly hard time quitting and still feel the effects 10 years after quitting, but people with mental illnesses are very prone to cigarette addiction which I feel has a lot to do with the fact that nicotine actually works on some of the same brain chemicals that anti-depressants and major tranquilizers work on.  I can remember days when I was relatively unmedicated and very ill that I would wake up and smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and my thoughts would be much more normalized, I wouldn’t hear the Television saying things about me and I was able to sit comfortably and carry on conversations.  I don’t really judge the staff on this issue, whether or not they smoke themselves, but I wonder if they have been aware of all of these factors in making their decisions.

One of the things I remember clearly also about being in the hospital is the effect that your illness and ‘cabin fever’ has on a person.  Everyone on the ward, staff or patients seemed in some different way to be someone I knew from before.  There was this really pretty young Psychiatric Aide who was staff on my last (hopefully last ever) stay who bore a slight resemblance to a young woman I was very fond of in school and my mind turned this staff member into this young woman in the flesh.  Then there were other people, like an east indian staff member who looked a lot like a man I had once arrested while working as a security guard.  All in all most of the people there were fairly nice but on occasion I had some outright threats from them.  “Don’t push us.” one young man said to me quietly as he handed me my medications one night.  “If I ever see you outside of this hospital, I’m going to kick the living shit out of you.” Another staff member said to me.  If I told anyone, they would deny it, but they made me very aware that they were the ones holding the power and I was the one under it.  There was one guy who kept coming into my room to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was sleeping (I don’t know if this was official policy, but it seemed just one guy was doing it) and he would wake me up several times a night, so I kept yelling at him or asking him to stop.  One day I was put in the isolation room and propped my mattress up against the wall and snuck in behind it so no one could see me, and this guy was watching me through the small window.  He came in and I knew he was going to assault me so I grabbed his ‘life call’ emergency button and pressed it and staff came running in from all over the hospital thinking he was in need of help.

I could really go on and on, but I think the important thing to realize is that, though it was extremely difficult and painful to go through these things, I was indeed very sick and the result of me being in that situation could have easily led to me ending up in jail not a hospital.  I also want to emphasize that though my Doctor at the time in particular was a bit of a jerk and did little to help me, in the end the system actually worked and I got better.  When I got out fortunately I didn’t have to keep the same Doctor and ended up with an incredible Psychiatrist (who actually wrote the forward to “Through The Withering Storm” and has been a huge supporter of my writing efforts) who literally brought me back from the depths.  I don’t really have the room here to say thanks to all the people who did put up with my arguments and erratic behavior and still did everything they could to help me, but I would like to send out a thank you in general to Psychiatric workers of all kinds.  It takes a thick skin and a heart of gold to do it, and I have heard often that being in there can be just as hard on those people as it can be on patients.  As far as Doctors, I would like to greatly thank Dr. Petkowski, Dr. Bishop, Dr. Boffa, Dr. Chue, Doctor Gordon and many others over the years of my treatment.  And thank you, dear readers, for liking and sharing my posts so often, that is what really makes me feel what I am doing is worthwhile (with regards to my writing and blogging).

DSCF5151Take Off From YEG (Edmonton International Airport) En Route to Hawaii, with my old friend Chris Lockhart at the controls!