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!

Hello Dear Readers! I Have Decided To Return To This Blog!

Photo By Piero Nigro on Unsplash

Hello everyone and welcome back! It has been a while since I have posted, but I can see that there are still people adding me on WordPress and I am still getting new reads. So, realizing that I love you guys, and that the blog has become something more than just typing practise, I have made the decision to return to writing at least one blog entry a week here.

So you may wonder what I have been up to. I have been writing on the Medium platform, which, once you get over 100 followers, pays you to write articles. It takes a lot of time and hard work, but I figured that if I put the same time into Medium as I do into this blog, I will be making a little money for myself in no time. The Medium platform costs $5 a month but has some amazing content. If you are a writer, I would totally recommend getting on Medium because some people curate lists of places to send your writing to. I have been fortunate enough to use these lists, and the income (from writing work) generated has more than made up for my investment.

So, I have been having some problems with Revenue Canada. I don’t know how many of my readers are Canadian, but here in Canada we have something called the Disability Tax Credit. You go to your Doctor, preferably the specialist that treats the condition that causes your disability (in my case my Psychiatrist) and they fill out a form T2201 then you fill in part of it, you send it off and if you qualify, you save a lot on taxes. I went through this process, then after it was approved, I learned my Psychiatrist didn’t back-date my disability, even though I have been under psychiatric care for 32 years now. The big problem was that I filled out my tax forms with the belief that I was eligible for this tax credit but they didn’t see it on their end. Add to that the situation where I received some support monies from the Government due to Covid-19 that I mostly paid back, and I was blasted with a heavy tax bill. I am now resubmitting everything, beginning with my T2201 and have high hopes that I won’t have to cash in my meagre retirement savings to feed the beast. I hope that anyone out there who has a disability or a family member with one will be able to get their T2201 in and get them that tax savings. For those who are disabled and under 49, there is a program that the T2201 form makes you eligible for that will pay extra money into your savings for every dollar you put away. If anyone is interested in more information about this (it can practically make you a millionaire if you start young enough!) please let me know.

So anyhow, this is going to be a short blog entry, I just wanted to let you good people know I haven’t forgotten about you. I would love it if you could write in and let me know what you would like to see covered on this blog, or any questions you may have. You can reach me here or at viking3082000@yahoo.com

I did want to quickly touch on a subject that I think could really benefit my readers. For those of you who are living with a mental health disability, and also for those who aren’t, I want to encourage you to consider going back to continue your education. There is a free program available in many Universities called Humanities 101 where you take a once-a-week night class that tries to give people who may not ordinarily be able to attend a University some exposure to higher education. It is a great class not only because you learn so much, but also you get access to the University’s resources. You can use the library, get student discounts on tons of stuff. One of the things I liked about it when I took the course was that I was able to download a free copy of Microsoft Word, which is essential to my writing and normally over $100. If you don’t have a Humanities 101 program in your area, think about taking just one University class. You can audit it or just take it normally for credits. It will give you some of the same access, you will have a chance to meet amazing people, and it will enrich your life.

The First Chapter of a New Book I Am Working On

(download your promised chapter from the link at the end of this post, or join medium.com and read all of the new work I will be publishing there, along with massive amounts of great writing.) https://www.medium.com (@leifgregersen)

Dear Readers:

I thought it would be relevant to display a picture of a canoe I saw crossing a bridge last summer. We are all on a journey, and now it seems as though my journey is taking a new turn. I have decided that I want to focus more on freelancing and attempting to make money from my writing, and so I will soon with great regrets be moving this blog to Medium.com. As a parting gift to my loyal fans, I will be posting links to chapters of my newest work-in-progress here for a few weeks and possibly adding in some blogs, but for the most part my writing will be on the new platform. I do this with great sadness, it has taken me a long time to build up a following. I hope that anyone who has taken a liking to my work will follow me over with the transition. This website will still be my author page and will have announcements and videos, perhaps actually more of them, so don’t toss out the link yet. On the good side, for a small fee, just $5 a month, Medium is a wonderful platform that will allow you to read many writings about just about anything you like, including my own work which I will be able to do more frequently. For now, please enjoy the first chapter and stay tuned for information about my next National Public Reading where anyone can Zoom in and listen to me read from my book “Inching Back to Sane” and ask any questions you may have.

Here is your link to my latest efforts: