mental health coping skills

Big Things Weighing Me Down

My Dad and His Granddaughter

Hello Good Readers! First, let me start off with a quick but heartfelt apology. I promised I would go back to posting at least once a week and I haven’t done so. I have been facing something very difficult that I now want to write a little about. My Dad, who is turning 85 soon, after a long life of being loved by just about anyone who knows him, is starting to succumb to dementia. It is very distressing to watch someone go through this, but especially someone I love so much and need in my life so much. In all of my 50 years, he was there for me, he cooked hamburgers on the barbecue on hot days like we have been having, he drove me and the rest of my family on trips as close as the mountains 350 km away and as far away as Southern California. He has never failed to be strong yet caring, and constantly funny. Now I see him turn into a scared, teary-eyed frail old man. I know there could be worse things to happen in life. One could lose a child to schizophrenia as one of my co-workers at the Schizophrenia Society did not too long ago. One could have a grandmother who screams and yells and makes no sense and is 100 years old and has to stay under the care of her daughter like my dear friend Charity’s mom has to with her grandmother. I think what makes this hard for me is that I work in a psychiatric hospital and I work with people who have schizophrenia. There are some similarities to what my Dad is going through to what people with mental illnesses experience, but for some odd reason, you can’t make dementia better with medications like you can with schizophrenia. All you can do is try to make the person as comfortable as possible as they slowly lose their faculties.

It hasn’t been easy that I have been at odds with my sister. I spoke to her yesterday and she basically told me that I am no longer welcome at her house and I got so upset I hung up on her. For some odd reason she texted me later on and again a couple of times today. It makes me want to fly into a rage when I run across people who do this, especially because I know she is doing it because I have a mental illness. One time I had a friend I went through so many good and bad times with and seemed to be closer to than just about any friend I had and he did the same thing. I called him up years after we had last talked and he said that it was nice to hear my voice and that he didn’t want any hard feelings between us, but he still wanted to tell me to fuck off. I asked him if I waited two years and was still stable if I could call back, and when I did he called back when I wasn’t home and left an incredibly demeaning message on my answering machine, again telling me to fuck off and saying that I had “gotten his family all upset.” But I suppose in some ways this is a good thing. I don’t need shallow, self-centred people in my life, and I definitely don’t need people who don’t understand what a mental illness means. Can you imagine someone telling their younger brother that they will never be welcome in their home again because they are in a wheelchair? Or if they have cancer? I never asked to have schizophrenia and I like to think that I have turned my extremely negative situation into something positive.

I have to admit though that in a way a small dream came true in my life a couple of years back. In my last year of school, I had a friend who I argued with a lot but respected and ended up working with at a restaurant and connecting with years after school ended. He also cut me out of his life but he had been told to by a psychiatrist, and when I finally gathered up the courage to call him some 20 years later, he didn’t care what a psychiatrist said, he wanted to be my friend. He is a busy guy and we don’t get together much but we have had some really great long talks about what it was like to attend high school together and some people we grew up with. So I try and understand things from other people’s perspective.

It’s funny though. I accept that I have a mental illness, but I am really a very lucky person. My illness is extremely well controlled by medication. I also have diabetes which is also pretty well controlled. The only thing I really have to deal with is the side effects. And the assholes. The world will always have assholes though. Thanks for tuning in dear readers.

If anyone out there is thinking of doing some writing of their own, I thought it might help to give you a bit of the advice I received when I was just starting. The person who gave it had graduated from a journalism program. What it basically is, is that you read a lot of magazines (best to read them at the library) when you find a magazine that fits with something you would like to write about, find out who is the editor and assistant editor of the publication. In the case of larger magazines, it might be better to approach the assistant editor. You write to them, tell them what kind of article you would like to write, why you would be a good person to write it, then start your research. It can be good when you are starting out to read a whole hardcover book on the subject before writing the article. Then do a lot of web research and make sure the accepted facts match what you want to write or ‘argue’ about in your article. Then write. At the end of each statement or paragraph as needed, put in the url link to where you found the facts so they can be checked. Start with an anecdote, the more real and gripping the better. Then say what you want to say, then say it, then tell the readers what you just said without sounding like you are talking down to them or using too technical or specialized language.

I have found that one of the best places to look for places to send your pitches is the Medium platform. It costs $5 USD a month to join, but there are tons of articles full of information about editors who are looking for content. After you have written and published a couple of articles, take the extra money they made you and look into a night class or a library Gale course or a community college continuing education class about journalism and bootstrap your way up the ladder. I have written about four articles this month alone and it really feels great. Tune in here for more writing advice as I go, I will repeat my promise and say that I would like to write a blog entry here once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. But thanks for tuning in!

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

Photo By Piero Nigro on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

The First Chapter of a New Book I Am Working On

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

Dear Readers:

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

Here is your link to my latest efforts:

Isolation: All of us Need Friends and Caring People, Especially People With Schizophrenia, Depression and Bipolar Disorder

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!

Leif Gregersen

Help Me: I Have Schizophrenia and I Have Slept Most of My Adult Life Away!

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.

All the best Dear Readers!