psychiatric medication

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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Inside Lurks a Darkness

DSC_0080     This is a photo of a building on the grounds of the Provincial Mental Hospital where I spent some quality time about 15 years ago.  The place was so old the toilets used a chain from the ceiling to flush and there were all kinds of weird staircases to nowhere.  It really was spooky and looks even spookier here.

(poem at end of blog today)

     Well Dear readers, it has been some time since I posted.  I haven’t been too involved with poetry lately and I have actually gotten a job with two more magazines.  Both of these new magazines deal with mental health topics and so I have not really had much to say about mental illness that I haven’t been saying already.  In many ways life is going really good.  I am having such a great time just about every week meeting with my friend Richard Van Camp, author of “The Lesser Blessed”, an incredible novel about a young man growing up in the North which is on Netflix if anyone is interested.  He has been doing a lot for me and there have been a number of other opportunities open up.  I guess this is a good time to talk about writing, if anyone who reads this on a regular basis wants to write or writes things and hasn’t published them, I want to encourage you to write as much as you can, re-draft and polish your work, have it edited and send it out to publishers.  This seems all too simple, and the sad fact is that it is very hard to get your work published these days, but after giving it an earnest try to get your stuff published, if you feel in your heart that you really have something to say and that people can benefit from your writing, you should look into self-publishing.  I had the benefit of being able to take writing courses and website development courses through my local library for free, and the rewards have been so huge.  I actually first published a book (Through The Withering Storm) a number of years ago but have now sold enough copies to go past the break-even point.  The good thing is that since I have only self-published and distributed in my own area, there is still a lot of potential for more sales in new areas.  I had a successful few weeks going to school libraries and selling books to them and now I want to try and take some time and do a book tour in Vancouver or Calgary at some point.

The important thing to remember though is that you really need to keep writing, keep getting your name out.  Enter all the contests you can and start a website like this one to promote your work and put it on your email and business cards.  If your writing has merit and you are diligent, opportunities will start to come.  I recall being so frustrated that my book didn’t start to sell right away after I put it online.  It took years before I made the right connections and found my way through the maze, the jungle of writers, editors and those who purchase books and pay you for writing related things.  Writing related things… that deserves a bit more of an explanation.  Of course I wrote two memoirs about mental illness.  After taking a course through them, I found out that the Schizophrenia Society hires people to go to schools and other groups to give talks.  This was an incredible way for me to hone my public speaking and teaching skills and learn more about mental illness as I went.  And one of the cool things was that sometimes I have been able to sell some of my books at these speaking engagements and I have been getting myself known.  There have been a number of other things pop up as a result of me accepting what is kind of a low-paying job but a hugely rewarding and enriching activity.  One of them is that I have been hired as a professional storyteller, those two magazines I mentioned are also paying me and allowing me to advertise my books in their publications.  And I have two awesome events planned in the New Year that are going to make me a fair sum of money.  There are many more things than that, but I just wanted to put that down for anyone who reads this blog for the writing advice.

 

As far as mental health information, I don’t really know what I can share today.  I get a great deal of benefit from talking to my sister who is very caring and down to earth.  I was telling her some fantastic news today and she said that I had stars in my eyes and that I would be disappointed no matter what the outcome of this thing I was telling her about.  This is something that is very important for people with Bipolar to be aware of, slipping into the manic side of your emotional scale.  I only know a few ways to combat it, one of them is to meditate.  When I do this, I simply breathe and try to focus on literally nothing, not allow my mind to chatter or wander, just breathe and be.  I often sit in the lotus position for up to half an hour and it is incredibly soothing.  One of my problems is that I will get into this manic mood and get extremely restless and the first thing I want to do is to go out and spend money.  I almost don’t even care what I buy, I just want the excitement of going to some shopping area or store and pulling out my debit card and purchasing things I often will never use (books I will never read, etc.).  The other way I know how to deal with this problem is to get in touch with my Psychiatrist or Nurse/Therapist and explain that I may need an increase in my medication.  This is never an easy thing to do because medication can take a lot of the fun out of life.  One has to consider though how much they may regret the things they could do while manic or in psychosis and how much better it would be if they could head off the problem before it gets really bad.

I really feel for people with Schizophrenia at this point because a lot of people with this illness still hear voices no matter how much medication they may be on.  I wish I could spend more time on the topic, but I think I would just like to ask that anyone who reads this takes a moment to consider what people may be going through that have any kind of mental illness, and maybe even take things one step further and think about helping by volunteering, fundraising, or even just being a part of an organization like the Schizophrenia Society.  I have felt so good about the work that I have been doing because it happens on a regular basis that when I give talks for the Schizophrenia Society I run across people old and young that are either dealing with a mental health issue themselves that they don’t understand or have a family member or friend that needs help and I really like to think that I can make a difference.  I always used to think as a kid that if I could really make a difference in just one life my own life wouldn’t be wasted.  Have a great day and Happy Holidays!!

 

Midwinter 2015

 

These days of gentle longing feed the darkness in my soul

I wonder if it was my journey here that left me less than fully whole

 

My years of paper wanderings have given me one thing

A longing to be near you and to feel the joy that your love brings

 

Never in my yearning did I ever think that life could be

Less of myself and the cold cruel world and more of you and me

 

Poems gave me reasons to seek the love that my soul needs

I just never knew that loving someone grips your heart until it bleeds

 

When we met you were always near me, now you live so very far

It’s a long journey now to meet you but it soon becomes a voyage on a star

 

Love is never simple and life is almost never kind

And your perfect loving touch is something I thought I would never find

 

Run with me in the moonlight, let’s dance beneath darkened skies

Give me those stolen moments that gold or money doesn’t buy

 

Love me through the evening, love me when we awake

These precious vivid memories is something no hard times can ever take

 

I want to walk in cool grass barefoot with you and simply hold your hand

I want to take you far away from here and walk in the sun and sand

 

Before it is too late for us I want to share a child with you

You are my perfect dream girl and I never thought this could all come true

 

Somewhere in the deepest parts I keep something from you

It’s about that darkness that I spoke of that often makes me blue

 

I fear that I’m not good enough, that I’m destined to be alone

I’ve tried to bury it deep within me since my love for you has grown

 

To hear your voice and touch your hand is medicine for me

Hug me, hold me tightly now, let our love set the demon free

 

 

Leif Gregersen

December 10, 2015