literature

Insomnia, Gambling, and the dangers of the Stock Market

 

Well, dear readers, I have to make an apology. It has been a long time since I added anything to the front page of this blog. A lot has been going on in my life, I have made a decision to write a third mental health book, something of a recovery manual for those who are family members, caregivers, or sufferers of mental illness, and it is becoming a task larger than I expected. I have felt a bit reluctant to post here because I don’t want to put out information that I will want to copyright on here because I want my blog to continue to be something people can read and share and pass on to each other without concern.

As far as mental health coping skills go, I feel I have been doing something I shouldn’t. All my life I have had bouts of insomnia and recently I have been given the option by my psychiatrist to use melatonin and other mild drugs to help get me to sleep. Then a week ago I felt I was coming down with a cold, and I medicated myself with these and also cough syrup for two days. Whether or not I really was sick was questionable, but the question of whether I was overusing medications to help me sleep wasn’t. It may seem odd, but I worry a lot about addictive behaviour. Those of us who have mental health issues often fall prey to quick solutions to minor problems and eventually end up having much more serious problems. So, for the past two nights I have forced myself to sleep without any type of sleep aid at all, and I may even return the pills my doctor gave me to the pharmacy if I feel strong enough after a few more days. The lighter side of that is that often when I sleep without any type of help I often get up in the middle of the  night and have time on my hands, so you may soon see me on this blog.

One thing I also wanted to mention is that I have found a new mental health group to be a part of, it is called 18percent.com and they have a message forum where I have been meeting some interesting and supportive people. There is a link at the right hand side bar (the orange frame around the head) which is a clickable link that will take you to the website should you choose to check it out yourself.

All in all though, things have been going fairly well. A few weeks ago I invested in a stock and have watched it each weekday going up and down and it is now down just about as far as I would ever want it to go. There is a good chance unless the American economy completely tanks that this stock will do well, but I really don’t think that this legal form of gambling is a good way to get ahead. I find myself feeling incredibly powerless as the stock moves and it seems to cause me a great deal of stress, even though I invested no more than I could afford to lose. So that is my advice for today. Try and not do what I keep seeming to do, which is get into trouble by thinking there are shortcuts in life. I have built my reputation up with a non-profit here in Edmonton to the point where they want me to teach classes both in wellness and recovery and creative writing, and I think the money they pay me if carefully used and saved up will be a lot more than I could earn gambling on penny stocks. There is of course also the greater fear that if I allow myself the vice of this type of gambling, I weaken my will against going and doing even more damaging types of gambling in casinos and at poker tables and such. I appreciate you reading all the way down to this point, I hope all of you have another day of wellness, and welcome any feedback or comments you may wish to make.

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

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

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

 

Winter Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As the days slip by so fast

It often seems that nothing lasts

 

Not our love or our generation’s song

Our time to rejoice and play is gone

 

If things only lasted long enough for me to feel

That the loves I once had were real

 

Just as real as all the days

Sadness came to me in waves

 

I have regrets that my only way to cope and deal

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

 

Feel either good or bad just dead

But not trapped inside my own head

 

When I was not quite yet a man

From commitments I always ran

 

Not understanding how love grows like a flower

Gaining beauty, gaining power

 

I wanted so badly to be free

I masked and hid the love inside of me

 

Now I’m both lonely and alone

Never quite feeling like I have a home

 

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

As long as there is one more dance

 

Though I think you understand the fact

Time is slipping by for us to act

 

There is also one thing I wish you knew

I hate myself for hurting you

 

I also think something else is true

You get sad and lonely too

 

So take my hand and come with me

Knowing that love still can set us free

 

November 14, 2017

 

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes dear readers!

Leif Gregersen

The Time to Remember Those Who Sacrificed For Us

                             As we near the anniversary of the end of the First World War, I thought showing a picture of a historical novel I wrote and writing a poem about war would be appropriate. Scroll past today’s poem for today’s Mental Health Blog.

