poetry and mental health

A Poem and a Few Words About Mental Health and Walking

I have often wondered if the people who get to run these machines are just older kids at play. Seeing these big machines also makes me think about modern labour and how it changes so rapidly. I often wonder what some of my students do without computer skills-what anyone without computer skills can do. It leaves us so marginalized. But that is a discussion for another day. Please remember to scroll down past today’s poem for today’s blog.

 

The Forgotten Book

 

On my floor forgotten lies a book

Its cover bent all it seems to do is gather dust

The dismal hum of the summer fan

Licks its pages until it seems alive

This book once had been my hopes, my dreams

To take me places I never dared to go

This book was more than mine it was me

It was written by my hand inspired by my soul

I poured everything into its pages

And now at 5:00am as the sky brightens

I haven’t got the energy to pick it up

I should file the thing; get it out of sight

But I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it

There on my floor

I may be a hermit to some

Old books covering my furniture and floors

Old junk filling up the spaces in between

But among all that will be that book

Hopefully long after I am gone

To tell my story

To somehow let me live on

If only on a page that few will read

Leif Gregersen

 

Mental Health and Walking:

I have always been a fan of endurance sports. I suppose it started as far back as the second Rocky Movie which I saw on TV. Everyone knows that Rocky Balboa is going to accomplish his goals when he goes running through the streets, thousands of children run with him as that amazing music plays. One thing I really like about the Rocky Movies is that Rocky doesn’t win all his fights. Like many of us, he does everything he can, fails, reinvents himself or finds new inspiration and then moves on to the next level. Rocky can’t always triumph, but he can always show he has heart, or perhaps more accurately as he says in his movies, he at least proves he is not a bum.

Walking is something that I have been taking up instead of playing difficult sports, jogging, even cycling. There are so many advantages to it. Perhaps the top one for me is just the time I get to spend on my own with my thoughts. Sometimes I will walk up to 2 hours a day and I can work everything out. I watched a video today that quoted some interesting studies on walking that I hope you won’t take at face value from me but research on your own. One of the studies they talked about was one that discovered a marked increase in mood for people with depression who walked 30 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week. I can honestly say that I do feel a lot happier after I walk and that now that I have been doing it for a few years I wouldn’t want to stop for any reason. I may have to slow down or take days off, but walking is so rewarding (in the happiness and in the feeling of fitness) that I hope I can keep it up for a long time to come.

For a while I didn’t like the idea of walking long distances though I often did as a boy. My Mom had lost a good deal of weight one time and looked amazing from walking about 5 miles a day. The problem came in when an incident, possibly connected, hopefully not, happened where she developed a crushed vertebrae in her neck and needed surgery. She gained her weight back soon during her recovery period and never really got back to the same levels of fitness before she passed away.

One interesting thing I have been noticing is that people with mental health issues seem to be at much more risk of diabetes. Perhaps because they are more sedentary, perhaps it has a lot to do with weight gain on psychiatric medications. Many people are told that their medications will cause them to gain weight, but also asked if they would prefer to be in active mental distress or psychosis or would they prefer to be slimmer. Almost anyone would prefer to be mentally healthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It may be extremely difficult, but there are ways to still lose weight, and I have found walking to be at the epicentre of the solution despite the effects of medications I take.

I have been walking five plus miles five times a week now as well as watching my calorie, sugar and fat intake. I should mention that I was diagnosed with type two diabetes a month ago despite thinking I  was active and fit. What I didn’t realize was that I was obese and I needed to make some changes. Walking was something I already did, so I just tried to ramp it up a bit and find excuses to walk every day like to go for groceries or even just to go to the pool to sit in the hot tub and weigh myself. The other thing I did was try to eliminate red meat, and anything with large amounts of fat or sugar. My Doctor also put me on Metformin, which is a very helpful medication. The results? I feel way better, people say I look slimmer, and since I have started monitoring my blood glucose levels, I seem to be in the healthy range a lot more of the time and I have lost nearly 30 pounds. I hope some of this is inspiring to you. My suggestion if you have a few pounds to lose or if you worry about diabetes is to load the Survivor song “Eye of the Tiger” into your music player of choice, get some good walking shoes (I love my new sketchers!) and go out and enjoy the sun! (Unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere). Best of luck and please post any questions or comments!

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Employment: How Much Can You Handle, How Much is Too Much?

Employment and Stress Blog With Poem at the End of Post

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                   How Much Employment is Too Much?  How Do You Know When You Reach Your Limit?

Please Scroll Past Today’s Blog if You Want To Just Read The Poem of the day!

