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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

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

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!”

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            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)

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

 

Coping With Isolation While Suffering From a Mental Illness

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Photograph of an Edmonton Morning From the Tip of the River Valley

Well, I have been trying to keep busy lately, and seem to be doing well.  As many may know, I moved into my own apartment from a group home three months ago.  There are a lot of things that seem to be going really well.  I have just about finished my very first University course, Humanities 101 which has been great.  We have gone over a lot of different information from a visit to the University’s Observatory to a special class with a drama instructor.  In many ways, I feel it has helped me not only get back into the groove that I used to enjoy so much about school, but it has also helped me to sharpen my critical thinking skills.  The main problem right now is that I am feeling a little isolated not having roommates around to talk to or bounce ideas off.

There have been a lot of really good things going on, though.  My friend Richard Van Camp, who is a bestselling author and film producer seems to have found me a publisher for my latest short story collection.  After a few final edits, I will be sending my manuscript off likely early next week.  There are a few other really great pieces of news in my life, one is that the Edmonton Public Library has chosen to spotlight me as a writer in 2017 for three months, likely in the second or third quarter of the year.  They will have me plan two events and advertise me on their website among other cool stuff.  And then I will also be facilitating a writing class in the New Year, possibly more than one of them.  I think that will be just about all I will be able to handle.

At the moment I am nursing a sore back, and I took some muscle relaxants to help me deal with it.  I had hoped the pills would help me sleep but they don’t seem to be working that way.  I am having so much trouble sleeping that I am near to the point of asking for sleeping pills, but I have found that sleeping pills affect a person’s memory and that is something that is just about essential to my writing.  There are more options, I have tried to exercise more but it seems that can make me sleep less.  Among the other options is to eliminate naps and cut off caffeine at a certain time.  These strategies have worked for me before, but when you live alone it can be difficult to follow routines.  I guess I am a bit worried that moving out was a mistake, but there really were a lot of useless rules in the place I came from.  I still get a little support day to day from the staff at the building I moved into, it often becomes easy though to fall into the trap of just not leaving the house.  I have been combatting that by taking extended long walks for groceries or to malls and other errands.  The result is that I feel better in general, but my feet and back seem to be taking kind of a pounding.  I thought I would like to walk to a medical clinic in the morning to see about getting something for my back and maybe some advice on sleep remedies but walking four miles for something like that seems almost self-defeating.

One thing that is good is that I seem to have been getting out enough to keep my social skills in order.  Yesterday I gave a presentation for the Schizophrenia Society and it seemed to go really well.  I enjoy that job a lot, it is just about the perfect thing for me.  I go out to a school or meeting place, talk for half an hour and get paid for three hours.  It is hard to have been used to the money I made setting up stages but that job was taking a toll on me.

Something that has been on my mind is my brother, the musician/chef/philosopher.  He had a herniated disc in his back that needed surgery and is in terrible pain and now a doctor has told him he may have another herniated disc.  The first surgery was awful, he had to wait six months and could do almost nothing the whole time, it really kills me to see him in so much pain.  Sometimes all a person can do is keep a smile on their face and pray, though.

So I don’t really know what coping skills I gave any of you today.  I have been finding that meditation has been pretty helpful in me keeping my head screwed on straight.  I would like to go back to going to mass, I don’t know what has been keeping me from it.  All in all, actually, things are as good as could be expected.  I have a birthday coming next week and I am going to spend it with friends, I don’t really need to worry much about having things to do or money for food or anything.  I still find myself a little worried and a little sad at times.  I suppose nothing can ever be perfect.  I apologize that there is no poem for today, I haven’t felt much like writing poetry.  I should get down to some though since I will be teaching how to write it again soon.  Take care dear readers, and say a prayer for my brother if you have the strength.

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

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

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

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

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

Raw and Uncensored Manic Depressive Digressions

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                         This was actually a really small spider that I captured from very close up

Today’s Poem:

Disguise

 

Angel blond hair

Deep blue eyes

 

Lost and lonely

A wall between us

 

I wanted

I wanted to love you

 

Wall between us

Pain on one side

 

Look in these eyes

Yes mine

 

You will see pain

If you can look past the disguise

 

God in heaven

I am lonely

 

This is how I ask

You to reach out to me

 

This is how I tell the world

I’m the one truly hurting

 

I keep silent and show only

Only rage only silence

 

But I have to lie

Not just to you; to everyone

 

I have to keep up the pain

It feeds me

 

