mental health coping skills

Falsehoods, Delusions, and Lies

Hello Good Readers!

I have not been making many entries, what has been happening is that I have been publishing articles in different places, and I encourage you to read them and contact me with what you think of them. I will try and make time for more blogs soon, I love working on this website and the people who join me each time I write something. Please visit OC87 Recovery Diaries where you will be able to either listen to a podcast of my latest publication, or read the essay as a normal article. The link is below, you may have to copy and paste it into the window of your browser. All the best to everyone!

Leif Gregersen

viking3082000@yahoo.com

https://www.OC87recoverydiaries.org/schizoaffective-disorder-and-anxiety

My Wish For You: Be At Peace and Know That You Are Loved

Hello Good Readers. It has been quite a while. I have so much to apologize for, I have neglected those who trusted and cared for me the most, you my dear readers. That has to change.

To begin, I have been writing a lot of essays like the ones I write here, but publishing them, which makes me feel wonderful only I miss the days of my simple blog and some short time spent checking hits. For those of you who like my essays, my latest publication is now appearing in an online magazine called “Anti-Heroin Chic” and can be found by clicking here: http://heroinchic.weebly.com/blog/in-all-too-long-a-time-by-leif-gregersen

Things seem to be humming along. I am busy but ever grateful for being blessed with many friends and wonderful people in my life. In the past few weeks I have had 2 articles published, 2 more approved, taught a few classes and spent time with some amazing people. I would have loved to make this post another mental health help video, but the link to that essay if already one and I am not only weary but somewhat overworked.

There is one thing I wanted to talk about, I have been reading a book by the most incredible author, Elisabeth Kuubler-Ross. The book is about death and dying and is so incredibly beautiful and comforting. In all the time that has passed, I have my doubts that I have truly grieved the loss of my mom and this book is showing me the work of an amazing woman who wanted to see what she could best do to comfort those who are in their last days, and in so doing, open the door to the final frontier of medicine: How do you give hope and comfort to those who have no hop[e.

It is my hope that many of you look for her books, even if you haven’t experienced a loss. It is absolutely captivating.

All the best dear readers, please feel free to leave any comments about my essay here or on the website. Thanks to all of you for your support and kindness!

LG

Never Get Complacent About the Mental Illness of You or a Loved One

Well, I have to admit it, I have been getting complacent, so I thought it would be a good time to sit down and write. I have some bad news off the top, it looks like there is really no way I am going to have my new book, “Voted Off the Crew” ready for the launch date. On the good side of that, I am having it professionally edited and I think the end result of what will become of the book will be something my readers will enjoy more and I will be more proud of.

As for me, I have been isolating a lot but doing some writing that I really think might help make a difference. I have written essays for the websites, “OC87 Recovery Diaries” and “The News Station”. It feels good to publish, especially since in the case of the above, I am publishing about my mental health experiences. But I almost feel I need to shock myself into getting off my butt and getting down to doing more with each precious day I have.

I think it is something that people with mental illnesses are prone to, for a couple of days all I did was lay in bed. At first I gave myself the excuse that it was because I had a headache, which was true, then I had some pretty severe stomach pains and wanted to use that as an excuse to lie around, but when I got up and went for a mid-day walk, I soon forgot about any headache and my stomach pain went away.

I am not saying that everyone out there with health issues is being weak or lazy, but I am thinking that sometimes when you get into a rut it can be really helpful to get some fresh air and exercise. I love taking walks because they are fairly low-impact and you don’t need any fancy equipment, most of the time you don’t even need to change. You just head out your door and plan not to be back for an hour more or less.

A close friend who was both a medical student and a lifeguard once told me that in the case of just about everything, exercise is the best medicine. Of course there are limits, but if you find yourself in a funk and you aren’t doing anything constructive, try and get a little exercise in. There are also things you can do around the house that can be very beneficial and simple. You can lean against a wall and push away from it, doing what I call ‘low-impact push-ups’ you can do sit-ups, use tension to push your arms against each other at the fists or another point to build tone and strength. You can even find a second hand Yoga mat or invest a few bucks in a new one and go along with some of the many Youtube videos of Yoga classes.

Fortunately, my recent complacency hasn’t made me miss any of my doses of medication. If that happens to you, do your best to resume your medication at the point you are at. Don’t try and catch up and take a couple off doses, if it is Tuesday, start with Tuesday’s dose and move on. If you have been off medications and notice you are experiencing severe depression or voices, paranoia, or any of your old symptoms, either get to see your doctor as soon as you can or get to an emergency room, it could be a long wait, but there will be psychiatrists on call who can assess you and see what the next best course of action should be.

