Time Management For People With Schizophrenia, Bipolar or Depression

Photo by Brooke Campbell On Unsplash

Hello Good Readers! (click here to see my books) I can’t tell you how pleased I am that my following has grown to over 1,050 people! For those of you who are interested, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) made a mini-documentary about me which you can view here: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2070031427555 If you are interested in seeing more, simply go to the cbc.ca website and do a search on me (Leif Gregersen) then you can read the article that went with the documentary.

I wanted to talk a little about something of a funny topic, time management for people with mental health issues. A lot of the time, people who are struggling with their mental health have too much time on their hands. But changing this, so a person is more busy (ie, gets more done each day) is also a type of time management.

First of all, I want to address sleep. One thing that is going to bother you throughout your life if you don’t find a way to handle it is that you will most likely sleep in almost every day. One of the reasons for this is, people with mental illnesses take medication to help them sleep and it carries over into their next day.

Sleeping medication by itself isn’t totally bad, but I have been told by my doctor that the healthiest sleep is the one you get without any medication, and I can vouch for this simply through my own experience with being on and off sleeping medication. I don’t know all the why’s and how’s, but I think it has something to do with dreaming and sleep quality.

The best way to sleep less and be able to sleep without medication is to get up and stay up, at a regular time, go to bed and stay in bed at a regular time, never changing your schedule, and also not taking naps during the day. One of the ways I have found to get up and stay up is to always take my morning medications at the same time, then get up, go for a walk, even a long walk and either grab a newspaper or walk to a mall in the North end of Edmonton and buy just one small bottle of water (It makes little sense to buy much more than that) and then use my subsidized bus pass to ride home. I have found when a get some exercise like this, I am much less likely to fall back asleep.

There are of course days when I have to get up and do something in the morning and on days like these, the night before I load up my briefcase with all the things I need, making sure to charge my phone and laptop. Then I board the bus and grab a few last winks of sleep as I ride to my destination. There are also situations where I use my bus time to prepare for the meeting or event I will be attending.

Now, I should talk a little about what you do to get through the day after you have woken up. I think getting out of the house first thing can be critical, getting exercise is also critical (whether you go for a walk or a jog or a bike ride or a swim, or even if needed ride an exercise bike for a little while). For those of you who want to go to a pool or a gym, I recommend 20-30 minutes of cardio each day and spending around an hour lifting weights 3 days a week if you are so inclined. There is nothing really wrong with doing more, and you don’t exactly have to go hard to meet these requirements, but it would be very beneficial if you can meet these minimums.

Just as one last piece of advice, if you don’t live in a great city like I do where the city allows people with disabilities to work out and swim for free, consider getting a discount membership at the YMCA or similar place.

Okay, now you are awake. What is there to do? I strongly suggest that people get up early, so even after you take your walk or swim there won’t be too many people up. Reading the paper (or online news) is a great way to get started. I used to go out each morning to pick up a free paper and then spend some time doing the Sudoku. If you read online news, why not do a couple of online puzzles? Most PC computers come with free games like solitaire or mahjong. The idea is to get your brain kickstarted.

For me, after I do these things I often find myself in demand and the day kind of falls into place, but I understand it isn’t that way for everyone. What I suggest to just about anyone with a disability is that they have a group of 5-6 people they can talk to at times when they may not feel their best. I suggest this number not only because some of your friends may not be available, but also because it isn’t a good idea to rely on any one or two people too much. Unburdening yourself may become difficult on just 1-2 people. I always try to have something positive to say when I call friends. I always say using comparisons and looking at the positive side of things can change any situation. If someone said I would die on Saturday, I would be delighted to know that I wouldn’t have to do laundry that Sunday like I had planned. (bad joke, but worth a try!)

Another thing you can do is volunteer. If you get to be good at your volunteer job, you may decide to look for part-time work within or without the organization that is paid. In Alberta I am lucky because I am allowed to earn just over $1,000.00 a month without penalty. If you are on disability you should check and make sure you know how much earnings will disqualify you. It is important to know because often if you are on supports and have a mental illness, your medications will be covered and they can get to be extremely expensive. But never stop taking medications because you want to go off supports, they can be critical.

