friendships

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens

“Inching Back to Sane” Now available here in all ebook formats.

Dare to Dream and Let Your Heart Soar!

Hello my dear readers! I don’t have a poem for you today, but I thought I would still write a quick blog and add a photo. I have been doing both good and bad lately, and I thought I would share a few things that I feel helped the good things to happen that you can take as advice to do, and share a few of the bad things that you can possibly learn from and avoid. I hate to sound preachy, and it makes for poor prose, so I will try my best to avoid it.

Anyhow, I have been saving for some time and I didn’t really know what I was saving for. I can’t afford the gas and insurance for a car, I don’t have any trips I desperately want to take, so I decided wouldn’t hurt to dip into my savings to buy a few things for myself. I started out going with a friend to a comic shop and indulging myself in graphic novels. There is a Canadian artist and writer who really touches my heart when he writes, he seems to have a soul tortured by depression, his name is Jeff Lemire, and I highly recommend him. I found a graphic novel of his I haven’t read, then also bought two volumes of what I feel are the most monumental comics in comic history, I bought “Ben-Hur” and “Great Expectations” from the “Classics Illustrated” reprints. I get so much out of these condensed stories, and it inspires me to pick up the novels or any novel or history book and explore more, so I feel these are also well worth the price.

Last night I called up a friend and despite that we haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to talk with her, she answered the phone to my surprise. She is a very healthy and functional person, but there are times when she needs her solitude, something I completely understand. We decided to meet for lunch tomorrow which made me happy, because I have been isolated beyond my own control and out of my comfort zone for a number of days. Fortunately today the office of my apartment building was open and I was able to sit over coffee and talk with a couple of my friends. I live in a ‘supported’ apartment building and there is a common area at the office where some people I know often go, and I find it very healing to go down there and chat when I can.

So there I was, feeling a bit down, a bit lonely and a bit worn out from all the walking I have been doing. I came back to my apartment and I noticed I had an email. Turns out I have been picked for a great new part-time job opportunity that will help me develop mine and other people’s poetry skills. From then on I was flying on a cloud. I just can’t believe that I was so close to desperation, so down on myself and then this happened. I told my dad about it and he was very happy to hear about it but he reassured me that it was my own hard work that got me to this point. I have been doing a lot of things, not only to battle my mental illness and try and find meaningful work, but it just feels so good to finally arrive at the point where I feel I no longer have to worry, that I am on my way as a writer and public speaker, and that there are definitely going to be many good times ahead. So, my words to you, dear reader, as I may have expressed them before, is to just pound away at your passion, just a little at a time if you have to. Maybe just do one thing a day. If you don’t have a passion, I would suggest going to a community college or YMCA and looking at a class schedule and see if you can afford to take a class or two or if there is funding (free is even better) try and find something that interests you, challenges you, takes you somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All the best to you, dear readers, all the best and finest.

The World of a Writer (a ‘crazy’ writer?)

A World Well Travelled

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/general/i-feel-empty-when-a-lack-of-meaning-is-something-more-serious/

Well, I don’t know if I have it in me to write a poem today. I guess I wanted to talk about all the stuff in my life that’s been going on. I haven’t been writing blogs much at all for the past couple of weeks and I have to admit I miss it. A few days ago I taught a poetry workshop which was a lot of fun. I am getting more of a good reputation with the public library for doing these things. The main problem is that I see myself as doing more, working more, making more money, but not being able to handle it and eventually spiral down the drain to insanity as I have done so many times before. It really scares me that I will lose the friends I have now and maybe even lose the respect I have built up with my dad.

Speaking of my dad, I have been spending quite a bit of time with him lately and I have been learning a lot not just about him but about myself, especially about the times when I was mentally ill. It is so hard to describe mental illness to someone who has never experienced it. People think they can just apply logic to their thoughts and mental illness will go away. I am proof positive that even the most preposterous false truths can embed themselves into your thoughts. One of the worst things is that there are people out there who really hate the mentally ill, and some of them actually work in hospitals where they lock up people with a mental illness.

When I think back to the days when I just got out of the hospital, I was a real mess. I wonder why when I left they gave me back my gun license because I nearly saved up the money to buy a gun with it and it was my intention to rob a bank with it. Just a few months before that I was a somewhat innocent, straight edged young man who would never think of something like that. But the strain of becoming mentally ill and of being taken away from my home, my family, my friends, and even my school were incredible. One of the weirdest things is that it was at this time that I met a lot more females than I ever did as a supposed ‘nice guy.’ I don’t think any of those relationships would have lasted at all because I was having very serious problems. Somehow I had always known I had bipolar. I just spent most of the time in the depressive phase of it. I can remember coming back from a cadet camp and seeing a friend who gave me a ride home and I was incredibly manic despite spending most of the past weekend without sleeping.

I guess what I want to think about now is living on an even keel. I don’t know if I will have to give up all my commitments, but the way I live I don’t really need the money I’m making. I have never been closer to my  goal of being well off and able to support myself but I don’t know how long I could keep this up. I have this hope that I can find a counsellor or psychologist who can talk me through it. Heaven knows I have tried everything else.

