Month: January 2021

Making Your Home a (Mentally) Safe Place During the Pandemic

Please welcome today a guest blogger who wanted to share information about mental health and our current Covid-19 situation. -Leif Gregersen

In January 2020, there were six identified cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections – the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – in the United States. Within a few weeks, we saw school closures, business and crowd restrictions, and office workers at home.

Our collective thoughts were that these were temporary but necessary measures; a few weeks of restraint that would lead us back onto a path of normalcy. For many, it was more inconvenience than pain or sacrifice, done in the name of family and community health.

Almost one year later, how we look at that “health” has been altered. We are not only surrounded by hundreds and thousands of COVID victims and survivors, we are experiencing a mental and emotional health crisis that has led to increased anxiety, depression and a surge in suicidal thoughts.

The emotional costs of COVID

At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, much fear and uncertainty was tied to the unknowns about the virus and the disease and illnesses it caused. This “fear of the unknown” is not inherently irrational and may have given us evolutionary advantages, allowing humans to proceed with caution while gaining more information.

However, our efforts to keep SARS-CoV-2 outside our homes, schools and businesses let in other disorders and illnesses such as stress, anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders, brought on by social isolation and in many cases, financial insecurity or even ruin. The toll has been even greater for those with existing mental health disorders who were kept from in-person treatment, or had gaps in receiving prescription medications.

How you live is more important than where

Practicing self-isolation gets wearisome, regardless of how much you love your home, or how much space you have. It’s what you do in and with that space, and with those who share it with you, that will help your household’s overall emotional and mental well-being.

Below are a few tips that you can employ to keep your home an emotionally safe place during self-isolation:

Routines bring normalcy.

Some people, especially children, find comfort in a routine. This is particularly important during homeschooling. Remember, however, that a routine doesn’t have to mean rigidity – spontaneous “jailbreaks” out to the yard on a lovely day are just as important – but understanding expectations can help mitigate discord, and can also help with healthy habits such as handwashing and frequent surface sanitizing.

We were friends first.

If you have a spouse or partner, daily reminders that you are living with your best friend can help you connect in a manner other than as heads of the household. If applicable, reminisce about other times of shared sacrifices, such as when first starting out or scrimping to save up foryour first home or car. Reminding each other that you’ve gone through some difficulties before and now can look back in nostalgic fondness can be comforting and provide hope.

Be outdoors, inside and out.

A 2015 study demonstrates that being outdoors – ecotherapy – offers therapeutic benefits, so take just a few minutes each day to allow your senses to soak up nature, even if it’s just in your backyard. On the days it’s not feasible or possible, bring some of those sensory elements into your living spaces. Houseplants, playing nature sounds and opening windows to increase natural light and airflow can all improve mental well-being.

Mix it up!

Many households now have to accommodate full-time offices and classrooms. Rearranging your living space to make this doable can lead to other beneficial and mentally therapeutic changes, such as a space set aside for mindfulness or physical workouts, or removing clutter from the kitchen to allow for family meal preparation and other activities. Making such changes can add harmony to the essential work and school while relieving your mind of boredom and a stagnant physical environment.

Mental anti-viral protection

SARS-CoV-2 may have stolen some of our normalcy and physical activities, but we don’t have to let it steal from us emotionally. Attending to the mind-body connection is a powerful pandemic-fighting weapon, and it starts at home

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

So I Reached A Critical Stage In My Recovery, I Feel Okay. What Comes Next?

Purchase Link for book: http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB

Hello Dear Readers! Well, before I launch into today’s topic, I wanted to thank whoever went online and purchased 2 copies of “Alert and Oriented x3” and 2 copies of “Inching Back to Sane.” This may seem like a small thing, but each time I make a sale like this is a huge victory for me. It means that someone out there who doesn’t really know me is taking a chance that my writing will be good, and I hope I don’t disappoint. It also means I earn a little money that I didn’t have to break my back for, and this means groceries, bills, and more writing supplies.