 

One Day in November, Time to Remember

By: Leif Gregersen

 

 

A soldier fallen, that is all

He made his choice when he answered the call

 

Back home his girl awaits his letter

His Sergeant said just forget her

 

In his parent’s yard a yellow ribbon

Just come home, all is forgiven

 

His father drinks, stares sleepless at the clock

He has been told his boy is in a pine box

 

His death was awful, a tragedy

Did he truly die to keep us free?

 

Pay a mortgage, slave for years

Lose a child, let loose your tears

 

I feel in war there really is no glory

Let those left behind tell you their story

 

A tale of grief, a tale of loss

Losing a loved one is such a cost

 

Those who come home are not the same

When they marched off it seemed like a game

 

Stand and remember, never forget

A war is part pain and part regrets

 

November 6, 2017

Hello good readers! I have been having a great week, and I really have no idea why. All I can say is that for those of you who are out there who suffer from mental illnesses and see no light at the end of the tunnel, please hold on. Life can surprise you in so many ways. Not to brag, but just to show how things can go well for a person, I want to list a few things that have happened that I am extremely thankful for. One is that just as I needed shelves and had some help to put them up and to fill them with the boxed up books and stuff in my apartment, my neighbour across the hall was moving and gave me a pair of excellent storage shelves, and even a small freezer. I can also give heartfelt thanks to my two friends, who came to my place and worked very hard to make it into something much more liveable. I don’t know if I have posted about this before, but I have also recently signed a contract for a student to turn one of my short stories into a film. So man things. Why do I deserve them, why have things turned around so far since I was in the hospital and feeling very ill? I think a lot of it has to do with persistence, setting goals, and trying to work away at big projects just a little at a time over the course of months or even years.

One of the things where this applies is with my poetry. I try to write poems as often as I can and I safe them carefully in a file on my computer so that once I have enough of them I can publish them in a book, and for some reason people have really liked my poems. For anyone out there who is having mental health difficulties, I strongly encourage you to look for things that you can do that are artistic or helpful to others and just try and do a little each day. I was so fortunate after a very traumatizing hospital stay 16 years ago that I found a place where there was no stress and very little obligations outside housekeeping, a little bit of cooking, and taking medications (along with seeing my doctor). Sadly, not everyone is so lucky. But if you are on some kind of benefit, I really hope you can go out and volunteer a few hours a week, do as much as you comfortably can and you may work your way into a job and be able to save up a little money. What if you then could get a hand-held video camera and make video blogs for YouTube. I tried that for a while, and I learned a lot about people, about photography, and making videos. If you want to see some of my early attempts, about 40 videos of mine can be found on YouTube under my name.

Another thing I think had a lot to do with me getting to the point I am at now is keeping a journal of my thoughts and goals and anything I could think of. This let me express myself in a safe way, and is something that just about any Psychiatrist will recommend to their patients.

I would love it if a lot more people could write like I do, but some people aren’t interested. A lot of people love to read but have no interest in writing. Your passion could be anything. If you like swimming, think about taking a course towards a lifeguard certification. You may never become a lifeguard, but it will enrich your life in so many ways and I am sure make you a better swimmer. If you are an out of work accountant on disability, look up your local volunteer network and find a place that needs some basic accounting work done. This way you can not only hone your skills, but you won’t have a large gap in your resume when you feel up to looking for regular jobs in the field, and this applies to a lot of careers. And then I want to pass on a piece of advice that I heard recently from a video about minimalism, “Love people and use things. Don’t try it the other way around, it never works.” so much of my great life these days I owe to my family and friends. All of them mean the world to me. So good readers, please try and apply my advice towards making yourself feel better and stand up against stigma. And I wish you all the best of everything!

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

Please scroll past today’s poem to read today’s blog post!

