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Original Poem and Stop Smoking Blog

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Please scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog entry about smoking and mental health!

Labor Day 2017

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Children laughing, shouting

Full of the joy of anticipation

For the good times and the bad

Of a fresh new school year

 

Now nothing more can hold back

The days of frost and snow

And those short days of precious little sun

 

Will Halloween come first

Or the biting winds of winter

As we cram in more learning

Into the minds of our little ones

 

When this time of year comes upon me

I think back to endless games of football

Played with no hint of coaches, pads or refs

Those were the truly special times the ones that I cherish

Playing, laughing with no one to impress

 

Later on a game that I called gauntlet

Dashing in front of snowball throwers

Lined up to put me to the test

 

So much time has passed now

Since those simple happy times

Two parents by my side at every turn

 

I wish that for just one moment

I could speak through the years passed

To all my childhood friends

 

I would tell them all the same thing

Make the most of every moment

Cherish all your loves and friends and family

And never act as though they owe you a debt

 

Time will pass you all by so quickly

Love with time will fade

Take in all the happiness

And sunshine you can get

 

Hello, dear readers! Well, much has been going on but I have mostly been stagnating in my apartment. There have been serious wildfires in British Columbia, the Province next door to Alberta where I live and the smoke has been hard on me. Maybe this is a good time to explain why the smoke is so hard on me and relate it to a mental health issue. I used to be a smoker. I smoked for 18 years, age 14 to 32. I can tell you exactly why I started, there were two events, one where my Dad asked me if I would like to try his cigarette and when I went to take a drag, he put his finger in my mouth and everyone laughed at me, and another time when I was at a Cadet dance with some friends and a guy pulled out some cigarettes and when I took a drag it was for real and I coughed my lungs out. I had a hard time dealing with people laughing at me and so I decided I was going to practise smoking so no one ever laughed at me again. This wasn’t that big of a deal for a while, but towards my last couple of years of smoking I had to buy the cheapest of the cheap brands of tobacco and I had a hard time controlling my smoking. This was where I think the real damage occurred to my lungs. I have had two lung tests, and they both say I have the lungs of a 74 year-old man. The reason I bring this up is because people with mental illnesses are one of the biggest consumer groups for tobacco, and no one wants to admit it. Tobacco soothes us, and nicotine actually helps regulate chemicals in our brains that cause things like delusions, hallucinations and such. I can remember being in the hospital having severe problems, and after I had two or three cigarettes I would start to feel a lot better. My lungs didn’t feel better, but my mental health started to right itself which seemed more important at the time. So basically, if you smoke and you have a mental illness, I suggest you try and quit. Some of the methods I have found helpful in keeping my mind of smoking are: nicotine patches, used in combination with nicotine gum (make sure to ask your pharmacist how to use these in combination and correctly) drinking a lot of water, switching from coffee to tea, going for long walks or even runs if you can. There is also a method that I am not really qualified to give advice on, but when I was younger and I tried to quit smoking what I did was every time I thought about cigarettes I would try and think about something that had more power over me. At the time I thought of a young woman I had been infatuated with, and it worked for two weeks with no other forms of help or support.

Anyhow, I hope some of this helps you. Thanks for reading today’s blog and above all, stay healthy!!

 

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Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

Stress Management For Those With Mental Health Problems

(Please scroll past photo and poem for today’s blog 🙂

Love Poem

 

Not one of us will leave this world alive

We must show love to those we care for every day

Think upon all the things for which you strive

 

Do you think too much about the car you drive

Do you care about what others see and say

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

There is truly just one way to thrive

One must give from deep within in every way

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Caring, loving, giving is the only way to derive

A life with a special beauty like a grand ballet

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

Sometimes into dark waters we must dive

Knowing nothing, only being able to pray

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Give up plotting, planning, please don’t connive

For each thing you take you will be made to pay

Not one of us will leave this world alive

Think upon the things for which you strive

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/

When dealing with a mental health issue, stress can be your worst enemy. I want to write today about some of the ways I deal with stress, which can be all boiled down to setting boundaries.

One of my favourite Canadian authors, Margaret Laurence, mentioned in an interview I watched that she only writes about 2 hours a day and can’t manage more. I don’t know if Margaret ever suffered from a mental illness, but I have found this to be a good rule of thumb. While I feel it is really important to write every day, and that doing so will definitely make you a better writer, I try to maximize my screen time to about 2 hours a day. Sometimes I do less, and often when I am deep in the trance of writing something I enjoy writing, I do more. Of course, again I want to mention that one of the best therapeutic things a person can do is to write in a journal that they don’t let anyone see. It is such a great way to express yourself and to let out things. In a way, I like it that writing in a journal each day gives me a gauge to see how I am improving overall.

