Month: May 2020

Drugs Other Than Prescribed Medications For Those With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #depression #mania #psychosis #psychiatry #drugs #alcohol #recovery


I can recall a wise friend of mine once telling me about his experience in AA meetings. He said not only that he had been diagnosed with it, but also that in the 12-step program he was in, people with bipolar disorder were greatly over-represented.

Something that I often have thought about is, how do people go from regular people to alcoholics and then addicts? I watched a very insightful TV miniseries that came out of Britain called Traffic which was mostly about Heroin. I found it interesting in many ways. One of the things that was enlightening was not only that there is a huge problem with heroin addiction destroying lives in Britain, but that the opium poppy, which is what heroin is derived from, is grown openly as just another cash crop. I don’t know all the places that it is cultivated, but in another documentary I saw about the present war in Afghanistan, American and other countries’ soldiers are instructed not to harm the opium crops or obstruct any of the farmers from cultivating them. It seems so tragic that this problem could be cut off at the source but it is a very complicated problem. First of all, the Afghan farmers who grow the opium poppy don’t get very rich of their crops, they barely earn enough to feed their families and it would cause such extreme hardship if the crops were destroyed and forbidden throughout the whole country that there would be starvation and death to follow.

Another thing that must be considered is that if the production of opium poppy crops went underground, there would be a great deal more profiteering and violence surrounding it. Opium has existed for thousands of years in Asia and there are large numbers of people all over the world in serious dependance of the drug.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to instruct a poetry class in a homeless drop-in centre that had a safe injection site. The purpose of me teaching this subject was to help people to be able to express themselves about how they felt about the opiod crisis. This referred more to things like fentanyl and oxycontin, though heroin and other needle drugs are used in the community. What I learned from this experience is that a great deal of the people who end up homeless and addicted start out just like any normal person. They go through school, get work experience, find a job, and then one day they have the unfortunate experience of painful illness or injury. They may get benefits for disability, but a lot of them have to rely on savings and selling possessions like vehicles and houses just to put food on the table. These people get prescribed pain killers and soon find they can’t do without them. Then something happens (in a lot of cases) where the person realizes that street drugs work better and are much cheaper than designer painkillers. Then we open Pandora’s box and before you know it, the person is addicted and homeless. Then of course there is another side of it, a childhood trauma, often sexual abuse makes a person so incredibly ‘messed up’ for want of a better term that they turn to drugs to blank out the pain and the nightmares and bad memories.

I think at this point it might be useful to state that there are some drugs that end up as gateway drugs, but attitudes and concepts of this are changing. Now, even experts are saying that the real gateway drug is trauma. But I have known some people who were in recovery who told me about how they got started. In my own case, I actually used THC before I even drank alcohol in amounts sufficient to inebriate myself. I only did it a handful of times but things happened when I did this. I found in doing it I made the only strong connection with my older brother of my early teen years. Soon after I started smoking cigarettes and then I began to drink, just a little at first, but soon I was getting drunk every weekend, and soon after that I was drinking at least something every day. I almost couldn’t understand why I started to like alcohol so much because my dad was a drinker and I blamed a lot of my problems on his aggressive behaviour after his daily intake of at least 12 beer. I remember being so worried he would get an impaired driving conviction or that one time when he was driving drunk with the whole family in our van he would go off the road at high speed and kill us all. Looking. back, that could have been where a lot of my life-long difficulty with anxiety came from. I always felt (at school with bullies) that my health, safety, even my life was in danger. That anxiety stunted my social growth. I never had a girlfriend in school, never went to a single school dance. I did know a couple of young women and had a date or two but I couldn’t even look females in the eye, I was so ashamed that they would find out how messed up I was. Then came a cadet dance. Just about every time I went to a cadet dance I just sat in the corner, but this time, a friend brought a large quantity of beer. I got really drunk and came very close to having sex with two young women in the same night. It was a deadly connection I made in thinking that alcohol equalled calming of the nerves, which equalled sex. It took me a long time to quit.