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

Once Again It’s the Middle of the Night and I’m Wide Awake

Hello, dear readers! Well, my struggle continues. Today was actually kind of a great day, when I got up, I had to go to Staples with Taro (the manager of this building who handles my efforts to put on writing workshops). We had an enjoyable time having a quick coffee at Tim Horton’s, then I went to teach my class. I think it went really well. There weren’t too many people there, I think just five in total, but I really felt like I was in my element. I am starting to get better at handling classes with people who have mental health issues. One of the things I have noticed is that often people with these issues may be very confused about directions I give them and I don’t know if this is something cause and effect, but these people have a desire to speak and participate in the class even though it might be off topic. Today (creative writing) and yesterday (Wellness Recovery) I tried just letting them speak for a few minutes and then tried to direct them back to the material or gently encourage them to let others speak. It is actually really cool the way I am learning more about my own mental illness and my own writing skills as I do this. The only part that kind of worries me is that the person who was most supportive of my efforts to do the creative writing classes has been promoted and the new person may not be as supportive or trusting of me. The way I got this job was by going to a writer’s group and basically showing that I had enough knowledge to facilitate my own class.

To get back to the whole insomnia thing, I think one of my problems is that I have a few remedies in my cupboard that help me to sleep and I think sometimes I use them more than I should. One of them is melatonin, which works well but isn’t quite as much of a designer drug as some sleeping pills are. One of the problems with it is that it leaves you very drowsy even after a long sleep. When I take melatonin, I will get a good sleep, wake up to do what I must that day, then I have a strong desire to go home and sleep some more, which I often to and then I end up like I am now, wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. There is another side effect to it that I don’t know if everyone experiences, it happens when I take a lower dose than I need to get me to sleep, my lower back gets a restless, edgy feeling that completely prevents me from sleeping. I often have to get up and walk around or do something (like writing in my blog) to stop it from bothering me. My doctor has also said that if I have problems sleeping on occasion it is okay to take a couple of gravol. These anti-nausea pills give a pleasant sleep, but only if you are already tired enough to lay down. Also, I don’t like using them because I worry about dependancy and using a pill that wasn’t meant to help a person sleep. I feel that people with mental health issues walk a very thin line between abusing and carefully using our pills. The funny thing is that I seem to have no problem sleeping in the afternoon, and one of the ways I can sleep at that time is by taking a multi-vitamin which prevents me from having bad dreams.

So, no real solution to anything today. Just a lot of words about some sleep aid alternatives. I use one last method to help me sleep sometimes, what I do is just get up and write here in my blog. I honestly hope I am helping people by putting this out, please feel free to reach out to me if you like anything I have to say or want to chat. My email is as always, viking3082000@yahoo.com all the best!

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.

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

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/depression/how-to-deal-with-depression-tips-techniques-treatment/

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.

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

Mental Health Writer’s Guild

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Hello Dear readers!  I am a bit excited today because so many great things have been happening in my life and in my career as a writer.  To start with, I have had my blog and my books approved to be a part of the ‘Mental Health Writer’s Guild’ which I am hoping will allow me to reach a greater audience with my writing.  I don’t have a poem today, I am going to take a short break from writing poetry because I have just put out a brand new book titled, ‘Poetry of Love Life and Hope’ and it was a bit exhausting.  Anyone interested in a copy can order it from amazon.com.  I should note that I have taken my eBooks off amazon.com because I felt they just weren’t getting the exposure they deserved.  I have set up one book on smashwords.com (Inching Back To Sane) and made it available for just about every platform for just $3.25.

I wanted to share a bit about what has been going on with my writing.  I have been doing so much.  I owe a lot of the great things that have been happening to two people, my Dad and my good friend Richard Van Camp.  They have been helping me, supporting me and working towards my betterment as a writer now for some time.  I also have to admit I have been doing a fair bit of work on things as well.  I got the news yesterday that I have been approved to take a special course to become a facilitator for a Wellness Recovery Action Plan group.  I am very excited about this as it will pay a little and teach me a lot.  I will be teaching people how to become more aware of themselves so they can write out a detailed plan to manage illness or addictions.