Another great thing to do is to try and join a support group. Google for a list of different support groups in your area. I also recommend that people look into free or subsidized counselling. I recently got 10 sessions of counselling for free and I noticed big results right away. You might join a support group for family members of parents with Alzheimer’s or even a 12-step program, there are many, even for those who are affected by the addiction of another person that can help a lot.

Now, you have done quite a bit and the day is starting to wind down. Resist the urge to nap or to skip a meal. If you have symptoms of bipolar, make careful note of your mood as the day winds down. I find that if I’m not careful, I can get into sort of a ‘manic’ high and have a hard time sleeping, especially if I haven’t exercised much that day. Cook yourself a healthy meal (I would like to talk about the benefits of an apartment freezer and buying meat and frozen vegetables in bulk in a later post). Make it so 1/4 of your plate is protein, 1/4 is carbs (pasta will do, I often like to make egg noodles that aren’t made with yolks) and half of your plate should be green vegetables. There are so many ways to vary ingredients and change a plate of food set up like this. I often have either a pork chop or a chicken breast, some whole wheat pasta and then a combination of greens like peas and broccoli. Ever since I have been eating like this, I have been losing weight steadily.

So now supper is done, what comes next? I think a great thing to spend your evening doing would be to read, but reading isn’t for everybody. I just think that there are so many books on so many topics that could enrich a person’s life. I recall times when I couldn’t focus on the repetitive novels I normally read so I got myself a memoir of a rock star who had lived a life of extreme hedonism. It made for some truly interesting reading, I wasn’t bored for a minute and it was hard to put the book down.

Of course, you can also watch TV to pass the time. One of the problems with TV is that it can get your adrenalin going. Also, TV is known to help relax a person, but the relaxed effect goes away as soon as you turn off the TV. One of the things I did to keep my TV costs down was that I got cheap Internet (Telus Internet For Good for anyone who may be serviced by Telus, it is for the poor and disabled and only costs $10 per month) and then I got a subscription to a service called “River TV” which gives me most networks and some specialty channels like History (I just love watching ‘Pawn Stars’). The cost of both is only $27, which is cheaper than just about anyone charges for simple Internet. Since I was saving so much, I got a membership with Netflix and kept my membership with Prime TV. When you have such a wide choice of programming, it becomes easy to find interesting things to watch.

So, then you go to bed. There are many questions to be asked about going to bed. One of them is, “Should I use Melatonin?” I have found Melatonin to be helpful to get me to sleep, it is a natural sleep hormone, but I have also found that if I use too low a dose I get a strange, very powerful restlessness in my legs that keeps me from even staying in one place while trying to sleep. I also noticed that when I take Melatonin, I am often much more tired the next day. Sometimes I can even sleep the morning away as a result of taking melatonin. I was told it works best when you take it two hours before going to bed, though different doctors have told me different amounts of time.

So here you are, medicated, tired, not having napped and ready for bed. Clean sheets are a must, and also a fan or a space heater depending on the season. If you have an alarm clock, turn it away from you. Above all, try not to do any activities in bed like watching TV or other stuff. Beds are supposed to be only for sleeping and intimacy. Doing anything else like reading or the like just gets your mind off the idea that when you lay down you need to get your 8-10 hours.

Well Dear Readers, that is about all for today. I wish you all the best. I wanted to thank the person who may have read my blog for purchasing a copy of a couple of my books. If anyone else would like a copy, of course you can download “Alert and Oriented x3” from the main page (click on The Tower Bridge). But if you would like to purchase books, visit this page: Leif’s Books on Amazon and have a wonderful and safe Fall!

Tom Cruise Would Have Received the Death Penalty if he Were Really In the Navy

Photo credit: Mathew Macquarrie on Unsplash

Well, it looks like I am wrong about something kind of big. A few weeks ago, after seeing the movie, I gave Top Gun: Maverick a bad review. This is actually a bit scary because I actually felt the moviegoing public had some depth to their character. I stand corrected.

I was reluctant to watch the movie in question because, despite the media machine that surrounds Tom Cruz Mapother, he is quite simply an asshole. He is openly against medical science (psychiatry mainly) and would rather see me, me personally, tied into his personal cult Scientology, paying all I can afford for books and courses, being under the control of very nasty people instead of living on my own, expressing my views about his garbage freely and openly while I maintain good mental health and exercise in a stable environment.