So, I don’t know if I have really talked about when a person has been through all the bad their illness throws at them and finds themselves stuck in some kind of weird limbo. Of course, the most important thing at this point, which I hope you learned in earlier stages of your illness, is that you continue to see a Doctor and take medications as prescribed.

I ran into some very serious trouble once not doing that. I decided it was too much effort to wake up and cross the city on a bus to see my Psychiatrist. All he really did was talk for a few minutes and renew my prescription. So I stopped seeing him. No one came and tracked me down, and I was still getting my prescriptions, they were just being filled by my family doctor. After a while, with no one qualified to go to for an opinion, I cut back on one of my medications. I didn’t stop it, I just cut the dose in half because it seemed to be making me too tired. Serious. mistake. What I didn’t know, and what my doctor would have told me is that the drug I stopped (depekane) only worked at a certain level in my blood stream and that a simple test would have shown me this critical medication wasn’t working. Then end result was that I ended up getting sicker than ever before and spending 6 months of my life in a hospital. Don’t take chances with your mental health. Find a doctor you can work with, commit to seeing him or her, and take medications as prescribed. There is really no other path to recovery if you have a major mental illness like schizophrenia.

But now there is a lighter side to all of this. Your recovery process can be amazing. One thing I wanted most to do when I felt myself feeling better was to give talks about my experiences. I started out writing short stories about things that happened to me, and I developed them into a loose collection, which became the book you see above (http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB for more information) further to that, I got involved with the schizophrenia society who paid me to give wellness workshops, facilitate support groups, give speeches, give educational presentations, and even work as a telephone peer support person. So now I had two main sources of income and a great source of sharing my thoughts and feelings in a way that could help others. Like I have said a few times before, not necessarily with respect to mental health recovery, you simply establish yourself, force yourself through the difficult times of doing stuff like this alone, and soon you will make friends, feel better about what you are doing. Of course you don’t need to join the schizophrenia society, I couldn’t even guarantee there was one in many of the places this blog reaches, but I think there is a pattern. First of all you may need to go into a hospital or see a psychiatrist. More often than not, you will be prescribed medication. Then you go through the process of finding the optimal medication and go through the process of getting used to it. Then next step when you feel halfway better is to try and get into a life skills course and build your communication skills. Then you are really on your own. But I don’t suggest taking advantage of not having many activities and just sleeping in or staying up every day to watch Star Trek. What I suggest is to either find part-time work, or look at part-time studies that will help you later on when you are looking for work. I happened by photography, which got me a job paying $50 an hour. I could still be doing that, but I wanted to focus now on my writing and I am also teaching. I still take photos when I can, and it even brings in a little money. But I am now teaching two classes a week part-time, and other things present themselves, like the pay I am going to get to be a guest lecturer at a University. All I really have to do is tell the story of my recovery and then answer questions for some first-year students. The idea though that I would progress to the point I am at now considering that for 6 months I was literally a raving mentally ill person in need of being locked up is amazing, and the greatest part of it all? The more I give back, the more I advise those who come after me, the easier it becomes to do the things needed to maintain my mental health. Each time I go to the hospital and see people who have attempted suicide because they stopped their anti-depressants I become more of an advocate for regular, supervised medications. And so much more. Anyhow, anyone who would like to help support my efforts to reduce stigma and increase awareness of mental illness, please purchase my book “Through the Withering Storm” on amazon. Read the reviews, there are some glowing ones. Find the book at this link: http://amzn.to/3qvdlkB and I hope you have a wonderful day and a wonderful read!

