mentally ill

When Sensitivity and Ego Collide

Ahh, it has been such a long time since I sat down to write a proper blog entry. So much has been happening to me. For starters, I have some savings right now but I have too many commitments to take any long trips. It’s funny but for the first time in my life, I have the means and cash to go to London and don’t want to. I may want to go back there in the near future, but for the moment I am happy just to stay in Edmonton. It is likely I will go to Toronto in the summer to visit my wonderful sister and sweet little niece, but that is at the back of my thoughts right now.

This past Friday was quite a shindig. The guy who got me work as a creative writing teacher hired me to MC the 20th-anniversary party for the building I live in and it was amazing. I felt really comfortable for most of the time I was up there and people really seemed to respond to my jokes and the poetry I read. I went to sleep that night feeling like my world was spinning and I was trying to hang onto it by spewing out a few choice words into a microphone.

What I am starting to slowly realize is that though my medications deal with a large portion of my symptoms, I still have a mental illness and stress, fatigue, emotion and contact with the outside world can affect it. Tonight was my Humanities 101 course at the University of Alberta and I found myself being hyper-sensitive to others and the things they said and did. I put my hand up a few times to ask questions and I got the impression that the instructor was getting frustrated. Then some guy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could ‘please’ pull my shirt down. That kind of pissed me off and it felt like it ruined a good night of learning and debate but I thought about things for a while and realized that I was the one wanting to be in control, that I don’t like it when people show their unwholesome body parts in public and that my ego was telling me that this person, though just as valuable as me or any other person had no right to tell me anything. So here I am at home now, playing some relaxing music, sipping a cup of ‘sleepytime’ brand tea and honestly considering an early night and a ‘take as needed’ pill that will help me rest. Well, that’s about it for now, folks. Thanks for tuning in. I will do more VLOGs as time allows. In the meantime, stay real!

Mental Health Mind Reading

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

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January One, 2017; 5:15am

  

Outside is still and dark, silence fills the land

On this day hope begins anew with New Year plans

We gathered in the cold to greet this year

With promises to set aside unhappiness, anger and fear

 

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

That there is not one thing that I promise to do

Other than put my friends and family always first

Through the lazy easy happy times and through the worst

 

I do know that many challenges will come to us

I just ask that you do your best and always trust

That our good times will greatly overwhelm the bad

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

 

This day is also set aside to recall the past

None of our futures are singularly cast

Each of us together or apart can change our fate

If we just let go of all that bitterness and hate

 

Anger and anxiety consumes us from within

Worse than not receiving forgiveness for our sins

It hurts us as it drives those we love away

It can cause us to end up alone one day

 

Family is so very necessary for us all

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

And please care for the elders in your community

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

 

A love still dwells in my heart for everyone

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

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

For those who taught me love, gentleness and poise

 

And I could not pass without saying something for

The teachers who opened so many doors

From my little niece who taught me how to care

To the instructors who wisdom followed me everywhere

 

I now vow to all of you to never stop

Looking past the little challenges, striving for the top

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

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

 

Leif Gregersen

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

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

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               A View of Downtown Edmonton From Outside My New Apartment

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

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

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

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

Another Day of Homeless Mental Wanderings

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Good day dear readers.  Well, it is my last full day in Toronto.  Yesterday I went around taking pictures and these three men were kind enough to let me take their picture.  I wanted people to see the real face of homelessness.  I don’t know what brought these men out on the streets like this but there are a thousand valid reasons.  For starters they either have no family or are estranged from their family.  This is something that touches me heart because my family is so important to me.  I like to focus on my niece a lot but I also have a sister and a Dad and a few cousins and an Aunt and Uncle that I really like having in my life.  I guess the easiest way for me to think about these men is to put myself in their shoes.  I can recall being in California and not being able to work (due to no work permit) and not wanting to get in trouble with the Law in case I ever wanted to go back there (which I eventually did when I went to Hawaii).  The first day I was in California the guy I traveled with took off on me and I spent the night sleeping in a ditch.  This was not the first time or the last I had to resort to outside sleeping and it isn’t very pleasant.  I knew a guy who once slept under a bridge and his whole day was about getting enough booze so that he could drink himself to sleep.  He was mentally ill and this cycle of booze and not sleeping is so easy to get caught up in.  Before I was able to hitch rides out of California there were times when I had literally gone 5 days without food or sleep.  It was so bad that if I sat down somewhere I would sleep almost instantly and have extremely vivid and frightening dreams.  I was able to get back to Canada, to get the sleep I needed to get myself functioning again and then I was able to find work but if I hadn’t gotten out of there I don’t know where I would be right now.