I can’t deny it, there were good things about Top Gun 2. But for most experienced aviators (which I am not, though I did spend 3 years in the Air Cadets and later learned how to fly small planes) a lot of it is crap when it comes down to technical details. Then of course there is the problem that almost all their action plot is stolen from Star Wars: Episode IV (The movie that really changed history).

But, Dear reader, as long as you don’t listen to what Scientologists have to say about psychiatry, I am happy. I really bear little ill will to Tom Cruise, gay or not gay. I just tend to get upset when I read comments about him saying how wonderful he is and how good an actor and all that. I want to give the person a little credit, I really liked the stunt he did in one of the Mission: Impossible movies where he hung on by his fingertips to the outside of the plane. The crazy bugger actually did that. And, the movie Top Gun: Maverick delivers, there really are some incredible action scenes in it. But he is not a good actor. He is an attractive actor who has chosen his plastic surgeons well. He is 60 and he barely looks a day over 60. What bothers me is that they talked on and on before the movie came out about how real they made things and how they flew with real pilots, and about 25% of the plot (the part they didn’t steal) is based on the idea that some rogue nation can afford the next generation of fighter planes and keeps a working stock of old American planes airworthy, and that no massive war breaks out as a result of US ships levelling an airfield in an unfriendly nation. And a flight of planes bombs a factory. What a lot of people don’t understand is that all of the plot, the stolen 75% and the rest, is about death and destruction, killing and doing those things in the name of America.

Just to go back to the type of planes, the Americans were using F-18s, which are way out of date. There are alternatives like the F-35 that are rolling out around the world, and certainly in America, but the movie jokes around about how modern the F-18s are when actually they have been getting close to obsolete for years.

Now, I want to make a number clear that will make more sense. Around the world, Top Gun: Maverick made $1Billion dollars. That is one thousand million dollars. It would be one thing if the movie were about really saving lives in America or some nation far away, but the movie is about killing, cold-blooded killing. Anything above the plain fact that people fervently cheer when an ‘enemy’ who no one has bothered to explain why they are the enemy, is blown out of the sky.

And then we come to the central idea of this blog entry. The movie is about Tom Cruise and how wonderful he is, not about winning, not about team work, not about love or aviation. The movie is a love letter from Tom Cruise to Tom Cruise. Let me give you a quick run-down of some of the plots of his movies:

Top Gun: He’s a pilot. He’s a good pilot. He runs into adversity, loses his nerve and stops being a pilot. Then, a good looking woman comes into his life and convinces him he’s the best pilot.

Cocktail: He’s a bartender. He’s a good bartender until he meets with adversity and loses his nerve, then meets a beautiful woman who convinces him he’s the best bartender.

Days of Thunder: Tom is a driver. He is a good driver, until he meets with adversity and loses his nerve, then a beautiful woman comes into his life and convinces him he is the very best driver.

I’m sure Tom Cruz Mapother is full of charm. He goes all out to make people feel special. And then behind the scenes he allows horrific things to go on in the name of religion in the cult he is #2 from the top in. Maybe he just needs a beautiful woman to come along to restore his confidence and convince him he is the best cult leader and he will no longer be #2.

Grade Seven

The blood of my brothers was spilled

On the far away Afghanistan shore

Now their corpses are silent and still

And their names are not used anymore

So careful to not let any skin show

Women there once again have to dress

Covered from head to toe

And female education has quickly regressed

Today I sat writing on a park bench

Happily immersed in midsummer delight

I saw a sight that made my teeth clench

A girl whose situation just didn’t seem right

She had to be close to nineteen

Had a baby boy close to a year

In that loveliness of shimmering green

She looked so lovely as she drew near

All but her face was covered

She was radiant, but so out of place

So young to make babies and mother

Like she wasn’t a full part of the human race

I often am too quick to judge

And different people have their own ways

I could see that her young child was loved

And a sweet smile was upon her face

But since the Afghanistan mission pulled out

Females there no longer go past the sixth grade

I want to protest, go to rallies and shout

The country lost the precious freedoms we gave

Living With Psychosis and How Therapy Can Help

Photo by: Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Hello Good Readers. Well, as an update my Dad seems to be improving a little. He isn’t completely clouded in confusion though it seemed that for a little while he thought he was in Denmark when I visited him today. What is really hard is him asking about his brothers and sisters, who have all passed on. It must be horrible to be the last person in your family alive.