 

Blog, Poem and Photograph Today!

Scroll down past the photo for today’s poem, and past that for today’s blog.

 

Midsummer Poem

 

The orange golden light of dawn

Beckons us to fight, to keep on

There will be no more giving up today

As the sun greets us in this special way

 

Poems are fine, poems can be bold

But they can’t replace what you are told

Never give up, never give in

Pausing to rest can be a sin

 

We’re in a battle my mates, a struggle real

No matter how you boys may feel

Give it your all in sport, and more in class

Our chance to win will slip away so fast

 

It isn’t quite as if we can just say

We’ll leave the fighting for another day

We’re locked in a struggle with a death grip

And if we don’t win a one way trip

 

The battle I speak of is the one to be free

And we’re all combatants you must see

But the enemy lies inside of us

With each friendship, each display of trust

 

Giving in to hate means losing it all

And we must get back up each time we fall

Winning means joining our fellow man

Arm in arm, hand in hand

 

Now I can’t say all men are good inside

Or that no one will take you for a ride

I’m just trying to get each person to see

The better way for grown adults to be

 

There are evil people in this world of ours

But at night we all gaze up at the same stars

Look for the things that make us all one

Because that is how our wars will truly be won

 

A Short Blog About How Things Are Coming Along

Hello dear readers! I have found myself out of a job as a blogger, so now I can devote even more time to all of you who read my blog here. It was fun and rewarding working for healthyplace, but in the end I guess it was too hard to come up with original ideas week after week and I was having problems with errors so I got the boot. I’m actually kind of glad because the job was more stress than it was worth.

So I am finding myself in a position that I kind of like, less stress, more time for my real writing and so on. I think I might get to work on another poetry collection now.

My mental health has been good lately, summer has finally come to Edmonton and it is such a beautiful season in this part of the world. Everything is so green and alive and there are a ton of birds out there to take pictures of. I am looking forward to using my new Nikon 1 J5 to take more photos of birds as they are flying. I have even entered some of my stuff to be considered for publication.

So as summer rolls into focus I have a few things on my mind. I don’t know how much I told anyone here about my Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset I bought. I have been flying  a P51 Mustang on it and have been having a blast. I am learning to navigate from airport to airport and land and then return for a safe landing. It is so incredible when you have that 360 degree view. I am looking forward to more simulators like it. I have to admit though, I don’t know if it is the best thing to immerse ones’ self into a video world like that. I don’t know if I would have done it if I hadn’t read the incredible book “Ready Player One” that my friend Richard suggested.

I am so happy to have such a true and genuine friend like Richard Van Camp. He is an incredible person, done so much in his field and one of the most caring and honest friends I have ever known. He is also pretty fun to be around. I am going to be heading to his work with him today and hanging out at the Fort Saskatchewan library for a while today.

As far as mental health goes, I don’t think I could be in better shape. My only real concern these days is that occasionally I have needed sleep aids such as clonazepam to help me rest. It is not the best way to deal with the problem I fear, but it works. I have tried going for long walks each day but often that just puts me into a manic state which makes it even harder to sleep. I would love it if people could share their own sleep methods in the comments. With that I think I am going to get going, I see a long walk in my near future, like in the next 20 minutes!

 

 

Mental Health Mind Reading

Scroll down for today’s blog if you want to skip today’s photo and poem. the photo below is a black and white I took of a bedsheet after throwing it up in the air

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January One, 2017; 5:15am

  

Outside is still and dark, silence fills the land

On this day hope begins anew with New Year plans

We gathered in the cold to greet this year

With promises to set aside unhappiness, anger and fear

 

As the new day dawns, I promise to all of you

That there is not one thing that I promise to do

Other than put my friends and family always first

Through the lazy easy happy times and through the worst

 

I do know that many challenges will come to us

I just ask that you do your best and always trust

That our good times will greatly overwhelm the bad

And that you must call me any time you’re feeling sad

 

This day is also set aside to recall the past

None of our futures are singularly cast

Each of us together or apart can change our fate

If we just let go of all that bitterness and hate

 

Anger and anxiety consumes us from within

Worse than not receiving forgiveness for our sins

It hurts us as it drives those we love away

It can cause us to end up alone one day

 

Family is so very necessary for us all

Please don’t forget those great words, “divided we fall”

And please care for the elders in your community

One day we’ll be among them, you and me

 

A love still dwells in my heart for everyone

Not just at year’s end but with each setting sun

For all the friends and lovers who shared my hurts and joys

For those who taught me love, gentleness and poise

 

And I could not pass without saying something for

The teachers who opened so many doors

From my little niece who taught me how to care

To the instructors who wisdom followed me everywhere

 

I now vow to all of you to never stop

Looking past the little challenges, striving for the top

And also, I give a special word to those who wear a uniform and fight

I want to thank you all for risking your lives for what we know is right

 