Leif Gregersen

A Little About My Flagship Mental Health Book and Why I Sell it

https://amzn.to/39CUsoU

(use the above link to go to the Amazon purchase page of my book, “Inching Back to Sane”)

I think the best way to start this blog off today is to say that no matter if you have a mental illness or if you are having a hard time getting things going with your life, it still means so much to hold onto the dreams and hopes you had when you lived life as a young person. When I was much younger, it was a huge thing for me to think that one day I would go to University and become a Lawyer. Later in life, I wanted a military career, and then for a while I looked at how I could be in the military, be a pilot, and also be a Lawyer. Then mental illness struck with a vengeance. Being unable to pass a medical, I couldn’t even get a lowly position in the military, and flying was out because they have even stricter medical requirements. For a while I held onto the idea that I could still be a Lawyer, and that was by no means impossible, but while taking medication that made my hands shake and living on my own having to support myself, it became extremely difficult to attend school. Then, after a while, I found a common thread that ran through all of my hopes and dreams. Writing. Most of the things I wanted to do, and wanted to be came from great books like “Flight of the Intruder” a fantastic book about Vietnam War era jet pilots. All my life I had absorbed books about military and legal battles, and when I learned that I could create these words on my own with a few million strokes on a keyboard, I started to seek out more and more about how to become a writer. In a way I felt as though there was nothing else left in me, no other career. Fortunately this wasn’t true. Going through the hardships of being on my own for all the years I did and being in hospitals one day started to pay me back. I started slow, I would write short stories based on things that happened when I was growing up, then after a while I compiled them into one book, and this was written and re-written a number of times over the course of years. It was very hard for me to accept that the book was turned down a number of times before I paid for professional editing and self-published the books. At the time, I had the money to go into these ventures because I had a well-paid job setting up stages for rock concerts. I got the book into a workable state, then went around pitching the book to book stores and selling books out of farmer’s markets and book signings in book stores. Where everything really began to shift into gear for me as a writer was when I found the Schizophrenia Society and learned that I could give educational presentations about mental health to many varied groups, and offer my books for sale. Soon I found that people were eager to hear my story, and after trying writing in a few different genres, I wrote a second memoir, “Inching Back to Sane” which is linked above. The importance of this book to me and my writing career is hard to describe. This book tells of how I finally came to accept my mental illness, which is one of the most important things someone can do in their lives, and how I took the long road to recovery, despite setbacks and losses, heartbreaks, and hospitalizations. Now, I have a life I could only dream of when I was younger, even when I was a kid and seemed to have everything. Eventually I found a subsidized apartment outside of the group home system I once thought I would be in forever. I now had my space to write, create, relax, and grow as a person. I also made a very serious decision to face my vices, and quit smoking and drinking completely. My quality of life and quality of health has never been better.

These things are possible for anyone who has taken the time to read this far in this blog. First, you need goals. Then you need plans. And then you need to start to move towards them, breaking down your tasks day by day, week by week, hour by hour. This was how I was able to write ten books, and to have the resources to find people who could buy them.

Today was kind of an incredible day for me. I placed a twitter ad advertising a book I am allowing people to download and share as a .pdf ebook file from this website. Before the day ended, there were over 50 downloads. The idea that 50 people who were affected by mental illness could read my words and find meaning in them, find healing, find peace is so amazing. But the sad thing is that nearly everything I do costs money, and with covid, I can’t do in-person book sales. I still have to pay rent, I still have to pay for gas for my car, and food, not to mention printing and delivery costs for books I may never sell. So, basically I am asking you, my good readers to have a look at the book I have posted as a free .pdf by simply clicking on the photo of the Tower Bridge in London to the right of this post, and then either reading the book online or downloading it, and if you see merit in it, if you would like to see more of one thing or less of another, please help support my efforts and consider buying the book “Inching Back to Sane” even if you could just request it for your local library, or if you have read it and you enjoyed it, please put a review on the page it appears on in the Amazon website. I want to keep on doing this, I want to write many more books and meet many more people that I can hopefully help. If you have any trouble getting a book off the website, or if you would like to receive a signed copy from me directly or request a large order of books, please feel free to email me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will meet your needs and requests as best I can. Thank you to all of you for your ongoing support and kind words.

LG

https://amzn.to/39CUsoU

The Worst Part of Mental Illness: Isolation and Depression

today’s blog to follow the below photo

From my first day of school, I started to experience loneliness and isolation. I have gone over those early days many times and instead of wondering why people didn’t seem to like me, I am starting to ask myself why I let the opinions of others interfere with my life. As I have mentioned before, it could have really benefitted me if I had grown up being the kind of person who sees problems, mishaps, slights, accidents, and really everything from others that I let affect me and look at them from the eyes of the other person.