So I am hoping my words will be helpful. Getting complacent is a dangerous place to be in, a person should always remember what things were like when they were in a hospital setting or otherwise having a hard time and make an honest decision as to whether or not they want to go back to all that. Mental and physical health, which are deeply related, need daily and careful maintenance. If you are off your medications and not feeling good about yourself, find a way to see a doctor, and make a phone call before you do anything. There are crisis lines in Canada and the US that can help you through these difficult times, all you need to do is google, dial, reach out, and there will be someone there to listen.

The number for the suicide help line in Canada is: 1(833)456-4566

In the US, the number is: 1(800)273-TALK (8255)

New Book Gets New Blog

Hello Everyone! I can’t contain my excitement, today I learned that the lion’s share of the editing of my new short story collection is done! Not much more to do to get it out to anyone who would like a copy. But, out of respect for the people who have read this blog and want to continue to read about mental health, I have started a new blog on Goodreads. To view it, all you have to do is visit https://bit.ly/3dph936 Sign up for the blog and I will inform you of updates, encourage you to pre-order, and to ‘Friend’ me on Goodreads so I can invite you to the launch party where I will be giving away a bunch of books that I will mail out, including a couple of copies of my “Mental Health Memoirs”

In the new blog, I will be giving suggestions on books to read, talking about the writing craft, and just generally keeping people up to date on my work and how it is coming along. The hope is to have my book launch event on May 9/21 which is just 3 weeks away. After that, I have been given the huge honour of a scholarship to a two-week writer’s workshop, so I am hoping to bring readers and writers together after each session to talk about what I learned.

As for those who are having difficulties with their mental health, I often talk about journalling, which is something that is both beneficial for writers and for people who deal with mental illness. My mom used to keep a journal and it was a special place where she could tell her secrets, confess her sins, all without being worried what someone might think of her. She would simply write the date at the top of a page, write a number between 1 and 10 to show what her mood was, and then pour her heart out on the page. Sometimes I wonder if my mom, or even my dad could have been famous writers. Both of them read heavily, and had a great grasp of the English language. I like to think that writing is something that can be learned, it isn’t a skill that you are born with. And it doesn’t really matter much what you write. If you like alien conspiracies, fictionalize one and imagine what could happen. If you like romance, change the names and places and fictionalize a story about a true love you once had, whether it worked out or not.

I don’t want to push anyone into what they aren’t comfortable with, but this is kind of what I do for a living. Seriously. I work at our local psychiatric hospital teaching creative writing to patients, and it is so amazing to teach someone how to write something, and hear them making beautiful sentences and moving descriptions, it really helps people feel better about what they were going through. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot more to say on that. I am keeping a poorly guarded secret that I want to share with anyone who likes to read this blog, if you click on the photo to the right of the bridge with two towers, it will take you to a page where you can download a free book of mine that I wrote about a recent hospital stay. Please download it and read it, and consider signing up for my blog on Goodreads, I would love to have you! More to come, keep on tuning in!

Leif Gregersen, viking3082000@yahoo.com

Watching the Highs and Lows When You Are Diagnosed With Bipolar

Don’t forget to ‘Friend’ me and mark my upcoming short story collection as ‘To-read’ so I can invite you to the book launch that will have some juicy giveaways!

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 viking3082000@yahoo.com and make full use of this site and of the Goodreads site, they are amazing.

LG

Indie Author Leif Gregersen

Use the link immediately below to learn more and sign up for updates on my new book, launching soon. Leave questions on that page, or write to me at: viking3082000@yahoo.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57620968-voted-off-the-crew

Just wanted to make my readers aware of the fact that I’m an independent author and I’m working hard to overcome my situation as a disabled person living on a very limited and fixed income. As many of you know, I have written three books about my mental health journey, but what has got me excited is that I am putting out a brand new collection of short fiction that I am hoping is going to put my home town on the map. To get updates on this book, which will launch in just over 30 days, visit the above page, or, if you live in the US, join the giveaway below and get a chance to win a free copy that will be signed and given an original Haiku poem from me personally. As I am a writer more than anything, I am going to soon start blogging on the Goodreads website as well, so please join and mark down my book “Voted Off the Crew” as “to-read” to keep getting updates. Further book projects may include essays from this website (edited of course) along with some I’ve been working on more recently. I may put out a call for submissions of mental health stories for the book, so if you have a mental illness or have a loved one who does, please write to me and let me know if you would like to be a part of that project!