Around the age of 20, I started to take psychiatric medications on a regular basis and I tried to quit drinking. Then I nearly killed myself one weekend drinking extremely strong rum on a camping trip. I blacked out everything after my first drink. I took my medication after drinking and vomited all over the place and alienated friends completely that I had known for years. Luckily though over the years I was able to keep control of the drinking and I used THC very few times. What scared me though was going through my early to middle adult years and finding out that friends had done such drugs as crack, morphine, cocaine and just about anything a person could name. I wanted to cut ties with them but as a person with a mental illness I had few friends so it was difficult.

Along the way I developed some theories of addiction that I think are relevant to share. Sometimes, people use drugs to self-medicate away some of their mental health issues. I recall a party I went to where I downed a bunch of beers quickly and then was bouncing off the walls in a state of mania. I thought, as I thought that alcohol meant more female attention, that alcohol also meant a release from my depression. For as long as I connected good times with booze I was unable to stay quit for very long. Fortunately maturity really helped me and at this point it has been years since I drank or used drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Some people who are really successful, like high-priced lawyers or rock stars end up doing a lot of drugs and I think I understand why. They work extremely hard, rise up to the top, have everything they ever imagined, but deep down they are just ordinary people who need things like love and satisfaction in life just like anyone. Their lives seem empty or they regret that things will never get better and in this time they turn to drugs. It’s astounding what some rock stars have done, like Stephen Tyler of Arrowsmith admitting that he had consumed literally six million dollars of cocaine in his life.

Mental illness can lead to addiction. Substance abuse, and this can lead to homelessness, and alienation and eventually even your life isn’t worth that much. What I feel has to happen is that people need to learn more about themselves, possibly through therapy, group therapy or 12-step meetings. What needs to happen is that a person has to rebuild a world view. They need to come to understand the importance of living the clean life, the good life, the advantages of being stable and trustworthy and the steps they need to take to become that way. It starts with abstinence, but the work isn’t done with just that. My wise friend from the 12-step program, now departed, once said that “We don’t have a cure for addiction, we just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” With that I will leave you dear readers. Remember you can write me any time at and that my books are available on amazon.

Compulsive Eating and Other Behaviors in People With Mental Illness #schizophrenia #bipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #recovery

Hello Dear Readers! While you are here, please feel free to download my latest book, “Alert and Oriented x3: A Snapshot of a Severe Psychosis”. by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge to the right and then hitting the download icon                                                                                                                                        ————————————————————————->


I think a lot of people are very aware of the fact that having a mental illness and taking medications lead down the path to compulsive behaviour such as addiction and compulsive eating habits. What is perhaps the most odd is that those of us who suffer can either gain or lost a lot of weight. Whenever I think of illnesses like anorexia, I am first reminded of how depression and self-worth plays a major role, and that the illness sadly often ends in suicide or other deaths, then I think about a young woman I knew in school who was an extremely nice person and very attractive who died of a heart attack as a result of starving herself to nothing, then I also think of a young woman I met on a hospital ward who was attractive and intelligent and really wanted to live the life of a normal University student who had to forget about all normalcy because of her affliction. She was a friend and a romantic prospect to me and I haven’t been in touch with her in almost 30 years but it still saddens me that she had such a difficult illness.

The other way that medication and illness affects people is with gaining weight, and both the up and down sides of food compulsion can come with a poor diet that causes other health risks. Just to talk about some of my own lived experience, I feel that my ideal weight is around 185, provided I am exercising and eating healthy to maintain that weight and fuel my long walks, swimming, or weight training. For a long time, I had gone up all the way to 260 pounds. There were a number of reasons for this happening, of course I was eating more than I was exercising, though I was putting in a lot of heavy duty work at my job of setting up major concert stages. Where the problem came in was that in my thinner, healthier days I was restricted financially from eating too much, certainly from eating out, and now that I got a well-paid job I really liked eating out a lot. I loved to take my dad out for fish and chips or pizza and the $20 or $30 it cost me was nothing compared to what I was earning. On top of that, for some time then I had been living in a group home where I wasn’t restricted at all in how much I could eat. The problem multiplied upon itself. There more I ate, the less I wanted to do. One day, I stopped working for the stage people and started the more sedentary life of a writer, public speaker and teacher. I was by this time living on my own and I just saw no problem with eating all junk food all the time. Though I didn’t gain a lot of weight, it was an odd situation because I lost the muscle I had built up as a stage hand and gained more fat. Then came the most startling event of my life: I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