Leif Gregersen

     Well, I haven’t got a lot to say regarding mental health. I have been experiencing anxiety lately and it has been working negatively on my stomach. As a result, I felt nausea last night and took a couple of gravol which helped the bad feeling and helped me sleep and even relax a bit. I got up and wrote a long letter to a friend I have been relying on way too much for our own good. She is this very kind and caring young woman and we have met for lunch a few times and I actually started to think we might go out, but I discovered she had no such intentions. She is so nice though that she has decided to keep me as a friend which I am very glad of. The problem that’s been happening lately is that she has been busy and I have been short of things to do since everything is shut down for the holidays and I live alone (yes, big mistake for someone with a mental illness!) I contacted her a couple of times and my anxiety started making up all these ideas. First I thought I was bothering her, then I wrote back hoping to make her less worried about me, then she sent me a quick text and I thought that she was ‘weirded’ out about me doing that. I keep stumbling over my words and it isn’t helping that my social skills and confidence are diminished from living alone. I still have a good friend in my life who I talk to a lot, but I would hate to lose this other person as a friend. I am kind of wondering if I need to up my dose of anti-anxiety medication despite the possible dependancy and side effects. I hope someone out there can identify with this and maybe take something out of it they can use. I wish there was a support group out there that was free and ongoing for neurotics like me.

What About Friendships?

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some of you may have seen this picture before–I am having upload problems with my wordpress account.  Still a nice little summer-ish image.

 

Scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog entry, and don’t forget to check out my eBook “Inching Back To Sane” for just $3.25 US at www.smashwords.com  (link will take you to my book’s page)

 

Far Too Many To Name Here

 

On the days when my life has some meaning

On the nights when I don’t have to pretend

I can lay writing poems and dreaming

About times spent with you my dear friend

 

The people I share this brief life with

Are so precious and dear to my heart

Each moment spent with a friend or a loved one

Make me wish friends never had to depart

 

There were friends from my youth that threw parties

And when older girlfriends would often stop by

But the dear friends who truly lasted the longest

Were the ones with whom I could love, laugh and cry

 

Sharing good times and bad added with some real caring

Good friends can be family, loved ones or those we just met

What matters is that friends are all about sharing

When their friend is happy or sad or upset

 

Life takes a toll on all as it passes by us

Living each day means dying just a little too

But when I’m gone I don’t want people to fuss

It wasn’t so bad; I had a good friend in you

 

 

February 22, 2016

Leif Gregersen

     Good day dear Readers!  Well, it has been a fair while since I made a blog entry.  I have been feeling a bit stressed out (in fact I was so stressed out I made a video about stress using some of the information I learned from researching stress!)  There is a lot of info out there about stress, some of it good, some of it bad.  Of course there is this Kelly McGonigal who quotes studies that it is your attitude towards stress, not stress itself that makes it good or bad.  I am not really sure, I just kind of felt like I hit a wall at one point shortly after finishing compiling a short story collection a little while ago.  I took a few days and literally did nothing.  I didn’t work out, I didn’t go for any walks, I just curled up and hid from the world which I don’t think is the best thing you could do.  I was having a lot of trouble sleeping–most likely because I wasn’t exercising enough to tire myself out or need to repair my body with sleep, but I had little to do so I tried some different methods, one of them some over the counter sleeping pills, another a prescribed anxiety medication called rivotril or clonazepam.  I also tried melatonin, all of them but the over the counter pill in moderation with consent of my Doctor.  I am going to see my Psychiatrist tomorrow and talk to him about the sleeping pills then, but I am reluctant to have him prescribe me something because I really hate to get dependent or tolerant to any kind of medication that isn’t absolutely neccessary to my mental health.  I also had a man with a Master’s Degree in social work tell me that a Doctor advised him that using sleeping pills can result in memory loss, so that too is a factor.  It sure is funny getting older.  My eyes are starting to go, it takes me longer to recover from workouts and it is so easy to get out of a good routine.  Anyhow, I wanted to talk a little about friendships, so here goes:

Some of the first and most important friendships I made when I was first diagnosed as mentally ill was with other people in the hospital.  I found this was very difficult with women or gay males because, them being sick as well they confused a lot of things with sexual overtures and possibly had enhanced ideas of their own attractiveness (as I did myself.)  Although some hospitals, some nurses and some psychiatrists seem to be against it, I think it is extremely important to have someone to talk to and pal around with in the hospital.  I can see how not having any friends could make things unbearable.  Then there is another thing aside from the attractiveness thing, the last time I was in the hospital 15 years ago I mistook a woman who was there for a woman I knew and despite the fact that she was married I pursued a relationship with her.  I was kind of surprised that I was able to succeed at this effort, before she left the ward I was on she actually referred to me as her ‘boyfriend’ while she had been quite hostile and suspicious before that.  It was very troubling though because as we got to be good friends the staff was doing everything to keep us away from each other.  What bothered me was not so much the policy, it was that it seemed to come down to the opinion of one nurse that she simply didn’t want us associating even though we weren’t having any kind of sexual relationship.  Other staff had actually, almost under threat, encouraged socializing, but I don’t want to get into that.