viking3082000@yahoo.com

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Voted Off the Crew by Leif Gregersen

Voted Off the Crew

by Leif Gregersen

Giveaway ends May 07, 2021.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter Giveaway

Voted Off the Crew

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Voted Off the Crew by Leif Gregersen

Voted Off the Crew

by Leif Gregersen

Giveaway ends May 07, 2021.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads. Enter Giveaway

Hello Dear Readers! I have been away from the blog for some time, my humble apologies, I do love to write in this space when I can. I have been hard at work perfecting and polishing a new collection of short stories which will be available for sale on May 09/2021. I haven’t set a price just yet, but if you click on the links (you can join Goodreads easily either with a free membership or a Facebook account) you can enter a free giveaway in which you can get a copy signed with a Haiku from yours truly. While you are there, have a look at some groups, there are some great mental health and reading support groups. If you have any difficulties joining or entering the contest, please contact me at danishleif@gmail.com and I will make sure you get your name in. It would also be cool if you find you like Goodreads or are already a member if you would ‘friend’ me so you can keep in touch and keep getting information about my writing.

Overcoming Suicidal (and other negative) Thoughts

The first thing I am going to say in today’s blog is that I really don’t know anything. All I know was that years in the past, I had a lot of very serious suicidal thoughts, and, in at least one occasion, I acted on it and deeply regret it. If you are having serious suicidal thoughts right now, I suggest that you look up a suicide or other type of help line. If you feel your addictions are causing these thoughts, please match your addiction with an appropriate 12-step group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Gambler’s Anonymous and look up their local number, call them, talk to them and get to a meeting. If you have tried all of these things and it hasn’t helped, I invite you to write to me at my personal email, viking3082000@yahoo.com and I will try and match you with the services that best suit your situation. I want people to know though that I am a peer. My only qualification to give advice or help is from me having lived experience of mental illness and addiction. Please read on.

There was a time, early in my years of recovery where I did think a lot about suicide. I was isolated, perhaps I wasn’t being treated by my psychiatrist for my exact illness, I don’t know. All I know is that I was isolated, unpublished, and I thought unwanted. One of my strong desires at the time was to try and turn back the clock, go back to living with my parents and go to my old high school to finish my diploma. Life seemed ideal when I was in that situation previously, but not only had I burned my bridges, I was way too old.

For a while at that time, I had tried going to church with a friend, but as I went to more functions with these people, I seemed to get less and less respect for them. One incident comes to mind where a bunch of people walked out into the wilderness, lit a fire, and one guy was expected to throw his entire ‘secular’ music collection into the fire, which he did. I didn’t get it at the time, and in a few ways I still don’t get it. I love music and artists like Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Sheryl Crowe, and on and on were musicians that I felt brought out good things in me.

So Eventually stopped going to that church and eventually found another, which in some ways was better. But being around people, especially when my medications weren’t right, wasn’t all that much of a help. I still recall a cold winter’s day I just got sick of feeling bad about myself and walked a long way to a medical clinic, and the doctor, an asian man, was appalled that my family and whoever hadn’t supported me, helped me. I left with a prescription for prozac, which worked wonderfully, and that was a turning point for me.

Still, this wasn’t an end to my suicidal ideation/thinking. The way I got through it was, when I was feeling okay, I would make sure all the possible methods of suicide were out of my apartment, trashed or given away or abandoned. No sharp objects other than a butter knife, no poisonous cleaners, no excess of medications or large stashes of pain pills. This was good in a way, and I think this is a good place to mention that there was a person who inspired me to take these steps, a very wonderful young woman who I went to school with for a while who has been a dear friend for many years now. If anything gives you a reason not to commit suicide, it will most often be a dear friend. Really, it is so important to make good friends, form strong relationships and nurture them. Let your friend know they are special, be kind and thoughtful to them. Do the same and more with a romantic interest, but also try not to depend too deeply on just one person, even if it is a romantic partner, a broken heart can be a terrible thing. Do what you can to build your relationships, but keep many friends and even places (yes, I am fond of mentioning all the people I know from the pool here) that you can go where you feel good, relaxed, accepted.

There is, of course, another important thing you can have in your life that will help prevent suicide, a pet, a dog, a cat, a snake, a gerbil. Taking care of an animal, especially say a dog that unconditionally loves its owner, can really get someone through the tough times.