At first I didn’t believe it. I thought I was swimming away all my extra calories, I drank sugar free drinks and I was, as far as endurance went, in fairly good shape. Diabetes was a real wake-up call for me. It meant more medication (metformin) less food and careful choices of foods like no potatoes or rice or white bread. For someone brought up on French fries and potato chips I didn’t think I could do it.

Some years back, I had been able to fast and lose weight whenever I needed to. When I was diagnosed with diabetes though, I could barely even fast long enough to take the test to see if I had the illness or how bad it was. I remember having horrible food cravings through the night and only being able to drink water. After I got through that night though, added to the scare that diabetes will knock years off my life and kill me overnight if I let my eating get out of hand, I was able to start dieting.

I did so much to try and bring my weight down and it seemed to take forever. A couple of times I walked home from work-over ten miles and I did everything to change my diet. It seemed impossible, but I managed to get all the way down to 220 pounds. People said it was a huge change and that I looked great, and I felt really good but the same life situation that all of us with mental illnesses have to be ready for happened… I went back into the hospital with a severe psychosis.

One thing that was really good was all I had to do was tell the hospital I was diabetic and the nutrition/cooking staff did the rest. They got me some things that I really wish I could access, like sugar-free pancake syrup (man do I miss pancakes!). But I allowed myself to get complacent, I started buying snacks and making peanut butter sandwiches in the hospital. I went back up to 240 and it seemed like it would never relent.

I am now just a few pounds lighter than that 240, but I feel I have hope. I would really like to take more classes at this point in eating with type 2 diabetes because I have been on a limited diet. The Covid-19 situation has also caused me to switch to some inferior foods like salami sandwiches and other such foods. Another thing I find it really hard to do is to go without my snacks. There are times when I break down and buy sour cream, mix in some onion soup, and dip potato chips into the mixture. It tastes absolutely divine, but there is way too much sugar and salt and calories in this lethal concoction.

Another caution I should mention is that those of us who take psychiatric medications often end up with a dry mouth, and our saliva is our first line of defence against tooth decay. Today I thought I would have some popcorn with just a little salt and some non-hydrogenated margarine, and one of the few teeth I have left cracked in half on a hard piece of popcorn seed.

It is interesting to note that a friend recently pointed out that I have a tendency towards symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. As far as this goes, I don’t have much to say, but if you find yourself displaying any kind of compulsion, be it gambling or stealing or smoking and on and on right down to overeating, I always recommend two things: meditation to help you to learn self-discipline, and support groups and counselling. It is important to remember that there are many types of psychologists, counsellors and support groups. I found myself that while I was early in the stages of quitting drinking, a 12-step approach helped me the most possibly because there are simply a great deal of meetings all over where I live and I was able to remind myself daily, sometimes even three times a day that I really needed to change my ways, and as I got better I saw myself in a different light and started to understand how alcohol made my parents unable to deal with me and ruined relationships and such, and once the momentum had occurred to get me to quit, (it took about a year) I was able to continue without the meetings. As far as different counsellors go, there are non 12 step ones, there are 12-step counsellors, and Christian, Catholic, and so on. Don’t settle for a counsellor or support group that doesn’t help or doesn’t fit your unique individuality. And don’t allow yourself to become so emotionally attached to one way of doing things that you can’t back out when you feel it isn’t helping or move on to another counsellor or support group.

Compulsion comes in many forms, I have just tried to cover a little of what I know about eating compulsion. I don’t wish in any way for this to replace the advice of a professional. If you are having problems of any kind with your mental health, your best bet is to consult your family doctor who can refer you to other resources. If there is an emergency, call 911 or get yourself or your loved one to the hospital. It is so much better though if a person can be honest and open with a professional before their life starts to fall apart. I suffered with self-loathing and depression for a lot of years before I was able to be honest with professionals about my thoughts and when I did, medication was found and support and counselling was found that changed my life. I wish everyone the best, and as always, feel free to write to me for any reason, or if you have a topic related to mental health you would like to see covered in this blog.