The pain; the disguise

I’m just a hollow shell inside

 

 

Leif Gregersen, April 30/2016

 

Good day to one and all.  I had a pretty cool Friday, I met with my mentor and good friend Richard Van Camp, who I met a few years back at the U of A when I approached him to help me with a Novel I was writing.  I have known Richard for some time and I still have yet to put out a full-length novel.  I have written a number of books and done a lot of articles but no blockbuster.  I think I have it in me, I just need to get a few life details in order.  Maybe I should set that as my goal for 2016, to write a complete adult novel.  There are so many different topics one could cover when it comes to novels, though.  When I was a teen I loved spy thrillers, historical thrillers, and military thrillers.  Now that I am grown more I don’t see those types of works as anything I can either have an authoritative voice in writing or really enjoy doing.  It is kind of a joke among my family members and I that from a young age I wanted to do some impossible act and get a million or more dollars so I could sit cozy and live off the interest of my windfall.  But here I am 44 and I haven’t made my first million yet.  I can honestly say, though, living with a mental illness has put a lot of roadblocks in my way.  One of the problems is that I don’t deal with stress in the same way that most people do.  In fact, I think the longest I have held a full-time job in my life has been about three weeks.  It is a scary statistic though I have had part-time jobs that lasted for years, I was with the IATSE union for 7 years, but there is something about me that just wants to shut down and go back to living with nothing rather than continue on in a job I don’t like.  I really liked the most recent job I had, which was being editor of two online magazines, but at the moment, it is hard to say if there is a future in it.

On the lighter side, I am going to be going to my hometown library in two days to give a presentation about mental health and have a chance to sell some books.  I think that one of the bigger opportunities I have at the moment is to continue further up the scale with public speaking.  I have even sent a resume to a public speaker’s agent company.

I really want to talk a bit about mental health at least a little today.  One of the things I have been having problems with is time and sleeping.  I seem to have hard-wired my brain to only be able to enjoy myself when I am working or studying if you can count reading books related to my own writing as studying when they are fiction stories.  There really seems to be nothing that I love more than reading, the heavier the better.  When I was first discharged from the hospital fifteen years ago, I had the time and ability to read just about every work that Steinbeck had written and it was a wonderful experience.  Lately, I have been interested in the short stories of Alice Munro.  I feel I am learning a lot and really enjoying myself by taking time to delve deep into these “not real but realistic” stories.  My mom, who also suffered from a mental illness, used to go to bed a couple of hours before my dad and in that time she would read and write in her journal.  I often wonder why she never tried to be a writer herself, she was extremely intelligent.  She once told me that there is no greater pleasure in this world than losing yourself in a book, in reading the really great works of literature.  To me, reading has been the education I was never able to pursue.

I have memories though of times when I was younger and living alone when I would spend days at a time not leaving my apartment at all, just reading on and on into the night and through the day.  It feels good, but I don’t see how it can be a mentally healthy exercise.  I think I have gotten past that now especially since I write my stories, have people read them, read them to people on the phone, participate in story slams, and doing all that.  I am a bit worried though that I could lapse back into isolating myself as I am going to be graduating from the group home I now live into my own apartment.  It is going to feel odd at first, I have been living here now for 15 years not counting a stint at my own place.  My main concern is bed bugs, then the next concern is that the place might at times be like a zoo because there are a lot of people there who are on the fringes.  Well, dear readers, that is about all I can manage for today.  If you like today’s poem or blog, please let me know.  As always, my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com   All the best!

Leif Gregersen

Heading Into Fall Season

DSCF5596Here is a photo of our wonderful Edmonton award-winning downtown library where I love to go

