(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)
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.
This is a photo of me and one of my best friends ever, Glen. This was one of the last times I saw him, Glen was in a nursing home and was in the final stages of MS. When we were kids, Glen was the most athletic guy, we would play tag games where the boundaries of our play area including a school that we would climb from ground level and chase each other like we were on something. When Glen got MS, his wife left him and took his two kids. I can’t imagine what he went through.
In my life I have been blessed with many friends, but not always the best resources to keep them as my friend. I live alone now but I don’t feel lonely. I have developed a lot of strategies to get me through the tough times. I often wonder if I could just cave in and let anyone be my roommate or move in with some love interest. It is a bit scary to think about, but now that I am 50, I am resigned to my present situation.
One of the things I do to cope is that I try not to have too much spare time, and when I do, I like to phone friends and talk for a long time. If I’m on the phone and another friend calls, I patch them all together and have a conference call. I have relied on phoning friends for a long time. In the first months of living on my own (I previously lived in a group home) I called my friend who lives out of town for at least 120 minutes a day. Fortunately the long distance rates were flat for anywhere in Canada.
I have heard of people using a method to combat loneliness and ‘cabin fever’ by writing letters. This isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have family overseas. You could write emails in rotation to people you know who are on the Internet, and then write letters. It helps brighten a person’s day a lot to get a handwritten letter and emails from friends are always welcome. Another thing I do is that when I have a day when I am home alone, I do a lot of Internet searches for work in my field. I might look up the faculty of a University and write to the Professors to ask if they want me to give a Zoom talk to their students regarding mental health. I add in trying to sell them a few of my books, politely and in a professional manner. I also do searches for magazines or periodicals of any type about ideas I have to write articles. There are many things you can do along the lines of that, let’s say you like making bead jewelry. You could look up videos that will teach you new ways of beading, you could take some time to figure out how to make an online store and then you can find groups on Facebook that focus on beading and spend even more time looking for free ways to advertise, say by putting pictures of what you bead on Instagram and Twitter.
One thing I want to warn my readers about. Living alone can have benefits, but it can also be extremely stressful. I recall a few years ago having an apartment and not working. I wasn’t keeping in touch with anyone and the loneliness really started to get to me. If you ever feel this way, do your best to talk to your doctor, get an appointment for as soon as you can. If you can afford it, try and get set up with telephone counselling over the phone. Anther idea is to creatively use the Internet to find support groups in your area that you can attend as soon as possible. I always recommend The Schizophrenia Society first if you have one in your area because they do so much good and can take a person through the cycle of recovery and stay very supportive. When I was in this bad situation, I ended up calling the psychiatric hospital. The person on the phone was very helpful, she said that I could go to the hospital, but there was no guarantee it would make me any better off than I was then. This really made me pull up my bootstraps and soldier on into dealing with my illness. The main problem was loneliness which was causing depression. It didn’t make sense at the time to just treat the depression, but that was what had to happen until I got feeling better.
Something I want to note here is that it can be very tempting to let someone move into your apartment. In fact, a lot of major cities have roommate services and some ad newspapers like Kijiji have listings for roommates. I want to warn everyone that a bad roommate is worse than even being in the hospital. You need to make sure you know the person, it is best if they are family or someone you went to school with or knew for years. I had a very brief relationship with a young woman once and a few days later she called to ask if I could house her friend for a few days. A few days turned to weeks, and one friend turned into a dozen. Soon they had eaten everything I had and decided that I should continue to feed them. The result was one of the worst experiences of my life. My phone bill got run up to $800. People were doing drugs and drug deals and I found no peace until they left, at which time they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down. I never got one penny of rent from any of them and they told something so precious that was a gift from my now-departed mother that I could never forgive them.
So what is the solution? I should mention before I move on here that I saw a situation where some people thought it would be cheaper to co-rent an apartment rather than live in a partially supervised house. The place was carnage. There was some little asshole going around threatening violence to everyone while he wore his hat sideways and made a lot of gestures with his pinkie and thumb. Eventually I think they all got evicted and lost most of their stuff.
So, I wanted to give a solution. Many people are lucky enough to have loving, caring parents who are willing to support them and let them live at home, especially if they have a mental illness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, my advice is to volunteer to pay them and do as much work for them around the house as you can. Myself, I had to leave at age 18 and it made it just about impossible for me to get an education or live in a halfway decent neighbourhood. It was so hard to deal with the stress of working and I was still isolated.
So, what I recommend is getting a roommate. Try not to let in anyone under 25 and even then look for a number of red flags and when you see one, terminate the deal. They should only ever drink moderately, it helps if they are in a stable relationship, they should have a regular job even if they have a mental illness and are on disability. A volunteer job is great. Regular meetings and revising of the rules, which you should have written out and posted (no drunk friends, only your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner can stay the night and no long-term house guests). Certain chores will rotate and should be done on particular days. Write everything down. and also be realistic about food and expenses. I once had a roommate move in and he was using my towel after his showers without washing it and he smoked more of my cigarettes than I did. We tried to work out a deal for me to shop and then share the cost of food, but it never worked from day one. Food should be separate if at all possible.