When you get out of the hospital, you go into another phase of needing to make friends.  For me, for a good while my only friend was my Dad.  He would come down to the place I was living, pick me up and take me for a walk in Edmonton’s stunning river valley almost every day and it was simply wonderful.  A little fresh air and exercise, some good conversation and a chance to re-establish a bond with a family member was so therapeutic.  But eventually a person has to have more friends, in my case not only because my dad was getting older and had troubles driving, but also because I was putting a lot of demands on his time.  A lot of times friends were simply people who lived in whatever housing I was in.  This can be a real problem if you are in an unsupervised group home or residence for people with psychiatric disabilities and either there is no staff or the staff don’t watch out for their clients.  A young man at a house I rented a room in was literally a sociopath.  Many many times I got up at odd hours to help him, drive him home from work in the middle of the night, buy him meals, lend him money, lend him food.  The list went on and on.  Then one day I woke up late for work and was really hungry and here he had gotten drunk and left a cold pizza out on a counter ready for the flies to get at.  I grabbed two pieces of the pizza thinking I would pay him back later and found out when I came home that he had called the police and tried to press charges on me for eating the pizza.  I moved out of there (after another incident that I will relate another time) and into a five unit apartment house.  The ‘caretaker’ (he called himself the landlord though he didn’t own the place and didn’t even get a free suite for his ‘work’) was off his rocker.  He seemed normal enough, but was a real jerk.  I got to be good friends with him too, and all these strange things kept happening, and he had a habit of showing up and giving me orders as to how to keep my suite, what I was allowed to do and all that.  Then one day I came home and here he was just leaving my apartment with a smile on his face as he locked the door with his own key.  I was gone pretty soon after that.

At that time, and before that, I had decided to try and rekindle old friendships that had been damaged when I last went into the hospital.  This was very difficult and even impossible in a lot of cases, but I managed to get back on good terms with an ex-girlfriend and we have had a very mutually beneficial relationship, I even have become friends with her other family members and done things.  I have no easy answers to making friends, but one thing I do know is that the more stability in your life, the better chance you have in making friends.  One of my best friends right now is actually quite a well known author.  He used to work as a writer-in-residence at the University and he liked my work and I liked his and we kept in touch and now we meet up quite often.  The important thing to learn from that situation is to have a creative outlet in your life.  It can be writing, it can be music, it can be pottery or Yoga, or even meditation.  If you have stability in your life and you have something that helps you get out of bed each day you will eventually make friends that you can count on.  I don’t want to scare anyone off making friends in a group home or other assisted living situation either, but I don’t think it is best to rely too much on this source either.

Well, that was a long one.  I should leave off at that.  It feels great to sit and just let the words flow.  As always, I would love to hear your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and if anyone is interested, I have now posted my book “Inching Back To Sane” on smashwords as an Ebook for just $3.25 US.  Have a great day!

Dear old dad:

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More About Relationships and the Mentally Ill: A Focus On Community

DSC_0001A warm winter’s day caused me to grab my camera and head out to capture one of these brave little guys for my blog.

I talked a little yesterday about relationships and what they can mean to a person with a mental illness, and I felt like I left something very significant out.  It seems to me that when we live somewhere or work somewhere, or are part of something larger than ourselves and our roommates or family, we are talking about a community.  A community can really be any group of people, but for the purposes of what I want to discuss I think it is best to think of a community as a group of significant relationships.  There is our neighborhood, my own favorite community.  I live in a section of town where a lot of Italian people settled some time ago and continue to live among those who speak their language, worship at the same churches and share the same culture.  There are many other sub-communities in this area, there are the homeless people which I often try to think of as the ones who are the most special because, as many people may know, Jesus once said that “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.” This is kind of amazing in my mind because we actually have this incredible opportunity to do something for the King of the Universe and gain points in heaven just for helping people who appreciate such small things.  More on that later.

The next level of community includes both the homeless people and the Italian people, it is simply the people who live in this area.  I am a long way from getting to know all of them, but over the course of the past 15 years of me living in this area I have made many friends.  One thing that I really like is that when I publish a new book there are people who will always get a copy from me.  I have to admit to a bit of laziness as to the marketing side of publishing a book, and it means a lot that at least my first few sales are guaranteed when I put out a new book.  Then of course, there is a much smaller segment of the area I live in of people who are my friends, and I like to lump this together with the people who also live in the housing project I live in.  I currently live in a group home of around 20 adults that share common meals, common chores, some entertainment and who are mostly friends. This community is something that perhaps means the most to me because among these adult males who all have a psychiatric issue, there is very little judging, very little stigma and a strong desire to help each other through life’s difficult times.  Even when I first moved here a long time back I was able to borrow money and trust the people here to borrow from me and there were people to play cards and sports and billiards with.  It changed so much because first off I had made my relationship with my family very strained by years of being in and out of hospitals and isolating myself.  Being around these other ‘psychiatric survivors’ was a life-changing, perhaps even life-changing experience.  There is also the slightly larger community there that includes the people who work here at the group home, who are all trained to deal with psychiatric patients and are subject to rules and regulations by the government.  Knowing I am not alone is huge.  I would love to talk about my immediate family, how much it means that I have a cousin here and three in Toronto who are incredible people and inspire me greatly, my brother and sister who I love doing things with and of course my dad who is a tower of strength even now in his declining years, but that may take more space than I have here and I think just about everyone out there understands the importance of family to some degree.