The next thing that I feel is good for stress is exercise. For a long time after my last hospital admission, my Dad would drive to where I was staying and take me to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long walk. I was a smoker at the time and couldn’t handle anything much more strenuous than that, but it got me into better shape, a better state of mind, was an outlet for my extra energy, and led to me being able to find a paid job eventually.

Work is definitely something a person has to consider when they are in recovery mode from a mental illness. I honestly think that if you have just gotten out of a hospital or have just made the decision to start looking for work, you really need to take some time to feel 100% before venturing out and getting a job. I started with a job that was very easy, working as a security guard. I had a hard time with some employers either sending me to assignments that were too stressful or asking me to work too many hours, but there are  a lot of jobs out there for those who want to transition back into the workplace. My security guard job kind of sucked, the pay wasn’t very good and it often wasn’t healthy for me to stay up all night drinking coffee and trying to get what sleep I could. Soon though, I found a rhythm and was able to lift weight and swim and also work my job and I was ‘scouted’ to work as a security guard in the film industry and made leaps and bounds more than what I used to make and got into a union that greatly benefitted me over the next few years. Some other jobs that are low stress could be working in a gas station as a cashier, working as a dishwasher, and many others. Just remember you won’t be doing this forever, this is just to get you out of the house and make a little extra money. Better jobs will come your way if you are conscientious about your work.

Another way to make a transition back to the work world is to volunteer. In Edmonton where I live there is a company called the volunteer network and you simply approach them with your skills and they find a place for you. This is a great way to get experience, self-respect, friendships and much more.

The last thing I wanted to mention that I do to deal with stress is keeping my schedule as open as I can, only making firm commitments for a few days a week. I work for the Schizophrenia Society now and give presentations to many different groups about mental illness. I have had the incredible privilege of speaking in front of lecture halls full of students, among many other groups as diverse as junior high schools to Edmonton City Police Recruits. But I only book 2-3 assignments and then keep things open so I am free to go to the pool or the library or for a long walk whenever I want. I guess on a final note, I want to offer the suggestion that you try and live beneath your means, whatever they are and save as much as you can so that you can enrich your life with travel at least once or twice a year. A really good trip can give you a lifetime of memories and a lot of happiness and joy in the present.

 

Worrying and Self-Doubt

 

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/depression/10-depression-quotes-that-may-change-your-life/

Well, it has been an interesting week. I finally have a few days off to do what I like which is nice. I have a hard time when I get stressed from doing too many things and sometimes I react to it by sleeping way too much. I know this wreaks havoc on my system and makes it very hard to function in line with the world of the normal people. So many good things have been happening to me, but I know that things won’t stay good for me if I can’t do something about my excessive sleeping.

I feel really blessed today because I was contacted by the City of Edmonton and asked if I could come and give a talk about mental health at the Edmonton Public Library. On Monday I will be just finishing up a six-week contract to teach creative writing and there are many other opportunities coming my way. Still, for some reason, I find a need to worry. One of the big things that I worry about is money. Every now and then I work or do some photography and make a few extra bucks, but then it seems that the money just runs away from me. I am at a point now where I have savings to at least get me through one month of difficulties, but I keep thinking about ways I could spend the money on what I deem “more fun” things. There are cameras I would like to buy, I am always thinking of buying a car or taking a trip. It all seems like such a waste and it took so much effort just to have just the small amount of savings I do have.

I also worry sometimes about my ability as a writer. I went to a story slam the other day and really felt outclassed. I was the first reader up and was quickly knocked out of the competition. This is even after winning two story slams last year. Another thing that happened was that I won a contest for a 24-hour short story that got me $300 USD. I took the story and tried to publish it elsewhere but with no luck. I am really feeling the pinch of not having been able to go to University and take creative writing. Fortunately, I have some good friends who help and support me in making my writing as good as I can make it.

One of the things that often gives me comfort when I find myself worrying is doing meditation or taking long walks. I had planned to walk the 2km to the post office today, but the ice and snow and freezing rain was pretty bad so I ended up taking the bus. When I do take the time to meditate, what I often like to do is to read some of my Asian books about spirituality say from the Dalai Lama or ancient writings like Lao Tzu and then just sit, either cross-legged or not, close my eyes and simply try to focus on nothingness, empty space as I count my breath, breathing in and out until a thought comes up that distracts me, then I go back to zero and try to make it to a count of ten. It can be very helpful to take some training in this, I once used to go to a real Tibetan Monk for classes and it was a big help, very healing.