One of the sad things about homelessness is that it seems that no matter how well (and things are NOT going well with the economy right now) the economy may be going, there will be people who are poor.  I think this means it is quite obvious that these people are unable to work, and I feel strongly that anyone in that situation should be given benefits enough to have a place to live and means to get food to eat.  I will never forget the words of a Danish friend when he had seen Vancouver, he said the place was very depressing, that it was like there was almost no social welfare.  I see a lot of news about Denmark, how they make 140% of their power needs through wind, how their people are among the happiest.  At one time I could have become a Danish citizen but I have a deep love for this country I live in.  I am very pleased now to see that Alberta for the very first time in its history has a Socialist Government.  There won’t be a lot of drastic changes, I am actually finding that often even Conservatives in Canada are more Socialist than many would think.  They do some things to provide universal health care and one of the best disability programs in the country.  Like Denmark, Alberta is able to afford these things by virtue of having oil in their jurisdiction.  I think one of the ways a person can judge how well the government helps the homeless is how many of them one sees, and in Toronto there is a lot of them.  They sleep right on sidewalk corners, they have sleeping bags and ‘campsites’ staked out under bridges.  I really wish I knew the best thing to do for them.  I often try to give a little change, and people say that if you give them change they will spend their money on booze or drugs but I think a lot about that.  You are almost required to tip waiters and waitresses, but you don’t tell them how they have to spend their money.  I also watched a video recently of a gifted native piano player who had been homeless for a very long time until he got into a supportive housing situation where they would allow him to drink a couple of drinks every few hours just to keep his nerves calm and allow him to function.  I challenge you, dear readers to think of what you can do to help even just one homeless person.  Can you give them an old sleeping bag now that winter is coming?  Can you buy coffee shop gift cards to give for Christmas?  It’s up to you.  I hope you will stick around to read today’s poem, it is another one about a homeless person and I hope you will enjoy it.

 

Please Help Get Me Through The Day
Shuffled off from each and every place
Nowhere I can call my very own space
All the horrid memories I can’t erase
Staring down the devil in the face

Way back when life seemed to be going fine
Then I lost every single little thing I could call mine
My father used to beat me every day
Drove me insane and then they put me away

With any justice in this world he would have been the one
To have had to live through those god-awful years of being on the run
First they decided I was crazy and put me away
Then no one listened to anything I had to say

I was the patient now I could just sit and rot
They listened less and less and then forgot
Forgot I was a human being first
Knowing they felt that way was perhaps the worst

All my childhood days were lived in fear
I was never safe as long as he was near
At fourteen they let me out for a visit and I ran away
There was no hope or future in that place anyway

Soon after that I found solace in booze and drugs
And for a time they replaced my loving mother’s hugs
It felt so good to do it the first few times
But then I needed it so bad I committed crimes

I’m not proud that I ripped so many people off
I’m not happy to sit in the street and hack and cough
Gone are the days of football glory and being cool
No more chances to go back and finish school

I sleep under a bridge and beg for change
Even my old friends from childhood think I’m deranged
Don’t look into my eyes you will see a world of pain
You’ll feel the lonely hurting and learn why I’m insane

I can only dream of the life you live
And it does help a little when you give
But in truth I long for someone just like you
To help me, take me in, let me start anew

I know I could have a life if I just got clean
You have no idea what a chance like that would mean
But sadly none of you could trust me in that way
So if you please, a few coins to get me through the day?