-Leif Gregersen,

Managing Money, Mood and Medications When You Have Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia

Sometimes when a person with a mental illness isn’t at their best, money can get out of control. I have been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder which means I have symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I was also diagnosed with anxiety, and when you add the paranoia of psychosis to that and a high or manic mood, you are looking at a danger, especially with regard to your finances.

One of the worst things about having a mental illness is that a person can feel pushed, or even bullied to lend money when they have any and pushed away when it comes time for money to be paid back. My past is littered with such incidents. There was one person, who at the time was my best friend, heard about me getting $6,000.00 as a disability payout. I wasn’t all that careful with the money, and my friend said that if I loaned him $2,000 it would be paid back with interest. He told me that his dad had screwed him over and I knew he was a hard worker and well off. Then, he disappeared. Nowhere to be found. I finally called him up one day and his answering machine said he had moved to Australia and wouldn’t be back for a year. I was very nearly livid. I called his dad who offered to make good the debt but after he told me this person hadn’t gone to Australia I chalked it up to eccentricity and said I could wait. This so-called friend called me up and was very angry with me. He said, almost exactly these words: “I’ve borrowed money before. I’ve borrowed a lot of money, and this isn’t how things work.” I couldn’t believe I had been taken again. I recommend anyone who has a psychiatric disability right off the top that they not tell anyone other than perhaps their spouse how much money they have saved or as income. It really is none of their business, and the words, “I don’t have it. I simply do not have it.” are excellent ways to politely tell someone you are not a lending institution.

One of the problems with having a mental illness is that a person tends to get very lonely, and when they are lonely they become vulnerable to predatory people. I had one guy offer to sell me his non-functioning truck for $100 and I was very excited to get it and hopefully get it running. Instead, he told someone else about it as well and sold it to them for the same price just about the same day I was going to buy it. One has to watch people for warning signs and sometimes it can be extremely important to pass up a small opportunity to get some benefit so you can avoid a major disaster in the future. The warning signs with the guy with the truck were extremely noticeable. I was over at his house once and bought a pack of cigarettes off of him because I had run out and he had a whole carton. We sat down to chat and he kept literally reaching over me to get cigarettes out of the pack I had purchased from him. I almost couldn’t believe he felt that was okay. But the real disaster came when I sold him an old car I had sitting. I think I asked him for $200 for it or something to that effect. It was running fine, it just had a loose bolt on the alternator that I had fixed but forgot to tell him to keep an eye on it. He had the car for weeks, ran into curbs with it, mistreated it and wouldn’t even let me help him change the oil and service it. Then through his own neglect the alternator came loose and he called me up demanding I remove the car and pay him back every cent he paid for it. How such people can exist is beyond me. Even a new car isn’t returnable simply after one kilometre has been put on it, and a new car runs around $15,000.00. He thought I should have protected him with a warranty for less than a single day’s pay. In a way I was also at fault because my dad had told me many years back in no uncertain terms that you should never buy a used car from anyone you know.

I could go on and on, but I just really want to emphasize that if you have a mental illness, keep a tight hold on your wallet. Do not ever lend money, and if you find yourself being bullied into lending money, be firm and make an outrageous request like they give you something worth twice the value of the loan to hold onto until they pay the money back.

Thanks to a third person that I have decided not to put on this list, I really got into trouble. Again, part of it was my own fault. I applied for and received credit cards and lines of credit which I could have paid off fairly easily if I were able to work even a few days a month on top of my disability benefits, which was allowed. Instead, another so-called friend ran up a debt with me of $6,000 and then I had to make up for the shortfalls in my income by buying on credit. Then disaster happened and I went into the psychiatric hospital for a very long stay and the social worker there decided that mental illness hadn’t humiliated me enough and that I should also declare bankruptcy. The worst part of it was that they wouldn’t even allow me to use any of my credit cards for things like tobacco or other needs. I spent almost 6 months in the hospital wearing the same pair of jeans. I do things a little differently now. I do have credit cards, though it has been extremely difficult to get them, but the two cards I have come with such low spending limits that if needed I could max them out and pay the full amount off in cash the same month with my disability money after I pay my rent.