It doesn’t stop there by any means though, I have so many great things happening in my life I can barely list them all.  For any writers out there I wanted to tell you a bit about this new program ‘Grammarly’ that they may have seen in commercials.  It is an abosultely amazing program that is a revolution in editing software.  It doesn’t just catch the odd spelling mistake, it checks punctuation, grammar, dangling particples, active or passive voice,  it is a dream come true and the same night I went and looked at what it could do I purchased a full year’s membership.  If there are any die-hard writers out there who are curious, I suggest they try out the free version of the software, and then possibly look at getting a one month membership and I am sure they will be very impressed.  I honestly think this program is going to take my writing to a whole new level and save me a lot of money on editors.

Along with all of that I have been working as a journalist on two mental health magazines.  It is pretty amazing because I love writing this blog and helping people with mental health issues and now I am able to do the same work and get paid a little for it.  I am not just tooting my own horn though, I want people to understand that if they set a dream and a plan down on paper, then work towards it even just a little each day, there is no telling where that dream can take you.  Some of the things you have to do is network, plan, save and invest to make your plans feasible, pay attention to your mental and physical needs, work hard towards controlling things like addictions, food, gambling and other vices, and then if you really want to have a happy life, I think it can be so important to have a spiritual outlet.  I attend a Catholic Church but I also read books by the Dalai Lama and meditate.  I also have many wonderful friends who have seen a generosity and stability in me that have made them want to help me and stay by my side.  Things were defintely not like this forever.  15 years ago I was very mentally ill and my life seemed to be over.  I had lost my best friends and my finances were a mess.  To top off all of that I think in a certain way I didn’t like myself at all.  Slowly, day by day, bit by bit I worked myself up and out and I know that anyone who reads these blogs can do it themselves as well.  There is so much beauty and joy to be had.  I don’t think I know all of the answers, but some of it can come down to going for a half hour walk every day, having a hobby you enjoy, having a pet–some little creature that couldn’t get by without you that gives you unconditional love.  Planning, setting goals and challenging yourself to do just a little better, do a little more each day.  Medications can be very hard to deal with, but two things happen over time: your body adapts to meds and you learn little tricks to deal with things like side effects.  And of course, there is the amazing fact that medications just keep getting better.

Well Dear Readers, I hate to leave you in the middle of a talk like that, but the hour is late and I have go work very soon.  As always, anyone is free to write to me or to comment, my email is viking3082000@yahoo.com, I would love to hear from you!