Leif Gregersen
August 25, 2015

Hard Work and Dilligence Pays Off Every Time

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This is a beautiful picture of a honey bee in a local garden in Scarborough where I am staying

    Many years ago I had been living in beautiful Vancouver, BC and loved every minute of it.  I had a great apartment, a few good friends and a few pretty good prospects at girlfriends.  Then tragedy struck and I became very mentally ill for a time.  I was living in a rooming house and had a bad dream and went for a long walk.  My mind was all over the place and I had delusional thoughts that kept telling me I was on the moon in the future, that I had been carried through time and that I was a robot like in the terminator movies.  I didn’t know how to ask for help so I called the police and told them I thought someone had given me some hallucinogenic drugs.  I went into the hospital and soon lost everything.  No more property, no more friends, no more money.  I thought I could go back to Edmonton and find respite staying with someone I knew, perhaps even my parents but after a long trip across the rocky mountains this was also impossible and I ended up in a shelter.  After the shelter I graduated to a psychiatric ward and there I met a man who changed my life.

He  was a cab driver and he became something of a father figure to me.  He took the time to teach me about spirituality, about living in a community and inspired me to one day try to become a catholic.  He was just a simple, hobbled old man but he was well known, well liked and owned a house and had many friends.  I will never forget how he told me that his life would not be the same if he had still been a drinker.  He told me that years ago he was on skid row drinking lysol to get high and now he had a good life.  I didn’t really take what he said to heart for a long time, but four years ago I decided to get serious about my life.  I started out with a low-end job for minimum wage but it got me places.  It got me here to Toronto and out west to visit Vancouver again, and it led places.  I was looking at things differently and I had a home where I knew people and was supported and before I knew it a lot of things fell into place.  And what it all seemed to come down to was that if I hadn’t taken responsibility for my life, if I hadn’t put my foot down and decided it was time to grow up, get treatment for my illness, and put my life in order it would end in short order.  Now as I write this I have so much.  I just got an offer for a part-time job doing something I love, something I never thought anyone would pay me for, photography.  I have written books and have the support and respect of so many people as a result.  None of these things happened overnight.  15 years ago I was in the mental hospital and wasn’t even trusted with my own money.  I started slow, I got on medications that worked for me, perhaps more through help from a psychiatrist than my own doing, but I kept taking the medication when I got out of the hospital which was my own doing.  It took a long time to adjust to taking pills but I managed it.  I had to ease my way into work so I started riding my bike a lot and going for walks and then I trained my mind by reading and writing as much as I could.  It also took a lot of effort to win back the respect of someone I cared very much for.  It took a lot of long letters and poems and long talks on the phone but eventually she was in my lifef again.  At one point she gave me a stack of papers in a plastic bag and told me I had told her to hold on to it.  This was my life’s work up to that point, the book that became “Through The Withering Storm”.  I kept working on it, kept learning, kept working my jobs and after many failed attempts and a lot of money spent on editors, agents and printing, I got my book out and never looked back.

I think a lot of what I am saying here has been said before, but there are a couple of things that are a bit different I think.  One is that in my younger days I really wanted to come to understand God, perhaps because of the strange and overpowering delusions I had.  I simply felt that there had to be some evil power, and that if there was evil, there must be good and I wanted to be on the good side.  This led to explorations in buddhism and christianity and also just general spirituality that made me a much better, more stable person.  I also want to stress that it can make a huge difference in a person’s life to have an older person as a good influence.  For a long time I didn’t feel my Dad was a great influence because he was a drinker and we didn’t get along for a long time, but that changed too.  The man who helped show me a lot of that stuff and taught me so many things is now gone, he has passed away, but his words still inspire me and I have had an amazing life as a result of things he taught me.  I don’t want to downplay the role my Dad played though, he never gave up on me no matter how bad things got.  There were things he did I didn’t agree with but in the end he cared enough to keep helping me, keep giving me good advice and to eventuallly quit drinking.  I hope some of these words can help people in the way my Dad and this anonymous old man did.  Keep reading for today’s poem!