I received a message today from a woman who wanted to help a close friend of hers get through the experience of having a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. It was hard to know what to say except that what she is doing is incredibly admirable. When I got severely ill 20 years ago, I did have some support but what help I got was tainted by the fact that I left an odd answering machine message for this person. He saved the recording and replayed it for friends and his wife and had a good laugh about how crazy I was.

I wish I could give a better description about what it is like to have a mental illness. Sometimes it seems like it is some awful cancer growing inside of you that surfaces in your brain and just takes over. One thing that is a little funny about having mental health problems is that often a stomach problem comes along with it. Just about every time I have become severely ill I have had serious stomach pain. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems interesting that I once read your stomach has a ‘brain’ of its own. All your brain really is, is a bundle of billions and billions of nerves. Also, people talk a lot about having a ‘gut instinct.’

Of course a big part of having a mental illness and being in the thick of things has to do with your thoughts. What I recall happening was I would be walking somewhere, be it down a school hallway or down a mall and I would think of commentary (things people around me were saying or even thinking) and it would have the same force as if the person were talking into an intercom and giving me up to the minute statements about what was happening around me. Of course, part of this psychosis comes with the irrational fear known as paranoia. So many of the things you imagine (and they are 100% realistic) seem to be threatening. For example, I may walk down a mall and see a young woman on a phone. I would imagine she is calling a girl I liked, telling her I was there so she could come and watch me over the closed circuit TV in the mall. Then I would pass another place and there would be a big, scary looking guy there and I would imagine he was her boyfriend and that not only did he hate me, but he was on steroids and had the ability to pound me into dust.

I will never forget being in a mall called Westmount one time. Funny enough, it was on a day I had escaped from the hospital. It is funny to think of ‘escaping’ because all I really did was get on a bus and go to see a movie. I went into a department store and there was a young woman who was working there who I knew from before. For whatever reason, whether she was saying it as a joke or as a test to see how crazy I was, or if she didn’t even say it at all, she said to me, “Hi Leif. I heard you own this mall.” this false idea stuck in the back of my head for a while. I remember trying to lie to make up a believable story as to why I owned the mall when my sister confronted me with the false fact. I said that when my friend and his mom passed away, they left me their house and someone invested it and was able to purchase the mall on my behalf. I knew I was lying, but the false reality was so vivid in my mind.

This is something important to note. The reason it is so important is because I often hear that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than become violent themselves. I can recall three times when I honestly believed (though I was delusional) that I had a significant sum of money. One time was in the hospital 20 years ago when a fellow patient started a fist fight with me because I told him I had the money to buy a house (he was supposedly a realtor). The second time I went to a local bar and quite plainly asked the head bouncer why someone had told me I owned the place. I wasn’t treated with violence, but when I went there later I narrowly escaped it from another person who worked there. It is scary now to look back at the past and think of myself holding on to delusional ideas while I wasn’t even in the hospital. This is another key part of having a mental illness. No matter how ill a person with psychosis may get, they are often unaware that they are ill.

Well Dear Readers, it has been a long and taxing day. I have plans for tomorrow that include getting up early and staying up late. Today I had a session of therapy, which I really have to say is going wonderfully. I have this amazing therapist who is really kind and empathetic and she is teaching me some strategies to, among other things, re-focus my thoughts when I find myself thinking of the past too much and beating myself up needlessly over it. What I learned today was something called 5-4-3-2-1. Basically, I notice 5 things around me and look at them like I haven’t seen them before, then listen for 5 sounds, then become aware of 5 things touching my skin. You work your way down to seeing 1 thing, hearing 1 thing and feeling 1 thing and eventually you start to train your mind to not focus on negative thoughts. She said that the mind can’t think of more than one thing at a time. Thanks for reading. If you would like to support my efforts, I encourage you to buy one of my books from amazon, there are inexpensive options in eBooks and reasonable options in paperback. Also, if you would like to ask me about something I can cover in these blogs or just say hi, please feel free to send me an email at viking3082000@yahoo.com