When I was in the hospital for six months, I lost all control of my finances. One of my doctors, through sheer spite, using words I used to describe him to his face when I was ill, put all of my decisions with a public trustee. This was such an incredible disaster. I found a job not long after getting out of the hospital and in one case someone stole a set of keys and my employer went to my public trustee and got her to pay (out of my money) for new locks for an entire high-rise apartment building. It literally ruined me and the money was given up without a fight or dispute, the trustee simply took my money and handed it over. I soon got a very well paid job as a stage hand and was doing well enough to not mind spending a little extra on things like editing for my first book, taking my dad out to supper often and even getting a car. Then my charming and charismatic friend came along and kept making false promises that he was going to build me a website for my book and that he was very skilled in advertising when in reality I don’t know if he had ever completed high school. That cost me $4,000 and it seemed to go on and on. Lesson learned: Don’t lend money! You are not a bank and you can’t afford to solve the world’s problems or operate better than a bank.

All that is very relevant to a lot of you I hope, but I do also want to give some advice on how I was able to save money, get out of debt and build my life back up again after it was destroyed by a six-month psychiatric hospital stay and a number of ‘friends’ that I would have been much better off without. I had been through so much when I was in the hospital I wasn’t capable of doing a lot of things and my future looked really bleak. I ended up finding a spot at a group home which helped immensely. It was expensive but it covered everything. Food, room, phone, power. I had a few problems with the staff there (actually I think I had a problem with all of the staff) but it really helped me get on my feet. I lived in a nice house, I had a few friends in my same situation, and the staff even went out of their way to put some fun in our lives with movies and sports outings and so I managed to get by. I moved out of there for a while and my sister had noticed that my condition seemed to have deteriorated and so I went back to the group home and spent five years there, then I think they simply got sick of me. They did something for me that perhaps should have been done much sooner. They got me into subsidized housing. It was the right time for it. I was paying $800+ at the group home for rent and my life wasn’t my own. I was having a major problem with having to pay for convenience store food and delivery meals because I couldn’t seem to convince my roommate to stop stealing my food. I asked if I could put a lock on my cupboard and they said they didn’t want the place to have an institutional feel to it. Then, they went into our house where three males that didn’t smoke lived and pasted up large no-smoking signs all over the place. Pure idiocy. They kept on trying to get me to load groceries even though I was barely eating any and paying for them. These little things went on and on.

I would like all of my readers to benefit from this blog but I don’t know how these sorts of things work in the US. I know that people with a psychiatric disability get a lot less benefits, if they can get benefits at all, but whatever situation they are in, if they can handle cooking and shopping they should try and find a subsidized apartment. Many churches have such buildings, in my city the Schizophrenia Society has a subsidized building specifically for people with schizophrenia. Get out there and look. I don’t know if I just got lucky or if the government standards for places like mine are strict, but I live in an awesome building. I even was able to find some part-time work through the agency that runs this building and more like it. Basically, I get very low rent and I found a way to get a subsidized bus pass and free use of city fitness facilities, and life has become pretty comfortable for me. I have to be very careful with things like alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. I know for a fact that I would be in a horrible financial situation if I consumed any such product. I also make a point of putting on a backpack and walking three miles to the large grocery store where prices are better rather than shop at small local places. It is really important to watch every penny, to write things down and plan them out. Even if you don’t feel you are up to a part-time job, it can be very important to get a volunteer job for many reasons. One is that it gives you work experience. The second is that it gives you a life, a place to go, things to do, friends to meet and even more important, self-respect. Keep your space clean, and don’t accumulate objects. There are many times when I take and purge out all of my extra possessions simply because I have a bad habit of over-buying. Why subscribe to magazines when you can read all you want for free at the library? Why buy books for the same reason? Spend your money keeping your quality of life as high as you can. Make sure your laundry gets done on a regular basis, make the effort to bathe and brush your teeth. These activities make it easier for you to get along with others and saves tons of money in things like dental bills. I have been working part-time and living in a fairly sparse apartment (though it is large) and so when I have a little money extra to spend I like to buy second-hand signed and numbered prints from a well known Canadian artist. They look wonderful on my wall and the value of this sort of thing has a good chance of going up in a few years. Some other ways to save money is by getting a quality product rather than a less expensive one. My parents had all the amenities of life in their house despite a low income because they would save up for and research things like blenders, toasters, ovens, stereos, and just about anything like that.

