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

“Inching Back To Sane” now available here in all ebook formats

Nice Photo If I do Say So Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memory Salad

DSC_0342The simple, unconditional Love that pets have for us.  This dog was so amazing, he kept bringing the water bottle back to me and it really made me feel cared for

 

the following writing is an attempt at ‘stream of consciousness’ writing in which the writer simply tries to let thoughts flow.  nothing x-rated, but it is hard to make things like this available to the public, very hard to admit that my brain isn’t normal, isn’t anywhere near normal and that my life can be a real challenge.

So many images floating through my mind.  So many past events, past mistakes.  I replay them all over and over.  They sneak into every thought, every word, every breath.  I pick up a comic book for that simple escape I used to enjoy so much and it seems each word is there just to taunt me.  An image of a cup of coffee.  Here it comes, I was just 16 and I worked at an all-night coffee shop.  One time a paramedic came in for a cup of coffee and he looked like he had been through the wringer.  I asked him how was business…  What a terrible thing to say, how can I be so horrible?  I walk with my head held low, so much shame.  There was a young woman when I was younger.  She was kind to me.  She was in some of my high school classes, we worked together on Shakespeare and even had after school jobs in the same places.  She would smile and I knew no joy in my life.  Every time she saw me she would smile.  What is she smiling at?  What is so funny?  Why do people smile?  The dialogue in my head never stopped.  Such depression, such severe depression.  I hated myself but just for my mom I wouldn’t kill myself.  I remember one of my first dates.  She was so beautiful, we had what I thought was the perfect night and at the end of it she kissed me like I had never been kissed before.  But for some reason she never wanted a second date.  I knew her brother and her neighbor and her friends and all of them got together in the darkest summer of my life to pull a prank on me that would make me hate myself even more.  I felt so unloved, so unlovable.  Everyone but my mom, who cared so much.   Cared so much but now she’s gone.  Six years now and still I think for brief moments that I could just pick up the phone and call her.  Then there was the other one, the girl I was in classes with.  I wonder if she liked me.  I liked her, she was beautiful, beautiful beyond description, million dollar model beautiful and she was always nice to me.  I barely knew her but a couple of times we talked–really talked, and she was kind and seemed to care and seemed to want to help me get help.  But I ran as far from any joy or peace I could run, all the way to the coast and still she was inside my head, my voices, my thoughts, replaying over and over all the things I ever said to her.  I made her into some kind of statue, some fake goddess that never could live up to the reality.  A couple of years ago I heard she got married shortly after.  Shortly after I tried to write to her and she told me to take a hike.  The guy she married beat her pretty badly but still it was her decision to make.  How could I love someone I didn’t know.  So many people ask if I’m married yet–how could I be married when I can’t even hold down a full-time job, how could I wed someone when I can’t fall asleep without pills and even then I wake up every two hours sometimes from a nightmare.  It’s all too crazy, it’s all too beautiful.

Heading Into Fall Season

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

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

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

 

Tracy

 

If I thought a poem

Could have won your heart

I would have written you a thousand

Or more

 

Way back when we were kids

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

Even though you had an ugly side

When you talked about people less fortunate

 

All that time back

I really thought you loved me

Though I never felt I deserved it

Because of who I was and how messed up

I had become when our paths finally crossed

 

Maybe I was wrong

Horribly, horribly wrong

But sometimes I wonder if the hatred you seemed to show

Was from a woman spurned

 

Over time I came to accept

That really you were never mine

Despite the possibility

Of a schoolgirl crush

 

I found someone else eventually

But it never lasted

And always in the back of my mind

I imagined you as the perfect one

To marry and to grow old with

 

Even when my new lover and I

Were intertwined and lost in pleasing each other

Experiencing more joy and completeness than I had ever known

I wondered

What it might have been like with you instead

 

Maybe though when I look back now

It makes a lot more sense that you never loved me

All you would have really seen of me

Was my bitter, depressed and obnoxious, foul-mouthed

Teenage side

 

But part of me held out hope

That you saw something in me

When we worked our after-school jobs side by side

Or when we shared the beauty of Shakespeare in school

I held out hope

You really had seen something in me

That I never even saw in myself.