 

The Prizefighter
I hope you know by now every little bit we lose
Happens because of another choice that we choose
And there will always be some hope, some way
That those little things will come again some day

Sometimes when you are down and out
You want to just give up and shout
Shout out all your fears and doubts
But that isn’t what this life is all about

Living this life is taking all you get
Never being afraid to place a bet
Load the dice by digging deep
Knowing winners train while losers sleep

It’s not about just being number one
Or trying your very best and having fun
It’s about learning how to run a better race
With each new trouble or trial that we face

Sometimes it comes down to doing what is right
Having the guts to stop the fight
When you see someone get beaten bad
If it was you you would wish someone had

Doing the right thing may not seem so cool
But then you’re not just some little fool
You’re a child of God as much as anyone
And let’s face it we’re all under the gun

When you run the race make sure you still have the breath
For the marathon that’s coming up next
You’re going to have to lead the way
You’re going to be the one with something to say

You may have to carry someone and take their load
And it may be a long, long road
But don’t doubt me when I say there will be a reward
It’s not all about just distances and scores

There’s a place that’s waiting for all of us right now
I can tell you I know it’s true but I can’t tell you how
All the good you do will help you make it there
You have to constantly love and forgive and share

All my life I thought just first place wins
But at the end of the race is where the fight begins
We all must grow up and give up some things we love
For the unimagined reward that waits above

All your mistakes will be forgiven there
It will be peaceful and loving unlike anywhere
So don’t give in and lose the fight
Steel yourself and forever do what’s right

A little faith is all the price you pay
When you get there it will be a blessed day
You will know that you are finally home
You will never again be sad or feel alone

Leif Gregersen
August 18, 2015

Enter The Metropolis Batman

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Hello my fellow people from far and wide.  I thought I would re-use a photo I took back in Edmonton which is above.  It is such a beautiful candid shot of a raven that I wanted to put it up again.  As many of you know I am currently in Toronto and likely staying for some time.  I would almost like to move here but I feel Edmonton is a better place for me.  It is a funny thing, conservatives are generally associated with less support for the poor and disabled, but in Alberta where we have had a conservative government for a long time I am much better off than most places.  I get a disability benefit there that includes a subsidized bus pass, free world class gym membership good for several pools and other places, free library card (whoo-hoo!  I love the library!) and medication and dental coverage is also included.  I almost feel reluctant to share this because I fear one of my ultra-right friends will learn what I get simply for being disabled and feel offended.  Anyhow, today was truly an incredible day.  I have been wanting to go swimming or do something fun, but I decided to try and get down to business.  I have two books I had a few copies of printed up and sent here to my sister’s place and I am going to try and sell a few, making this a working vacation of sorts, so I spent a good part of the day getting on the phone and seeing what kinds of book sales and all that I can drum up.  I didn’t get too far, but I did a few hours of work and later on in the day I met with my classy cousin Julz downtown.  It is so cool to navigate Toronto with Julz because he has been here since 1999 and really knows the place well.  he showed me a few historical sights and we went to a fish place and had some really good fries.  The only thing I really fault Julz with is that it seems he always wants to improve my life, figure out a way to cure my mental illness, get me off medication and slim again, but the reality is that there is no cure for what I have, it is as much a physical illness as being without an arm and he isn’t even a Psychiatrist.  It is great that he cares, but what I need is a good friend I can talk to, not someone who thinks they can cure something that is genetically in my bones.  I have to admit though, it felt great to see Julz and I had a fantastic time checking out downtown and riding the subway.  I was so amazed at the masses of people out on the street even at 10:00pm on a weeknight.  It really is something to be in a major city.  Even Vancouver wasn’t like this.