Really, what it all comes down to is in the title. Money, meds and mood. If you have recently left a hospital or may in fact need to go to one in the future, learn to reach out to resources that can help you. Focus first on getting a psychiatrist and affording medications through blue cross or other programs that work for you. Then, do a bit of research on getting free or low-cost counselling. You would be surprised how helpful and empowering it can be. If you are a smoker, make plans to quit, but also make sure you buy enough to get you through the month. I can’t even imagine being a smoker where I live because it costs around $15 for 25 cigarettes. That would be hundreds of dollars a month I could be saving for a trip or my retirement or even a second-hand car. But if you’re hooked you’re hooked, might as well enjoy it and make sure you don’t have to do without. In my experience (I smoked for 18 years before quitting 16 years ago) you can’t quit when you are constantly wondering where your next cigarette is going to come from. Then comes mood. Mood can be influenced by how you manage your money, how you keep your clothes and house clean and how well you eat. Start simple with the eating. Try to get a portion of protein, a good cereal in the morning, and a few servings of fruits and vegetables with nuts to snack on (moderating each of these). Add a daily walk to that and you will find your life will go so much better. I literally was a mess when I got out of the hospital 20 years ago, but by following the money, meds, and mood principals, I ended up doing well.

Well dear readers, that is all for now. Been getting some great comments lately, thanks so much. As always, if you would like me to cover something specific in this blog, let me know.

Those Little Multi-Colored Pills in the Hands of People With Schizophrenia, Bipolar, and Anxiety


Just about anyone who is reading this is going to know something about pills. There are just so many of them. Myself, the last time I got sick (read my book “Alert and Oriented x3) it actually wasn’t a problem with a pill, it was a problem with a new, fancy injection that would last longer, feel better, help me more, and cause me to lose weight. Problem? The thing didn’t work and I ended up losing a month of my life pacing the halls of a psychiatric ward, thinking there were spies everywhere and that people on the ward were plotting a horrible death for me. I even imagined that people I knew on the outside of the hospital were on the ward and were controlling me and laughing about it.

Then there is what I call the long hospital visit. This had happened almost 20 years ago in 2001. At this time, I had been taking a pill called Depekane, a mood stabilizer and somehow I thought that since I had been well for such a long time that I could lower the dose. I really wish sometimes that they would offer people with mental illnesses immediate, intensive training as to how pills work. Lowering my deplane was literally the worst mistake I have ever made. I slowly degraded into a person in an extremely poor mental state, and ended up walking out my door one day to find the main door to my building was jammed and all of a sudden I was convinced someone had rigged a bomb in the building and that they were sealing me and my neighbours in to get rid of me. It may seem funny but those are the kinds of things that go on in your mind when you experience psychosis. I have the unfortunate situation of also having anxiety and depression along with my psychosis and mood swings.

My depression and anxiety was very apparent when I was younger. As a child I would constantly walk looking down. It was so bad that I ended up with neck problems. I was very quiet and had few friends. Social situations terrified me. I can recall later on in junior high going to dances that I never danced at. Then I found alcohol and all of a sudden I could push through my anxiety and have a lot of fun. There was a problem though. I was a twelve-year-old dancing in a fifteen-year-old’s body and I never treated the girls I made advances on very well. There were some incredible times in high school though, there was a young woman named Patti who seemed to take a liking to me. She was beautiful and played piano and loved classical music as I did and even once made a comment in my presence that she thought I was good looking. All that really happened was that we went to a movie on a double date with my best friend and his girlfriend who was her best friend. It was nice but it never became a real relationship.