Leif Gregersen

Precious Golden Summer Rays Of Beauty

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Hello Readers!  Well, it is a sunny summer day, (or it was the night before this was posted) and I thought I would talk a bit about the whole idea of motivating yourself when you may be suffering from voices or depression.  The photo above is from a recent trip to Jasper I took with my brother and Dad, I had quite a good time (if you scroll down a couple of entries you can watch the waterfall video I made on that trip).  I have been discussing something quite a bit lately though about mental illness and how people can be motivated.  I live in a group home and quite often a situation comes up where the staff has to try and motivate us to do something, be it going to an activity, turning off the TV or doing our assigned chores.  A long time ago the lady who runs the place realized that I am just bull headed enough to throw a monkey wrench into her machinery if anyone tries to bark orders at me.  I suppose also there might be an element that I am one of the success stories to come out of this group home, I entered it in a poor state more than 15 years ago and have managed to build up a pretty good life for myself and have done a good deal of writing for and about the group home.  So when someone wants me to do something and I refuse, they refer it right to the boss who has a talk with me and things get worked out.  I have been learning though that people with schizophrenia can often have a very hard time dealing with what is going on in their heads and doing anything that causes them stress can be quite harmful.  So really I guess I want to write this to family members and other loved ones or caregivers of people with mental health issues.  Personally, I think I have certain traits of schizophrenia but most of them seem to be fairly well controlled with medications.  I can think of times when I didn’t want to do anything but lay down and sleep, I literally could stay upright for very long even when I went to my Dad’s place.  Even in the mini van he would pick me up in I would climb in the back, put a blanket over my head and sleep on the way to visiting him and my mom.  I think perhaps one of the factors of that was that I was having a very hard time keeping a normal schedule.  I would often stay up all night listening to the radio, typing on the computer, watching movies and of course drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.  When the day came and if I happened to not fall asleep between the time of my Dad calling me and picking me up, I would be in a poor state.  Here’s where some more praise comes about the group home: they have a rule that I must see my Doctor and pick up my medications at supper time and do some chores.  At first this seemed pre-school simple, but in fact just that little amount of things to get done got me to establish something of a schedule.  Then, after quitting smoking I was able to get a free pass for the pool and would go early in the morning on a regular basis.  These two things were all the groundwork I needed, and soon I was volunteering, working a paying job at times and doing much much better than I was.  That was what worked for me.  One of the things that I think was the biggest motivator was driving through the river valley here in Edmonton one summer day and seeing a very attractive young woman jogging through the park.  I thought to myself that I would never get an awesome looking athletic girlfriend like her, I also thought that I was missing out on a lot of fun I could be having out of doors at this time of year.  Now I have added bike riding and bird watching to my hobbies and I no longer feel regret.  As far as my friends with schizophrenia, I can’t say what I think is best, I simply have to say in this case I am not a Doctor.  What I do know that I have been learning is that the actual physical makeup of the brain of a person with schizophrenia is different from a so-called ‘normal’ brain.  This something that will need an awful lot of care, an awful lot of hard work to get the afflicted person to a state of reasonable mental and physical health, and hopefully a state of relative independence perhaps in a place like the group home I live in.  A woman that I give presentations with was saying that her son’s Doctor had said that she shouldn’t nag him, shouldn’t force him to do anything, just let him sleep if he wants to sleep or eat if he wants to eat, she should try and not expect anything from him while he is going through his struggles.  I think this would be an extremely hard thing to do, but honestly, I have seen people who were determined and properly medicated go on to do things as complex as becoming Medical Doctors and then going on to get a specialty, in two cases that I know of in Psychiatry.  I also had watched a documentary about a young girl who was diagnosed early in life, I think around age six or so with schizophrenia and was very ill for quite a while but by age eleven had friends, good grades, and seemed almost 100% normal.  There is no guarantee of this though, my own time suffering with Bipolar went on for years.  I honestly thought nothing would keep me out of going into the hospital for months at a time at least once a year, and some of the staff at the hospital thought even less of me.  Then some years after my last visit, now 14 years ago, I returned to the hospital as a published author and really surprised some people.  But I didn’t show major signs of improvement until I was almost 30, nearly my whole life before that was a train wreck.  Anyhow dear readers, please send any questions or comments my way, and don’t forget to scroll past today’s second photo to read a poem I wrote about the different forms of love and their meaning.  viking3082000@yahoo.com  Always here to chat!

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Full Moon Poem

 

Life can be crazy, life can be fun

It can be so wild if you find the one

A love that makes living life so very worthwhile

A lover who feeds your soul and makes you smile

 

For a short time I had the girl of my dreams

Life was so good then, or so it seemed

We talked about kids, we talked about moving away

She made me feel like I really had something to say

 

But it all went away way too fast

I would have done anything to make it last

Soon I needed to hide from all the pain

I never wanted to live through all that again

 

I stayed at home and read all my books

Rarely went out and got a lot of weird looks

So much time passed and I missed my shot

At a number of girls who were kind of hot

 

Then I started to write all about my life

And how much I wished I had my own wife

But so many things still stood in my way

I didn’t realize things would get better one day

 

My girl broke my heart but she stayed my friend

At first I loved her too much, didn’t want to pretend

That she could just talk and joke around

Keeping me on the side making me feel like a clown

 

Then as time passed I found out what it meant

To have a close companion who really was heaven sent

We would meet up or talk just about every day

And as this went on I wanted it no other way

 

I got a bit older and learned I wanted friends more than lovers

Too much pain and emotion gets brought out from under covers

I do know one day I will somehow find that special one

And all my lonesome days will finally be done

 