One thing did disturb me a lot was that at one point, Julz and I were walking down the street and this slight, probably starving young man was sitting with a hat out to passers-by asking them for change but not making much sense.  I had the strong feeling that this poor dude was an untreated person with schizophrenia.  I wanted at the very least to give him some change, but I didn’t have any.  If I had been by myself I might have gone so far as to get him a hamburger or a coffee and talk to him and see if he is getting help.  Another thing about the incident that scared me was that I could see myself being someone like this, the only real difference is a few months of medications and a proper home that I had and he didn’t.  I guess one person can’t change the world, but I sure hope that if I ever make a success of myself that I don’t forget my debt and my promise to people like this poor soul, to help them as much as I was helped, to do everything to ease their pain and increase their comfort, totally non-judgmentally.  I hope this works as some food for thought.  On a lighter note, I wrote a not-bad poem today about traveling and the meaning of home, I hope you enjoy it as it sits below….

 

Carry Me To A Place Bright And New

Although one may travel far and wide
There really is nowhere you can hide
You can’t let go of what you are inside
We are a part of each other despite our pride

But don’t ever let that stop you from wandering
I know when I explore new places my heart sings
But always in a short while I long for my return
For friends and loved ones my soul burns

In this world there are many things to do and see
Staying locked up at home you will never be free
To taste the wonders of this place
This blue island lost in space

And in a way once you have travelled far
You somehow discover more of who you are
You no longer need two houses and a car
You no longer look for solutions at the bar

If you can bring a person close to you
And then when you see things wonderful and new
You will bond and grow to love each other more
And after both dream of that distant shore

I have been far away in the air and at sea
Where you can just breathe and live and be
But I had to return to my beloved home
If for no other reason than to write this poem

Now I have become a living testament
To glories, sights and sound all heaven sent
And now I hope before my whole life is spent
I will do much more than just work and pay the rent

Of all those places that I went to see
There was one thing they couldn’t be for me
Sure I was happy, tanned and free
But I wasn’t in my own loving home and community

Leif Gregersen

All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 

 

Peter Hemingway (Coronation)

 

It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

Transitions: How Can We Better Deal With Them?

 IMG_7699THIS IS A PHOTO FROM SACRED HEART CHURCH OF THE FIRST PEOPLES, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WHERE I TRY TO ATTEND MASS EVERY SUNDAY

Many things in life can be a transition.  When we finish high school and either get going with a job or a relationship or College, we go through the transition of leaving our parents’ home and starting out on our own.  When we meet someone and either get married or just take the step of moving in with them, we go through a transition that can shake the foundation of our relationship or cement it into something that will last a lifetime.  The transitions I most want to talk about today is what a person with a mental illness goes through in different situations.

The first transition may be the most difficult one.  You are young, you are healthy, maybe you are happy, maybe you aren’t.  And then all of a sudden you hear a voice in your head that tells you something disturbing or you start to have delusions that you are something you are not.  Delusions can be anything.  I don’t always feel comfortable talking about mine, but I will share some of them here.  One delusion I had once was that I was soon to become King of England.  This seems absolutely preposterous, but in small increments with what was going on in my head it made sense.  First off I was deluded into thinking that I had some kind of great wealth.  I owned companies, land, I had held offices that were paid jobs that I simply managed by telling people that I was in a meeting or at a conference.  Somehow all of these things came together to make me feel I was wealthy for some reason.  Then there was the book.  My Dad has a book from Denmark that was researched about our family.  It traces my blood lines back all the way to the twelfth century, it looks amazing, the cover is hand-carved wood and most of it is in Danish.  My mentally ill mind put these things together and then hallucinated news reports that the Queen of England was finally stepping down and that the ‘book’ told of Kings and Queens in my past and there you have it.  Incredibly far from the truth, but very real nonetheless.  I ended up going to the hospital willingly after reports from my Doctor, my parents, and I am sure others that I had gone completely out of my mind.  The transition of going into the hospital was a difficult one.  I had to get on medication and give it time to work.  It took months because my Doctor labelled me as ‘difficult to treat’.  Basically, I got sick of him, requested a different Doctor and called him incompetent.  Let me warn you that it can be extremely problematic to poke a hole in a Doctor’s ego.