One of the big things about that time was alcohol. I didn’t see it as the poisonous, addictive and brain-cell eating drug that it was. I saw it as me being able to talk to girls and feel relaxed. The problem dogged me for a long time, when I was 20 some friends invited me camping and I hadn’t drank in 6 months. I thought that all at once I could just forget about my pills and go back to the party animal those friends once knew, but it ended in disaster so bad I don’t even want to continue. Simple lesson: Don’t mix medications or other drugs with alcohol.

To speak of another drug, there is of course pot. One time I went to a bar to see a band and got invited to a party that was going on after the show. I had been drinking a little but took a couple of hits on a joint and got excruciatingly paranoid and again made an ass of myself. My simple solution? I found 12-step meetings. I no longer go to them, but if you think you have a problem, even if you just drink a little and have a hard time not doing so and you are on medication, I endorse going to meetings fully. All the advice I would like to give is to try and get to one every day, look for a sponsor who has 5+ years of sobriety and to follow the literature you are given, read it until you have memorized it. I did that, and in the end of my meeting days shortly before my sponsor passed away, he said that we don’t have a cure for alcoholism or any addictions we are dealing with. We just have a daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

Now to get back to pills before I bore you too much, I just wanted to talk a little about over the counter pills. I want to mainly talk about sleep aids, but there are many more natural/herbal pills that have made a lot of claims. I am very unsure of a lot of them. One thing I take which I cleared with my Psychiatrist is Melatonin. It is a good sleep aid but often makes me sleep in late. I also have permission to take an occasional clonazepam/rivotril. This pill can help calm me down a lot, it is the newer version of valium that is supposed to be less addictive. Trouble is, the drug is still pretty addictive! At least once a week I stop taking it for a few days and the first day of that fast is usually spent sleeping. I really emphasize that any unnecessary pill should be considered very careful for interactions and such by you, on google, and by your doctor. The psychiatrists all pretty much know what they are doing and have the schooling and the vocabulary to look up pills in a CPS (compendium of pharmaceuticals and specialties). I should emphasize here something a lifeguard at my pool told me once (she was studying to be a doctor) She basically said to me that any kind of problem with any part of the human body is best deal with with exercise. I don’t exactly know how that works for every problem, but I do know that if you get a workout in each day you are definitely going to sleep better. Alcohol may get you to sleep but it blocks some of the sleep that renews and refreshes us. Well, that blog went on a lot longer than I thought! Thanks to everyone who has downloaded and read my new book!! Take care people, and as always if you would like to see a topic covered in this blog, please let me know.

Leif Gregersen

Rebuilding Your Life After Dealing With Severe Mental Illness

my beautiful northern city. Don’t forget to download your free ebook copy of “Alert and Oriented x3” by clicking on the photo of the tower bridge on the right side of this page!!


Sometimes it really can be such a difficult thing to emerge from a hospital or to go through treatment for mental health and addiction and then have to start your life all over. One of the big things I recall was being young, not believing I had a mental illness that needed treatment, and not taking my medication or even bothering to get my prescription refilled. Time would go on and I recall these episodes. It is so hard to explain them to someone who hasn’t experienced bipolar disorder. I would get into social situations and talk and talk and think I had really impressed the people I was talking to, or at the very least entertained them only to find out at some point that my mental instability at the time was extremely apparent. As a young man of 18 I once hitch-hiked to the coast (Vancouver, BC) and lived in a traveller’s hostel. I would get so engaged in conversations with travellers from all over the world that I can recall at least one time when I talked right through the time to get to the kitchen and had to spend the night hungry.

There is another thing, talking to ones’ self. I don’t always see this as an indicator that a person is mentally ill, a lot of people keep up an internal dialogue, but there is a line that can be crossed. One of the things I remember from my teen years was sneaking downstairs in the townhouse I grew up in with the purpose of watching TV. Sometimes my dad would have already gone to bed, and sometimes he was awake and in his chair and I would hide in one of his blind spots and watch TV. There were a few times that I saw my dad do things that seemed pretty disturbing, he would carry on speeches in his chair to people he knew, sometimes he would even sit and say things directly to them. My dad to me and to many was a pillar of sanity, good coping skills and good mental health, but later a doctor told me that talking to yourself is a clear indicator that you are mentally ill. I don’t agree with this in my dad’s case, my dad was the kind of person who believed in a lot of self-confidence and self-awareness concepts and I really think he was just using his isolation time to build character.