What I wanted to talk about was a situation where I wanted to become a part of a different type of community and succeeded.  I wanted to become a part of a community of people who stay fit, who have regular jobs, who don’t focus everything on a mental illness whether they have one or not.  I found this community at the swimming pool I went to for many years.  It was hard at first.  Of course I knew how to use the facility, I could swim and sit in the hot tub, lift weights and so on, but there were a lot of people who came to the pool on a regular basis and I wanted to get new friends in my life.  I forced myself to go to the same pool at the same time every morning for quite some time, and for the first while I would just sit around and take up space.  After a while though, I was able to strike up conversations with people and I used something called ‘open ended questions’.  I haven’t mastered this ability, but basically what asking open ended questions means is to ask a person a question phrased so that you don’t get a simple one-word answer.  “Where do you like to go for vacation?”  for example, rather than “Do you like to travel?”  I am not very well versed in this method as it has been some time since I took the class that taught me about them, but I have been able to develop the ability to carry on conversations with people and when you can do this in the same place with the same people, over time you will make friends and with friends in your life just about anything is possible.  I can recall making friends with a supervisor while I was working as a security guard and being offered a job that doubled my pay with better working conditions.  Another time a friend I made at the swimming pool turned out to be the owner of a coin shop, coin collecting being one of my favorite hobbies, and I got some great deals from him and lots of usable advice.

Basically what it comes down to I think is of course, you must accept your illness, diagnosis and must be in a situation of proper treatment for this illness.  At this point you are at a crossroads, and I can understand why so many people go off their medications and get sick again because life can really begin to suck if you are alone and taking pills that have a lot of side effects and don’t seem to help.  But if you can establish yourself, settle down into a good place to live and build a life for yourself, there are ways to overcome the difficulties that come with a mental health diagnosis.  Settling into one place has so many advantages.  I don’t see now how I could ever move, I have so many good friends where I live and love the house I am in.  As a small, simple example, when you get a fixed address you can get a library card.  That means you have access to all kinds of books, magazines, courses, and so on.  You also have a place to go where you can attend talks given by guest speakers (in a larger city I should say) and maybe you will also start to meet people.  Maybe you just start to be friends with someone you ride the bus with to get to the library each Tuesday.  They say that a person with one friend is a wealthy person, and I believe it.  But of course, there is much more benefit to be realized from staying in one place.  Most neighborhoods, even in small towns have community leagues, Scout meetings, Toastmasters groups, photography classes.  Some of these may be difficult if you don’t have much money and can’t work or take on too much stress, but even a volunteer job for 2 hours a week can help plug you into something special.

Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I want to thank everyone that has been adding themselves to follow me and invite all of you to comment or email me.  At the moment, I am hard at work on a short story collection but am hoping to fuel the creative fires again soon and start writing more poetry.  Take care friends, and keep in touch!      viking3082000@yahoo.com

Love, Friendships and the Healing Process

DSC00221This photo is from West Edmonton Mall, it is a statue commemorating oilfield workers.  It may seem a bit out of place in a blog about relationships, but one of my strongest and most rewarding relationships have been with people I have worked with.  I feel there is something very special about people pitching in together for a common goal that forms strong bonds.

Well, today since Valentine’s day is around the corner I thought I might share a little bit about relationships.

There really isn’t a more sensitive topic than this for people with mental health issues.  So many things are up in the air for people who suffer.  Quite often, mental health ‘survivors’ have a skewed image of what love is and so little experience that they end up obsessed with a person who doesn’t want their attention.  I know in my own case there used to be a couple of females who I felt that way about who didn’t feel that way back.  It was very difficult but I had to accept that they weren’t these great wonderful people worthy of my love, just ordinary, perhaps even negative people and move on.

Of course, obsession is another thing and I don’t want to get too far into the topic because I know so little about it, I am not any kind of a qualified person to give advice and it isn’t anywhere near the kind of caring/relationship I want to promote.  When I think of relationships, I think more of the ones I have carefully built up and cultivated over the years.

It is hard to say where to start.  Just about all of the relationships in our life are important.  These may be our relationships with our parents and family members, which are often greatly strained by mental illness, and could also include friendships and romantic relationships.  I think the thing to remember is that every person in your life can be extremely important.  For a long time I had trouble getting along with my Dad, but when I left the hospital last time after a lengthy and painful stay, he was the only one who was constantly there for me, taking me for walks, talking to me, being that all important listener.  As time went by, I was slowly able to rebuild most of my relationships with friends (but not all) and the rest of my family also came back ‘on my side.’

One of the first relationships that I had problems with last time I got sick (I was very ill, extremely delusional and hurt many people who didn’t understand what had happened to me or why) was with the person who is my best friend right now.  I really care for her, I don’t want to mention her name here, some may know her pseudonym ‘Debbie’ from my books.  Her and I years ago had a short stint as lovers and it was simply the most wonderful experience of my life.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my virginity until I was with someone I cared very deeply for and it was such an incredible experience.  Then when we broke up as lovers, we stayed friends.  She stopped contacting me last time I was ill, unable to deal with all my problems.