 

Riding the Wave–“But I get the most work done when I’m manic!”

 

Click this link and find out here if a home based counsellor is able to help you

best-full-moon-ever

            Shot of the moon using my Nikon D3300 and a Nikkor 55-300mm lens, touched up with Lightroom by Adobe

Mania, depression, and delusions. What can pills help, and what do you need to watch out for yourself? (poem to follow this blog)

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-do-i-find-a-therapist-near-me/

So it is the worst time of the year for just about everyone. Kids have to go back to school after just a 2-week taste of freedom and being lavished with candy canes and gifts by family. People who work in sectors like trades find that most of their customers spent all their money on Christmas and there is a big slowdown. The worst part? Suicides. Some may think that Christmas is the worst for suicides, but I have uncovered some information that may prove that January is the worst month for suicides. I can see why. I have been doing well in my recovery from mental illness for some time now, I was able to take some college courses, I took a University course last year and actually finished it. I have set up jobs and public appearances and have been working for the schizophrenia society. I sometimes wonder if I’ve been a little manic. I haven’t had delusional thinking much, but I have been finding myself increasingly troubled with sleeping memories of being in the hospital, likely because I now live in an apartment building rather than a house and I never liked the people who used to come around in the hospital and shine a flashlight in your eyes to see if you were sleeping. The flashlight almost always woke me up.

What I have been noticing is the early signs of depression creeping up. I don’t know about other places, but where I live there is only about 8 hours of daylight this time of year and sometimes lately if I have nothing to do or if it is oppressively cold outside (as it almost always is, -22 right now) I will sleep all night and then sleep all day. Then, at times like this when by all rights I should be going back to sleep, I get up and work on my writing. Today I was taken away from this pursuit because I learned the moon was full, and so I hauled out my camera and took the above picture among others. I don’t really know what to do about my depression. It has to do with a lot of things I am sure, including the diminished sunlight, the fact that I have a lot of time on my hands and that I have been isolating myself too much. My doctor has offered to increase my anti-depressant and I think I will call tomorrow to get an appointment and do so.

I am also thinking that with everything that has been happening, it is time to bite the bullet and go and see a counselor. For months I have been looking at the wall in the office of my apartment building and there is a list of free counselors there. What it all comes down to is taking care of myself. If I leave things too long I will pay the consequences. Just like needing a dentist or an optometrist, and going to them before you are in pain or blind, I really want to try therapy. From what I understand, therapy can be very effective for people with mental illnesses, though it is important that one stabilize their condition with proper medication before going to it. One of the things that makes me feel worried about what has been going on is my departed mother. When she died at 63 she still hadn’t gotten a handle on her mental illness and it was very severe. My mom had done so many things, from being a credit union manager to nearly getting a full scholarship to University. She tried so very hard and kept getting beaten down by one thing or another. I can see my mom in my brother and sister and myself in many ways. It really was a sad thing that her life had gone so poorly for her, and even at the end she struggled with her medications, moods and psychosis. One of the things she did back then was to see a psychologist and I learned to my surprise that she often talked about her mother, who had passed away about 20 years before my mom did. In many ways I feel pretty lucky that there are medications that help me deal with my own psychosis and mood swings, and do a pretty good job of it. With that, I will leave you with a poem and wish you all another week or so of good health and happiness, which is about the amount of time that will pass before I blog again.

 

Last Best Chance

My love I am always thinking of you

And how I have feelings that are true

I just don’t know how to say them out loud

 

In the dark deep night my mind begins to race

As I worry, fret and pace

Nothing seems to please me anymore

 

The first time I ever saw your face

Even my loneliness could never erase

The loveliness I saw deep inside your eyes

 

Each day that passes finds me here

With no friends or lover near

The only one I have to blame is me

 

There were many loves in my younger days

And I pursued them in my own weird ways

Never understanding I could ever end up alone

 

Plus I had so many true, close friends

On whom I always thought I could depend

But hard times took most of those away from me

 

I’ve been desperate and depressed

Sought forgiveness and went to be blessed

But found out it came down to not loving you enough

 

From the first day my life had begun

Fate made you the only one

I could have ever asked to be my true soul mate

 