So the next transition that I speak of is the one of going into the hospital.  I had such a hard time existing in that place.  I was a heavy smoker and we were only allowed to smoke during the day.  At night there was no way to access the smoking room.  This seemed cruel and unusual, but I guess it is even worse now because the hospital has become a non-smoking institution.  Smoking is a big thing for psychiatric patients, our bodies react to cigarette smoke in similar ways that we react to medications.  It stabilizes our thoughts.  I have strong memories of getting up in that hospital ward and having horrible hallucinatory delusions that got a little better with each smoke I had.  First off the TV was talking to me and was very grim, then after a smoke it got a little better and so on.  I suppose this was a transition from relative insanity to relative stability.  But the really difficult transition was in going from my comfortable little apartment where I felt comfortable and could have coffee or cigarettes any time I wanted to being under extremely strict rules.  Another thing that was hard to adjust to was to having to live not just according to a written set of rules, but to the rules of each individual staff member while my a$%hole Doctor had told them to put me into isolation at any time they felt like it.  I would get so angry in there, scream and kick at the door and do things like pee in the bottle they left in there for me and then try and throw the waste under the door so the person watching me would be standing in it.  It was the worst.  But deep down inside I kept telling myself that one day this would end, one day things would get better.  I thank heaven that the emotional scars of those experiences weren’t so bad that they torment me with bad memories and dreams each day as some of my first hospital experiences did.

The transition I really want to talk about is perhaps the most important one.  It is the transition of leaving the protection of the hospital, going back out on your own or at least to a place outside the hospital.  In the past I have moved into places that were obviously there to take advantage of mental patients and the tiny incomes they get from disability benefits.  I was in a house for three months where the rules were ridiculous, the landlady picked favorites and treated everyone else like shit, not even giving them enough food to survive on and screamed in your face any time she felt like it.  Although I knew it would most likely lead to poor mental health, I tried to move into a private apartment after that one.  The cycle would have started out with me getting off a regular schedule, isolating myself, and then literally wanting to go back to the hospital just to ease the loneliness and depression.  But instead I was very lucky and I ended up in the group home I live in now.  It is run by a company called E4C, or “Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation” and is such a great place to live.  I am in a house I share with just two roommates, and it is a 5 bedroom house and I live in the master bedroom.  There is a weight set in the basement, we have free digital cable TV, there is  a park nearby and the neighbors around us are awesome and we all take turns cooking suppers and the food is actually really good.  I have clashes sometimes with the staff or other people living here, but they are soon settled.  There is something I really have to watch in myself that was spoken about very well not only in a 12-step group I once attended, but also talked about in a sermon by a TV preacher Dr. Charles Stanley, one of the better ones of that group of preachers.  It is called H.A.L.T.  basically, you have to be very careful of your actions, and if you want to avoid making poor decisions, watch out for when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  I find it is usually under circumstances like these when I get a bit angry at my roommates or staff members.  Anyhow, I think I will leave you my dear readers at that.  I think the last thing I want to say is that going through the transition of leaving the hospital can be a rough one, but if you can find a place where you feel you belong, where you feel a sense of community and self-worth, either by volunteering or by working with people you like doing things you like, and if you faithfully take your medications, you will get through and hopefully not ever feel so bad that you either want to go back in the hospital or do something drastic.  I think I have boiled it down to a few key things: medications-on time.  Exercise-a half hour a day so you feel better and sleep better.  Meals-healthy and don’t miss any, and also try to eat healthy snacks like fruit if you must snack in between, and try to get eight hours or even a little more sleep than that each day.  Best wishes and email any time. viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC00318THIS PHOTO IS FROM LAST SUMMER AT THE ZOO IN EDMONTON.  THOUGH I LOVE TO PHOTOGRAPH ANIMALS, IT OFTEN MAKES ME SAD TO SEE THEM IN CAPTIVITY