Over the course of time, I gathered up my courage, went to see Debbie and talked to her and kind of wormed my way back into her life.  Her and I would often go for soup at a favorite restaurant, and when I really wanted to talk to her I would write a paper letter to her, including in it a poem I had written just for her.  Eventually she got married, but we stayed friends and to this day we talk literally for at least an hour on the phone.  It feels so good to be connected to someone like that, even though it isn’t a romantic relationship.

So how does a person with a mental illness cultivate a friendship?  I have always felt that relationships with others are based on conversation, and all too often people with mental health issues don’t have a lot of things to talk about because they spend a lot of time at home, watching TV or isolating themselves.  If a person can get out and start doing more things, not only will they feel better and cope with stress better, they will meet people and have things to talk about to the new people they meet.  I am a firm believer in volunteering.  When I was alone and having problems, I used to volunteer when I was able to visit aging veterans in an extended care hospital.  I did this for some time and not only learned a lot, but I made friends with the Pastor there and spent so much quality time with these wonderful old men who had fought for our freedom.  Added to that, I found that a lot of young women really liked the idea that I was a giving and compassionate person and from what I recall my social life improved while I was doing that.

So, if you have something to talk about, how do you approach someone you want to be friends with?  This can be a difficult question and there are no easy answers. (I should note here that I am of the opinion that if you make friends with a member of the opposite sex and let things grow naturally from there, you might develop that all important romantic relationship many people seek.)  One thing I noticed I myself have been guilty of is forcing a relationship and doing things that only serve to ‘creep out’ the person like trying to anticipate what the person likes or wants and going overboard.  My roommate is a very good friend, but often he goes to far, turning on lights for me, turning off the tap for me when I go to get a glass.  It sometimes drives me nuts.  I think one of the best ways to make friends with others is to be a kind person without being intrusive and also having a good sense of humor is a big help.  These traits can be learned, humor often comes from observing others and using things they find funny.  Caring comes from always trying to see things from the side of other people.  You don’t have to go overboard, just try and notice something about the other person.  Did you get a new haircut, it looks good, how have you been doing lately, how are your kids?  Simple questions that aren’t too personal can start off a conversation and that is what you are aiming for.

Well, I can’t cover a lot of information in this short blog, I do hope that I have given people some food for thought.  Be caring, be kind, think of the other person, try to have a life so you are able to have good conversations.  If I can remember, I will try and revisit this subject in the next few days.  As always dear readers, feel free to contact me and I always like it when people leave comments.  viking3082000@yahoo.com

Friends Near and Far, Present and Past

DSC_0083My favorite place in Edmonton, our award-winning public library!

     Hello Dear Readers!  I want to extend a hand of friendship to all those who take the time to read my blog and encourage you not to be a stranger, email me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com

Well, today I kind of had something on my mind and I expressed it in a poem which I will post below the second photo for today.  It is a weird thing.  When I was in high school, I had a couple of friends here and there, but never really was in tight with any groups, with perhaps the exception of Air Cadets.  Then, when I quit cadets, as though my membership in that organization dictated who I should associate with, I stopped talking to any Air Cadets completely, with the exception of maybe two guys, one who was my best friend just about all through cadets and thought would be my best friend forever, and another guy who was a good friend for many years but kind of took a different path than me, mostly because he went to a Catholic School and I went to a Protestant one.  It seems so weird now to think of a whole city having the choice of only Catholic or Protestant high schools if you consider how much of the world is Buddhist or Hindu or Native Indian or any of the tons of religions.  In my home town’s defense, they did open up a third high school and most people were free to attend any school they liked.

To get back to the subject of friendship though, I knew this guy in grade nine and his name was Mike.  He was a pretty nerdy guy, overweight, wore glasses but didn’t have much skill in the academic part of school.  He told me once he used to get 95% averages and that it dropped to 65% after he smoked pot twice, that helped me to stop experimenting myself.  In a lot of ways Mike was a good friend, but he liked to egg me on to do things.  He always seemed to get me to wreck something or tick someone off.  Another thing I used to do to impress him for some reason was drive on people’s lawns.  There was this one time a girl was having a party that she didn’t want her parents to know about and I drove my Dad’s van right through the snow in her front yard then yelled at her for not adequately cleaning her driveway causing me to slip.  I was a jerk.

So anyhow, Mike and I did a lot of fun things together.  We had a couple of other friends, one of them is now a University Professor and the other has some successful insulation company in our home town.  It was just that they all drank so bloody much all the time.  Nothing was fun without drinking for them, but there were other reasons I didn’t stay friends with them.  Part of it had to do with me leaving to try and join the military and part of it had to do with people moving on.  The weird thing is that I think about these guys a lot.  When you are 16 or 17 you tend to think your friends will be your friends forever.  I don’t feel so bad about it, it is now more than 25 years since then, but it would be nice to meet up with some of these people.  Sadly with my illness it might not be the healthiest thing.  I am so blessed now to have a great job and lots of people I love working with.  I don’t have a car or any property, but in a way that gives me a special kind of freedom.

