depression

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

 

Crystal Meth

 

Trapped among the flames of sweet desire

Without knowing it I dance a little closer to the fire

 

Years ago it wasn’t anything like this

Now I could smash a plate glass window with my fist

 

Steal whatever is behind the glass

Sell it for a pittance all in cash

 

I’ll do anything to get another hit

Except maybe wait any more for it

 

I bought into the dream of what it was about

Feeling good washed away any of my doubts

 

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

I crossed the line going from want to need

 

I could stop and go to detox for a while

Go to twelve step meetings choking on my bile

 

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

Living without the crystal seems so sick

 

Meth gives me a reason to get out of bed

And look in the mirror to check if I am dead

 

Steal a little, deal a little it will be alright

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

 

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

By doing things not meant for any man

 

Screw it all anyway the world is so freaking fake

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

 

I can scam my parents for enough to get a twenty

They wine about the money but they have plenty

 

In fact they owe me more than just that little bit

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

 

How does anyone expect me to live without the meth

When all around me is poverty and pain and death

 

I could quit, but right now I need the high

After just a couple tokes I will fly

 

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

Don’t mourn for me because my soul already died

 

Leif Gregersen

September 7, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

LG

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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!!

 

What Can Be Done When You Feel Yourself On the Manic Side of Bipolar

 

click here to find out more about what is bipolar depression

 

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Nice Photo If I do Say So Myself

Hello, dear readers! Well, things seem to be going along swimmingly for me and I have to say that it worries me. The reason it does is because my illness is half bipolar disorder. This means I have to deal with mood swings often. It seems I was in a down mood for a while and now I am facing the opposite. I started out my day with a 5km walk to the swimming pool, swam for around half an hour to work my upper body, then walked 5km back home in the hot sun. This sounds great, but I think perhaps something to do with the sun and all the activity I engaged in, possibly even a bit of heat stroke could have caused me to mood swing into a mania or manic state. It is now 10:00pm and I don’t feel sore or tired at all.

It can be a dangerous thing to go manic. I want to try and explain here a bit about what it means to go into this state. First of all, though it seems like having energy to go on working or writing or doing whatever you enjoy doing for days on end without rest would be good, but it can be very dangerous and can cause damage to your mind (end you up in psychosis) relationships (drive people away with bizarre behaviour and non-stop talking) and body (push yourself way past safe limits, take risks like driving too fast or even abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate).

One thing you always have to be mindful of when you have a mental illness is not just getting your medications on time, but getting your sleep on time. Right now I don’t see myself as being tired enough to lay down for a long while. As a small measure to help the situation, I didn’t have any tea or coffee for a few hours already and I am considering taking some melatonin (a naturally occurring sleep hormone that I cleared with my psychiatrist to take when I need sleep). I often worry about doing this because if I am manic enough I won’t stay in bed and will get up to work later on tonight. One of the things that has also caused me to go into this high-energy phase is that I have been having a lot of great news come in about a number of different parts of my life and my work life. Aside from keeping the option open of taking something for sleep, I spent a good deal of time today just meditating. I have a virtual reality headset I use and I go into a mountain setting and put on music and guided zen meditation to use my mind and body’s natural willpower to lower myself out of the manic state.

I have written a lot today, so I will just try and finish up with one or two quick things that I hope will be useful to people who follow this blog. What I want to caution people about is that sleeping medication, even melatonin has a lot of side effects. One of them is that you may sleep a certain number of hours, but it may not be the quality restful sleep you seek. Sleep aids of many kinds can block out REM sleep or even make it so you don’t dream. This can be helpful if you have bad dreams that keep you up, but detrimental to your mental well being. The other factor is that a very common side effect of sleep medication is losing memory and experiencing diminished short term memory. There is also the serious problem of addiction to sleep medications, and developing a tolerance to them. I don’t know any of the details, but there has been more than a few celebrities who basically had a key to a pharmacist’s inventory (by way of doctors that would prescribe anything for them) who died. I am not 100% sure, but I know Elvis was on a number of medications and had been abusing pills for a while when he was found floating face down in his own toilet, and Michael Jackson and Prince were also mixing medications when they died. I am sure there are many more than just these cases, and that death by dangerous legal pill mixtures is very common, I just wanted to cite those examples because everyone knows them.

So, I leave you with that dear readers. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment and promise to do my best to respond.

Facing Up To Life Outside

Hello Dear readers! I thought I would just write a quick couple of lines before proceeding with today’s post. I haven’t been posting as much as I should lately, I suppose I have been feeling a little down and also I was pretty busy for a while. I am now going to try and take some time and build a better schedule so I can do more of the things I love to do, one being write poetry, another being photography, and yet another being writing this blog. There will be no photo today, just the following poem and a blog beneath it.

Fall Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Winter nights are long forgotten often

In deepest summer’s green

Long hot walks, barbecues, and bike rides

And the air so fresh and clean

 

I guess I will forever wonder

Why I keep on living here

When I’ve sat in my car in minus fifty

Trying to keep my windows clear

 

When I look back to my early childhood

Those happy days leading up to winter break

I suppose if the weather were any different

The Christmas cheer would all seem so fake

 

A wise man and friend one said each season

Makes him appreciate the opposite extreme

And I have to admit in winter time

I get more time to write and think and dream

 

Then there is also a clear memory

Of being with my departed mom

Crunching fallen leaves as we walked

Just happy to be with each other, out in the sun

 

If I had to pick a season

That gave the most to me

I would be hard pressed to find a reason

Which meant more or less to me

 

As long as I can gaze up

At the stars and planets and the moon

And know I kept diligently working, never gave up

In either January or in June

 