Above all of these things, the most important factor is to be honest with your doctor. Most doctors will recommend a client should keep a journal. You can use a coil, hole-punched notebook. All you have to do is write the date at the top, then your mood from 1-10 and then whatever you want. It can be good if you talk to yourself in this journal about things that worked and things that didn’t work, even be honest about any thoughts of harming yourself or others. This is all information you want to share with your doctor, and if you feel funny about telling him or her about these things, write down key points with a brief explanation on a piece of paper and hand it to them when you go to your appointment, even mail it to them.

Something that I know has helped me a great deal is meditation. I read a lot of books on it, but didn’t finally start getting some of the wonderful benefits of meditation until I went to a small local monastery and studied Tibetan Meditation from a real Tibetan Monk. This man was so full of joy and caring, and was such a warm and dynamic person that I really wanted to one day be like him (not become a monk, but just have that joy). Basically what he taught was that before you go into meditation very far, you have to understand your brain, your consciousness, is like a monkey running around from place to place, playing here, screaming there, tipping this over, running on to tip over the next thing. What you need to do is to train your ‘monkey mind’ to focus and to stay clear, and stop running around, to train the monkey to stay in one place and become more calm and thoughtful. This is accomplished by walking, or sitting and just trying to keep your head clear. Each time you find your ‘monkey mind’ is going a little bananas, simply guide yourself back. Some people try to count their breaths, in and out, one, two, three, four, until they get to ten, and if a thought jumps up, simply go back to one and begin again. The power of this meditation practise is amazing, I have even heard of research studies that have proved over time that meditation is so good for the brain it can reverse brain damage.

So of course, being honest and open with your doctor is essential, meditation, journalling, and even Yoga can be of huge benefit. Next comes a therapist or psychologist. This is territory I am not familiar with, but I do in the last years of my mom’s life, her time with her psychologist was, as my dad said, the only type of appointment that helped her. My mom had both physical and mental health issues, and her psychologist helped her greatly. I won’t dwell on this too much. I do want to say that if you can get to see a psychologist, that is wonderful, if you live outside of Canada and can’t find one for free, you should ask if they have a sliding scale to fit your budget, and make an effort to work with them.

All that I really want to mention now is how I myself attempted suicide. I was on medications, I was managing my mental health okay, then at some point I just decided that I didn’t need my anti-depressant (prozac) any more. Without me noticing it, I slipped down into a deep, dark place. Shortly after, wasn’t working and I had just been treated cruelly by some people I grew up with because of my mental health condition. In a state of severe depression, I took a lot of pills. One thing led to another, and I ended up on the intensive care ward. Burned in my memory was the thought of my mom standing there, bursting into tears because my doctor had told my family I wasn’t going to make it. Because of this attempt, I took a whole new view on suicide, and also on how important the people in your life are and how much it would hurt them to commit suicide. I should have known this mind you, shortly before my first major hospitalization, I was crushed by the death by suicide of a close friend. Not long after, his mother died in the same way and I was devastated. Each time I think of him I count up the years he would have had, the things we could have done together. It really is very sad.

So basically, there are steps here just like in some 12-step meeting. The first step is, are you okay right now? Do you have a strong desire, and the means to kill yourself? Two: Find a way to become safe. Get rid of excess medications, sharp objects, poisonous cleaners and the like. Three is, are you properly medicated? This leads to four, which is, if you are not properly medicated, be honest with your doctor or even find a better doctor until your major symptoms are dealt with in a way you can handle. Five would be too keep a journal to make this honesty easier. Six is to put extra effort into your relationships, family, friends, and romantic partners. Make a solid base of people you are close with. Seven would be to look into exploring your spiritual side, by using things like meditation and Yoga as you are comfortable. Eight would be to find a psychologist, and work hard to deal with and find a way to live with the things that are making you feel worse, basically learn how to handle life better. Thank you for reading this blog to the end, let’s all stay safe and get through this pandemic, there are some good times ahead!

Sleeping Medication and Side Effects

One of the main problems that comes along with depression is insomnia. I have experienced mild to severe insomnia for most of my life. I even recall being a very young boy and not being able to tell time, but watching a clock tick while my parents were downstairs still awake, and thinking to myself, “Well, it can’t be midnight yet, that would be impossible.” It likely was midnight or later, but to me it seemed careless and dangerous to not be in bed by that time.

Growing up, my brother and I shared a room and we used to do things like fight, read, play music or have the lights on after the time we were supposed to have gone to sleep. Finally my dad got sick of coming up the stairs with each noise and decided I would go to bed with my mom who always retired early to read, then when my dad came up, he would carry me to bed already asleep. It worked pretty good. I have a lot of fond memories of talking with my mom and drifting off to sleep and magically waking up in my own bed.