So I ask if you could read these simple words

And not feel sad, scared or disturbed

I know you care for me just as I care for you

 

Things happen to each and every one

But you were always so loving and fun

Please forgive and take me in your arms again

 

I won’t make any promises to you

Except that each day will feel happy, fresh and new

Please tell me if you will, I just can’t wait

 

Too many years have already passed

You’ve always been the first and last

Give your love to me we’re each other’s last best chance

 

Every Day in Every Way Things Get a Little Better

Hello, Dear Readers!  Please see below for today’s poem and below that for today’s blog.  I wanted to share with you an effort I am making to help support myself as a creative person without having to work my normally extremely difficult and dangerous job.  I have started a Patreon page where people can make pledges to support me and in return, I will send them poetry, printed and frameable photos, signed short story manuscripts at regular intervals and even set up group discussions with me either by phone, google hangouts or email to talk about anything you wish, be it writing or otherwise related.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT MY PATREON PAGE

DSC_0061

This is a bit of a rough picture I took of something known as a “blood moon” I tried getting better shots, but I was chased off by some security guards from where I had set up and had to take this photo through a fence.  It was kin of cool to see the red moon which was much larger earlier that evening.

Today’s Poem:

The First Green of Summer

 

 

The sun shines above grass grows underneath us

Share with me another great victory

This is the time to be happy

Winter is gone and we’re free

 

Lush green trees and lovely white flowers

The geese and the convertible cars

The sun is hot and beating down on my shoulders

And at night I can lay I cool grass and stare at the stars

 

Come and meet me leave your sweater or jacket

Don’t forget your camera and something to drink

Winter skiing was a spectacular experience

And so was playing shinny for hours at the rink

 

But we must change and grow with the seasons

It’s toasty hot and there is so much to do

Come on out and meet me we don’t need any reasons

To enjoy each moment of this season all the way through

 

Each day grows a little bit longer

Each night it is harder to sleep

I lay awake for long hours with no covers

But stil a joy fills my heart so perfect and deep

 

Forty-four years may have taken a few things from me

But this glorious sunshine has given all of it back

It’s good to be this old because of the freedom

And the fact that there is nothing I lack

 

Walk through forested trails or ride your bike by the river

The sun and the sky is a glorious gift

Or lay back in the grass with a novel

Just let the weather give your heart a lift

 

And yes now we should embrace all our loved ones

And honor those no longer with us

Make your plans to take trips and find new fun

Planning good times in summer is so much less fuss

 

Remember we all have just a short time

To love those who are close by our side

Letting summer pass by seems like it’s a crime

Let go of all of your anger and pride

 

Join with me hand in hand in the sunlight

And know that both of our futures are bright

 

Leif Gregersen

     Well Dear Readers, a lot has been happening.  I recently booked a trip to Lonon, England and I am looking forward to it immensely.  I’m actually having a pretty hard time getting to sleep thinking about my little adventure and some other ones I’m going to take this year.  In August I have booked a trip to Toronto were I will stay at my sister’s house and due to a scheduling problem she is actually going to be here in Edmonton while I am there at her house.

The cool things that have been happening lately are that I went to my home town library on Monday and gave a talk for an hour and a half.  I think that was the most time I had spent in front of an audience without a break.  I read from my books, told my own story and read a couple of short stories that I feel were of a fairly high quality.  The main point of going though was to help educate people about mental illness, though it didn’t hurt to get my name known among more people as far as writing goes.  I had hoped to sell some books, but made no sales.  The good thing though was that the library gave me a $100 honorarium which was nice.  I think I am really starting to make an impact on things.  It seems wherever I go people tell me they saw me in the newspaper or on TV or had seen me speak somewhere.  I had been advised before to try and get emails from as many of my customers as I could so I could keep in touch with them but I have some problems with adminstrative things.  What I am learning is that there is money out there to be a writer, to give workshops and talks, but you really have to get good at it.  I am doing a lot of things like giving talks for the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta and teaching a creative writing class and I think it is really helping my confidence.  I still get worried now and then that someone will come and get in my face about things I did far in the past or even that I will bump into someone from a horribly failed relationship and not know what to say.  So far things have been going really good though.

Well, that is just about all I have on my mind.  I was surprised to learn that my posts are reaching a lot of people.  As always, I would love to get feedback on some of the things people might want to see on this blog, issues I can address, questions you may have.  Feel free to contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com if this sounds like you.  Take care my good readers, and stay mentally and physically healthy, you deserve it!