I will always be able to accept any problems

With the passing of seasons and time

As long as I can still make something beautiful each day

Wasting your life is such a crime

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s poem. It was kind of fun to write. I often mention that I am not sure why I stay in Edmonton when it gets so cold here and there are more fun places to be. For a time I lived in Vancouver and it seemed like every minute was another great experience. I liked a lot of things about Vancouver like the night life and the beauty of the mountains and all that. I have truly come to get used to Edmonton though, and Vancouver is much more expensive than Edmonton (which is actually still pretty bad). One thing I wanted to discuss is how people with mental illnesses can fall into a trap of thinking that all they need to do is move to be happy. I went through this for a while, and there were some advantages to moving, I can recall for a while having some very nice apartments, but the fact was I would have been much better off trying to get into a subsidized place that had some supervision. I definitely could have benefitted from more life skills training, not just in communicating and relating to others, but in the importance of a proper diet and actual skills on how to keep my home clean. I have to say that after many years I have arrived at an ideal situation where I now get those things, but I wonder if I would have had more growth in my life before that if I hadn’t emphasized living on my own and constantly moving.

Anyhow, that’s a short one for today. As always, feel free to give feedback, and keep working on your wellness!

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!”

 

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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

 

The Trap of Mental Illness and Disability Benefits: Do You Want To Risk It?

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               A View of Downtown Edmonton From Outside My New Apartment

     Hi, I wanted to talk a little about disability benefits today.  This is a senstive topic for many reasons.  One of the big ones, as I know a good deal of my readers are from the United States, is that people on Welfare or even Social Security Benefits are looked down upon.  The tax burden on Americans is great, plus the cost of health care and this ends up worsening the problem from both ends.  People with mental illnesses are faced with costs that can’t be managed for medications, hospital treatment, doctors, housing and on and on.  The way the American system seems to be set up to work is that each person is responsible for themselves, and when someone has a severe mental illness, this can be just about impossible.  I can recall being in the US and simply knowing a guy who applied for foodstamps and then discussing it with an older gentleman and he literally stopped talking to me after we had travelled together for 3 days.  It seemed a harsh judgement and pretty ignorant, but this is the way many people down there think and there are valid reasons for this attitude.  I feel very fortunate to live in Canada and to have a disability benefit program plus health care and on top of that I get heavily subsidized housing and free fitness and leisure access.  It almost seems like paradise, but it definitely has its drawbacks.  One of them is that if I do go out and get a job, I have to limit my income to less than a minimum wage job or lose my benefits completely.  With the cost of psychiatric medications this would be a staggering blow.  At the present point I’m at I don’t honestly know if I could hold down a full-time job for any length of time, but I also don’t want to live the rest of my life with no improvements in my standard of living.

Some 27 years ago I found myself in a homeless shelter, mentally ill and penniless due to prolonged hospital admissions.  There were very few options left for me and so I made an application to join the military.  This would have provided me health benefits, an income, and a purpose in my life.  My application process was interrupted by a fight with my dad that sent me to the shelter, and I decided that since I was working towards something that I could do something I thought was unthinkable-I would apply for welfare benefits.  I will never forget the words of the social worker when I applied, as she looked up from the forms she was filling out for me, “Don’t get caught in the trap.”  I think she meant more along the lines of the trap of drug abuse or alcoholism and circle of poverty.  But whatever she meant, due to my mental illness, I was never able to join the military, and I later failed a concerted attempt to complete commercial pilot school, and was unable to hold down a full-time job.  For me the trap wasn’t in getting money for nothing, it was in that every time I tried to do something, either I was told I was ineligible as a person with a mental illness, or that I would try and do a job set before me and the incredible pressure of working up to acceptable standards was simply too much.  I was caught in a trap, and in some ways I still am.

Things are improving in my life though, I have found a part-time job that I am good at and that I enjoy.  I give talks to students about mental illness for the Schizophrenia Society, and I have written a number of books.  The books give me little income, but together I manage to put food on the table.  One thing I often think about is that despite that numerous times I went over the brink into madness, I now have a good life with stable housing and income and something to do, but I have a lot of regret that I have no life partner.  This is another trap that people with mental illnesses have to be aware of, the isolation factor, and it has a lot to do with receiving benefits.  If you don’t have to force yourself to get up and get out and look for work, you may just sit inside and watch TV and never care if you have friends or a significant other, and years will fly past and a person will have nothing but regrets.  One of the reasons that people end up isolated like this besides recieving benefits is that there is a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness.  One thing with me is that I used to try and hide the fact that I have a diagnosed illness, but now I am very forward about it.  So many people, when you stop trying to hide things, will tell you they suffer, they have a family member or close friend that suffers.

Anyhow, a lot of that is beside the point I was trying to make.  How do you avoid the trap that going on benefits causes?  You may not be able to, but you can make your life as full as possible.  I always like to say that the first thing you need to do with a mentally ill person is get them proper treatment, proper medications.  Then you need to take some therapy that will help you understand yourself.  After that, a life skills course or Wellness Recovery Action Plan course can help a great deal.  From there, even if it just means taking one course, get some school under your belt.  While you are doing this, find ways to keep fit and healthy, in what you do with your body and what you put in it.  Quit smoking if you smoke.  Then, try and find work, even part-time.  Spend as little as possible, and save, and keep taking your medications, work on your mental health on an ongoing basis, and before you know it, you may forget you ever were sick.  It isn’t an easy process, and it isn’t a simple one, but it is one that is worthwhile.  I like to keep telling people that you need to have goals and direction, specific ones.  “I want a bachelor’s degree in six years.” would be an excellent one.  “I want to be stabilized and back working in two years, earning enough to drive a car and rent my own apartment.” is another good one.  Once you have goals, you have a direction to move in, and if you are having a hard time, you can end up feeling so much better about yourself from just working a little bit each day towards your goal.  Take care Dear Readers!