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Hello Dear Readers! I have been feeling awful that I haven’t written anything for a while that actually had to do with mental illness, and I apologize. I should clarify one thing before I go further, I am actually diagnosed with both schizophrenia and bipolar symptoms, as well as anxiety. I have been doing a number of talks lately and I often like to say that I am so fortunate that my medication controls almost all of my symptoms. What I didn’t say is that a good part of that symptom control isn’t necessarily from medication, I have also had to develop rhythms of living and ways of doing everything from bedtime to choice of video games.
For many years I was plagued by symptoms of bipolar disorder. I had a lot of desperate lows, and highs that were filled with poor choices that bordered on ignorance. When I wasn’t taking medication, often it wouldn’t take long for that to develop into psychosis (hence the schizophrenia symptom diagnosis). Having rapid changes from highs to lows and a general split from reality (if anyone would like to have me describe more about psychosis, please ask) would often have me end up in the hospital. I am very glad they didn’t cause me to end up in the grave or in jail, which they could have all too easily.
What I wanted to talk about in this particular entry was how I stop myself from having manic highs. I should note here also that I currently take Fluoxetine which is the generic form of Prozac, and it works a miracle on keeping me out of depressions, though there are still times when I feel a little down. This is much better though than the desperate, crippling clinical depression I experienced while growing up and didn’t talk to anyone about. What I have the biggest problem with is getting too far on the high side of bipolar.
There are a few things that happen when I get bipolar, some of them are common to many other people who get manic highs. The first indicator is that I talk a lot, and talk fast. The next one is that I get too worked up to sleep, and can often stay up all night until I am completely exhausted. The first thing I do to counter the high moods (when I start to see the signs) is I try to live a lifestyle where I don’t get excited much. This is where the video games come in. If I play loud, driving rock music or sit down to blast away thousands of aliens with my life in danger at all times in a virtual world, it will get my adrenalin going and shoot me into a manic state. I try and curb the behaviour before that happens because it is much harder to curb it after I have already gotten ‘high’ for want of a better term.
I have had a lot of interesting questions over the past few days doing my mental health talks. One discussion involved THC. Someone asked why it was risky to smoke weed. The basic way I explained it was that, at least in my own experience doing it a handful of times, it would induce a psychosis. It wouldn’t induce a severe psychosis, but a mild, pleasurable one. It would skew perception and warp reality. It’s not that dangerous to do this now and then, but if someone becomes a chronic user, especially if they have a family history of mental illness, they can go into something called a ‘drug-induced psychosis’ or they can even trigger schizophrenia.
When I was younger, and I wasn’t on medications that helped my mood swings, each time I wanted to sleep, I had to first play ‘classic rock’ then ‘light rock’ then classical music, then take my medications and either lay down or distract myself with reading or writing in my journal so I could ease myself down for a soft landing and hopefully a proper sleep.
This past week has been very difficult with regards to getting rest. I have been busy just about every day from early to late, had little time for myself, and, had some incredibly good news. The first one was that a very popular magazine wanted to publish one of my articles, I spoke to two University classes about mental health and a high school, and just this evening have been invited to an exclusive writer’s conference. Needless to say, I don’t think I will sleep very much tonight. One of the odd things about all of this is that I haven’t been required to leave my apartment except for groceries or to give rides to my dad. Oh, the other thing–the thing that may have annoyed many of you, I am very close to having the final edit done on my latest short story book, “Voted Off the Crew” and Goodreads among other entities have been helping me put things together in a huge way. I am approaching the launch of this book in a new way, doing it almost completely online. I have made the decision to limit my in-person book promotions, and to simply rely on amazon.com and amazon.ca to sell books on my behalf. If you are a subscriber to this blog and you enjoy my writing, you may also enjoy the three ‘mental health memoirs’ that I have written. You just visit your local amazon store and do a search for Leif Gregersen or by title. My three mental health books are: “Through the Withering Storm” “Inching Back to Sane” and “Alert and Oriented x3” I would encourage regular readers as well to first look at all of the resources here on this website, and then also join or sign in to Goodreads and ‘Friend’ me so I can invite you to my book launch.
Whew…. all that commercial crap aside!
So, basically though I am on an excellent medication called Depekane, and it controls my moods much better than when I was on other drugs like Lithium or Tegratol for the same symptoms, I still need to be very careful. I should mention something here–if you suffer from a mental illness and you like to read, don’t read one of my books first. Read an incredible book by an incredibly smart man titled, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I had heard good things about it, but the plain truth is that this is the first book I ever picked up where someone talked openly and honestly about mental illness, and I think everyone should read it. There is so much in there, philosophy, travel, mental health, love, family. The author, Robert M. Pirsig, is simply amazing.
Sorry, I wanted to recap what I said. Avoid excitement. Getting excited though it seems better than being boring, can trigger manic episodes. Exciting is great, when it is the summer time and you are with your family and everyone is happy and healthy and safe, and you go to a waterpark. Changing your life and doing risky things so you can erase boredom can become addictive, which means that if you have a tendency towards manic episodes, it will be very hard for you to keep from having a mental breakdown without medication. Avoid excitement. Read. Go to bed early. Study. Spend time with your loved ones. Excitement is for half crippled daredevils. Things like gambling and other ways of finding excitement can even come with their own addictive properties.
Watch out for high or low moods. Talk therapy can help in this case, especially Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Learn how to train your mind to make healthier associations with things in your life. I think this comes down to taking away your habits and vices, getting yourself mentally strong, and then finding out what you really love. For me it is writing and helping others through difficult times I also have experienced. That’s it for now dear readers, contact me with any suggestions or questions, my email is still email@example.com and make full use of this site and of the Goodreads site, they are amazing.