Back when my dad was still driving, he carried on an unending conversation with himself, and I was often the only person around to hear it. He would curse and swear at other drivers, call them idiots and maniacs and monsters and many more descriptive terms as though he were ready to kill someone for driving too fast, or worse, driving too slow. Time and again I asked him to stop doing it, that he was effectively exposing me to his extreme grumpiness, and he went on with his constant threats and complaints.

When you stop for a moment when someone wrongs you and think about what may be going through their head, you become a more compassionate person, you suddenly become less prone to high blood pressure and heart attacks. For example, if someone goes flying past you in the wrong lane and doesn’t signal, what if one of their children were in a hospital and the prognosis wasn’t good. What if it was a young woman who was trying to get away from an abusive boyfriend and was just seconds ahead of him. There are a million ways too look at things like this and not focus the blame on the person. People have complex, difficult lives, and if you really get down and look, you could find that everyone struggles with something. When you become a more compassionate person, you become someone that others will be able to care about, to want to spend time with you, and you take the first step towards easing isolation.

I have some negative memories in my head of feeling so depressed and defeated and isolated that I called an ambulance to take me to emergency hoping to be admitted to the hospital. The funny thing was I didn’t fully understand that my main problem was being isolated in my apartment, and when I went to the hospital, suddenly I had people to talk to, people who were interested in asking me questions and I cheered up and no longer felt like or looked like I needed to be in the hospital. Of course, a psychiatric ward or hospital isn’t put in place to ease loneliness, though they do encourage people to learn how to reach out to others and to ‘let people in.’ This is something that can also be done effectively through an outpatient clinic though, it can be extremely beneficial to take courses like life skills, where you don’t actually learn about cooking and cleaning, you learn how to express yourself better and how to communicate better.

One of the things that I used to do was to go to a lot of anonymous meetings of various types. I thought it was good that I was working on myself and getting out of the house and meeting people. The main problem is that places like an abstinence/addictions meeting isn’t the best place to find friends. After a solid year of going to as many meetings as I could, I stopped going to any of the meetings, though I still went to church and didn’t drink or use drugs. Church can actually be a good place to go to meet people. I have always felt that in a way you really have to get into a routine and establish yourself, then show that you are a friendly and caring person, and then make as many friends as you can, trying hard not to be caught by some of the predator types who like to attend anonymous meetings. In fact, I have run into many people in the meetings who weren’t even there to quit anything or deal with anything, they were court ordered to attend and were in a pretty destructive headspace.

Some of the things a person can do if they don’t like to attend church can be joining a bowling league, a book club (online or in person), volunteer at a charity, start working out/swimming. And now and then, why not surprise neighbours with an invitation to supper or a pie you either bought or baked? I knew of one guy who lived in a building with very poor people and he would take charity into his own hands and pass out bread he bought to everyone in the building. He quickly made friends with a lot of people and was not just respected, but also protected.

Granted though, all these things can be very difficult if you are suffering from severe depression. I can’t make any kind of diagnosis, but I can say that this is something a family member or friend should monitor people they love for and talk with them and encourage them to seek help. I had such crippling depression during my teen years but I never thought it was anything abnormal. It just felt like I was a horrible person and I hated myself.

Another warning is to not use drugs or alcohol to ‘loosen up’ and dance or party or whatever it is you find fun. These are definitely not benign drugs, and should not only not be used by people who suffer from other mental illnesses, I am of the opinion, that, outside medicinal purposes, they really shouldn’t be used at all. Tell your MD or Psychiatrist how you feel. Write out how you feel if you find it hard to tell them and give them the note when you see them or even get their mailing address. I count myself as incredibly lucky because despite that I went through years of depression, when I got on the medication Prozac, I was able to live normally, function well and rebuild my broken life.

I wish all of you good mental health and happiness. Stay real. Stay sober. And stay sane.

thanks,

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com