Well, today was a pretty good one.  I had to go and give a presentation at a high school out of town for the Schizophrenia Society, which is my new job.  I am really enjoying this work, I start out by doing a slide and video presentation with facts and other information about mental illness and then I give a talk about my own experiences.  I am getting to go to so many fascinating places and meet so many people that I just love this new job.  A couple of weeks ago I went to the University and spoke before a class of 230 students.  Before that, I presented my story and answered questions to a group of all kinds of medical students.  Last night (Thursday) was especially great because I took a road trip to a town called Barrhead, which was a really enjoyable time with my friend Glen who also presents for the society and we spoke to a small class of adults.  They were incredibly responsive and asked all kinds of questions and then afterwards despite the small size of the class I ended up selling six of my books, which covers my expenses for quite a while, not to mention the wage I get.  The other week was also pretty cool as I spoke to a class of police sciences students who also got really involved and the professor of the class was so appreciative she gave us a cool little leather journal with the University’s logo on it, plus a coffee mug for taking in a car or on the bus, PLUS a $25 Tim Horton’s gift card.  I have really been learning so much about myself and my illness doing this, along with other things I have been doing.  One of the things I have learned about my illness is that I in fact did have some serious psychosis (or delusional thinking)  I didn’t so much hear voices as there were ‘invasive thoughts’ that just kind of popped into my head, almost the way thoughts come into your head through reading but I wasn’t reading anything.  You really have to be a bookworm to hallucinate reading.  I am so glad I am now in recovery from my illness, but I want to help others get to this point if I can.  The Schizophrenia society is giving me one way to do that, but I am hoping to do more.  In January there is a class being taught that I qualify for that will give me a job helping people develop a ‘wellness recovery action plan’ or wrap.  I have already bought some books from them online and I am really looking forward to facilitating classes.  There is also another opportunity coming up where I could go around giving peer support to people with mental health issues, through the Alberta Government.  This would be a part-time job and what I am kind of hoping is that I can do these things for a few years and build my knowledge and experience and then at some point write my own mental health recovery manual, which is basically my end goal.  Sometimes it does worry me that I will one day become sick again, and that is a very real possibility, but I have a lot more people helping me and I have a lot more resources and knowledge that will hopefully prevent that from happening.  It really is scary to think of me back in my late teens, living far away in Vancouver with no one who understood me or my illness, sick and starving, barely able to function.  I really have come a long way.

Anyhow, I just wanted to post another poem below but talk about it a bit at first.  When I was in high school, there was this really beautiful young woman who was in a lot of my classes and also worked at two of the places I had after school jobs at.  One time after I got out of the hospital for the second or third time I ran into her and she was really nice to me and offered to help me out of my situation.  A number of circumstances made it impossible for me to accept her offer, but then a couple of years later after being in Vancouver I tried to contact her and she literally threatened to call the police on me.  This really hurt, but it made sense, we had never really had a relationship but it is one of those things that stay in your thoughts for a long time.  I don’t really have any feelings for her anymore, I just kind of wish sometimes that my fairy tale life were true and it really hurt when I was basically warned not to attend my high school reunion, something I had been really looking forward to.  Anyhow, I hope the poem below speaks for itself,  thanks Dear readers for following my work.

 

Tracy

 

If I thought a poem

Could have won your heart

I would have written you a thousand

Or more

 

Way back when we were kids

I thought maybe you were the prettiest girl I had ever seen

Even though you had an ugly side

When you talked about people less fortunate

 

All that time back

I really thought you loved me

Though I never felt I deserved it

Because of who I was and how messed up

I had become when our paths finally crossed

 

Maybe I was wrong

Horribly, horribly wrong

But sometimes I wonder if the hatred you seemed to show

Was from a woman spurned

 

Over time I came to accept

That really you were never mine

Despite the possibility

Of a schoolgirl crush

 

I found someone else eventually

But it never lasted

And always in the back of my mind

I imagined you as the perfect one

To marry and to grow old with

 

Even when my new lover and I

Were intertwined and lost in pleasing each other

Experiencing more joy and completeness than I had ever known

I wondered

What it might have been like with you instead

 

Maybe though when I look back now

It makes a lot more sense that you never loved me

All you would have really seen of me

Was my bitter, depressed and obnoxious, foul-mouthed

Teenage side

 

But part of me held out hope

That you saw something in me

When we worked our after-school jobs side by side

Or when we shared the beauty of Shakespeare in school

I held out hope

You really had seen something in me

That I never even saw in myself.

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leif Gregersen

God of All Creation

DSC_0037THIS IS THE PHOTO (ROUGHLY) THAT APPEARED IN THE EDMONTON SUN NEWSPAPER

     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I am in a good mood today.  I have been given a wonderful opportunity to work for the Schizophrenia Society as a presenter of my own lived experience with mental illness.  Basically I wrote a speech and now and then I get asked to give talks to different groups.  Last night I presented to a family wellness group and it went so well.  The talk kind of ran for a long time, but people seemed pretty responsive.  I should note that for a long time I have been working a job I love as a stage hand, but it has slowly gotten to be almost too much for me.  Now, I have this job with the Society and I am able to utilize all of my knowledge and skills (and a little bit of bravery-public speaking can be difficult at times!)  Not to mention that on some occasions I am given permission to bring and sell and sign books.  I get so much better response for my book sales when I do something like this, last night I sold three copies of “Inching Back To Sane” which is a lot considering at (a)there were only 10 people there to present to, and (b)at a book signing at a book store the other day I sat for five hours and sold just one book!