Me however, with a clear diagnosis of a rare combination of anxiety, symptoms of schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and a number of hospital admissions under my belt, had two experiences. One of them was when I thought about the past or was on my own and I would say things to see how they sounded. This was likely at the very least a mental quirk, but then there was another time when I thought people were filming me or listening in on what I was doing and my mental health deteriorated to the point where I was not only delusional, but thinking that if I talked it would be recorded and that I could change things as vast and different as international political policy to how people I knew from my home town were being treated. I was deep in it.

After a person goes through treatment for a mental illness, they need to tune themselves into the idea that communication only really takes place in the standard ways. Talking on the phone, talking in person, writing to someone, and with the influence of the Internet, chatting, texting and other methods. It can be hard to accept that you aren’t important enough to have a listening device in your tooth that follows your every word, but that realization is a long step towards mental health. For me it always seemed to come with medications.

So, looking back again to times when I wasn’t being properly medicated, I really thought I could do anything and there was very little that could tell me otherwise. I went into debt to attend commercial pilot school even though I knew I couldn’t pass the required medical. I was starting to gather information about how to get work on films in Vancouver and work myself up like a friend did from an extra to a stand-up comic to a real actor. But after I fell ill again, and after I was properly medicated I was so shaky, nervous, ashamed of my illness that all of those things became impossible.

One of the most important things about recovering from a mental illness is to have money and something to do. I can recall bouncing back quickly and finding a temporary/casual labor outfit that could get me day work that paid halfway decently. At the very least, this work helped me to meet new people, got me out of the house and helped pay my bills which were mounting. I don’t know if it is the same in every city, but I know in Vancouver and Edmonton there were a number of places that could set a person up with work for one day or one week. If you want to get full-time work, this is an excellent place to start because they will hire just about anyone and give them a chance, and then once you have a good reference, you can use that to get a better job.

Not always is it the best idea to get work right after getting out of the hospital though, but something that is really important whether you work or not is to have friends. I had a few friends that I was able to visit or invite over for video games or meet for coffee, and having these friends really got through a tough time. This is somewhere I really want to commend my dad again because he used to drive across the city, pick me up, take me to the river valley and walk and talk with me almost every day after a very serious hospital admission and the positive effects walking and bonding with someone I love were incredibly healing over time.

I think what a lot of people should have when they leave a hospital or treatment centre is a few goals. They don’t have to be huge, they can simply be rewards. “I want a new computer” “I want to take a trip to the West Coast” I had these goals, and with the help of my dad’s credit card and the part-time work I got to pay him back and save for these things, I was able to accomplish them. I had such great times going to Victoria or Toronto. When I was in the hospital I was seriously worried that I would never do the one thing I loved the most again: travelling. Instead of stopping travelling, I quit smoking and didn’t drink or have any other expensive habits, so I was able to save, work part-time and go to Hawaii twice and London, England. These were such incredible experiences I will never forget.

When a person gets out of the hospital or treatment centre, they can have few friends, feel discombobulated by their medications, and be very ashamed about having an addiction or illness or both. Now is the time when it becomes so important to take steps to build your life up again. If you had a drinking or drug problem, seriously consider a 12-step program like AA or NA or even CA. Getting out and meeting others who have the same goals you do and being able to tell your story to others can be incredibly healing. Another thing that I did which I would recommend strongly is, unless you have family members you can live with, consider finding a group home to live in. One of the best things about a group home is that everyone there will either have a problem or is trained to deal with the problem you have. A lot of healing can take place.

Well, dear readers. That is all for now. Thanks for sticking with me this far. If you have any questions, comments, requests, please feel free to direct them to I would love to hear from you!


Leif Gregersen