     Well, I would like to talk about our limitations with regards to employment.  This is a very difficult question for me because I was raised in a family of people who worked very hard.  As you may have figured from my picture above as well, in my formative years (12-15) I was in an Air Cadet Squadron and there was a strong emphasis on work ethic and conservatism.  I did well in Cadets, I loved that I was rewarded for working hard, and often out-working my peers if I could.  But time and stress started to hit me and when I got a little older I was influenced by someone a little more left-wing.  It was a person who did believe in hard work, he just hated it.

When I was younger, I had a lot of jobs despite that I was likely a young person suffering from a mental illness.  Even before I was very old I worked in my dad’s shop, I delivered papers, I got my sister to pay me to do her chores (she had a job and made good money as a waitress in a steak house).  My plan was to have a huge comic book collection that I would use to finance my University Education.  I was 10.  Later in life I wore myself down to where I would spend most of the money I made from successive jobs on things like stereos, computer games, cars, motorcycles.  I think it was a mistake.  There is no way to tell how things may have worked out for me, but if I had taken the energy I put into buying those things and put them into my studies, I could have easily gotten scholarships.  One of my big problems was that I didn’t know anything about scholarships or University, having no family members who had gone there, and that I was digging an early grave for myself surviving on pizza and coca-cola and getting so little sleep I turned sleeping in class to an art form.

At the age of 18 I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what to tell you.  It had been a long and difficult winter, I had been fighting with my dad almost daily, he had tried a couple of times to kick me out of the house and no one seemed to care at all about me, and I was soon to have nowhere to live meaning I would lose all my property (including the comic books).  Added to that, a close friend committed suicide which devastated me, and for some reason I began to think that I could develop a new way of thinking and acting that would make people like me and turn me into some kind of hero.  This was the point when I started to slip away from reality.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I was working a job where I was getting screwed over for a promotion among mostly men twice my age.  This is where the word ‘psychosis’ comes in handy.  ‘Psychosis’ involves a loss of contact with reality.  Slowly I slipped into it, and soon all kinds of crazy ideas went through my head.  I ended up in the hospital and when I got out, all there was to help me to live was social services/welfare.  I felt so wronged by society, I took out my anger on employers, on my family.  It was a mess.

There is much more to talk about on this topic, but basically, I want to say that if I had seen the signs of stress coming, if I had been able to quit school and my job and be honest with my family about what was going on in my head and get help, there is a real likelihood I could have avoided numerous hospital stays.  But I don’t want to think like that.  I do want to think like my life has ended up well.  I have some incredible friends and an amazing life.  I just kind of wish that I can write these blogs and that someone out there can see some of these signs in themselves and be able to avoid some of the terrible things that happened to me.  It really is no fun having a breakdown and ending up in the hospital.  Most of the time you go through it, then recover and just get sick again, often whether you take your medication or not.  I see it often, and it is incredibly sad.  Some of the best advice I heard a person in this situation get was to a former employer, Bill MacPhee, who was told, “If you don’t find something to do you’re going to be in and out of the hospital the rest of your life.”  Bill wrote a book, he speaks at conferences all over the place and he has a couple of companies that serve people with mental health issues.  I hope you enjoy the poem below!

Edmonton, Fall 2016

 

The days of cold and wet have come to be

We will soon lost upon a snowy white frozen sea

Although the summer this year was a little longer

The power of the frozen north is stronger

 

I can’t tell you why I love this place, my home

I know that it appears I’m always alone

Up here the icy cold cleanses clean it all

And up here I haven’t got quite so far to fall

 

On the rainy coast out West I get sick and cough

In the desert heat of Arizona I would be lost

It comes down to being free, and what is best for me

I love this crisp cold place can’t you see

 

Not long ago, it’s true, I flew very far away

And to be honest, a part of me wanted to stay

But here I have those I love and my simple life

And a best friend who once could have been my wife

 

Maybe it is wrong of me to be afraid of letting go

But I’m happy here, and happy to let life unfold this slow

I also want to be here for my dad who soon may pass away

Because I know it shall be my turn one day

 

There is something special when you live somewhere a while

I feel re-energized with each kind hello and smile

I also like being able to volunteer and serve the poor

There is no other way my life could possibly mean more

 

And so I spend my days with those I care for near

And spend my nights writing my poetry right here

When life is lived to the fullest there is no more fear

That when I’m gone no one will shed a tear

 

And perhaps if what the bible says is true

When I am forever gone I will be born anew

In a place that was meant for a poet like me

Floating on a cloud in a perfect joyful sea

 

Leif Gregersen