I just need to wait and I need to make sure

This new found love is no game, that our love is pure

And then I can share nature’s gift with that special one

In hopes that some day we will have a daughter or son

 

There is no longer a point in running around

It’s a joke to play the fool, act like some hound

People like that never find what they seek

They just keep on trying to prove that they aren’t weak

 

What they don’t know is they will pay a price

Real love is about giving, it’s about sacrifice

They miss out on having a lover who is also a friend

Someone by your side through to the very end

 

It means so much to let love blossom and grow

Something all those players will never know

It is so much more to share a long happy life

With someone you love enough to have as your husband or wife

A Loose Scattering of Pleasing Images and Rhymes

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Well, here goes another blog post without any plan or rhyme or reason.  I think what I would really like to talk about is friendships.  Sometimes in life you meet people that you connect with, people who mean a lot to you.  For a long time I thought that old friends were the best friends, and they really can be, but I have also thought that, though it isn’t a good thing to play games with people to put their friendship to the test, sometimes life does throw tests at us that tell us who really matters.  As many of you know, I was in Air Cadets from age 12 to 15 and it was extremely influential in my life.  It ingrained a type of military discipline and way of accomplishing things that has never left me.  But then there were also the buddies I made.  One of the closest of them was a young man named Carl who seemed like kind of a funny character, but for a long time we were good friends and I had a lot of respect for him.  His Dad was a mechanic and he knew an incredible amount of things regarding how to repair things, re-purpose them or clean or maintain them that I guess his Dad must have taught him.  Later in life he had a lot of problems and had to live on his own in a lot of rough spots and didn’t have many friends to watch out for him.  I would have him over as much as I could and we would spend long hours talking about our lives over coffee in the kitchen of my parents’ home.  I had really hoped we could have been friends forever, but one day as an adult I called him up and was basically told that he no longer wanted to talk to me and didn’t want to give a reason.  I went through a lot of emotions over that, hurt, anger, loss, but I was an adult and I got over it.  One of the bad things that happened between him and I was that when I was 19 and I was mentally ill I borrowed about $350 from him and didn’t pay it back for a long time.  I eventually paid him back with interest, but that could have been what did it.  I have a number of good friendships that were ruined that way over money but I don’t have any simple advice.  How can a person in good conscience refuse a friend’s need?  I feel so fortunate now to have some financial stability and when friends or family members need money I try to give it to them without asking for anything in return.  I don’t know how I would feel about all that money though if I didn’t have a good job and a stable pension.

For some odd reason I want to talk about some of the friends I have made through going to poetry nights.  There is this one guy, Ahmed Knowmadic who is just an incredible person and oddly enough I worked for a time with his best friend Marlin.  Ahmed is from Somalia and Marlin is from Jamaica.  I am not very close friends with these guys, but I just think they are the salt of the Earth.  People sometimes say that poetry is not popular, that it is on a decline, but Marlin and Ahmed are among the growing movement of slam poets who are making it an extremely viable force in this world, and I am really glad to know them.

I don’t really know for sure what got me started as a poet.  I can recall that even in elementary school I had a knack for writing rhyming lines of verse but I did very little of it and never showed it to anyone.  I can recall a good friend who used to write songs which were poetry but he did something I thought was a mistake-he had his Pastor go over it and correct it for him.  I guess in a way right now I have put my religion in second place and really want to make some beautiful writing rather than write to glorify God and I don’t think I will go to hell for it.  But back to how I started as a poet, I think a lot of it came from a very few famous poems that I really enjoyed, namely “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas, “If” By Rudyard Kipling, “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service and “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe.  I loved Kipling as a young man, and used to watch the movie “The Man Who Would Be King” based on his short story of the same name and read what I could find from his books.  I also read a little Edgar Allen Poe in high school but until I had my own apartment I didn’t get all that serious about writing.  One funny thing I wanted to share about my young young days (elementary school) and writing, I used to make my own comic stories with simple drawings about spaceships and soldiers and take them to school and put them up on the bulletin board for people to read.  I made so many that I was discouraged from making more and sometimes I wonder if that discouragement had to do with me being a bit of a late bloomer as a writer.