I once had a doctor give me a great idea. She said I should go to the University and put up a posting on a bulletin board for a psychology student to share an apartment. The idea was that they would be free support and possibly even free therapy.
Well dear Readers, I hope you learned a bit from my blog today. Keep in touch!
Hello Good Readers! I hope the topic for today grabbed you because it is something that I have encountered a lot and also something that has affected my life personally.
I think back now and then to when I first was diagnosed and felt bad about my situation. I had few friends, many times didn’t even have a phone, and had very little to do because I was constantly broke. It seems such a shame when I look back at how people used to be penalized for working for necessary items like food and clothing, driving them to isolate as I had.
The building I lived in wasn’t the best, and to stop people from buzzing my intercom at all hours of the day and night, I disconnected it. Sometimes I would go for days without leaving the apartment. I am lucky though that through all the worst of it, my parents would still visit. That was what kept me going.
Last night I watched the movie, “Pride and Prejudice” based on the novel by Jane Austen. It was a wonderful throw-back to Victorian times and I greatly enjoyed it. But in some ways I saw how some things haven’t changed. It still seems that for a male to be attractive and a ‘good prospect’ they have to have a large sum of money, and it is better if it is family money. I say this because when I was 21 and living on my own, I wasn’t a bad-looking person by any means, but I sure was down and out when it came to money. Now that I am a lot more financially stable, wear better clothes, have direction and purpose in my life I get a lot more serious offers from females.
All that aside though, I wanted to talk about my sleep patterns. One of the most important things for me in life is to not waste the precious time I have. I was reminded of how much time has gone by the other day looking at a list of people I knew and counting off how many of them have passed away, including every last one of my uncles and aunts and my mom. Considering that in that time I went to only the funeral for one aunt here in Canada and a thing we had for my mom, it really seems like I have let myself get out of synch with the rest of the world, and I blame situations when I let myself sleep for days.
One of the ways I have tried to deal with excessive sleep is to take my medications at their set times of day, every day. I used to just take them when I was tired, sleep all I could, then take the morning ones whenever I got up. This was extremely detrimental to my mental and physical health.
One of the reasons I sleep for days sometimes, even now, is that I find it is one of the best ways I have to deal with stress. What I used to do often was to take vitamin B complex and a multi-vitamin and have a nap. Perhaps because of the daily use of these vitamins, their effect has lessened. Another great thing to do is to take some magnesium, I prefer a powdered kind that you mix up in a glass or mug first with hot water to dissolve the powder, then with cold water so you can drink it.
I find if I can get an early sleep I will almost always wake up on time to take my morning pills, which I have set at 5 o’clock am. My main problem is that after taking these, if I have nothing to do I will go back to sleep until around noon. Today I tried to do things a little differently, I woke up, took my pills, then walked about 5 km to a mall in the North End of the City. When I got back though, I was so tired I passed out and even had to cancel a meet-up with my dad because of it.
I don’t think that people with mental illnesses are lazy. Actually, I am pretty sure they aren’t. But a lot of them give up on life and stop trying to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and by opposing end them.” -Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, William Shakespeare. But I urge all of you to keep trying. “Do not go gentle in that good night!” -Dylan Thomas from his famous Villanelle of the same title.
One of the best ways to combat laziness is simply to start working out. I don’t suggest you spend a fortune and join an expensive gym. I do suggest that perhaps you could pick up some dumbbells at Walmart that weigh five or ten pounds and do some Youtube research on how to get a good workout out of lower weights. Once you start to feel better, after you have exercised for a few weeks, your whole life will change, you will feel better in every way. What I suggest next is to buy a quality bicycle for as little as you are able to spend and still get a quality machine. You can look through places like Kijiji and Craigslist for these. Start out by finding flat, easy routes to take. Build up to tougher stuff, the important thing is to just find ways to keep your legs moving for 15 minutes or more. The great thing about a bike is that when you get tired you can gear down and just coast, and you get the joy of being out in the fresh air. Exercise is one of the best ways to combat laziness, and the more fresh air, sunshine and exercise you get, the better your quality of sleep will be.
Another thing you can do is to see about getting discount fitness memberships from the city you live in as I do, or to get a membership for the YMCA. Of course, the hardest thing is finding the money, so many people with poor mental health are living on supports or a disability pension. For many, getting into shape can mean feeling healthy enough to get a part-time job. One of the key things to remember is to not waste your time and not waste your money. Some people may say that you should just go out and get any job, which can work sometimes. I used to go out and just get any job then put in resumes to places I would prefer to work at. This worked well, but I think the way things are going I don’t need to recommend people get just any job, what I recommend is that people contact their local volunteer network (or whatever yours is called) and ask for the specific type of job you most want to do. If you want to be a teacher, volunteer to teach English as a Second Language. If you want to program computers, ask to work for a charity that teaches computer literacy.