Leif Gregersen

 

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!

More About Writing, Less About Poetry

DSCF5641                                              SUNRISE JUST OUTSIDE MY BACK DOOR

Hello dear readers.  It has been a couple of days since I posted anything and I don’t really know what to write at first.  I had a long talk with my sister, who has her Masters Degree in Education and she has been encouraging me to focus more on short stories and magazine/newspaper articles rather than poetry.  I don’t really know how to take this, for some time I have felt something lacking in my poetry.  One thing I do know is that if I want to publish poetry or have any success getting a book sized collection going, I can’t use anything I post here.  I think from time to time I will try and post some poetry though, but while I am in this thinking stage I am going to refrain.  I find though that I really love taking pictures (I just purchased a brand new $500 camera) and so I have no problem continuing with those efforts.  I also can put together blogs without any worries of copyrights or publishing problems, so I want to go on with that.  I think I should start writing in themes though.  One of the things I would most like to do is to help other writers who may be starting out, so to that end I am going to put after the second photo for today a copy of an article I wrote which was turned down, but still has some very useful information.  I would love feedback on what anyone thinks of it.

Perhaps one of the themes I could work on could be some of the interesting people I have met.  For some odd reason I am reminded right now of a 28 year-old African American I met while traveling the United States at age 19.  I had been living in truck stops, trying to hustle a ride from anyone who showed any sign or indication that they were going North to Vancouver, BC or anywhere in Canada for that matter.  I was outside enjoying a cool, crisp morning and looking out at the sand colored mountains of Southern California when I started talking with this guy (damned if I can’t remember his name) and he told me that he had thought of pursuing a career as a minister.  He seemed like a good guy to count as a friend in an otherwise unfriendly place, so I decided to hang out with him.  Him and I went to a shelter in the nearby town and got a meal, some clothes and an offer of a place to stay and work to be had.  For the most part my new friend was extremely entertaining, he told me stories that nearly made me split my gut laughing, but then out of seemingly nowhere he started to talk about a rape and a murder he had been an accessory to and it really freaked me out.  One of the scary things about big American cities is that by weight of sheer numbers a lot more people slip through the cracks of what is considered normal in Canadian cities and can end up being pretty scary.  I really wanted to get away from this guy, but I didn’t see any potential harm in hanging around with him for a while though the bells should have gone off way earlier.  Those were strange times, I remember when I got home from that horrible trip that I had two blisters each the size and thickness of a silver dollar on each foot thanks to the boots I was wearing.

Well, I am going to leave off things there.  Anyone who finds this little bit of a story interesting is encouraged to read more about this and other misadventures I experienced in my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which are under the heading, ‘books’ in the menu of this website, both paperback and e-book formats.  As mentioned, I am putting an article I wrote below the photo, please leave any comments you like

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ARTICLE ON WRITING:

Writing is simple. Pen a document, print it up, send it away and get rich. Sorry, nowhere near that easy. Stephen King once said that if you can write something, get it published, get paid for it and the check clears, you are a writer. Cool! But where do you start?

 

Perhaps you are just starting out. Start with a good computer. I prefer a Mac Mini that I use only for writing and I have Microsoft Word on it, whick is considered the industry standard. An option is to download a program called OpenOffice which is compatable at www.openoffice.org for free.

 

Where do you go from there?   “The Writer’s Market 20–” is essential. Check it out at www.WritersMarket.com where you can sign up for their newsletter and get other information. The book, at around $30.00 US contains query letter templates, advice for writers, and tons of addresses of everything from agents to publishers and many magazines. It gives you almost all the facts you need, from who to address your query to, right down to how to get back issues (always try to read a publication before you submit to it) and what the magazine pays.

 

Now that you have the essentials, or are able to beg, borrow or use other creative methods to utilize them, start reading. Read, read read! Look for ‘short story’ stickers on fiction books in your library and check them out and devour them. Read magazines, literary and otherwise (read them in the library to save $$). Sometimes I will take a bus route that adds an hour to my morning commute just to have the time to tune out and read.

 

Magazines can be a great way to start your career. I started making money with magazines simply by browsing through a copy of Writer’s Market and coming up with ideas to query them with. Not all of the magazines took my offer, but I can safely say I have added a few thousand to my bottom line just from part-time freelancing.