Big Things Weighing Me Down

My Dad and His Granddaughter

Hello Good Readers! First, let me start off with a quick but heartfelt apology. I promised I would go back to posting at least once a week and I haven’t done so. I have been facing something very difficult that I now want to write a little about. My Dad, who is turning 85 soon, after a long life of being loved by just about anyone who knows him, is starting to succumb to dementia. It is very distressing to watch someone go through this, but especially someone I love so much and need in my life so much. In all of my 50 years, he was there for me, he cooked hamburgers on the barbecue on hot days like we have been having, he drove me and the rest of my family on trips as close as the mountains 350 km away and as far away as Southern California. He has never failed to be strong yet caring, and constantly funny. Now I see him turn into a scared, teary-eyed frail old man. I know there could be worse things to happen in life. One could lose a child to schizophrenia as one of my co-workers at the Schizophrenia Society did not too long ago. One could have a grandmother who screams and yells and makes no sense and is 100 years old and has to stay under the care of her daughter like my dear friend Charity’s mom has to with her grandmother. I think what makes this hard for me is that I work in a psychiatric hospital and I work with people who have schizophrenia. There are some similarities to what my Dad is going through to what people with mental illnesses experience, but for some odd reason, you can’t make dementia better with medications like you can with schizophrenia. All you can do is try to make the person as comfortable as possible as they slowly lose their faculties.

It hasn’t been easy that I have been at odds with my sister. I spoke to her yesterday and she basically told me that I am no longer welcome at her house and I got so upset I hung up on her. For some odd reason she texted me later on and again a couple of times today. It makes me want to fly into a rage when I run across people who do this, especially because I know she is doing it because I have a mental illness. One time I had a friend I went through so many good and bad times with and seemed to be closer to than just about any friend I had and he did the same thing. I called him up years after we had last talked and he said that it was nice to hear my voice and that he didn’t want any hard feelings between us, but he still wanted to tell me to fuck off. I asked him if I waited two years and was still stable if I could call back, and when I did he called back when I wasn’t home and left an incredibly demeaning message on my answering machine, again telling me to fuck off and saying that I had “gotten his family all upset.” But I suppose in some ways this is a good thing. I don’t need shallow, self-centred people in my life, and I definitely don’t need people who don’t understand what a mental illness means. Can you imagine someone telling their younger brother that they will never be welcome in their home again because they are in a wheelchair? Or if they have cancer? I never asked to have schizophrenia and I like to think that I have turned my extremely negative situation into something positive.

I have to admit though that in a way a small dream came true in my life a couple of years back. In my last year of school, I had a friend who I argued with a lot but respected and ended up working with at a restaurant and connecting with years after school ended. He also cut me out of his life but he had been told to by a psychiatrist, and when I finally gathered up the courage to call him some 20 years later, he didn’t care what a psychiatrist said, he wanted to be my friend. He is a busy guy and we don’t get together much but we have had some really great long talks about what it was like to attend high school together and some people we grew up with. So I try and understand things from other people’s perspective.

It’s funny though. I accept that I have a mental illness, but I am really a very lucky person. My illness is extremely well controlled by medication. I also have diabetes which is also pretty well controlled. The only thing I really have to deal with is the side effects. And the assholes. The world will always have assholes though. Thanks for tuning in dear readers.

If anyone out there is thinking of doing some writing of their own, I thought it might help to give you a bit of the advice I received when I was just starting. The person who gave it had graduated from a journalism program. What it basically is, is that you read a lot of magazines (best to read them at the library) when you find a magazine that fits with something you would like to write about, find out who is the editor and assistant editor of the publication. In the case of larger magazines, it might be better to approach the assistant editor. You write to them, tell them what kind of article you would like to write, why you would be a good person to write it, then start your research. It can be good when you are starting out to read a whole hardcover book on the subject before writing the article. Then do a lot of web research and make sure the accepted facts match what you want to write or ‘argue’ about in your article. Then write. At the end of each statement or paragraph as needed, put in the url link to where you found the facts so they can be checked. Start with an anecdote, the more real and gripping the better. Then say what you want to say, then say it, then tell the readers what you just said without sounding like you are talking down to them or using too technical or specialized language.

I have found that one of the best places to look for places to send your pitches is the Medium platform. It costs $5 USD a month to join, but there are tons of articles full of information about editors who are looking for content. After you have written and published a couple of articles, take the extra money they made you and look into a night class or a library Gale course or a community college continuing education class about journalism and bootstrap your way up the ladder. I have written about four articles this month alone and it really feels great. Tune in here for more writing advice as I go, I will repeat my promise and say that I would like to write a blog entry here once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. But thanks for tuning in!