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leif Gregersen

Crossroads

DSCF5810

(don’t forget to scroll down at the end of today’s post for my latest poem)

Well, I don’t really know what to talk about today.  I went for an interview at a local radio station today (CJSR FM 88.5, show to air September 16, 5:00pm) and it went well, aside from a few thousand ‘umms’ which I am assured will be edited out.  I have been getting a few new ideas but still have in mind a project where I would like to write a sort of recovery manual for people with mental illnesses, something to speak to the family and the person suffering, hopefully also to the people that work in the field.  I spent so much time in my life extremely ashamed about my mental illness.  It seemed that at least once a year I would go into the hospital for a month and spend the rest of that year either recovering from the effects of the medications I was put on or getting over the pain of bad memories.  I really like this one book I am reading that I bought at Coles Books, it has in it a four-step plan to recover from Bipolar that seems really good.  I want to write this book but I also want to have some experience dealing with people in mental health situations.  Soon I will be taking something called a WRAP facilitator’s course which seems pretty cool and that might give me the experience I seek.  Also, I have my name in to be notified if a position opens up with Alberta Health Services, (our government health care provider) for a position as a peer support worker.  I think either of these could be really beneficial, but I am at a bit of a crossroads in my writing career because I am getting better at writing poetry and short stories, I have now put out two young adult novels and things seem to be progressing, it is almost though that I have to decide between being an advocate for the mentally ill and writing about that or being a creative, fiction writer and focus on that.  It almost makes me feel like I am back in high school and I am wondering what courses to take to define my career goals.  Anyhow, here is a bit of press on me that my home town newspaper was kind enough to run.  Many thanks to Scott Hayes, a good friend.

http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/20150912/SAG0801/309129993/-1/sag

 

Inappropriate

 

It was some years ago I first met you

I couldn’t take my eyes off of you

Perhaps it had to do with that glow

 

I always seem to glow, on those hard days

Those long hard days

Late at night working so hard and so fast

Trying to get everything done

So we could all go home

 

I had worked so hard, lifted so much

I didn’t eat nearly enough

So there was the weakness, the glow

And somehow when I looked at you,

And somehow it was like I was able to see

You were an angel

 

In a way it was funny, you were a tough girl

You had packed on some muscle with that job

I told my brother about you, your features, your arms

And he said you were most likely a man

 

But you were so sweet and kind and I knew

That I was in love with you

 

Time passed and I looked for reasons to be near

It meant so much just to talk with you, have you as a friend

I missed or ignored all the signs

That you just weren’t into me

 

All those times I brought you books

All those emails and calls

 

I couldn’t see you were happy

Happy with the man you had

I just thought you were glad

That beautiful people never got sad

 

I think now it was your happiness I wanted most of all

My sadness was all I had, the only thing that made me feel

Real

 

I wanted to squeeze you like an orange

Consume what was in your,

Swallow up the joyful happiness as my own

I didn’t know that just isn’t love

 

I tried so hard to seem smart and thoughtful

But all the while I played the fool

 

You were so fun, so cool to be around

Always joking, but always able to give that special

Uniqueness you had to everything you did

 

And then I started to see a sadness,

A lost look in your eyes, close to a tear

And I thought

 

I can take that from her, I can cure it, help her to heal

Now I know someone has hurt her

Though I couldn’t even help my own moods

 

And then the worst thing happened

I found out what that look, that sad look was

 

It was you looking at me

Afraid of what I might do

If you told me the truth

 

You wanted to say

I’m not into you

And will never be

And that was the end

Of that thing called you and me

 

I want you to be free

I want you to be happy

And if the only way is if we

Never see

Each other again

 

Forgive me if I take up my pen

And try the same damn fool things once more

With some other woman I have come to adore

 

 

Leif Gregersen