There is really a lot of wonderful things out there in this world of ours. Beautiful experiences like travel, companionship, music, and so much more. But before many people with mental illnesses can experience these things and see the beauty and joy in their lives, they need to push themselves a little to get up, to do as a good friend once said (Phil- forget his last name) “Face the day or live the night.” Just be sure that whatever you do, that you don’t take on too much. And though it can affect your sleeping pattern all week, sometimes it isn’t a sin to sleep in some on the weekend. Two last things I wanted to mention is, when I am too wired up to sleep, I take a hot, hot bath with lots of Epsom salts in it and when I go to bed after I’m asleep when my head hits the pillow. The other thing is that I try not to drink anything with caffeine in it past about 6:00pm, then I take my medications between 10-11, sleep until 5:00am, take my morning meds then sleep an hour or so and then do whatever it takes to get my moving, including exercise and copious amounts of coffee and tea.
Hello good readers. I will most likely make a full, regular blog tomorrow evening, I just wanted to give you all a chance to have a look at a video made of an interview I was in on the 6th of April, 2022. Click the link here: https://youtu.be/J9ocWcunFg0 and I hope you enjoy, even if you just want to see how silly my voice sounds and what my un-tanned, bald talking head looks like. 🙂
I understand that a lot of you may be struggling right now, especially as rumours of a 6th wave of the pandemic is circulating. I have a few things to say about that, but first I want to encourage anyone reading to get all three of their vaccinations, and a fourth if they are able. The vaccine isn’t a solid shield of armour that will keep all disease away, but it is the best prevention we have from serious illness. Studies are showing that most of the people who are being hospitalized now or dying from the illness have not been fully vaccinated. I want to emphasize though that the vaccine is not perfect. There are people who will have side effects and problems with the vaccine, but until the world can get on a program where everyone gets vaccinated, Covid-19 is going to keep having more and more waves and there will keep on being more and more deaths.
The pandemic is a serious issue for anyone with a mental health problem. It is very hard to stay inside and deal with isolation, boredom and loneliness. What I am hoping is that I can convince people who are isolating to take some time to get out and walk in a place that isn’t crowded with people. That is the first, most basic step. Then comes the writing. If you are reading this, I will assume you are able to write. One of the best things you can do is to keep a journal. Write down your thoughts, your feelings. Pretend as though you are sharing your life with someone very close to you, and of course, keep this journal in a safe place. One of the cool things about keeping a journal is that you can use it for wellness, and you can also save ideas and project plans that you want to keep for future use.
The next thing I have to suggest also has to do with writing. Write personal emails to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while. Make it a daily routine. Along with giving friends a quick call or giving friends a long phone call, write to people you once knew perhaps by looking them up online or on Facebook.
One of the things I want to emphasize is that a major time of growth for me came when I heard the Astronaut Chris Hadfield say that he started to really grow as a person when he realized that everyone, all the people you see, all the people you know, are struggling. Many people may see Chris Hadfield as a person without problems, but can you imagine the countless hours of preparation and hard work he had to put in to twice serve on board the International Space Station? Some days he would spend 6 hours underwater in a pool training to work in zero gravity in a mock space suit and then go home to spend countless hours studying every possible glitch, every system, every experiment that he had to take on as an astronaut. Now look at anyone and try to empathize with them. Think of a homeless person and how hard it is for them, even just to use a bathroom. Few businesses will let them use theirs without buying something, public bathrooms (in Edmonton) are few and far between, and they have to find food and shelter all over each day. People we may know well, who we may have grown up with, could have struggles with their ageing parents (as I do) and though they have a family, they may have to face a lot of things by themselves.
All this is well and good, but how it relates to mental illness is that there are ways for us to become accustomed to our illnesses and reach a potential that we once thought impossible. I never thought I would have nice things like a computer and a stereo to enjoy my time as I wrote, but with hard work, saving and constantly seeking opportunities to earn despite my crippling depression and occasional psychosis.
So that is my message to you Dear Readers. Consider others and find ways to get through things hour by hour, day by day. And as a last note, when you look at others and understand they are struggling, remember that by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask we are not just protecting ourselves and shortening the time the world will have to fight Covid-19, we are protecting others.
Actually, that is not my last comment. One of the things I like to talk about applies here. Above all things, get yourself plugged into a community. A community can be anything. It can be the youth group of your church, it can be the people who run your community newspaper. Try not to get too involved with groups that are based on negative things, like illicit drugs, alcohol or gambling. Remember there are 12-step groups to help you deal with these things that can be a community as well. When you find that connection, you will soon learn that simply by participating in worthwhile activities (and don’t forget support agencies like for example the Schizophrenia Society) you will soon be accepted for who you are, not the illness you have. I understand it can be really hard at first, but it is so worth the effort. One of the communities I used to be a part of was simply people who went early to the pool. I still have some friends from that time and I want to go back to doing that as soon as it is possible.
As yet another last note, please, if you smoke, do your best to quit. I would like to talk more about this, but I don’t have all the time I need. Try cutting down for a few weeks, and take the extra money and put it aside to buy patches and nicotine gum. You will be thankful that you tried your best, and you will find you have more money and more people want to be around you. It will even be easier to keep a cleaner home.
Best wishes everyone, I look forward to your comments!