One of the reasons I used to have insomnia was that when I was in elementary school and part of junior high, I hated school. I loved doing schoolwork, I loved learning things, but I had bullies that made me almost afraid to return to school after a weekend. At one point I recall being in tears Sunday evening not wanting to return to school.

High school was when the real problem started, and I blame the great lineup of TV we used to have where I grew up. They had David Letterman, then The Honeymooners, then The Twilight Zone, the Phil Silvers Show and more. Soon it became hard for me to not stay up and watch these shows. I had a routine where after my dad went to bed, I would go in the bathroom, flush the toilet, and with the sound of flushing I would sneak downstairs. I would make tea, eat hot dogs, do my push-up workout routine, then as school time approached, I would convince myself I could take on some huge project like reading the encyclopedia that I never followed through with.

As an adult, after I had spent time in a psychiatric hospital, I was put on sleeping pills, along with a few other meds. After a while, I decided to wean myself off of them, which was extremely difficult. I met a doctor once who told me she had her clients not just break their pills in half to gently lower their dose, she also suggested they file them down with an emery board a little at a time. These things were powerful!

Off and on, I went through a number of periods where I would take something to help me sleep and when I didn’t. In more recent years I have found a system that works fairly well.

Before sitting down to write today’s post, I looked at the website for the Mayo clinic, and was very surprised. Just about all medications for sleep cause dependence. There was just one in a list of ten or so medications that didn’t, but it only helped people get to sleep, it didn’t help them stay asleep. At the moment, I have the option of taking a small dose of clonazepam (or rivotril) every other day to help me sleep, but it really hasn’t been enough. I now have also been given doctor’s permission to use melatonin. now and then as well. My doctor literally told me he had done a lot of research on melatonin and that he recommends it. Melatonin often helps me get to sleep, but when I wake up it is often very difficult to get out of bed. Another doctor upon hearing this has suggested I take my melatonin an hour before going to bed, I haven’t tried this to be honest.

If I can at all do it, I want to sleep without extra sedation, but sadly even my regular medications have a sedative side effect. When I take medications in this case, I often worry if I will overdose which is unlikely because I never go over the recommended amount. Then comes the worst part of sleeping medication: it can adversely affect your memory. Memory is something I have taken a lot of pride in since I was young. I have long, detailed, vivid memories of grade one, and what part of my elementary school my class was in, the first day my friends and I organized a football game in the field. But I’m starting to lose my ability to remember short-term things. It is very common for me to walk into a room and not remember why I went there. I don’t really find it that scary, but I do know I have not only had some street drugs in my past, I have suffered from concussions a few times, and that I have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. My Uncles, and my grandfather had it, and I can see the signs that my dad is coming down with it too. So I don’t really know if any of these things, or even if there is a combination of all of them is causing my memory loss.

What I do know is that it is extremely hard for me to function when I don’t take things to help me sleep. If I don’t somehow sedate myself enough to rest, I often either sleep in or can’t function in my day to day activities. Fortunately, for some reason, I haven’t had as much trouble sleeping in. I don’t know if it is caused by my dependence to my sleeping meds, or just something that happens with age. I had looked into getting a sleep study done, but I was on a year-long waiting list, and when my appointment time came up, I was unable to make it or re-book. That is one part of Canadian Health Care I resent, the waiting times. I honestly feel that the Alberta Government, in their never-ending quest to save a few pennies on the backs of our most needy citizens, has cut funding in key places that makes these waiting lists necessary. I don’t like to talk about it too much, but my own mother passed away while just 2 days away from a procedure that would have saved her life.

One thing I do often do is try and have a ‘medication holiday’. I don’t stop any of my psychiatric medications, but I do try and fall asleep without medication. It isn’t easy, and I will often sleep much more than normal, but it often feels so refreshing that I wish I could do it all the time. In fact though, I kind of have to be very exhausted from getting poor quality sleep for this to work. This brings me to my final point about sleeping pills. I am of course no doctor and no espert, but one thing I have learned is that our bodies need REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is at this time that we dream and certain chemicals in our brains are renewed. I once read a study about researchers who prevented test subjects from getting REM sleep and the results were astounding. Soon, these people became unable to function and after a while longer, they could no longer be woken up. My take on this? We need to dream whether we remember the dreams or not. If we don’t dream, it is as though we didn’t get any sleep. I would like to invite any specialists in sleep to comment on this. I am currently auditing a “Masterclass” on the importance of sleep, so expect to see more of these posts soon, and sleep well and take care!