Regardless, I think I always loved books.  It seems a bit nerdy now, but I remember loving playing football with other students in pick up games at recess and lunch and after school and one day walking the mile or so to our city library and getting a book about football and reading it.  Even to this day I see books as the key to all knowledge.  You can do research on the Internet about a particular topic but until you get a book or two under your belt I don’t think you really know much about it.  I do of course read ebooks (just finished a wonderful one by a disabled journalist named Cam Tait which I loved) and I use amazon.ca a lot to find books I want that aren’t available anywhere else, but I stand firm on that.  I don’t think books, if you count ebooks, will ever go away.

To get back to the poetry thing, when I first moved out I sought out a lot of books on poetry and really enjoyed both the poetry and music of Leonard Cohen and read a lot of Canadian poets.  I also read some classics, which were loaned to me by a friend and sometimes I would even steal poetry books from a rarely used hospital library where I went for my clinic appointments (I feel so guilty about doing this, I have often wished I could turn back time and not have done that).  But really I was doing things the hard way in the extreme.  I just didn’t know about poetry events, perhaps there wasn’t even many of them then.  But in my later years I have found that poetry has so much to offer.  I have published three books of poetry and they are selling.  I am starting to get a following here for my poems and on my Facebook page (Valhalla Books if you  ever find the time to look it up and go through my years of archives of poetry).  I think perhaps one of the greatest things about it though is that with poetry you really can let loose your emotions on the page in a beautiful way, and when you ramp it up and get into spoken word poetry and get on stage and perform, the feeling is pretty amazing.  I owe so much to some of the poets that have encouraged me, and a lot to some who aren’t poets.  Kiersten my cousin’s wife is one, Mira an old friend another, and then there is a long list of local poets I wish I could name.  I hope that people who read this will be encouraged to go out and take in a poetry event, it is an incredibly democratic and inclusive movement, I have seen rich and poor, old and young come out and have a wonderful time and grow as writers and I hope as citizens of the world.  That reminds me, I need to thank Elisa a great deal because she was reading my poetry and suggested I start attending the poetry event in the first place, and now in a few short weeks I am going to be teaching my very own class of writers!  That’s all for today Dear Readers, don’t forget to drop me a line or a comment any time, viking3082000@yahoo.com

SCROLL DOWN PAST THE PHOTO FOR TODAY’S POEM

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To A Friend Of Thirty-Two Years

 

Dear friend of my youth you are oft on my mind

So few old friends stayed so close by my side

Some saw life changed me as the years went by

But you were always like a brother I don’t really know why

 

I look back on our younger days of first love and first loss

It seems my dear friend we were cut from the same cloth

It meant so much to know later when I lived far away

That we would reunite some fine summer day

 

I was so proud to hear of it when you found a wife

And that soon you had made for yourself an enviable life

Then with your new partner had two wonderful boys

It filled up my heart as I listened to all of your joys

 

I will admit my own path was not quite as smooth

It was as though for myself I had something to prove

Both you and I competed, both hardworking and smart

Though you never gloated when life had torn me apart

 

My oldest dearest friend don’t ever forget

As long as I live I will owe you a huge debt

For all the great memories, through good times and bad

And the fact that through most of them you were all that I had

 

A close friend is something that is better than wealth

Something so critical for each person’s mental health

I will tell you a secret I want to share with your sons one day

Their father is an incredible man in his very own way

 

I won’t butter you up any more with my words of praise

Just wish you true love and warm, happy days

A person with one true friend can conquer all his or her dreams

You may live far away now but you are right here it seems

 

There was this one time I thought all was lost and gone

And you came to see me and helped me go on

I wish I could give you some gift of great price

But I think I will have to just give you some lame advice

 

Care for those close to you, speak always from your heart

Give of yourself and your time and rarely depart

Love your family dearly as you have cared for me

And never forget you deserve to be happy and free

 

Leif Gregersen

May 19. 2015