I wonder if many of you people, my readers, were around in the 1980’s?  I have a lot of memories of being a little tipsy and driving around blasting songs on our cassette decks like “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake or “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2.  I have such vivid memories, paired with emotion-memories, (when I think of these times, I feel what I felt back then, I was in love with this young woman I had no hope with, I was often in a state of depression, but cruising and music always lifted my spirits).

It is weird to think back to how I felt at those times, maybe it was because I wasn’t on medication I should have been taking, maybe it was just because I was young, but everything seemed to have so much more meaning, love seemed stronger, attraction seemed so much more urgent.  I also kind of have this feeling that if I call up some long lost friend I will learn they died ten years ago or something like that.  This is where gossip comes in handy, but it is rarely truthful.  I did run into a guy I was good friends with for a couple of years in junior high and he was very happy to see me and even bought two of my books.  He had read about me in my home town paper and said he had been going around bragging that he knew me.  Now that felt good.

I don’t really know what I’m grabbing at as I write this though.  I want to express how hard it is to lose a friend while there is a big part of me that thinks two contrasting things: 1) those people would be a negative influence on me anyway with my new clean and sober and churchgoing lifestyle, and 2) If I really wanted to get in touch with these people, it wouldn’t be as hard as I am making it out to be.  I could pick up the phone, look up brothers or sisters or such, there are people who could get me in touch with them.  One thing I do a lot is one-up myself over people I once knew.  I think to myself, well, I’m better than them because I have written these books, because I have traveled to these places, but when it really comes down to it people aren’t much different whether they are rich or famous or religious or not.  I should also note that there are two guys out there who are literal people-using, self-serving, destructive socio/psychopaths that I should never talk to again.  I guess there are more than that.  I think that is a good time to leave off though, I would love to hear from anyone what they think or see any comments on the topic of friends, toxic and nurturing.

Anyhow, I am writing this blog today on June 6, 2015 which is the 71 year anniversary of the D-Day invasion.  I hope anyone out there who reads this can pause for a moment and say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives on both sides of that battle.  If it hadn’t taken place and hadn’t gone the way it did my Dad wouldn’t have been around to come to Canada to become my Dad as he grew up in occupied Denmark which was liberated by the British Army.  No political statement, no war stories, I just hope anyone who prays that they think for a short while about what this day in history means.  And if you don’t pray, a good way to think for a moment about the lives lost on that day is to watch “Saving Private Ryan” I’m posting the link below in case anyone wanted to take a look.  Scroll down below today’s second photo for today’s poem.  All the best!

DSC_0122This is a photo of the Edmonton Remand Centre, where people were once kept awaiting trial.  There is talk of turning it into a homeless shelter, and whispered rumours that it was one already when it was operating.

 

What Does It Matter To Who

 

One clear, cool and breezy late summer night

As I basked in the glow of the midnight twilight

I breathed in the fresh and clean Northern air

And realized I had something so beautiful to share

 

I hoped there were words to describe these days

These mid-summer nights with no smog and no haze

Just glorious clouds and the clear sky and sun

And so many ways around the city to celebrate and to have fun

 

These things all happen in my city, my home

Where there is rest and respite for the poor and alone

We can do more for the sick and the homeless I will not deny

All over this world though there are poor people I can’t tell you why

 

I want to help them all and so I try to cast in my lot

I once was the same as they were, I haven’t forgot

How the shame and the hunger eats away at your soul

Most of those people once had lives that fate somehow stole

 

 

Though I feel their pain, I also have memories

When all summer long kids did as they pleased

Adulthood back then seemed eons away

So much time for us back then to run jump and play

 

But seconds added up into weeks months then years

Soon I was grown and there was no more time for tears

I had to work at making a living every single day

I needed a roof and groceries, there was no other way

 

Time marched on and on then came the best years of my life

I learned how to cope with and to manage the troubles and strife

And now I will share what I promised with you

It is my good friends that there is nothing you cannot do

 

You can chip off and flatten the mass of a mountain

You can build a physique that looks like a statue in a fountain

You simply must make big goals your life’s plan

And one day the moon and the stars will be right in your hand

 

Sit down right now and plan what you want to make of your life

Write down all about your perfect car, your perfect husband or wife

What you dream in your head you one day will be able to do

If you keep on and on at it each day it will come true

 

The most perfect plans start with simply a thought

The most perfect dreams are made and not bought

I have a goal for myself that one day soon will come to pass

I will write all my poems in the hot sun sipping iced tea from a glass

 

Far away from this land that I love beside the sea I shall be

With shorts and cool ocean breezes and that feeling that I’m free

And I will return each year when the sun shines and the festivals come

Back to my chosen home, my dear Edmonton

 

And all the while I will hone my craft

Beginning an amazing creation in every draft

I don’t want things for free, I will work hard for success

And I will remember it is only God I have to impress

 

Leif Gregersen

June 6, 2015

Relationships For the Mentally Ill

DSCF3413This is a picture of me with a young Air Cadet Glider Pilot taken at a local small airport

 

Today’s Blog:

Some time ago, very soon after I was first diagnosed, I found out that a close friend of my brother’s had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  He had been on Lithium and didn’t like it at all, which was not hard to understand since a few short years later I was on Lithium and had similar problems.  My brother’s friend said that he slowly tapered down on his medication (which I very strongly do not recommend) and then established himself a group of friends that he could call and talk to and keep himself more on an even keel.  He had done well for himself, and likely had only a mild or even a mis-diagnosed form of Bipolar, but how does a person go from being house-bound due to problems handling stress, or something even more common among those of us who suffer, have simply lost a great deal of their friends because the friends couldn’t cope with our mental diversions.