 

Something important is to start getting your name known, and start getting your list of publications growing. I still love volunteering for my community newspaper for free because I have fun doing, it connects me with my neighbors and it gives me more clippings each month to add to my growing pile. Not to mention I feel the experience makes me a better writer. Don’t worry that at first you will get low paying or non-paying work, it all benefits you in the long run.

 

Something else I do is sit down and write a short story when I feel moved, or a poem. Every few months I these together into a book and have them printed up at www.createspace.com which is an imprint of Amazon. For the cost of a few hundred dollars for 50 or 100 copies, I get the extreme joy of seeing my name in print on a real book. I take copies to independent bookstores, I set up signings at places as varied as Farmer’s Markets and Hospital Gift Shops. It’s all on a small scale, but as time goes by, my list of guaranteed customers grows and presently, two of my books are being evaluated by distributors and another is being considered by a publisher. Will either of these make me rich? Not likely, success can be a long journey for a writer, it may never come, but I can assure you that the path is a rewarding one financially, emotionally and in a general feeling of happiness of having accomplished something truly worthwhile.

A Photo, A Blog, A Way To Help, A Way To Give

 

 

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This is a shot from one of the nicest parks we have in Edmonton, and we really have some nice parks.  If anyone has purchased my poetry book, “Poems From Inside Me” They will see on the front cover a gull spreading it’s wings as it flies over this small body of water.  Today is a little windy, a little cold and very wet and slushy, almost like a Spring day, but normally we are around minus 20 celsius at this time of year.  I could have posted a picture of Hawaii, but I figured it would warm my heart a bit more to see a place here when it is nice.  I think in many ways Edmonton’s summer is nicer than Hawaii, mostly because it doesn’t get as hot, it isn’t as muggy when it is hot and there are much more daylight hours than tropical locations because Edmonton is so far North.

I wanted to shake things up a bit today with the blog because I have been hard at work on a few things and just haven’t got the energy to compose a fresh poem.  I think I will post a ‘used’ poem on the page, as always I welcome feedback.  What I have been up to is setting up a crowdfunding web page with the hopes of raising $750.00 (already $50 has been generously donated) which I will use to hire an illustrator for a comic book script I have written, and hopefully this will help cover printing costs as well. I have a couple of rare opportunities, one is that I have gotten a part-time job where I will be going to schools and other classroom settings and talking about my life experiences with mental illness, and though I have two books on the subject, I don’t know if they will help teens much, partly because not all teens are into regular books, and not all teens can afford regular books.  So my idea is to print up and distribute this comic in these settings, and by some million to one shot, I was sent an email asking for proposals for presentations at a conference in California on mental health and comic books.  Can you believe it?  There really has to be some kind of major intelligent guiding force in this Universe.  Anyhow, anyone interested can check out my crowdfunding page at: http://www.gofundme.com/oneinfive1in5

I think what I am going to do is to post a video from Youtube I made below here, it is a narration of me walking through the mental hospital I was sent to as an 18 year-old and last left some 13 years ago at the age of 29.  Pardon if the first little while is boring, I decided to keep it because as I went towards the hospital on the bus a young woman started a conversation with me that seemed relevant.  Look for todays (used) poem below the video.  Actually, what the heck, I will put in three short poems, I had entered them in a contest to appear on the bus but they weren’t accepted.

 

The Truth of The Matter

 

The gentle blackbird asking nothing of anyone

A shiny object with which to line his nest, a little food

He reminds me of the young man I saw some years back

A thin shock of dark hair, a lust for life

A sincere smile, a shirt indicating his military unit

The blackbird is known all around the neighborhood

The young man seems the type to have many friends

I weep for my blackbird friend and this nameless young soldier

Both of them have been alone and in pain

Both of them must face life with just one leg

 

 

More Than a Scavenger

 

Someone once told me birds aren’t very smart

And yet I will never tire of marveling at their beauty

Even the simple gulls can soar and glide

Press their perfectly arrayed wings against the air

With just the right energy to carry themselves skyward

Once, in a place where many are old and forgotten

I felt generous and threw a pizza crust to a gull

It was too stiff for him to eat and he carried it

Over to a puddle and soaked it until it was softer

Bird-brain. Bah!

 

 

Hawrelak Park

 

I once saw a deer in my city

Those big eyes seemingly glowing

This gentle creature more beautiful

Than any made-up model

It’s slim legs ready to flee

At the sound of an unkind foe

It looked at me, looked at me

And somehow for a moment

I could see her soul; her sad tired soul

Longing for rest and peacefulness

In a city full of meat eaters