Another thing that I am finding is that as I meet with people and share about my illness, I am learning a lot about new coping strategies, new events and generally helping my condition a lot.  The lady who runs the Edmonton office of the Society seems to be impressed with me and has asked that I write a special speech for a fundraiser they are having in the fall, I am really excited about it.

I don’t know how much I have shared about it, but I recently completed a ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plan’ or WRAP course and I am hoping that I will be able to become a facilitator for this group in the new year.  For anyone that doesn’t have knowledge of it, I suggest you Google the name and also look for information about Mary Ellen Copeland, she has developed this method of becoming aware of the things that help get you through a bad day or a serious crisis and also making plans that you can share with others for what to do if you end up in crisis and many more things.  There is actually a ‘WRAP app’ on iPhone and Android where you can access on your smartphone all of your lists and even email them to anyone you feel might need them, say your therapist or doctor or health care worker or even family member or friend.  Just the other day I was feeling a bit out of sorts, possibly because I had been getting out in the hot sun a little too much and it wasn’t doing my mental health much good.  I opened up my ‘WRAP app’ and went through a list of things that I knew would make me feel better.  One of them of course is reading, and I picked up some light material and got myself through a time when I may have felt so ‘ill’ that I had to contact my Doctor or Nurse or put pressure on a family member to try and help me.  There are courses and books out there that I think could be very beneficial.

Another resource I wanted to mention was a thing I found on YouTube, called ‘guided meditation’.  There is this one video that comes up that shows an orange sunset over waves and in the video the announcer talks you through some deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and I swear it is better than a hot bath with epsom salts for relaxing you.  A large part of the video is just the sounds of waves gently crashing on a beach and it takes me back to times when I was in Honolulu near Waikiki Beach and I couldn’t sleep so I took a walk and then just sat on a park bench sipping a milkshake and listened to the waves, thinking to myself how incredibly cool it was that I was out on the cusp of thousands of miles of water.  It was such a powerful experience.  Anyhow, if you scroll past today’s second picture below you will find a poem, and below that in the previous blog I wrote you can find a YouTube link to a video I made of a nearby national park situated on the Alberta side of the Rocky Mountains.  I hope all of you are well, please email or comment if there is any information you want to see on this website or even just want to say hi.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care!

DSC_0077        THERE HE IS AGAIN!  THE MAN WITH THE HAT!

 

Goldilocks Princess

 

Often when times seem unfair and way too rough

I steel myself and try to be strong and tough

But hidden deep down inside my mind

I long for days when the world was more kind

 

As a boy happiness was everywhere

I received so much dear love and care

My Mom and Dad would do all the worrying for me

And I was free to just live and play and be

 

But when that young boy reached the age to become a man

No one seemed to want to help or give a hand

I soon realized I had to make my own way

Work all day with no time left over to play

 

I still remember when I first cooked my own meals

Trying to understand the bus because I had no wheels

Waking up each day to work and try and build a life

Hoping somehow to meet someone to be my wife

 

And then so many awful things got in the way

It was all I could do just to make it through each day

Some people learned I was giving and kind and cleaned me out

But I know there are still good people, of this I have no doubt

 

And then after a time came the miracle that changed it all

My sister had a baby, so precious, adorable and small

I love her now just as though she were my own

And pray she never has to be alone or leave her home

 

I so much wish that she never wants or needs

I’ll work for her wellbeing until my fingers bleed

And then something that makes me feel a little shy

Is that she loves me back so dearly and I don’t know why

 

I’m just a simple writer, a lonely ageing man

Trying to do the most for those I love that I can

Nothing sweeter than to hear a little child say

I miss you when you are so far away

 

But in just a couple of weeks I will see her once more

Closer to her adulthood than ever before

I will take a flight to her family’s big city home

And I know she will inspire many more poems

 

The emotion a young one inspires is so wild

I sometimes wish she were forever a child

But she will grow and take her place all in due time

For now though she is sweet loving child so kind

 

And so with these words I hope I touch your heart

Remind you to love your family and never depart

Because my little miracle saved me from pain and despair

My own goldilocks Princess with so much love to share

 

Leif Gregersen

July 8, 2015

Taking Things Day By Day

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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!

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