This is a very difficult question, and I want to stress here that I am only able to tell what I have experienced, and that I have no clinical training other than one University course in Psychology and two more from high school, plus of course my years of dealing with the illness.  What I have done in the past when I felt alone was to try and establish myself with a community.  This can be something simple like a volunteer job, your community can include just your boss and the people you directly work with.  I am so lucky to work in a supportive and mutually strong workplace where making each other get through the day is rewarded, not simply trying to outwork someone so they are no longer competition for you.  A fair number of years back though, all I had for a ‘community’ was the three people I shared a house with and my Dad.  For a while this was the perfect thing, I would sleep, get up and watch some TV with my roommate George, who liked to watch four kinds of Star Trek every day and we would casually talk about how we were coping, what our dreams were like and then I would go out for a walk with my Dad in the beautiful river valley of Edmonton and I would get just a little fresh air and exercise and slowly I was progressing towards more of a ‘life’ for want of a better term.

So, to get myself to the next level, I found out that city swim passes were free for people who were on disability, and I got myself a bus pass and would get up each day to ride the bus to the pool.  I would meet a man I know only as John each morning at the bus stop, and him and I still meet in the neighborhood now and then, he is a very fascinating guy and a fan of my poetry now, and then I would head over to the pool.  At first I wouldn’t say so much I was nervous, but I didn’t know really how to make friends or talk to people, I had lost a lot of ‘life skills’ while I was in the hospital and also afterwards not being around new people or even simply ‘normal’ people for some time.  I remember going into the steam room and sitting alone and people would talk about different things and slowly I started to feel very at home sitting in the hot tub and the sauna and steam room and doing a few laps in the pool.  After a few weeks, or perhaps even months of saying hello to the women who ran the front desk I ventured a little further and started to chat with them and once more found people who were new fans of my writing and this was where I sold some of my first books while they were still in ring binders with hole punched paper inside.  Day by day, I started talking to the people at the pool and met some really amazing people.  I met two older people there who had come from Denmark around the time my Dad did and became close enough to them to be invited for coffee at their houses and at McDonald’s after we went for our swim.   I also met a man who was a coin dealer on the weekends and owner of a steel plant during the week.  He was very wealthy but put on no airs and I would often go and see him for a very fair deal on coins that I used to collect.  I met a lot of people, and one of them was a very attractive young life guard who helped me a lot with my swimming and my health in general as she was attending pre-med in school and wanted to become a chiropractor.  I can’t even remember her name but I remember her pretty smile and endless kindness to me.  Establish yourself, allow yourself to get comfortable, push your limits a bit and make friends.  Not all that complicated, but not always easy.

Another topic I think is very relevant to address in this day’s blog is when you lose friends because of your illness.  I had one friend that I used to talk to every day, often drive home and even worked with at the same restaurant while we were in grade 12 in my home town of St.Albert.  He was a very, shall we say–‘solid’ person, meaning he followed the rules passed down to him from his mother and stepfather and worked very hard and did very well for himself.  I was in a terrible state last time I talked to him, my mind was racing and I just couldn’t go five minutes without trying to phone someone.  I ended up calling him a few times and his wife would answer and she was very nice about talking to me but when he found out about it he was upset.  Add to that the fact that I was falling apart and he didn’t understand what I was going through and I lost one of the best friends I knew, certainly knew at the time.  This has happened a lot, and in some ways I am numb to these things happening, but I still think about them a lot and they still hurt in a repressed sort of way.  As far as trying to rekindle old friendships I don’t have any easy answers.  One thing that can be done is to wait until you are sure you are in a positive frame of mind and if you really want to talk to the person again, do two things that I have found very helpful:  write a brief letter explaining not only that you were having struggles but also that you have come back from that state and are now being treated properly and will likely not have problems like that again.  This isn’t any hard and fast thing, but I have saved a very important friendship (with my ex-gf Caroline) that otherwise would have just been lost.  The next step is to prepare to talk to the person directly which can be very difficult, but easier if you sit down and write out a script.  You plan out and write out what you want to say, what the person could conceivably say to you, allowing for permutations and then write out your response.  A little preparation can go a long way.  If you tune in tomorrow, I will try and talk a little about romantic relationships in the life of a person suffering from a mental illness, provided everyone understands that I can only speak of my own limited experience.  In some ways I feel I am very lucky because in my life I have only had one serious romantic relationship and I have stayed good friends with this person through the years, I even am still her friend now that she is married to someone else.  So, Dear Readers, have a wonderful day and please take a look at some of the other parts of this website while you are here, I have some videos, some links to eBooks and paperbacks for sale and even samples of some of my best writing.  Take care and keep smiling!

DSCF1014My good friend Walter Warren Milley, retired soldier, retired postie and a very nice man