memoir

Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

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Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

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Shameless Self Promotion Book Blog Day

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Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” in paperback at amazon.com by clicking this link

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, I didn’t really want to allow this to turn into shameless self-promotion, but then I was thinking that there really are some people out there who could be helped by this book I have written.  It is a memoir, 200 pages and is available at amazon.com or for order at any Canadian Chapters, Coles or Indigo book store.  The book began when I was just 20 (I am 44 now.)  I basically wanted to sit down and teach myself to become a writer and I figured the best way I could do this would be to first write about myself, because people are more comfortable talking about themselves.  When I speak of this it makes me think of advice I got in dating from my older brother to let women talk about themselves no matter how disinterested you may be.  So anyhow, I started to write this book in short stories and it changed and morphed a lot over the years.  The first one to read the early drafts were my sister and my close friend Caroline.  After writing for a long time I had some copies printed up on an old copier and gave one of these to Caroline.  If I hadn’t done that, and if she hadn’t saved the papers for many years like she did, this book may not only not exist, I might not even be a writer.  One day years later, after I had long given up hope of being published, Caroline gave me the photocopied pages and I started all over again.  Another female friend a few years after that knew an editor and after having the book gone over at no small expense, it was ready to be published.  I had  a hard time finding a publisher so I self-published and slowly over even more time more and more people became interested in my story and I sold quite a few copies.

The point of the book though is that it tells my story of how I started out as a young overachiever and slowly started to descend into madness.  It tells of me being 14 and being sent to a psychiatric ward and how difficult those times were for me.  It tells of the years before I was finally hospitalized and how I went through so many depressions and difficult times that only seemed to be relieved when I was under the influence of alcohol.  But then, after some very horrid experiences in the mental hospital here, I finally came to an acceptance of my illness and as a result started to really get better.  One of the things I am very proud of is that this book has been read and reviewed by many people, in fact if you look at the paperback page (link provided) you will see that one of the people who reviewed it is a professional, well-known psychologist (Stephanie Sorrel) who gave it a perfect rating.

I feel this book really can help people with bipolar disorder and other conditions because it is a true life, personal experience, and though not perfect throughout, it can help those who suffer to see that they are not alone and that there is hope.  I have also sold a good number of books to mental health professionals.

Anyhow, I just wanted to allow people to have a look at what I do for a living and have the chance to participate in my efforts to educate people about illness, reduce stigma and promote wellness.  Anyone who has difficulty finding a book or can’t afford one, I will definitely consider giving a free copy to them, though possibly it might be a computer file that they can either print up or read on their computer.  Please contact me at viking3082000@yahoo.com and let me know what you think.  And for those who have read the book, it would be great if you could review it on amazon.com for me.  Have a great day, I think I will be posting a book information blog like this once a week for a little while to see if it sparks online sales.  Best!

LG

Purchase “Through The Withering Storm” at amazon.com by clicking this link

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

Sold My Soul For Rock and Roll

DSC_0038     Well, here is an example of what you can do with a 300mm lens on a new Nikon camera.  I was able to get this shot from about 30 feet away.  I have a couple of other photos that came out a bit clearer, but I liked this one for some reason.  My Dad has a wall full of bird photos he printed up, he even has a bald eagle and all kinds of rare birds.  It makes me sad to think of all the innocent and beautiful little birds I killed simply for sport when I was younger.  I always felt that it was one thing to kill an animal and another thing to waste it’s body and essence for lack of a better word.

Regardless, it is a new day and I am finding the words told to me about being a writer are very true… you really have to have a thick skin and a lot of patience.  I have been expecting a cheque for some time from a magazine and another from a bookstore that has sold a few of my books and nothing seems to be coming.  On the lighter side though, I had an old friend from school come by yesterday and buy one of my books and he also took me for coffee and it was really great to reminisce and hear what he’s been up to.  He also has written a book which I stayed up late last night reading.  I was in a part of it, it was from a time when a bunch of us went in his mom’s car to a drive-in movie and this really cute girl and I got in the trunk to save the gate admission.  What I didn’t know was that he expected me to make a move on her while I was in there and thought for all this time that I had.  I actually didn’t want to do anything ungentlemanly not only because I was that type of guy, but also because her 6’4″ boyfriend was with us.  I remember her well though, her name was Stephanie and she was beautiful, gorgeous.  If I had thought I had stood any kind of chance with her I would have gone for it (with the help of a few beers).  But that all was almost 30 years ago.  Sure is good to reunite with old friends, thanks Facebook!

In other news, as I am trying to make this a bit more of a blog about mental health, I should mention that I have been struggling to keep my weight down for some time now.  I got word from a very nice young woman I work with about a drug called Lamotragene or Topomax.  I saw my Psychiatrist the other day and asked him about it and he agreed that I should do something about the weight and that we could try this drug.  It seemed great at first, my craving for food greatly diminished, but I found that I was very tired even though I was only on a very small dose, so I decided the best thing I could do would be to stop the medication.  It also gave me an odd, very difficult to describe feeling.  I didn’t seem to have too many physical symptoms, but I just felt really ‘dumbed down’ like I had a cold and was taking cold pills or something.  I can’t really say if these effects would have lessened if I stayed on the pill for a while, I just know that with the job I have, feeling that way can be dangerous.

As far as my job goes, I got to work a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert the other day which was pretty amazing.  I didn’t get to see much of the show but it felt so great to be a part of setting up something like that.  I think that if I ever did permanently move on from this job I would really miss it.  The money is nice of course, it is what allows me to print and distribute my books right now, but sometimes I get a chance to work with some really great people.  As some may know, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s band lost 3 members in the 1970’s in a plane crash and there is kind of a ritual that everyone on the crew observes.  There is a road case (a big box for show equipment with wheels that is sturdy enough to transport in a semi truck) that belonged to one of the original band members and they have used it all this time, always giving it the highest respect and never putting anything on top of it or letting it get damaged.  I also got to put the brass eagle on the band’s piano and fly the Alabama and US flags as two of the curtains for the show.  I feel very privileged to be a part of such cool rock and roll history.  Very difficult and stressful job though sometimes, but I have the odd show that I really enjoy and the other night was definitely one of them.

I wish I could impart some piece of wisdom, something in me that could help others who may be out there struggling with a mental illness.  In all despite that I have had some pretty rough times, even extended rough times, I somehow got through all of them and now I see myself as a very lucky dude.  If anyone is out there and hurting or needing help, I hope they can find a way to talk, to get their pain out.  I myself held it in and never wanted to admit that I had a mental health issue (which is common) even when my life was at risk because of my denial.  The first step is to find a family Doctor, and talk openly with them.  It scares me to think that so many people out there in the world in poor countries or remote places have no hope of overcoming their illness because there are simply very few or no Doctors and even less Psychiatrists or treatment.  Once again I would like to offer my email to anyone who wants to ask questions or needs help, no matter where they are from.  Just email: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will do all I can.

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Two New Books

Leif has published two new books! Mustang Summer: Stories Tall and Short is his latest collection of short stories, while Inching Back to Sane: My years with Bipolar picks up where his last memoir left off. You can get more information about both books on the Books page.

Also, read a write-up about Leif and his two new books in The Boyle-McCauley News